BEIJING (AP) — A trial of three activists accused of inciting the overthrow of China's government was halted Friday when the defendants dismissed their attorneys to prevent it from proceeding, a lawyer and a family member said.
The move came after the court rejected defense requests that no ruling Communist Party members should be on the bench and that witnesses should be allowed to testify in court, defense lawyer Zhang Xuezhong said.
"Otherwise, there would be no justice to speak of in a case that is highly ideological," Zhang said.
The Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court in the southern city of Guangzhou declined to confirm to The Associated Press whether the trial was held.
The defendants, Tang Jingling, Yuan Xinting and Wang Qingying, are accused of inciting the state's overthrow, largely because of their advocacy of non-violent resistance to the authoritarian government and calls to remember victims of state repression, including people killed in a 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing, Zhang said.
Tang's wife, Wang Yanfang, said her husband downloaded writings from the Internet on non-violent resistance and distributed copies, which authorities said contained "severe political mistakes."
Wang was allowed to attend the court session. She said the court insisted on holding the trial despite the defense request that Communist Party members be excused from the bench, prompting her husband to dismiss his lawyers to halt the proceedings.
The other defendants followed suit and also dismissed their lawyers, Wang said.
Zhang said the defense had argued that Communist Party members should not hear the case because the defendants are accused of inciting the overthrow of China's political system, which is led by the party.
"We don't think it's proper for party members to hear the case, so we requested non-party members to be on the bench," Zhang said.
The party retains control over the country's judicial system, and judges are usually party members.
Tang was detained in May 2014 during a crackdown on journalists, lawyers and social activists.