The subversion trial of a young Chinese activist who planned to protest against President Xi Jinping on National Day began on Wednesday morning.

The Yanbian Intermediate People’s Court in northern Jilin province announced on Sunday that 28-year-old Kwon Pyong was to be tried for inciting subversion of state power. The US-backed Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that local authorities have prevented his lawyers from meeting him, and did not notify them of the commencement of proceedings.

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Court notice on trial of Kwon Pyong. Photo: Yanbian Intermediate People’s Court website screenshot.

The brief announcement posted on the court’s website read: “At 9:30am on February 15, 2017, Court No. 3 will try the case of Kwon Pyong, charged with inciting subversion of state power, in accordance with the law.”

‘Xitler’ activist

Kwon – an ethnic Korean who studied abroad in the US – was a frequent Twitter user, tweeting about topics including China’s crackdown on lawyers, the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Tibet, Hong Kong independence, human rights, and other sentiments opposing the Chinese government.

In August last year, he posted a picture of himself wearing a t-shirt bearing the word “Xitler.” Beneath “Xitler” were the Chinese phrases “Xi Baozi [steamed buns]” and “Big Spender” – both pejorative terms referring to the Chinese leader.

In September, he told a friend that he was planning to wear a t-shirt with anti-Xi messages on the street on October 1, China’s National Day.

Friends have been unable to contact him since September 30. An officer at the local Yanji police department later confirmed to RFA that he was in police custody.

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Photo: Twitter/Kwon Pyong.

Barred from meeting lawyers

Liang Xiaojun, one of Kwon’s lawyers, said that authorities in Yanbian have so far refused his request to meet with Kwon.

Liang said he received a telephone call last Friday from a man who introduced himself as the judge for Kwon’s case. He cited extended requirements for cases with “national security concerns,” explaining that Liang must obtain a letter of introduction from the Justice Bureau in the jurisdiction of his practice to meet with Kwon.

“But there’s no way [the justice bureau] will issue one for us,” Liang told RFA. He then published an open letter on Saturday urging the Jilin High People’s Court to clarify the situation.

Liang also told RFA that Justice Bureau officials in Beijing previously attempted to deter him from taking up Kwon’s defence. “They told me that they hoped I wouldn’t get involved in this case, which was ‘complicated’,” he said.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.