Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Tiananmen student leader Zhou Yongjun on trial in China

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai

Girlfriend Zhang Yuwei holds pic of Zhou Yongjun 12 oct 2009
Friends of Zhou Yongjun say he should never have been handed over to China

A former leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement and long term resident of the United States has gone on trial in China.

Zhou Yongjun had been handed over by the authorities in Hong Kong.

His friends say he is accused of fraud but that this is a pretext to punish him for years of human rights activism.

Although the British handed Hong Kong to China in 1997, its legal system, police and immigration are supposed to be separate from those on the mainland.

Mr Zhou was handed over to the mainland authorities after he tried to enter Hong Kong on a fake passport.

Handover hassle

Mr Zhou is a former student leader who was jailed as part of the crackdown on the protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

After he was freed he moved to the United States.

In September he was arrested by police in Hong Kong. His supporters say he had been planning to try to enter China to visit relatives, travelling on a Malaysian passport.

Normal practice would have been to return him to Macau, the port from where he had travelled to Hong Kong, or to Malaysia, the country whose passport he was holding.

Instead he was handed over to the authorities on the mainland and detained.

Now prosecutors in Sichuan have put him on trial for fraud.

His lawyer says he denies the charges.

The name on the passport he was using was on a money laundering watch list, but his friends say he had obtained it through an immigration agency. His lawyer says he was just unlucky.

Phone calls to the prosecutors' office in Sichuan went unanswered. A court official who answered the phone said he knew nothing about the trial process.

Politicians in Hong Kong say it is unacceptable for officials there to hand a suspect over to mainland China unless he had agreed to return.

The Hong Kong government has also refused to comment about the case.

An official has told legislators, though, that immigration officers do not execute the law on behalf of mainland police

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