Los Angeles, Nov.19 (ANI): US President Barack Obama may have subtly called on China to improve its human rights record and allow for greater freedom of speech during his three-day visit to Shanghai and Beijing, but that did not stop China from putting a student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement on trial on Thursday, a day after Obama finished his visit.
Zhou Yongjun faced fraud charges at the trial in Shehong County in southwest Sichuan province, his long-time girlfriend and a friend at the courthouse told a foreign news agency.
Zhou was a leader of the Beijing Students' Autonomous Union in the 1989 protests that ended in a bloody army-led crackdown in the streets around Beijing's Tiananmen Square. He later obtained a green card from the United States, giving him residential rights, but not full citizenship.
"I know from the lawyers that he's on trial today, but the whole process has been kept secret. This came out of the blue," Zhang Yuewei, CBS quoted Zhou's girlfriend, as saying from Los Angeles where she lives.
She said Zhou's immediate family had also told her of the trial.
"Holding the trial at this time was to show the U.S. President.The Chinese government maybe believes that it has the power and cash to go up against the United States and international society," Zhang said in a separate email.
A friend of Zhou's said she was refused entry to the courthouse, which appeared to be crowded with officials.
Zhou is not a U.S. citizen, Washington has scant formal power to intervene, and Chinese authorities have no obligations to tell the United States of any developments.
Zhou, 42, was handed to Chinese police by authorities in Hong Kong, leading to his detention for nearly a year.
He faces charges of financial fraud involving a bank in Hong Kong, but Zhang and other supporters say the charges were a pretext to punish Zhou for his years of rights activism.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997. (ANI)