Chinese human rights lawyer goes on trial over social media posts criticising ruling party

There have been reports of scuffles outside the court in Beijing hosting the trial

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Police officers push away foreign journalists covering rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang's trial at the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court in Beijing. Image: Andy Wong / AP/Press Association Images

One of China's most prominent human rights lawyers has gone on trial over social media posts criticising the Communist Party.

Pu Zhiqiang - who has represented the artist Ai Wei Wei - faces up to eight years in prison on charges including "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" and "inciting ethnic hatred".

Mr Pu posted a number of comments on social media questioning the government's policy on Uighirs in the Xinjiang region and mocking its stance on disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The trial finished without a verdict announced, BBC reports. Mr Pu is believed to have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Amnesty International say what he is really being punished for is standing up to the Chinese government.

China researcher Patrick Poon said: "His trial is an act of political persecution in which the authorities are trying to silence an independent voice.

"If there is any justice Pu Ziqiang would be immediately and unconditionally released."

Outside the court in Beijing, police blocked protesters and foreign journalists - despite the fact it was said to be an open trial.

Diplomats attempting to observe were denied access and turned away.

Dan Biers, a senior official from the US embassy, was pushed and shoved as he attempted to read a statement outside the court condemning Mr Pu's treatment.

He urged China to end what he called its "continuing repression" of human rights lawyers and expressed concern about the "vague charges" against Pu Zhiqian.

"We urge Chinese authorities to release Pu and call upon China to uphold fundamental civil rights and fair trial guarantees as enshrined by the PRC constitution and its international human rights," he said.

Diplomatic representatives from other countries included the UK, France, Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands.

Sky's Asia Correspondent Katie Stallard says journalists were "being physically pushed"