(Clearwisdom.net) Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Guo Chunzhan from Weiping Township, Xingcheng City, Liaoning Province was illegally sentenced to one year of forced labor in 2005 for practicing Falun Gong. He was again arrested for handing out Falun Gong brochures on July 27, 2009, and he was sentenced to a four-year prison term. His lawyer pointed out to the court that the premises for punishing Falun Gong adherents are against the constitution, and that believing in Falun Gong or to propagate the practice does not constitute a crime.

Beijing attorney Han Yicun defended Mr. Guo in the second trial. His defense statement pointed out that while Mr. Guo was in custody, no one took care of his paralyzed, elderly father. The old man passed away during this time. Guo Chunzhan's only daughter Guo Mingying is a third-year high school student who excelled in her studies and her character. After her father was thrown into jail, there was no one to support her, making her already poverty stricken life even harder and difficult for her to stay in school. To secure his release, the young girl went to legal offices to seek redress for her father, but has been unsuccessful thus far.

Mr. Han's statement addressed three key points:

1. Freedom of belief is a universal right.

2. Grounds used for punishing Falun Gong adherents is against the constitution.

3. Chinese citizens propagating religious beliefs does not constitute a crime.

Statement of Defence

To the People's Intermediate Court in Huludao City, Liaoning Province:

Mr. Guo Chunzhan's daughter Guo Mingying asked me to act as Mr. Guo's defence lawyer in his second trial. I carefully read through the case files and materials after accepting the job. I visited Mr. Guo in the detention center and heard his narration on the case. Now I present the following opinions based on the facts and the law:

In my opinion, the No. 189 criminal verdict pronounced by officials at the Xingcheng City, Liaoning Province Court on October 20, 2009, declaring Guo Chunzhan guilty of using the Falun Gong organization to sabotage the law, is unfounded. His conduct does not constitute a crime. The reasons are as follows:

1. Freedom of belief is a universal right recognized by the world

The origins of freedom of belief date back a long time. It can be traced back to the Roman Edict of Milan, in the year 313, almost 1,700 years ago.

The same freedom applies to adherence to all religions; there should not be any discrimination. In 1948, the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." In November 1987 the UN passed another declaration: "Elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief." Once again, this covenant stipulates, "no one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have a religion or belief of his choice. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice."

Our country has also set forth legislation to protect freedom of belief. The current Constitution solemnly proclaims, "Citizens of the People's Republic of China has freedom of belief and religion."

Religious freedom affirmed in the Constitution consists of three areas: (1) Religious freedom - that is religious doctrine - enjoys the right to freedom of existence, development and exchange. All religions are equal in the eyes of the law and enjoy the same protection and treatment. (2) Freedom of belief means citizens have the right to choose and follow a religion. Belief is a choice made freely by one's intention. The follower makes his own choice in adopting a belief without intervention. (3) Politics are separate from religion and do not interfere in each other's affairs. The country respects and protects the gods revered in people's minds, but prohibits deity worship in state organs to prevent religions from encroaching upon public authority.

Falun Gong, Taoism, Buddhism or Christianity should all be legal and equal. The law should uphold any religion, doctrine, theory and ideology - whether it is progressive, backwards or even so called superstition, as long as it does not harm public interests or the legitimate rights of others. The law should give these different beliefs equal status and ensure they operate normally. As for those unorthodox teachings, they can be corrected and controlled through theoretical debates, criticisms, etc. Just as Thomas Jefferson said, "Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself; truth is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition, disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors cease to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them."

2. Grounds for punishing Falun Gong adherents is against the Constitution

Thoughts do not constitute a crime. Punishment is only for conduct. This is a basic principle of law. Religious freedom falls into the category of thought. A citizen firmly believing in a particular doctrine is not against the law and does not constitute a crime. Furthermore, it should not be punished. Yet, the actual [current] situation is outrageous. Since 1999 our country has never stopped its suppression of Falun Gong adherents. For a decade, such judicial persecution has caused countless adherents to lose their lives, and even more, to lose their personal freedom. The persecution has broken up tens of thousands of families. This is a calamity that has brought shame to the country and it is a great sin to bear.

Article No. 36 of the Constitution stipulates, "Citizens of the People's Republic have freedom of belief and religion. No state organ, social organization or individual shall force citizens to belief in or disbelief in religion. No one shall discriminate against citizens who have or do not have a belief in religion. The country protects normal religious activities." However, in the past ten years the judicial system's punishment of Falun Gong adherents has precisely violated the above stipulation. It has cruelly trampled on human rights. Is this proclamation just for show and cannot be realized?

On July 20, 1999 the Civil Administration Department announced that Falun Gong is an illegal organization. That same day, the Public Security Ministry announced the ban on Falun Gong. On October 26, 1999, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Jiang Zemin called Falun Gong a cult. The next day the People's Daily published a commentary titled, "Falun Gong is a cult." Three days later the National People's Congress Standing Committee passed a decision to ban Falun Gong, and to suppress and punish its activities. On October 9, 1999 and June 4, 2001, the Supreme Court and Supreme Procuratorate jointly issued explanations of existing law that in fact encouraged harsh punishment. On April 9, 2005, the Public Security Ministry issued notices on identification and suppression.

The above documents have all violated the stipulations in the constitution and legislation of law. Therefore, these documents should not be used by the judicial system as a basis for making judgements. The 8th article, 5th paragraph of legislative law states, "Laws must be drawn up to carry out forced measures and punishment that deprives citizens of political rights and restricts personal freedom." That means that neither the National People's Congress nor its Standing Committee can formulate laws to regulate such matters. Other organizations or individuals do not have the power to deal with matters regarding the personal freedom of citizens.

3. The act of propagating religious belief is not a crime

The defendant in this case, Mr. Guo Chunzhan, is a firm believer in Falun Gong. He has paid a terrible price for his faith. In 2005, he was sentenced to one year of forced labor by the Huludao City Forced Labor Committee. On July 27, 2009 he lost his freedom again for handing out Falun Gong brochures. The court claimed that he was not repentant and refused to plead guilty. They consequently meted out a heavier punishment - four years of imprisonment.

Mr. Guo handed out Falun Gong brochures. What crime has he committed? His conduct did not infringe upon neither the personal rights nor property rights of others. He did not steal nor rob. He did not even harm public interests and does not pose a threat to society. Yet, why was he arrested and sentenced to prison? Having a belief is not a crime. Propagating religious beliefs is not a crime, either. The court of first instance found him guilty of using a cult to interfere with law enforcement. May I ask, what has he done to break the law? What law has he violated? How can an ordinary person be capable of interfering with law enforcement? Our country should not only allow the Party to disseminate the communist ideology, but forbid its citizens from spreading their belief. Wouldn't this turn into an evil society where officials can do whatever they want, while imposing senseless restrictions on the common people?

The truth speaks for itself. Falun Gong is recognized and protected in more than 100 countries. It is spreading rapidly in Western developed countries. Falun Gong is not a cult, and it should not be suppressed. Instead, our country's laws should protect it. End this calamity and let the sun shine again on this great land!

I have truly experienced the power of one's integrity and faith while working on this case. I have been touched again and again by those believers' nobility and passion. Their firm belief has touched people. Falun Gong practitioners are a group of ordinary people, but their conduct is extraordinary. They have high moral standards and are respectable people. They have been unjustly persecuted. Our country has let them down.

I love my country deeply; therefore I must step forward and respond to this call for justice. I have to speak a few words of justice for Falun Gong adherents:

It is not a crime to believe!

Practicing Falun Gong is not a crime!

Propagating Falun Gong is not a crime!