(Minghui.org) In January, the Chinese government announced that it would phase out the labor camp system. Some were surprised and considered it a significant advancement in human rights in China.

Many, however, speculated that the communist regime is simply changing tactics.

In Dalian City alone, nearly 30 Falun Gong practitioners were on trial or facing trial. When Zhongshan District Court scheduled a trial for 13 practitioners on April 12, several attorneys were willing to represent them. Court officials then announced on the evening of April 11 that the trial was canceled. The police then arrested many practitioners and their relatives outside the courthouse on April 12. They even beat Cheng Hai, an attorney from Beijing, injuring him. (Related report: Travesty of Justice: Mass Arrests of Falun Gong Practitioners in Dalian City, Lawyer Beaten )

After hitting the Internet, this case drew broad attention. Not intimidated by the brutality of the communist regime, more attorneys stepped forward to offer their support.

When the trial was finally held in Zhongshan District Court the morning of June 21, there were 12 attorneys representing the 13 practitioners and entering pleas of "not guilty." Notably, officials from the Ministry of Justice in Beijing, the Liaoning Provincial Procuratorate, and the Provincial Court also were in attendance.

Certain Officials Excluded from the Trial

From previous experience, the attorneys knew officials could interfere during security check upon courtroom entry. They planned to quit the trial if that happened and follow up with a lawsuit against the officials. In the end, the security check went smoothly. Many of the items that were previously banned, such as computers and cellphones, were allowed into the courtroom.

After the trial started at 8:30 a.m., the attorneys requested that three collegial panel members, Liang Yongguo, Chen Xiangzhen, and Gao Song, be excluded from the proceedings. In the absence of people's assessors, they also requested that the chief procurator and three Domestic Security Division officers be excluded, since they had been sued. In addition, because the 13 practitioners had not been proven guilty of any crime, they should not be forced to wear prison uniforms. The judge agreed with these provisions and the adjourned the trial for five minutes to accommodate the changes.

Because the case had no legal grounds in the first place, combined with improper judicial proceedings and falsified evidence, neither the judge nor the prosecutor knew how to answer the defense attorneys' questions and frequently requested an adjournment. The attorneys pointed out that the "evidence" was fabricated and forced upon the defendants. The practitioners testified how the law enforcement officers deceived them to obtain "evidence."

Several of the practitioners seemed to be in poor health, including Mr. Che Zhongshan, Ms. Lin Lihong, Mr. Wang Tao, and Mr. Yu Yue. Mr. Che repeatedly vomited; Ms. Lin needed help to walk or stand; Mr. Yu was hospitalized right before the trial; and Mr. Wang was carried out of the courtroom during the trial due to his fragile condition.

The Defense

Attorney Liang Xiaojun represented Mr. Che Zhongshan, Wang Xing represented Mr. Zhu Chengqian, Tang Tianhao represented Mr. Wang Tao, Wang Quanzhang represented Mr. Wang Shouchen, Han Zhiguang represented Mr. Yu Yue, Cheng Hai represented Ms. Pan Xiuqing, Chen Jiangang represented Mr. Shi Zhanshun, Zhang Lei represented Mr. Yu Bo, and Zhao Yonglin represented Mr. Guo Song. They all pleaded “not guilty” for their clients.

Several family members also defended their practitioner relatives. They included Mr. Che's elder sister, Ms. Pan's husband, and the wives of Mr. Wang, Mr. Yu Yue, and Mr. Yu Bo. When Ms. Pan's husband (not a practitioner) defended her, he was very emotional and in tears. The spectators waited quietly for two minutes for him to continue. Such sympathy was rarely seen in the past during trials for Falun Gong practitioners.

Ms. Lin Lihong and Mr. Pei Zhenbo did not hire attorneys. Three local lawyers represented them and pleaded "not guilty" on their behalf. The first 12 attorneys requested that Ms. Lin and Mr. Pei be tried separately, since they were categorized differently.

Another practitioner, who had been deceived by a family member and her attorney, wrote a statement promising to stop practicing Falun Gong the day before the trial. Motivated by the righteous behavior of the other practitioners in the courtroom, she announced that her statement was null and void and defended herself well. Influenced by her and the other attorneys, her attorney became more supportive.

Officials Continued to Interfere

Zhongshan District Court officials did not schedule this trial in their own courthouse, which is near many businesses in a busy area. Following orders issued by the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, the trial was held in Xigang Court. Located on a hill, there are fewer passersby and it is easier for police to monitor. Dalian City nonetheless sent many vehicles to occupy the surrounding area. On the 500-yard-long road in front of the courthouse were vehicles of all sorts on both sides, none a regular police car. Similarly, there were plainclothes agents everywhere.

The officers in plainclothes drove away many passersby, not allowing them to stay. They also used cellphones to take pictures of people passing by. One officer told his subordinates to take as many pictures as possible, so that they could follow up later. Still, many people were surprised by this chaotic situation since the area was usually very quiet. After learning that Falun Gong practitioners were going to be tried, they were very upset, saying that the police should have spent their efforts on other things instead of mistreating innocent citizens.

Dalian police also sent agents to the hotel where the attorneys stayed, as well as to the airport and nearby restaurants. They also attempted to harass the attorneys on the evening of June 20 by searching their hotel rooms. The attorneys ignored them.

All other trials scheduled for June 21 in Xigang District Court were canceled. Police officers were on patrol within the courthouse and agents in plainclothes were sitting in vehicles nearby. They did not leave until after the court was adjourned. Reportedly, many police stations and neighborhood administration officers were involved.

Mr. Wang’s wife was scheduled to defend him in court. When she returned home in the evening on June 20, she saw a police car waiting nearby. Because she was once surrounded by police at home, making it impossible for her to get to a trial, she returned to the hotel to prevent something similar from happening again.

Just before the trial started, the police arrested two practitioners, Ms. Dong Xuan and Ms. Liu Xinying, who had helped escort the attorneys.

They arrested Ms. Liu before 7:00 a.m. and interrogated her for several hours. Because they kept yelling at her and threatening her, Ms. Liu had two heart episodes. Her daughter came home and could not find her. She finally found her mother at the Xiuyue Police Station and picked her up at 10:30 p.m. The police warned her not to go to the hotel where the attorneys were staying, or they would arrest her again. Ms. Liu ignored them and sent off the attorneys on time.

Ms. Dong Xuan was also helping pick up the attorneys. The police arrested her at about 7 a.m. on June 21 after watching her for a long time. She is most likely detained in the basement of Dalian Domestic Security Division, where Dalian police secretly interrogate detainees. Ms. Dong is in her 40s and has not been in Dalian City long.