Injustice Is Served: The Court System in Today's China—Groundless Verdicts at the Discretion of Corrupt Officials (Part 5 of 8)
This 8-part series explores the role of China’s judicial system in the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. The facts presented reveal that the judicial system has lost its independence and become captive to the “610 Office” (a special agency created for the sole purpose of eradicating Falun Gong) since 1999. Instead of righting the wrongs against innocent practitioners, the judicial system actively carries out the communist regime’s persecution policies and spares no effort to get practitioners imprisoned for crimes they never committed.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: Who is Pulling the Strings? The 610 Office
Part 3: Judges Show Their True Colors Prosecuting Law-abiding Practitioners
Part 4: Practitioners Wrongly Accused and Denied Fair Trials
Part 5: Groundless Verdicts at the Discretion of Corrupt Officials
Part 6: Attorneys Punished for Representing Their Clients
Part 7: Families Punished for Hiring Lawyers
Part 8: Supporters Arrested for Standing Up for Justice
Part 5: Groundless Verdicts at the Discretion of Corrupt Officials
Trials of Falun Gong practitioners are mere formalities, and the verdicts are usually pre-determined. Judges increase or reduce sentences at will. They promise to shorten sentences if practitioners agree to give up their belief in Falun Gong, and to lengthen them if they hold firm to their faith.
Judges Threaten Practitioners with Prison if They Refuse to Give up Falun Gong
Zhu Rongzhen, 67, is a Falun Gong practitioner from Kunming City, Yunnan Province. After her arrest in 2011, she soon developed high blood pressure and was admitted to Yunnan Provincial Prison Hospital.
The local court held a secret trial for Zhu Rongzhen right at the hospital on December 23 that year. The judge threatened, “If you give up your practice of Falun Gong, I’ll just sentence you to probation and you can go home right away. But if you want to keep practicing, I’ll give you three years.”
Though Ms. Zhu couldn’t wait to see her 80-year-old father and two new grandchildren, she could never give up her faith in Falun Gong. Not surprisingly, she was given three years.
A practitioner from Changchun City, Jilin Province corroborated Ms. Zhu’s account since he, too, was threatened with a heavy sentence.
Practitioners Punished Even Further for Testifying for Themselves at Trials
The following few examples show how the judicial system casually increases its pre-determined sentences of practitioners just because they testify for themselves and tell everyone the facts about the persecution of Falun Dafa at their trials.
1) Zhang Jinsheng from Qingyuan County, Fushun City, Liaoning Province saw his sentence increased from 8 to 13 years in October 2004.
2) Song Weijuan from Nantong City, Jiangsu Province had five more years added to her initial verdict of five and a half years in November 2002.
3) Xu Meixiang (also named Xu Ying) from Jingjiang City, Taizhou, Shandong Province saw her sentence lengthened from 5 to 7 years.
4) Zhao Jianshe and brothers Zhang Zunyu and Zhang Zunliang, all practitioners from Weifang City, Shandong Province, were tried at the Xuwu District Court in Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province in June 2003. They were given 9, 7, and 8 years respectively, one year more than their pre-determined sentences.
5) Zhang Zhaohua, an official from the Hailaer Branch of Harbin Railway Bureau in Heilongjiang Province, was initially sentenced to five years on March 8, 2002. At his second trial, however, he was given two more years after he told everyone how he was pressed into renouncing Falun Gong and how determined he was to resume the practice.
6) Qin Yanqiu from Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province was given a heavy sentence for testifying for herself. Judge Liu Liangkai from the Taicang City Court even removed her husband and son from the courtroom during her trial.
Strong Defense Arguments Met with Heavy Sentences
On November 10, 2009, a Jixi District Court in Heilongjiang Province tried Wang Xinchun, Liu Xuegang and Zhong Li. The three practitioners’ lawyers delivered powerful defense arguments, but the judge still handed down heavy sentences.
Public Prosecutor Han Jianli had no answer when questioned why the police didn’t find any of the “prohibited” items Wang Xinchun “confessed” to possess.
The interrogation records were also full of suspicious points. One extreme example was that somehow officer Sun Weiguo managed to show up and conduct an interrogation at two different places (Xishan Police Station and Jixi Detention Center) two minutes apart. Did he split into two bodies?
The lawyers’ questioning of the public prosecutor peeled off one layer of lies upon another. Agents from the local 610 Office and Domestic Security Office couldn’t stand listening any longer and left mid-way through the trial.
Towards the end of the trial, Han Jianli suggested to Judge Ma Liping, “I think you should sentence them to at least 7 years.”
Judge Ma indeed sentenced Wang Xinchun to 9 years, Liu Xuegang and Zhong Li each 8 years.
In addition to the three practitioners, the same court had sentenced more than ten other practitioners in the past. Fang Xicai from Hengshan District was given 15 years and Li Zhenying from Erdaohezi Coal Mine got 12 years.
Judge Sentences Shang Dexing to Three Years for Using Lawyers
After Shang Dexing from Qingdao City, Shandong Province was arrested at home on May 3, 2010, his family hired two lawyers to defend him.
The court informed Attorney Han on August 21, 2010 that it would sentence his client on the 25th without any trial.
However, Judge Yu Yong went to the Dashan Detention Center to deliver the verdict on the 24th. He said to Shang Dexing, “I warned you not to hire a lawyer, but you didn’t listen. I had planned to acquit you but now I’m giving you three years.”
Practitioners See Their Initial Sentences Increase When they Appeal for Their Own Cases
Normally when people appeal their own cases, the worst result is that the higher courts uphold their initial verdicts. However, the following examples show that practitioners are given heavier sentences as a result of their appeal.
1) Retired physician Liu Zhaoqin was sentenced to three years by Qingyupu Court in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province in 2004. After she appealed her case, Judge Tu Chunjian of the higher court added two more years to her sentence.
2) Cheng Xiuhuan was sentenced to 6 years by Aimin District Court in Mudanjiang City, Heilongjiang Province, but she was given one more year after she filed an appeal.
Police Chief Intimidates Courts to Convict Practitioners
At the trial of Rao Xumin by Yingcheng City Court in Hubei Province on September 26, 2006, his lawyer had to defend him as guilty under pressure from the local 610 Office. The lawyer knew Rao was innocent but didn’t dare to defend him as not guilty.
When the case went up to the Xiaogan City Intermediate Court, the higher court dismissed the case several times, citing insufficient evidence.
However, chief Yin Shi of the Yingcheng City Police Department refused to release Rao Xumin. Yin Shi went to lobby the Hubei Province Public Security Bureau and threatened to resign if Rao Xumin was not convicted.
As a result of Yin Shi’s intimidation, the three judges at the higher court who dismissed Rao Xumin’s case were all disciplined and removed from his case.
Police Send Practitioners to Labor Camps after Courts Acquit Them
On May 10, 2000, Xishui County Court in Hubei Province opened a trial of Yang Yunhua, Lin Yongjia and Yang Shurong.
The three practitioners’ lawyers delivered such a robust argument that the judge had to agree that none of them broke any law. However, he had to consult with higher-ups before delivering a final verdict.
Several months later, the verdict came that all three practitioners should be released.
However, the police department turned a blind eye and sent the three practitioners to labor camps instead.
610 Office Pressures Judge to Hand down Heavy Sentences to Practitioners
Shenbeixinqu Court in Liaoning Province tried Xi Changmei, Wang Sumei, Sun Yushu and Huo Fude twice, on December 1 and 9, 2008, respectively. Afterwards, Wang was given 10 years, Xi 11 years, Sun 8 years and Huo 6 years.
According to insiders at the local judicial system, the new head of the 610 Office Sun Yonggang was behind all these heavy sentences. Practitioner Wang Sumei once directly requested him to release all practitioners and he was outraged, “I’ll sentence you to 10 years.” The court indeed followed his order.
Verdicts Decided Even Before Trials Begin
While talking amongst each other at a home in Xianhan Town, Guanghan City, Sichuan Province on October 21, 1999, a group of 21 practitioners were reported and soon arrested by the police.
Since the practitioners came from different provinces, this case was dubbed the very first “Falun Gong Cross-Province Association Case in Sichuan” and received close attention from higher-ups, including Luo Gan, former head of the 610 Office at the central government level.
Three of the practitioners, Zhuang Keng (from Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province), Chen Tuoyu (from Guiyang City, Guizhou Province), and Yu Yufang (from Guanghan City, Sichuan Province) were tried at the Guanghan City Court on July 5, 2000.
By pure chance someone saw two classified documents related to the three practitioners.
The first document was an application from the Guanghan City Court asking Deyang City Intermediate Court and Sichuan Province High Court to approve their conviction of the three practitioners and their proposed sentencing (Zhuang Keng, 5 years; Chen Tuoyu, 3 years; and Yu Yufang, 3 years).
The second document was a response from the two higher courts, which approved the lower court’s verdicts with some changes. The higher court upheld Yu Yufang’s sentence, but decreased Zhuang Keng’s to 4 years and increased Chen Tuoyu’s to 3.5 years.
Although the trial didn’t take place until July 5, 2000, the response from the higher courts was dated June 29, 2000.
Higher Court Dismisses Defendant’s Appeal even Before She Files Paperwork
On March 27, 2006, Yandu District Court of Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province sentenced Miao Ping from Funing City to three and a half years.
Ms. Miao filed an appeal to the Yancheng City Intermediate Court on April 6, 2006 and soon received the results. The verdict passed to her by Funing Detention Center indicated that the higher court dismissed her appeal on March 28, 2006.
Though Without Legal Authority, Police “Sentence” Practitioners to Forced Labor and then Prison in Less Than 10 Days
Zhenxing District Court in Dandong City, Liaoning Province opened a trial for Shao Changfen and Shao Changhua on December 24, 2010 and their two lawyers from Beijing defended them as not guilty.
During the nearly two hours of defense, the lawyers pointed out one key issue: the local police increased their clients’ penalty two times in less than 10 days, all without any legal authority.
Both practitioners were given 15 days of administrative detention upon their arrest. However, six days later, the police changed their penalty to one and a half years of forced labor and transferred them to the Dandong Detention Center. Just two days later, their sentence was escalated to prison terms.
When asked if the police had any legal authority to sentence people to labor camps or prison, the public prosecutor didn’t dare give a firm answer and remained silent instead.
Wife Wrongly Accused yet Husband Has No Place to Appeal for Her Case
Li Yanping is a practitioner from Houquanfang Village, Laiyuan County, Hebei Province. On the afternoon of October 13, 2006, agents Bai Shutian and Zhang Fang from Laiyuan County Police Station arrested her at her home and sent her to the Laiyuan County Detention Center.
When the Laiyuan County Court tried Li Yanping on January 25, 2007, the judge only allowed evidence against her to be presented, but totally forbid her to testify for herself or call witnesses.
The police tortured Li Yanping during interrogation and also extorted money from her family. Yet none of these facts were admitted in the trial and the judge did his best to find excuses for the police.
Li Yanping’s husband Zhang Yanliang filed a complaint to Laiyuan County Procuratorate and Laiyuan County Court but both agencies declined to hear the case.
Zhang Yanliang next visited the Procuratorate Discipline Committee, but was referred to the police department, which directed him to appeal to the County Government Appeals Office, which pointed him back to the county court.