Lower Court Gives Woman Predetermined Sentence; Higher Court Upholds Original Verdict
(Minghui.org) When a Yingtan woman was tried in early August this year, both she and her lawyer testified to her innocence, that believing in and promoting Falun Gong were not illegal. Though neither the prosecutor nor the judge offered arguments or legal challenges to the contrary, the judge still gave her a four-year prison sentence a month later.
An official at the Yujiang County Court forewarned Ms. Cheng Laihua (程来花)'s family before the sentence was handed down: “Her not-guilty plea and defense will have no effect whatsoever. The court has already decided on a guilty verdict.”
Ms. Cheng's appeal was turned down by Yingtan City Intermediate Court in just 20 days. She began a hunger strike to protest on October 5, but was still transferred to Jiangxi Province Women's Prison five days later.
Ms. Cheng is now in the prison hospital. She has been denied family visits for refusing to give up her belief in Falun Gong.
Ms. Cheng Laihua, in her 50s, lives on Jianshe Street in the Yuehu District, Yingtan City. On April 5, 2014, she distributed Falun Gong materials in Yujiang County and was arrested by police from the Yingtan City Domestic Security Team, including officer Huang Zhihua. She was detained in Zhongtong Town Police Station in Yujiang County.
On August 6, she was tried in the Yujiang County Court. Before being allowed to enter the courtroom, each person was photographed and searched. The authorities deployed two dozen uniformed police and several dozen plainclothes officers to carry out this "security detail."
Inside the courtroom, police officers occupied all of the first row, while plainclothes officers sat in the last row, surrounding the ten family members and other attendees who were allowed in. During the trial, which lasted over two hours, officials roamed the courtroom photographing the spectators. They disturbed the proceedings with their intrusive behavior that was clearly meant to intimidate.
The prosecutors charged Ms. Cheng with “disrupting social order” and “sabotaging law enforcement.” Ms. Cheng defended herself calmly. She told the court that practicing Falun Gong improved her health and taught her to be a good person. She said that it was not a crime to live by the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and that it was not a crime to tell people about Falun Gong.
She mentioned the fact that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has committed crimes against Falun Gong practitioners, who merely want to be good people, and that the CCP has corrupted the morality of society. She told the court that good will prevail over evil and that justice will win out.
The lawyer retained by Ms. Cheng's family also defended her. He stated that Ms. Cheng worked diligently as a live-in nanny and was well known for her integrity and good character. Her distributing Falun Gong materials did not disturb anyone, nor did it disrupt traffic. The charge “disrupting social order” was groundless.
The Chinese constitution protects people's freedom of belief and, therefore, the right to practice Falun Gong; distributing Falun Gong materials is not against the law. Therefore, the charge “sabotaging law enforcement” was not applicable, either. Her lawyer also asked the court to present and play the evidence: the Falun Gong DVD that Ms. Cheng distributed.
The request was denied, and the trial was adjourned.
Around August 30, Ms. Cheng's family and friends went to the courthouse to inquire about her case. They were told that the final verdict had been decided by the city government and that the judges just had to follow orders.
In early September, Ms. Cheng was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. She insisted on her innocence and appealed the sentence to the Yingtan City Intermediate Court, which took just three weeks to uphold the conviction and sentencing.
Starting October 5, Ms. Cheng went on a hunger strike to protest. On October 10, she was taken to Jiangxi Province Women's Prison. Her family was denied visitation. The political instructor of the fifth ward, Wu, claimed, “No family visits for those who refuse to 'transform.' Hunger strike days don't count towards days served of a prison term.”