(Minghui.org) Over a hundred police officers and armed police were stationed outside the gate of the temporary courtroom on September 13, 2016. Everyone who wished to attend the hearing was blocked from entering the Maoming Number One Detention Center, except for two members of each defendant's family.

Meanwhile, the judicial authorities of Maoming City, Guangdong Province held a court hearing for four Falun Gong practitioners.

The practitioners—Mr. Ke Zhengji, Ms. Xie Yilan, Mr. Mai Zhizhong, and Ms. Li Suming—were arrested on November 19 last year. They have been detained at the detention center ever since.

This was the first hearing for all of them. The authorities decided to hold it at the detention center's courtroom instead of the normal courtroom.

Judge Repeatedly Cuts off Defense Attorneys' Statements

The hearing started at 9 a.m., and even before attorneys for Mr. Ke and Ms. Xie could enter a not guilty plea, Judge Li Zhiqiang repeatedly interrupted them.

Wen Donghai, Ms. Ke's attorney, then stated, “The judge's statements are prejudicial to the defendants. We ask that the judge remove himself from the case.”

The hearing adjourned for five minutes. After it resumed, the judge stopped cutting off the defense attorneys when they spoke.

The defense attorneys argued that China's constitution protects a citizen’s freedom to hold his or her own belief and religion, and that there is no law in China that defines Falun Gong as illegal. The practice of Falun Gong is not a crime, the attorney contended, but rather, the persecution of Falun Gong by Jiang Zemin and his followers is a crime.

The hearing lasted eight and a half hours.

Authorities Keep Family Members from Attending the Hearing

The Maonan District Court of Maoming City notified the families of Mr. Ke and Ms. Xie on September 8 to apply for permission to attend the hearing.

When the families came to the court, the staff told them that only two members of each family were allowed to attend the hearing.

Ms. Xie's husband said, “We have three sons and three daughters-in-law. Why would you only let two people in?”

Prior to the hearing, the Maoming City 610 Office requested each street residential committee to monitor Falun Gong practitioners in their area and to make sure that they would not attend the hearing.

Police visited practitioner Mr. Zhu Shixiong at his store on September 11. Mr. Zhu said that he was busy and left.

That same day, several people went to practitioner Ms. Chen Yuping's home. She was not at home.

Ms. Tao Yonghong was harassed at home by about twenty people from her residential committee on September 12. An officer from the local police station then came. They took her to the police station and detained her for the whole night. The president of her residential committee personally stayed with her overnight.

Ms. Tao tried to go home the next morning. Her residential committee president called four police officers to lock her in a room. She was not released until 3 p.m.

Nearly 100 police officers and armed police gathered in front of the gate of the detention center on the morning of the hearing. Over a dozen cars were parked on both sides of the street, leaving only a narrow lane for cars to pass. Inside the gate of the detention center, 20 to 30 vehicles were parked.

Several Falun Gong practitioners arrived at the detention center and attempted to enter the hearing room, but were blocked outside. Plainclothes police used their mobile phones to take pictures of practitioners, surrounded each practitioner and ordered them to leave the premises.

A practitioner said, “I am here to support my friends, but you won't allow me to sit in for the court hearing. Why are you holding the hearing at the detention center instead of the district court? What are you afraid of? You brought so many of your people here. Why can't we stand here?”

The plainclothes police also asked practitioners to show ID's. One practitioner said, “Before I comply with your demand, I'd like to know who you are and where you work.” The police would not identify themselves.