(Minghui.org) The presiding judge of the trial of a Falun Gong practitioner disqualified the defense lawyer the day before the hearing on the grounds that the lawyer was from out of town.

Mr. Wang Yongqing, a resident in Changchun City, was arrested on March 9, 2016, for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime. His family hired Mr. Ma Wei to defend his constitutional right to freedom of belief, as no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong.

Gaoxin District Court approved Mr. Ma’s application to represent his client and allowed him to review the case file.

Mr. Wang’s family received a phone call from Judge Dong Qing on November 9, informing them of a court hearing set for the next morning. The family was surprised by such a short notice and were stunned when Dong told them that Mr. Ma had been disqualified because he was an out-of-town lawyer.

The family asked why the court suddenly changed its stance on their lawyer at the last minute, but Dong declined to provide an explanation or approve the family’s request to defend Mr. Wang themselves.

Mr. Ma, who was tending to another client in a faraway province at the time, suggested the family seek a postponement of the hearing. Dong turned down the request and ordered Mr. Wang to stand trial on November 10.

Only two of Mr. Wang's family members were allowed inside, but they were promptly removed when they protested the lack of legal representation for the defendant.

The hearing ended in ten minutes.

The family learned later that Jilin authorities have recently issued a new order stipulating that no out-of-town lawyers are allowed to represent local Falun Gong practitioners.