Man Sentenced to Nine Months in Prison for Exercising His Belief
(Minghui.org) A man was detained for almost six months before being tried for his belief in Falun Gong. He pleaded not guilty in court, as he was exercising his constitutional rights to freedom of belief. His lawyer argued that the charges were baseless and the evidence flawed. Two weeks after the trial he was found guilty of “using a cult organization to undermine enforcement of the law” and sentenced to nine months in prison.
Lawyer Points out Prosecution’s Flawed Evidence and Baseless Charges in Court
Mr. Gu Rongfeng began practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline persecuted in China since 1999, 20 years ago. At his Jiangyin City Court trial on November 15, 2017, Mr. Gu was wearing handcuffs and shackles. The lawyer argued that the prosecution’s witness was questionable because the prosecution failed to produce any of its evidence and the signature presented on a paper was indistinct.
One piece of prosecution evidence against Mr. Gu was his possession, reading, and dissemination of Falun Gong books. His defense attorney pointed out that the books and literature of Falun Gong confiscated at Mr. Gu’s home cannot be used as evidence against him.
The police and prosecutors cited as legal basis two notices issued by China's Administration of Press and Publications in July 1999 banning the publication of Falun Gong books. However, the administration issued a repeal of the ban in 2011 that made it fully legal for practitioners to own Falun Gong books.
Mr. Gu was charged with violating Article 300 of the Criminal Law, which stipulates that those using a cult organization to undermine enforcement of the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.
The People’s Congress (China’s legislative body) has never enacted a law deeming Falun Gong a “cult.” However, former Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin directed the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate to issue a statutory interpretation of Article 300 in November 1999, which required that anyone practicing or promoting Falun Gong be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.
A new statutory interpretation replaced the 1999 version took effect on February 1, 2017. The new interpretation made no mention of Falun Gong and emphasized that any indictment against anyone engaging in a cult must be based on solid legal grounds. Since no law in China labels Falun Gong a cult, the indictment against the practitioners lacked legal basis.
As for the accusation of Mr. Gu being a repeat offender of the law, the lawyer argued that Mr. Gu shouldn’t have been persecuted for exercising his constitutional rights in the first place. His previous arrest lacked legal basis as did the new charge pressed against him.
Wrongful Arrests Turn into Repeated Offenses
Mr. Gu suffered severe stomach problems before he began practicing Falun Gong in 1997. He sought help from various medications yet nothing helped. He was also addicted to gambling and in the process of a divorce. A few months after he began practicing the teachings of Falun Gong, his stomach problems disappeared, he stopped gambling, and gave up smoking and alcohol. His wife stayed with him and supported his practice.
Officers from Guangruilu Police Station in Wuxi City arrested Mr. Gu on June 5, 2017, after he told people that the persecution of Falun Gong was wrong. A week later the police told his family that he would be released after his paperwork was processed. The next day, on June 13, the family came back to the Wuxi City 1st Detention Center only to find that police from Jiangyin City had taken him.
The lawyer later found out that Mr. Gu had previously been arrested on June 5, 2016, by the Jiangyin City police for telling people about Falun Gong. The police ransacked his home and sent his case to the Jiangyin Procuratorate.
The prosecutor dismissed the case for insufficient evidence and ordered his release. Regardless of legal procedures the police released him on bail awaiting trial. His arrest in June 2017 hence constituted a second offense of the same crime (of practicing Falun Gong) and the Jiangyin police took Mr. Gu back into custody for violating his bail condition.
Related report in Chinese:苏州顾荣峰被江阴法院非法庭审