Two Women, Sentenced to Prison for Their Faith, Vow to Appeal Guilty Verdicts
(Minghui.org) Two women in Kunming City were each sentenced to a three-year prison term and fined 10,000 yuan for “using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese communist regime in its attempt to frame and imprison practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.
Ms. Xu Chunfeng and Ms. Zhang Qingxiu were reported to police while they were distributing Falun Gong materials on November 22, 2016. Ms. Xu was taken into custody the next day, and Ms. Zhang Qingxiu, who is in her sixties, was arrested at home on December 5.
The two Falun Gong practitioners were tried jointly on May 19, 2017. Their three defense lawyers entered not-guilty pleas for them. The lawyers argued that no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong, and that their clients should never have been prosecuted for exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of belief and freedom of the press.
The lawyers also refuted the prosecution evidence, and demanded that their clients be acquitted. The judges convicted both practitioners on June 1.
Both Ms. Xu and Ms. Zhang expressed their wish to appeal the guilty verdicts when they met with their lawyers on June 8 and June 21, respectively.
Judges and Prosecutor Violate Legal Procedure
Ms. Xu and Ms. Zhang were brought to Luquan County Court on May 19 to face trial, which was co-presided over by judges Yuan Jiahong and Wang Yan.
The hearing was held in a courtroom with only ten seats for spectators, and some of Ms. Xu’s and Ms. Zhang’s supporters were unable to get in to attend the trial.
As soon as the hearing began, the lawyers noticed that the prosecution witness, who reported their clients to police, was nowhere to be found. Having read the witness’ conflicting testimonies in the indictment, the lawyers immediately filed a written request demanding that the witness testify in court and be cross-examined.
The request was turned down, and the lawyers questioned how the judges could ensure a fair trial without calling the witness to the stand. They demanded that the judges be recused.
The judges recessed the session for a few minutes. When they returned, they informed the lawyers that the recusal request had been rejected.
The lawyers once again protested the judges’ decision. By law, a recusal request concerning presiding judges must be reviewed by court presidents.
The judges recessed the hearing for a second time, only to return with the same decision.
Prosecutor Wang Xuehai was then instructed to present his prosecution evidence. By law, for each item presented, the defense should be given time to ask questions and verify the authenticity and validity of the evidence. Wang, however, flashed multiple items at a time without giving the lawyers a chance to talk.
The lawyers protested, and the judges finally allowed them a few minutes to ask questions for every three items presented by Wang.
The lawyers caught several contradictory statements made by Wang, but the judges ignored their request to have the prosecution evidence excluded.
Wang concluded his presentation by recommending 3-4 years of prison time for both practitioners.
Ms. Xu and Ms. Zhang then testified in their own defense and argued that they broke no law by telling people that Falun Gong is being wrongfully persecuted. They demanded an acquittal, only to be sentenced less than two weeks later.