(Minghui.org) Four women were tried by Wujiang Court in Suzhou City on charges of “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.

Ms. Zhao Xiuzhen, 74, and Ms. Liu Ximei, 66, were arrested on May 11, 2017. Ms. Cao Zhiying, 60, and Ms. Huang Zheng, 76, were taken into custody the following day. The four women were targeted after they were reported for talking to people about Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime, in a local park.

Ms. Zhao, Ms. Cao, and Ms. Huang are local residents, while Ms. Liu lives in Zhejiang Province and was visiting her sister in Suzhou at the time. They had a total of eight lawyers representing them in the joint trial held on March 6, 2018. The lawyers refuted the charges and questioned the prosecution evidence against their clients. The four women also testified in their own defense and demanded an acquittal.

Judge Zhou Binghong adjourned the session, which ran from 10 a.m. to 8:40 p.m., without issuing a verdict. The four practitioners remain at Huangli Detention Center.

Baseless Charges

The lawyers challenged prosecutor Li Kun to specify which law labeled Falun Gong a cult and allowed her to cite Article 300 as basis to charge their clients. She had no answer.

The lawyers went on to explain that the indictment against their clients was baseless.

Since the People’s Congress (China’s legislative body) has never enacted a law deeming Falun Gong a cult, 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 that 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 four women lacks legal basis.

Judge Zhou warned the lawyers to not mention Falun Gong and kept interrupting them as they were making their case. He also demanded the four practitioners admit guilt, which they firmly refused. The practitioners testified in their own defense instead.

Inadmissible Evidence

The lawyers also argued that the prosecution evidence was inadmissible.

Prosecutor Li alleged the four practitioners broke the law by possessing Falun Gong books and informational materials. She cited as legal basis two notices issued by China's Administration of Press and Publications in July 1999 to ban the publication of Falun Gong books.

The lawyers countered that the Administration issued a repeal of the ban in 2011 and that it was fully legal for practitioners to own Falun Gong books.

Prosecutor Li presented a blurry photo of several people standing by a curbside in the evening time. She claimed they were the four practitioners. The lawyers argued that the photo only showed side or back view of the people and that there was no evidence to show that they were their clients. Moreover, the photo showed no illegal activity.

Li proceeded to show a document issued by Suzhou City Police Department’s Security Team that claimed the items confiscated from the four practitioners were indeed cult-related. She didn’t present any of the alleged physical evidence. No officer was present to discuss the confiscated items.

The lawyers argued that the security team was not an agency authorized to verify prosecution evidence and that the document bore no signature or official stamp. They went on to question why none of the alleged prosecution witnesses mentioned in the indictment showed up in court to accept cross examination. Moreover, the indictment didn’t have the witnesses’ ID information as required by law.

The lawyers concluded that the prosecution evidence was inadmissible. They also emphasized that their clients caused no harm to anyone, much less undermine law enforcement, by practicing and telling people about Falun Gong.

Police Violation of Legal Procedures

The lawyers and the practitioners also testified against agents from the local Songling Police Station, which made the arrest.

The police never produced their IDs or a search warrant when they arrested the four practitioners. They also failed to give the practitioners a list of confiscated items as required by law.

The officer in charge of the practitioners’ case refused to meet with their families or reveal his full name to them. The families only knew that he was surnamed Chen and his office phone was +86-512-63093110.

Ms. Cao had been found to have high blood pressure, heart problem, and facial paralysis during the required medical examination, but the police still pressured the detention center to admit her.

Ms. Liu recounted how she was deceived into giving self-incriminating evidence. Several officers came to interrogate her at the detention center. They promised to release her if she signed a document to confirm that she was arrested for talking to people about Falun Gong. Eager to return to her family in Zhejiang, she signed the document handed to her through the window partition of the meeting room. She wasn’t given a chance to read it. She realized that she had been lied to when she was told to attend trial.

A Sham “Public” Trial

The supposedly public trial was closed off to the public, with police videotaping those who tried to enter the courthouse to attend the trial.

There were many courtrooms available that day, but judge Zhou used a 36-person room for the trial. He didn’t tell the lawyers and families about the room number until twenty minutes before the hearing was about to start. The eight lawyers had to squeeze into a space reserved only for two people.

Only a dozen family members in total were allowed to attend the trial. They were ordered to go through three rounds of security checks. Those who had to use the restroom in the middle of the trial were made to go through security checks again on their way back.

The families found that half the courtroom was occupied by people they didn’t know. Some of the strangers left after the second recess around 6 that evening. The family members were not allowed to sit next to each other. Instead, each of them was sandwiched by two men and prohibited from communicating with each other.

Loved Ones Made “Witnesses” Without Their Knowledge

Ms. Zhao’s son and daughter-in-law were barred from entering the courtroom. Judge Zhou claimed that they were Ms. Zhao’s witnesses and thus blocked outside. The young couple, who lives with Ms. Zhao and was arrested at the same time, never requested to testify in her defense. They realized that they must have been made witnesses after they were forced to sign the police’s interrogation records before they were released.

Ms. Cao’s daughter found herself in the same situation, with Judge Zhou saying that she was her mother’s witness. She remembered that police came to her home days after her mother’s arrest to ask her some questions. She signed their records without knowing what police did to the records afterwards.

By law, a plaintiff’s witnesses are allowed to attend the trial. Ms. Cao argued that even if she were a witness, she should be allowed to go inside the courtroom. Judge Zhao ignored her. She noticed some words engraved on the wall reading “Everyone is equal before the law.” She took a picture of it but was forced to delete it from her phone.

She refused to leave and stood outside in the cold for almost 12 hours. She had hoped to catch a glimpse of her mother at the end of the hearing, but her wish was never realized.

Related Report:Ms. Zhao Xiuzhen Arrested and Threatened with Imprisonment