Lessons Learned from Hiring Lawyers
(Minghui.org) Families of Falun Gong practitioners and practitioners who have been illegally arrested and detained have resorted to hiring lawyers, as more and more lawyers are willing to take on the risk to defend practitioners.
However, the process of finding a qualified lawyer is uncertain and at times covered with pitfalls. I became aware of some confusion when I joined the effort to rescue illegally detained practitioners.
I’ve summarized three points below as advice for those who will hire lawyers. I hope that practitioners with similar experiences will help us improve our understandings.
I visited a lawyer who was very famous in my city, although my mind was uneasy about it. The lawyer turned me down as soon as he heard that this was a case about Falun Gong. He said his supervisor had issued an order to reject Falun Gong cases. I can still recall my feelings of depression and hopelessness after meeting him.
I recently had heard that the environment had improved and that we could more easily hire lawyers to defend Falun Gong. This was good news, but it made us go to the other extreme, as we started to admire lawyers blindly. As long as a lawyer was introduced by another practitioner, we would accept that lawyer without any questions asked. Although the prices were sometimes high, we felt there was hope, as practitioners shared the cost of lawyers' fees—making it less costly to those involved.
The first lawyer we hired came from Beijing. We were all excited and behaved like primary school students. The lawyer was very polite, of good character, and spoke in an organized fashion. As we had no experience with hiring a lawyer, we listened to his instructions and guidance. We followed his suggestions as if we were small obedient children.
We were told that if a practitioner handed out more than 400 copies of Falun Gong materials, that amount would warrant a prison sentence. We did not question him concerning his information, nor did we object to his statements. Actually, it is legal to spread one’s belief, and it does not matter how many materials one hands out. We were not committing a crime.
The lawyer claimed that if a practitioner was caught on camera, he must not admit that it was him, so it would be easier to defend the practitioner. However, it would be problematic if two practitioners remarks were not the same.
If a practitioner had been interrogated by police and an interrogation record existed, this particular lawyer would not accept the case. Even a local practitioner whose name appeared on the interrogation records could not be part of the rescuing effort.
This lawyer suggested that he would claim that the evidence was incomplete and point to other misrepresentations, trying to invalidate the record. He would also state that having a belief was not forbidden under Chinese law.
For me, pleading not guilty was wrong—as in the first place, someone who is innocent should not go into a plea bargaining position. After I brought up this issue, I was told that if he stated that the practitioner was innocent for practicing Falun Gong at the beginning, he would be removed from the courtroom. This resulted in my understanding that all we needed was to assure that the lawyer had his day in court.
However, Master told us to deny the persecution completely. If the defense would start out by using half-truths, then we would not have a usable defense. We knew that wherever problems arose, we should clarify the truth about Falun Gong. But, when facing that lawyer, we forgot Master’s teachings.
Justice Not Served by Lawyers’ Game Plans
Another lawyer appeared to be very clever and had a unique character. He did not prepare a written defense; instead, he play-acted his defense tactics in court. He was good at seizing legal loopholes to “attack” the public prosecutor and focus on “picking out faults” in the evidence. He made the statement that the practice was innocent. Thus, this tactic looked good on the surface.
Although the defense said what they had planned, the sentence was still heavy. The trial outcome was not determined by the defense, but by the deception and coercion practiced by the 610 Office.
In the appeal, the lawyer simply did not mention Falun Gong, but merely argued that the evidence was insufficient.
We reviewed his paperwork, feeling that he was very professional and very legal, though a little noncommittal. Some practitioners agreed with his opinion, but some questioned why he did not mention that it is legal to practice Falun Gong.
The lawyer had said that there were two kinds of defenses: one to defend the nature of the case, the other to prove innocence. He claimed that any defense relying on an innocent plea was useless. He focused on the outcome, therefore, even telling us that if his defendant was guilty, it was not a problem as long as they could win the case. He stressed that we should not treat him as a cultivator, but do as he suggested.
Hearing him talk and knowing that he was an average person, after all, we felt that we could not tell him how to defend Falun Gong practitioners. He was a professional and it was hard to say anything that countered his opinion. However, they wanted to clarify the truth to the staff assigned to the case.
Somehow I felt that this approach was not right to defend innocence. One practitioner said, “Won’t we tell the truth in court to save people?”
If in the appeal letter, and during the defense in court, no people were to be mentioned, how could the interference in other dimensions be dissolved? Were those proofs of guilt or innocence?
While the lawyer was talking, I thought, “If it is not a matter to prove the practice innocent or if you are not quite sure, aren’t you admitting that one is guilty?”
I continued with my thoughts, “Doesn’t this type of defense already turn into a guilty plea? Wasn’t the innocent defense written for Mr. Zhou Xiangyang by his lawyer, calling for justice, useless?”
Similarly, this lawyer was dismissed by the arrested practitioner’s family members after another average lawyer was hired who would present a guilty defense.
As such, we were lacking the necessary logic, clear Fa principles, and solid communication with the lawyer. We ignored the importance of stressing justice and innocence. We should win the case for Falun Gong, not only for the person involved. We ought to defend justice and truth and not play games just to win the case.
Even average people call for justice and righteousness. The power of evil can never surpass righteousness. Why are we practitioners afraid of justice that causes the evil to go mad?
Would we expect that the court enforce the law after we carefully find a loophole to sneak in? The police departments, the prosecutors, and the courts were all under the control of the 610 Office, each with the intent to persecute.
If we truly wanted to rescue practitioners, wouldn’t it depend on that detained practitioner and local practitioners’ righteous thoughts acting like one body? And under Master’ protection, wouldn’t the miracle be created?
Playing the Leading Role
I once checked with a fellow practitioner’s family members to obtain the judge’s and Procuratorate’s names for clarifying the facts about Falun Gong. The family members did not dare to ask the lawyer for this information I requested. I was told that the lawyer had a bad temper and was impatient. The family members were told that they should not tell the lawyer what to do.
Indeed, in almost all the cases dealing with lawyers, out of respect, embarrassment, or humility, we were all listening most of the time and rarely spoke up, thus neglecting to share our opinions and requests.
In another case, we asked to add one more complaint during the appeal process. The lawyer refused and said if we insisted that he do so, he would ask for additional fees. That put an end to our request.
In the past, no lawyers agreed to defend practitioners. We had to defend them ourselves, relying on the ones arrested and other practitioners to tell the truth to eliminate the persecutory environment.
We had to be more diligent and were forced to read laws and regulations. We thought of many ways and carried them out, thus forming a tighter one body.
Since we hired a lawyer, the lawyer was our spokesperson. With the excuse of “the lawyer is representing us,” we visited the detention center less and avoided seeing the judges, the state security policemen, and the Procuratorate. Thus we avoided many chances to face the persecutors and help them gain a more favorable attitude.
We let the lawyer deal with everything representing justice while we drew back, stayed home to send righteous thoughts, and waited for the outcome of the case. With all the time that went by, who knew if the quality of our righteous thoughts was good or not?
With more people needed, sending righteous thoughts for the individual that we were trying to rescue was forgotten. Only when the lawyer came every two to three months would we notify a handful of people for a meeting and news. When the lawyer left, we all left. So one case could easily last more than a year. The question then arose: Were we rescuing the arrested practitioner(s) or not?
To gain a better understanding of the legal processes, I systematically read lots of articles on websites hoping they would be a tool to counter the persecution and rescue practitioners. I was thinking that we already had a very professional legal model and legal experience. If everyone paid attention to getting more familiar with other practitioners’ experiences, maybe we could learn to defend ourselves, our relatives, and other practitioners.
In particular, some lawyers were unwilling to directly accuse some perpetrators. Actually, we could do this ourselves to help arrested practitioners protect their legitimate rights.