(Minghui.org) A 73-year-old woman in Hangzhou City urged the judge in her trial to follow the law and not repeat the same mistake made in her case her years ago.

Ms. Dong Xiangru was first arrested in May 2006 and sentenced to 3.5 years for refusing to renounce Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime. She was severely abused during her imprisonment, and more than once she was rushed to the ER to treat her injuries and health complications. Fortunately, she made a full recovery after she was released and able to do Falun Gong exercises again at home.

The local police never loosened their grip on her. Zhu Xijun and another officer appeared at her home on June 7, 2017, to try to force her to renounce her faith. She refused and was arrested eight days later.

The police interrogated her for six straight hours before driving her to Hangzhou Detention Center, which declined to take her due to her high blood pressure. The police took her back at 5 a.m. on June 16 and released her on one year of bail at noon.

Ms. Dong received a copy of her indictment on April 2, 2018, and appeared in court on May 9. She testified in her own defense first. Her lawyer next presented his defense arguments. A family member of Ms. Dong's followed up by providing support for her constitutional right to freedom of belief.

Ms. Dong Testifies in Own Defense

The prosecutor charged Ms. Dong with violating Article 300 of the Criminal Law, “using a cult organization to undermine enforcement of the law.”

Ms. Dong refuted the baseless charges. 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 for engaging in a cult must be based on solid legal grounds. Since no law in China labels Falun Gong a cult, Ms. Dong argued that the indictment against her lacked legal basis.

Ms. Dong emphasized that she was not only speaking for herself but also for court officials who were still following the persecution policy. She urged them to follow the law and to acquit her and numerous other Falun Gong practitioners being prosecuted for their faith.

She said that Falun Gong practitioners risk their lives to defend its innocence and show that the practice is not as depicted by state propaganda.

Authorities' Failed Attempt to Stop Lawyer from Representing Ms. Dong

Ms. Dong's lawyer presented his defense arguments next. He explained why he was late for the hearing: his local judicial bureau had tried to stop him from representing Ms. Dong, and he had to overcome many obstacles to travel to Hangzhou to attend the trial.

Judge Zhang stopped the lawyer at this point. When the lawyer was allowed to talk again, he refuted the charges and the prosecution evidence against his client. He argued that the alleged surveillance video that showed a woman distribute 26 copies of Falun Gong materials was blurry and that there was no proof that the woman was his client.

The prosecutor responded by recommending a sentence of 3 to 7 years in prison.

Family Defends Ms. Dong

One of Ms. Dong's family members testified after the lawyer and urged the court to acquit her. He refuted the prosecutor's claim that Ms. Dong's past imprisonment was an indication that she was a repeat offender. He argued that Ms. Dong should never have been prosecuted for exercising her constitutional right to freedom of belief in the first place.

The family member also revealed that agents from the local police department, procuratorate, and court had tried to stop them from hiring a lawyer.

Xihu District Court: +86-571-88497960

Judge Zhang Yu and clerk Wang Yana

Xihu District ProcuratorateProsecutor Fan Lijuan and Ma Rui+86-571-87933726, +86-571-87933718, +86-571-87982000

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Related Report in Chinese:杭州市西湖区法院非法庭审七旬董湘茹