Ex-Con-Turned-Teacher Twice Imprisoned for Holding Firm to Faith That Transformed His Life
(Minghui.org) When Mr. Li Youwu was first imprisoned years ago, he was an unemployed man convicted for fighting. Fortunately, the Xinyu City resident came across Falun Gong practitioners in prison and began practicing Falun Gong himself.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a mind-body practice based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. It has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since July 1999. Many Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested and jailed for refusing to renounce Falun Gong.
Mr. Li opened a tutoring school together with his wife after he was released. He used every opportunity to share with his students how Falun Gong turned him from a wayward man to a responsible citizen. One student reported him to police, who arrested him on October 27, 2011. He was soon sentenced to 3.5 years in prison.
Mr. Li resumed his efforts to raise awareness of the persecution after he was released in 2015. Police targeted him again. They stormed into his school on July 17, 2017 and arrested him and his wife. While his wife was released that night, Mr. Li remained captive at Xinyu City Detention Center.
Mr. Li was sentenced to 8 years in prison one year later after three court appearances.
Indicted Despite Wife's Plea to Drop the Case
Yushui District Police Department submitted Mr. Li's case to Yushui District Procuratorate on September 20 without informing his lawyer and family as required by law. The district procuratorate forwarded the case to Xinyu City Procuratorate on October 30.
Mr. Li's wife urged the city procuratorate to drop the case against her husband. She explained how Falun Gong had transformed her husband's life and questioned how he was being persecuted for striving to be a good person.
The city procuratorate returned the case to the district procuratorate around November 8. Cao Xiaojin of the district procuratorate later still filed an indictment against Mr. Li.
Mr. Li's wife called officer Fu Qiuping of Yushui District Domestic Security Office on January 23, 2018. No one answered the phone. She then asked the receptionist to connect her to Fu's cell phone. Fu hang up upon learning that it was Mr. Li's wife. He claimed he didn't know who she was, when in fact he had talked to her about Mr. Li's case before.
Sentenced after Three Court Appearances
Mr. Li first appeared at Yushui District Court on January 30, 2018. Judge Ao Wenlin presided over the trial, while Cao Xiaojin represented the prosecution.
Liao Huimin of Xinyu City 610 Office and agents of Yushui District 610 Office were present in court. The 610 Office is an extra-legal agency tasked with carrying out the persecution policy and given power to override the judicial system.
Mr. Li's wife requested to be his defender, but Lin Xinping, president of the criminal court, said no. He claimed that she had been made a prosecution witness by signing her interrogation records and was thus ineligible for being a defender.
Mr. Li's wife testified to how she was forced to sign the interrogation records following her arrest. Mr. Li's lawyer argued that no law prevented Mr. Li's wife from serving as a defender. Lin ignored him and refused to allow Mr. Li's wife to defend her husband.
Judge Ao and prosecutor Cao interrupted the lawyer whenever the latter mentioned the legality of Falun Gong and freedom of belief. Cao even accused him of spreading anti-Party propaganda.
When the hearing resumed on May 24, Cao presented an additional piece of evidence, namely, Mr. Li's “release from prison notice” following his first jail term. Mr. Li's lawyer argued that this evidence was collected past the investigative phase of the case and should be inadmissible.
Judge Ao promised to sentence Mr. Li to 3-7 years if he admitted guilt, but 7-15 years if he insisted on his innocence. Mr. Li immediately replied that he refused to admit guilt, as he broke no law.
Cao accused Mr. Li of sending out thousands of Falun Gong messages on WeChat (a popular Chinese social media app), even though there was no evidence to back up his allegation.
Mr. Li only acknowledged that he had a WeChat account, and judge Ao said that was enough to prove he had sent out the said amount of messages. There was another account that Cao alleged to also belong to Mr. Li, when there was no truth to it. Ao claimed that the prosecution could conclude that Mr. Li sent out at least one dozen more messages from the second account.
Mr. Li's wife's cell phone was hacked by police, so she didn't get the lawyer's notice of the third hearing on time. By the time she saw the lawyer on June 21, the hearing had already taken place the day before. She learned that some people from a local Internet Verification Center were present to allege that Mr. Li did send out the messages using both WeChat accounts. The lawyer countered that the Center wasn't authorized to verify any prosecution evidence.
Mr. Li's wife went to the procuratorate to look for Cao after meeting the lawyer. Cao had instructed the security to say he went to the court. Mr. Li's wife rushed to the court, but Cao was nowhere to be found. She returned to the procuratorate and managed to get inside the courtyard.
Two people came out to take her to a basement room. They didn't reveal their names to her. She explained to them how her husband was totally changed after his practice of Falun Gong. One of the people stopped her, saying he was in charge of arresting Falun Gong practitioners.
Cao eventually showed up to say judge Ao was the decision-maker. He warned Mr. Li's wife to not bother him again; otherwise, he'd consider it harassment.
Ao sentenced Mr. Li to 8 years on July 6, 2018.