16 Arrested in Heilongjiang for Their Faith: 3 Sentenced, 9 Awaiting Trial
(Minghui.org) After a police sweep on March 21, 2017, 16 Qiqihar residents were illegally arrested and detained for practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.
Three of the Falun Gong practitioners have since been released, while another three have been sentenced to prison. Nine other practitioners are awaiting verdicts after two court hearings, and the remaining practitioner's detention status is unclear.
The practitioners released were Ms. Liu Huijie, Ms. Zhu Xiumin, and Ms. Zhang Yanhua. Those sentenced were Ms. Wang Yan, Ms. Liu Mingying, and Mr. Wang Yudong (husband of Ms. Zhu Xiumin).
Ms. Liu Huijie was arrested for hanging banners to raise awareness of the persecution of Falun Gong. She was tortured at a detention center as a result. The police also confiscated her house key and ransacked her home.
Ms. Zhang Yanhua was getting ready for work when policemen broke into her home and arrested her. Her house was ransacked, and some of her personal items were confiscated. She was then taken to the police station and tortured. Ms. Zhang was released four months later on July 4.
Ms. Liu Mingying was sentenced to a three-year prison term by the Longsha Court. Upon appeal, her original verdict was upheld. Since January 17, 2018, she has been incarcerated at the Harbin Women's Prison.
After a second hearing, Mr. Wang Yudong was given a three-year prison term by the Qiqihar City Intermediate Court. He was sent to Tailai Prison on March 1, 2018.
Ms. Wang Yan was also jailed, though it is unclear what sentence she was given.
At the time of writing, nine of the sixteen practitioners have been detained for one and a half years and are currently awaiting verdicts after two court appearances. They are Mr. Li Shunjiang, Ms. Gao Fuping, Mr. Zhang Fuhai, Mr. Tian Yong and wife Ms. Wang Aihua, Mr. Zhao Yi, Mr. Zhang Liqun, Mr. Zhang Shimin, and Ms. Song Yulan.
All nine had been detained and tortured before their trial.
Mr. Li Shunjiang's wife (whose name remains to be investigated) was also arrested, but it is unclear whether she is currently detained.
The practitioners were tried on December 26, 2017, at the Tiefeng District Court.
After prosecutor Zhang Jian read the indictment, the nine practitioners and their lawyers requested that the court staff and officers withdraw from the case. The reason was that during the procuratorate arraignment, seven practitioners, excluding Mr. Zhang Shimin and Ms. Song Yulan, mentioned that they were interrogated. However, the procuratorate did not respond or mention the interrogation in the indictment.
The indictment of Mr. Zhang Fuhai mentioned that he was sentenced to three years of labor camp in 2006 and 2007 when, in fact, he was only sentenced once before to one year of labor camp.
Mr. Zhang's lawyer argued that the judge and the prosecutor, as atheist Chinese Communist Party members, were unfit to prosecute his client for his spiritual faith. The lawyer requested that the judge and the prosecutor be recused from the trial.
After a period of time, Judge Feng Jihong rejected the lawyer's request.
As the hearing continued, the practitioners' lawyers together raised the following points:
1. According to the law, there should not be any investigation if a case is not recorded. However, in this instance, practitioners were arrested, their homes were ransacked, and they were subsequently put on trial in an attempt to make a case.
2. Extended detention: The arrest was approved after 64 days, exceeding the lawful criminal detention limit by 37 days.
3. Interrogation with torture: The nine practitioners were subjected to brutal torture and other physical and mental abuse while being held in a police station and detention center. They were transferred to a detention only after two or three days, exceeding the 24-hour limit.
Before the lawyers could continue, the prosecutor requested that the lawyers' argument be rejected. The lawyers responded by asking the prosecutor to withdraw from the case. In the end, the lawyers' request was not acceded.
Next, Mr. Li Shunjiang's lawyer requested for the video recording of the interrogation of his client to be retrieved as evidence.
Prosecutor Zhang said, “The investigation has ended. Yu Gang and Chang Shuai from the Dongshichang Police Station did not participate in torture.”
Mr. Li rebutted Zhang's statement and recounted the interrogation to the court. He recounted the torture methods used on Mr. Li:
1. His legs were tied to an “iron chair.”2. A brick was placed behind his legs while he was tied to the chair.3. His head was covered with a plastic bag.4. He was slapped on the face with shoes.5. His teeth were brushed with urine.6. After officers poked his foot with a small knife, wine and salt were poured over the wound.7. Officers forced him to wear a facial mask that had been smothered with mustard paste. They then whipped him on the face with a leather shoe. They also beat him for many hours that night. He was left with wounds all over his body.
Two days later, when he was sent to the detention center, the center refused to accept him. Yu Gang then took him to the hospital to have a fake medical certificate issued before sending Mr. Li back to the detention center.
When Mr. Li met the staff at the procuratorate, he mentioned the interrogation that happened at the police station. Yu Gang then went to the detention to threaten him. Mr. Li was later forced to sign a document stating that the wounds were accidental.
A few other practitioners also recounted the interrogation process:
Mr. Zhao Yi said that his hands and feet were shackled before being suspended with the cuffs behind his back. His thumbs were tied together and shocked with electric batons.
Mr. Zhang Fuhai said that after he was handcuffed, he was stepped all over, and someone rammed their kneecap into his chest. Officers threatened to beat him to death if he refused to confess. When he fainted, the officers woke him up by pouring bottled water on him. The assault left scars on Mr. Zhang's wrists, caused him to cough up blood, and left him unable to lift his arms.
Mr. Zhang Liqun was put under a wall-mounted air conditioner unit for 24 hours, during which time he had cold air blasted directly at him continuously.
Ms. Wang Aihua was deprived of sleep for three days and three nights while her husband, Mr. Tian Yong, had his nose covered with a wet towel and his hands cuffed behind his back while officers slapped his face.
Left with no choice, the judge initiated the procedure to remove inadmissible evidence and asked if the practitioners agreed. Eight out of the nine practitioners agreed.
When the lawyers suggested for someone to accompany them to retrieve the video evidence of the interrogation, the judge refused to answer and insisted that the trial had to be finished that day.
The hearing was adjourned at around six in the evening.
The second hearing was held from June 5 to 7, 2018.
The pretrial conference was held on June 5 and 6. The practitioners appeared individually before the court with their lawyers to listen to the details. When the practitioners gave their statements on the torture they suffered, the judge and prosecutor refused to answer, nor was the video recording provided.
At the lawyers' insistence, the judge told the lawyers to watch the video at the public security bureau. To protest this decision, all of the lawyers walked out of the court.
On June 7, Yu Gang and Chang Shuai appeared before the court and denied participating in the persecution of Mr. Li Shunjiang.
Watching the CCTV video, Mr. Li's lawyer asked them the reason for stepping out to buy plastic bags but was met with no response from Chang Shuai.
Lawyer: “How many participated in the investigation?”
Chang Shuai: “Just Yu Gang and me.”
Lawyer: “Why did the CCTV show four people at the scene? Who are the other two?”
Chang Shuai: “One of them is Tie Nairu from the Jianhua public security branch.”
Lawyer: “What were they doing?”
Chang Shuai was silent.
The lawyer continued, “The arrest happened on the 20th, but why were [the practitioners] sent to the detention center on the 23rd? What did you do during that period?”
Once again, Chang Shuai kept quiet.
When the lawyer asked more questions, Yu Gang and Chang Shuai responded with either “I don't know” or “I don't remember.”
Mr. Li Shunjiang then asked Chang Shuai, “When there were wounds on my body, the detention center refused to accept me. But why did you forcibly send me there?”
Chang Shuai hung his head and said, “They didn't not accept you.”
The judge stopped Mr. Li when he wanted to continue.
Mr. Tian Yong then raised a question.
“The case mentioned the hanging of the banners,” he said. “However, during that period, I was recuperating at home from a broken rib cage, injured spine, and broken hand tendons. How could I have gone to hang the banners?”
The judge and prosecutor didn't respond.
The judge next asked Ms. Wang Aihua why she signed the document when she didn't acknowledge anything.
She said, “When I was arrested, I was beaten and not allowed to eat. I was deprived of sleep for three days and three nights. My mind was unclear.”
The judge then stopped her from continuing.
When the judge wanted to continue, Ms. Wang's lawyer pointed out that if the inadmissible evidence was not removed, the trial could not proceed.
During the trial, the judge stopped practitioners when they mentioned torture and disallowed anyone from mentioning the words “Falun Gong.” When the practitioners' lawyers raised objections, the judge and prosecutor refused to answer and ignored the objections.
The judge also did not initiate the procedure to remove inadmissible evidence during the three-day trial.
“The law does not specifically prohibit belief in Falun Gong,” said one of the lawyers. “So what if they believe in Falun Gong? How is this going against society and violating the law?”
The judge and the prosecutor had no clear answer.
The judge then said, “The defendant made up laws in their defense. This is violating the law. You have to be held responsible for your words.”
Upon hearing this, all the lawyers stood up in protest.
“We can definitely be responsible for our words. But where did we violate the law?” asked one of them.
The lawyers requested that the judge's words not be recorded in the computer. The clerk later complied.
Two lawyers later raised four issues and requested the clerk record them:
1. There is no photo showing the hanging of banners or the police confiscating them, though it was mentioned that there were many banners.
2. The defendants have solid alibis for the crimes they are accused of.
3. The defendants did not confess to their crimes, yet the plaintiff claims that the only witnesses of the crimes are the nine defendants. There is also substantial evidence that the defendants were interrogated with torture.
4. These cases were not reported by anyone. Since the video evidence of the supposed crime showed a blurred figure and some blurry photos, how can anyone determine that it is one of the defendants?
The judge and prosecutor did not respond. When the judge asked the lawyers for their defense, they asked for the practitioners to be acquitted. Some of the practitioners also requested to be released.
Some practitioners were not allowed to present their statements. But at Ms. Wang Aihua's insistence, the judge allowed her to speak, and she requested to be released due to her tuberculosis. She said that whatever happens to her would be the authorities’ responsibility. The judge then stopped her from continuing.
Contact details of those involved in the persecution:Yang Xingyi, president of Tiefeng District Court: +86-452-8919001Qu Aike, president of court: +86-452-8919002Ai Yong, prosecutor of Tiefeng procuratorate: +86-13836253388
(More participants in the persecution contact information is available in the original Chinese article.)