Four Falun Gong Practitioners in Shandong Tried for Their Faith
(Minghui.org) Four Falun Gong practitioners in Yinnan County, Shandong Province, were tried for their faith inside a makeshift courtroom at Hedong District Detention Center on January 24, 2019.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. It has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
The four practitioners are Mr. Liu Naixun and his wife Ms. Wang Xilan, both in their 70s; Mr. Zu Peiyong, 52; and Ms. Li Changfang, 55.
They were arrested in August and October last year after being suspected of helping Ms. Xing Ximei's family to file a lawsuit against Yinnan County Police Department. Ms. Xing, also a Falun Gong practitioner, died 13 days following her arrest on November 7, 2017 for not renouncing her faith.
When the four practitioners' family members went to the local 610 Office to request their release, one agent warned them only to use court-appointed lawyers who'd be instructed to enter guilty pleas.
The 610 Office is an extralegal agency created by the Communist Party leadership on June 10, 1999 specifically to persecute Falun Gong.
Despite pressure from the 610 Office, two lawyers entered a not-guilty plea for the practitioners, while the other two lawyers appointed by the court and the 610 Office entered a guilty plea.
The four practitioners were charged with “undermining law enforcement using a cult organization,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese authorities to sentence Falun Gong practitioners.
The lawyers argued that no law in China labels Falun Gong a cult and that it was their clients' constitutional rights to practice Falun Gong. They further argued that the practitioners did not harm any individuals or society, let alone obstruct law enforcement.
The practitioners also testified in their own defense that practicing Falun Gong improved their health and enabled them to improve their character. Their testimonies were cut short by the judge, who said to them, “I don't care whether it's a good thing to practice Falun Gong or not. As long as the government doesn't allow it, it's illegal to do it.”
The prosecutor recommended 3-7 years in prison for each practitioner.
Arrests and Interrogation of Mr. Liu and Ms. Wang
Mr. Liu and his wife, Ms. Wang, were home on August 28, 2018 when a dozen officers suddenly broke in. Two officers held the couple against the sofa while the rest searched and ransacked their residence. They confiscated the couple’s Falun Gong books and some banknotes printed with information about Falun Gong.
The police then took the couple to Yiwei Town Police Station for interrogation. They verbally abused them and attempted to force them to admit guilt for practicing Falun Gong.
Ms. Wang said that her health improved and her family became more harmonious because of her practice of Falun Gong. She questioned what crime she had allegedly committed. The officers shouted expletives at her in response.
The police attempted to force Ms. Wang, who couldn't read, to sign the confession record. When she refused and accused them of fabricating the confession, one officer signed it on her behalf and grabbed her hand to forcibly press her fingerprints on the record.
Induced Confession from Mr. Zu
Mr. Zu and Ms. Li were arrested in October 2018 during the communist regime's crackdown on gangs; instead of targeting gang members, the police turned to Falun Gong practitioners to fill their quota.
Mr. Zu testified during the hearing that the police scaled his fence and entered his front yard at 7 a.m. on October 23, 2018. They broke into his home when he opened the door for them.
One officer showed an unauthorized search warrant before ransacking his home. A small card printed with “Falun Dafa is good; Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance is good” was confiscated.
Mr. Zu was detained at Yinan County Detention Center.
Three weeks following his arrest, a man surnamed Ma, who claimed to be from the Shandong Province Public Security Ministry, came to talk to Mr. Zu at the detention center.
Ma said that one practitioner had confessed to them that Mr. Zu had given him some Falun Gong-related materials. Ma promised to release Mr. Zu if he'd admit that he had indeed given the materials to that practitioner. Mr. Zu admitted to things he had never done, only to remain in custody afterward.
Mr. Zu's lawyer pointed out during the hearing that the induced confession was inadmissible and shouldn't be used as prosecution evidence. The judge frequently interrupted him.
Ms. Li was arrested on the same day as Mr. Zu. The police also entered her front yard by climbing over her fence with a ladder. They confiscated her child's computer and some banknotes printed with information about Falun Gong.
She was held at Hedong District Detention Center. The officers interrogated, verbally abused, and intimidated her in an attempt to force her to admit guilt.
The prosecutor listed a witness who allegedly saw the four practitioners distributing Falun Gong flyers. But no such witness appeared in court to accept cross-examination.
The prosecutor cited as legal basis a letter from the local police labeling Falun Gong a cult. The lawyers argued that the police, as a law enforcement agency, didn't have any legal authority to outlaw a given spiritual belief.
The lawyers argued that the banknotes used as prosecution evidence didn't cause any harm to anyone in society. As all information is strictly censored in China, Falun Gong practitioners often resort to creative means to spread information about the persecution, including printing messages on paper currency.
The prosecutor alleged that the practitioners' possession of Falun Gong books was illegal. The lawyers refuted the charge by citing a notice from the Chinese Administration of Press and Publication that lifted the ban on the publication of Falun Gong books in 2011.
When the lawyers questioned the prosecutor why the practitioners' case documents didn't have the signatures of the officers who had interrogated them, the prosecutor said his copy of the documents bore the required signatures. The lawyers compared the documents and noted that the judge had given them and the prosecutor two different versions of case documents.
As the lawyers accused the judge of fabricating case documents, the prosecutor said it was no big deal.