Guangzhou, Guangdong Province: Courts Unlawfully Convict Falun Gong Practitioners
(Minghui.org) Since the communist regime launched the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, the local courts in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province have closely followed the persecution policy to sentence and imprison Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. It was introduced to the public in May 1992 and soon became very popular across China.
Fearing Falun Gong's popularity and its revival of traditional cultures that the communist regime has spared no efforts to destroy, the totalitarian state ordered the campaign to eradicate the practice from China.
In Guangzhou City, sometimes judges are even awarded for sending Falun Gong practitioners to jail. Ms. Xie Kunxiang was sentenced to four years in prison by Liwan District Court for practicing Falun Gong in 2015. The presiding judge was later given an award for restricting the attendance of local Falun Gong practitioners and her family members at the hearing and for ensuring a smooth trial to get her sentenced.
The sentencing of Falun Gong practitioners in Guangzhou City has also been laiden with courts' violation of legal procedure, from the appeals court ruling for the trial courts to an extra-legal agency's involvement in the prosecution of practitioners.
Intermediate Court Rules the Cases for Lower Courts
For all Falun Gong cases prosecuted in Guangzhou City, the trial courts must seek approval for their intended verdicts from Guangzhou City Intermediate Court.
Before announcing Ms. Lan Huiping's verdict, Panyu District Court submitted the proposed three-year prison term to Guangzhou City Intermediate Court for approval in March 2013. The higher court judge approved the verdict and wrote that since Ms. Lan wasn't represented by a lawyer, he ordered the lower court appoint a lawyer for her and hold another hearing before announcing the approved verdict.
By law, trial courts have legal authority to issue verdicts independently as they deem appropriate. If defendants file appeals, intermediate courts may rule to either uphold or overturn the lower courts' decisions.
The dealing of Falun Gong cases in Guangzhou City has essentially robbed Falun Gong practitioners' right to a fair appeal process, as it is no use to appeal a case if the verdict is what the intermediate court wants to see happen. Even if the judge at a lower court asks Falun Gong practitioners whether they wished to appeal their verdicts, it is only a matter of going through the motions.
To date, the Guangzhou City Intermediate Court has never held an open hearing in Falun Gong practitioners' appeal cases, nor has it overturned any of their guilty verdicts.
Mr. Yang Qiuren, 44, was sentenced to eight years by Tianhe District Court in September 2018. He hired two lawyers to help appeal his case. The intermediate court didn't accept his appeal until nearly two months later.
While Mr. Yang's lawyers questioned the illegality of the evidence against him and demanded an open hearing of his appeal, the judge went ahead to uphold his sentence on January 24, 2019, without ever talking to the lawyers.
Prior to his latest sentence, Mr. Yang had served another eight years in prison between 2002 and 2010 for talking to people about Falun Gong.
610 Office Behind the Scenes
The 610 Office is an extralegal, Gestapo-like agency that was specifically created on June 10, 1999 to carry out the persecution of Falun Gong.
With the 610 Office in charge of the persecution, the Chinese judges merely became their rubber stamps in the cases of the practitioners.
In the approval letter to Zengcheng Court about Ms. Lin Jinhong's three-year sentence in 2013, a judge at Guangzhou City Intermediate Court ordered the lower court judge seek additional approval from the 610 Office at different levels before announcing the verdict.
In addition, he requested the lower court arrange a brainwashing session of Ms. Lin following the conviction so as to force her to write statements to renounce Falun Gong, which would be included in her case documents.
In addition to the prison sentences, many Falun Gong practitioners were also fined by the courts between 3,000 to 10,000 yuan as part of financial extortion.
Mr. Niu Ben, a graphic designer, was convicted (prison term unknown) and fined 5,000 yuan by Haizhu District Court in 2016. While he was imprisoned, the court obtained access to his personal bank account and confiscated the balance of 2177.71 yuan on his account.
Ms. Lian Guangzhu was sentenced to five years and fined 10,000 yuan by Jiaoling Court on August 19, 2016. She appealed the verdict, but to no avail. She was taken to Guangzhou City Women's Prison and began to serve time on December 21, 2016.
In March 2017, Ms. Lian's family found her pension payment had been stopped. One month later, her husband was ordered by the court to pay a 10,000-yuan fine. He refused and argued that the authorities had already imprisoned her and withheld her pension.
The court staff threatened him that late payment could result in a 2,000-yuan penalty one month later. In addition, her husband also faced detention if he rejected the payment and the authorities could still withdraw money from his own pension account. Her husband was eventually forced to pay the 10,000-yuan fine.
Ms. Li Qinghua, a former accountant, was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 5,000 yuan on February 21, 2019 by Haizhu District Court, for mailing a letter with information about Falun Gong to a former colleague.