Falun Gong Practitioner Tried on Charges of “Subverting State Power” Over Questionable Evidence
(Minghui.org) A Falun Gong practitioner in Yinchuan City, Ningxia Autonomous Region appeared in court on February 14, 2019 to face charges of “subverting state power,” a standard pretext often levied against human rights activists or dissidents by the Chinese communist regime.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the regime since July 1999.
Mr. Luan Ning had been twice imprisoned for a total of seven years for refusing to renounce Falun Gong. He was fired from his job and had his pension suspended. When he wrote letters to the relevant agencies to seek reinstatement of his pension and to urge them to stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners, he was reported by postal workers and arrested months later.
The charges against Mr. Luan were based on allegations that he sent out letters and text messages about Falun Gong and that he poured ink onto a bulletin board containing propaganda against Falun Gong.
Two lawyers delivered a not guilty plea for Mr. Luan. They rebutted the apparently fabricated evidence against their client and argued that there is no legal basis to support the charges against his faith. The presiding judge frequently interrupted the lawyers. One lawyer was removed from the courtroom during the debate stage.
The judge adjourned the hearing without issuing a verdict. The prosecutor recommended 3 to 7 years in prison, saying that Mr. Luan is a “repeat offender” considering his past two prison terms.
Arrested for Mailing Letters About Falun Gong
Mr. Luan, 60, is a former director at the Ningxia Labor and Human Resource Center. He went to a post office in Xingqing District to mail letters to seek reinstatement of his pension on February 22, 2017. After he left, postal workers opened his letters and found that they contained information about Falun Gong. They reported him to the police, who soon began to secretly monitor and follow Mr. Luan.
Mr. Luan was arrested around 8 a.m. on August 27, 2017, as he was leaving for work. He has been held since at the Yinchuan City Detention Center.
At the command of the Ningxia Political and Legal Affairs Committee and the 610 Office, which are both extra-legal judicial agencies tasked with persecuting Falun Gong, the police submitted Mr. Luan's case to the Xingqing District Procuratorate, which promptly charged him with “subverting state power.”
The procuratorate forwarded the case to the Xingqing District Court on March 20, 2018. After Mr. Luan's lawyer argued that the lower judiciary system didn't have the legal authority to try a case related to state issues, it was transferred to the higher level Yinchuan City Procuratorate, which in turn forwarded the case to the Yinchuan City Intermediate Court on September 5, 2018.
In October 2018, the intermediate court rejected the case due to insufficient evidence and returned it to the Yinchuan City Procuratorate. The intermediate court judge later accepted the case upon the prosecutor's second attempt. The judge held a pretrial meeting on January 10, 2019 and then a hearing on February 14.
During the six-hour hearing, Mr. Luan's two lawyers rebutted the questionable evidence used to charge him, from witness accounts to the DNA samples collected from the letters to a cellular base station that the authorities claimed to be used by Mr. Luan to send out text messages about Falun Gong.
Witness Accounts and Interrogation Records
The prosecutor called in three witnesses to testify against Mr. Luan.
The first witness was a postal worker who worked at the post office that Mr. Luan used to mail his letters. When questioned by Mr. Luan's lawyers, this particular worker admitted that he had never seen Mr. Luan visit the post office, but he was pressured by the police to sign his name on the interrogation record, claiming that he witnessed Mr. Luan mailing the letters.
The second witness was a police officer handling the case. The lawyers pointed out that the officer presented four records of Mr. Luan's letters being confiscated, on February 22, March 3, March 16, and March 26, 2017. The officer claimed that they prepared three copies of each record each time and gave one of the copies to Mr. Luan. In addition, one interrogation record of Mr. Luan's was also dated March 3, 2017. As Mr. Luan was arrested five months later in August, it was obvious that these records were fabricated and should have never been used to charge him.
The officer admitted that he added the March 3 interrogation record to Mr. Luan's file after the arrest and that it was a clerical error.
The third witness was a colleague of Mr. Luan's. She testified that she wasn't in the office when someone called her and asked her to return as soon as possible. When she rushed back, the police had already searched Mr. Luan's office and had begun to pack items confiscated from him. She was forced to sign the confiscation list without being allowed to see what was taken away.
The lawyers argued that the three witnesses gave different tallies of the concerned letters and that there was no verification of the exact number of letters. As the letters were only presented in photos and no original copies were examined during the hearing, the lawyers argued that they couldn't rule out the possibility of double counting or fabrication of the letters. Thus, they said that it was also questionable whether these letters could be used as valid evidence in the case.
The prosecution evidence also included a bottle that the police claimed to have contained ink and to have been used by Mr. Luan to pour over a bulletin board bearing slanderous propaganda messages against Falun Gong. They said a man noticed the bulletin board smeared with ink and tipped them off on June 1, 2017.
The prosecutor alleged that the DNA collected from the bottle matched that of Mr. Luan's found on half of the letters submitted by the police.
The lawyers argued that the police didn't investigate the smearing incident until 18 days later, with the bottle left in an open public area outdoors during that time. And it wasn't clear how the witness determined the bottle belonged to Mr. Luan.
The lawyers said that according to weather reports during those 19 days, it rained several times, including three thunderstorms. With the bottle being extensively washed by rain or exposed to strong sunlight, the lawyers questioned how the police could still extract DNA from the bottle.
On the other hand, according to the photos of the letters presented by the prosecutor, the police didn't have any measures in place to protect the letters from the officers who handled them. Thus, they said that it's possible that the letters were contaminated with the officers' biometric information. And it also wasn't clear whether the police ever collected DNA samples from Mr. Luan himself for the comparison.
Among the 25 letters submitted by the police, only 12 were reported to have Mr. Luan's biometric information. The lawyers argued that this only supported the fact that the letters weren't from Mr. Luan.
The lawyers also questioned the prosecutor as to why they chose a DNA test over a more reliable fingerprint test in this case. The prosecutor didn't answer.
Pseudo Base Station
In addition to the letters and DNA sample, the prosecutor also charged Mr. Luan with sending text messages about Falun Gong with a pseudo base station device.
The lawyers argued that no evidence indicated that Mr. Luan had used the device before. The indictment stated that the last message sent out by the device was on October 29, 2016, and most of other messages were sent out between January and February 2010. As Mr. Luan was still imprisoned for his faith in 2010, it was not possible for him to have sent out messages with the device at that time.
The lawyers also stated that according to the photo of the device, it had been disassembled by someone by the time it was submitted to the prosecutor on September 20, 2017. So it was possible that someone attempted to manipulate it in order to frame Mr. Luan.
No Legal Basis
The lawyers added that none of the supposed evidence could support the charge of “subverting state power” against their client.
Mr. Luan also testified in his own defense. He described how he became healthier and more peaceful after practicing Falun Gong. Only because he didn't give up his faith, he was persecuted and lost his job. Under the Chinese government's implication system, his child was also targeted and discriminated against.
With his pension being suspended right before his retirement, Mr. Luan wrote letters to the authorities to demand reinstatement of his pension. He received no response and was arrested after being reported by postal workers.