After Three Canceled Hearings, Tianjin Woman Tried for Her Faith, Threatened with a 12-Year Sentence
(Minghui.org) A 47-year-old teacher in Tianjin faced a judge on June 24, 2019, for practicing Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Ms. Gao Lijuan's court appearance took place after the Binhai New District Court canceled three previously scheduled hearings due to insufficient evidence against her.
The prosecutor alleged that Ms. Gao made thousands of phone calls about Falun Gong. Six witnesses appeared in court and claimed to have received the calls.
Ms. Gao's lawyers argued that, according to Chinese criminal law, the prosecutor only has three chances to submit evidence. After the court returned the case to the prosecutor three times, the case should have been dismissed, the fourth hearing should never have been scheduled, and the prosecutor should not have been allowed to present evidence and press charges against Ms. Gao.
Her lawyers also argued that the witnesses failed to prove that the calls they received were from Ms. Gao. The police had said Ms. Gao made phone calls to virtual numbers that were automatically forwarded to landlines or mobile phones. They admitted that they couldn't match the virtual numbers with those real numbers that received calls.
The judge said that he, following orders from his superiors, he intended to sentence Mr. Gao to 12 years in prison.
Targeted in Group Arrests
Ms. Gao was arrested with 36 other Falun Gong practitioners on December 28, 2017. The police ransacked all their homes. Three of them have been sentenced to prison at the time of writing.
Ms. Gao has been detained more than a year and half in the No.3 Detention Center in the Binhai New District.
She was indicted in September 2018, and the court held a pre-trial meeting with her on February 28, 2019. Her two lawyers pointed out the lack of legal basis for the persecution, but both the prosecutor and the judge threatened to sentence her to a long term.
Family Implicated in the Persecution
Ms. Gao began to practice Falun Gong with her husband in 1998 when she was suffering from severe accumulation of fluid in her lungs. She soon recovered but was forced to give up the practice in 2001 when her husband was given three years of forced labor and she herself was sent to a brainwashing center with their six-month-old daughter. Her health declined afterward.
In early 2009, she resumed practicing Falun Gong and her health improved again. She also became more gentle and considerate.
With her husband being forced to live away from home to avoid being persecuted, Ms. Gao has been living with her mother and daughter all these years.
When Ms. Gao was arrested in 2017, her mother, nearly 80, was terrified by the police brutality. She moved to her older daughter's home in another city in northeastern China shortly after.
Ms. Gao's teenager daughter was left at home alone to be taken care of by her neighbors. She applied to study abroad, but the application was intercepted by the local 610 Office.