(Minghui.org) Six residents in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province were tried on July 23, 2019 for refusing to renounce their faith in Falun Gong. Only one of them was allowed to use her own lawyer, who entered a not-guilty plea on her behalf. The other five residents were forced to use court-appointed lawyers, who were instructed to enter guilty pleas despite their clients' objections.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a cultivation practice that consists of gentle exercises and following the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. It has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since July 1999.
The six Falun Gong practitioners all testified in their own defense. One of them summed up their stance well: “I broke no law by practicing Falun Gong!”
The practitioner-hired lawyer also demanded his client's acquittal. He argued that no law in China deems practicing Falun Gong a crime and that practitioners should never have been prosecuted for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of belief.
One of the court-appointed lawyers was so inspired by the practitioner-hired lawyer's defense of Falun Gong practitioners that he defied the court order and changed the “guilty-plea” plea he had entered to “not-guilty” midway through the hearing.
Ms. Zhu Chunrong, Ms. Xu Xiaoying, Ms. Fan Rong, Mr. Li Rui, Mr. Gao Guoqing, and Ms. Jiang Xiaojie were arrested on November 9, 2018. Following directions from Beijing, the Heilongjiang Provincial Public Security Department launched a special task force to gather evidence against the six practitioners.
After more than eight months of investigation, the task force failed to collect enough admissible evidence. The police officers involved in the investigation did not even attend the hearing to accept cross examination.
Ms. Zhu was the first practitioner to be questioned during the hearing in the Dali District Court.
The 68-year-old woman was emaciated due to being mistreated during her detention, but her mind was still very sharp. She asked the judge, “Why is the lawyer I hired myself not allowed to represent me?”
She proceeded to fire the lawyer assigned to her. The court-appointed lawyer had to leave the courtroom.
When Ms. Zhu began to defend her innocence, the judge made several attempts to stop her, but she managed to finish her defense arguments.
Ms. Fan was also given a court-appointed lawyer, who entered a guilty plea on her behalf. She said to the lawyer, “Your defense doesn't count. I broke no law by practicing Falun Gong!”
When the judge and other court officials tried to stop her from talking further, she warned them, “You are depriving me of my right to defend myself, while attempting to convict me for doing nothing wrong. This is unlawful!”
Ms. Xu was the only practitioner allowed to have her own lawyer in court. Her lawyer said that all six Falun Gong practitioners, including his client, were innocent and that the fabricated charge against them must be dropped.
They were charged with violating Article 300 of the Criminal Law, which stipulates that those using a cult organization to undermine enforcement of the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.
Ms. Xu's lawyer explained in detail why the charge had no legal ground:
“Since the People’s Congress (China’s legislative body) has never enacted a law deeming Falun Gong a ‘cult,’ former Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin directed the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate to issue a statutory interpretation of Article 300 in November 1999, which required that anyone practicing or promoting Falun Gong be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.
“A new statutory interpretation that replaced the 1999 version took effect on February 1, 2017. The new interpretation made no mention of Falun Gong and emphasized that any indictment against anyone engaging in a cult must be based on solid legal grounds.”
Ms. Xu's lawyer emphasized that, since no law in China labels Falun Gong a cult, the indictment against the practitioners lacked legal basis.
The prosecutor alleged that the calendars with Falun Gong information on them that were confiscated from Ms. Xu's home were enough evidence that she undermined law enforcement. Her lawyer countered that the calendars were his client's lawful possessions, which caused no harm to society or any specific individuals.
Ms. Xu followed up by reminding the judge and the prosecutor, “Please be aware that following illegal orders may lead to legal consequences for you at a later time. Please follow your conscience and ensure that justice is done.”
After hearing the defense statements made by Ms. Xu's lawyer, Mr. Li's court-appointed lawyer changed the “guilty” plea he initially entered for his client and defended Mr. Li's right to practice Falun Gong.
More than 100 Falun Gong practitioners, including the above mentioned six, were arrested across Heilongjiang Province on November 9, 2018. Directed by the provincial public security department, the arrests were made based on a list of names, and the police ransacked the practitioners' homes afterwards.
Ms. Zhu Chunrong, 68, is being held the Harbin Second Detention Center. The local Domestic Security Office apparently monitored her for over a year before arresting her.
Ms. Xu Xiaoying, 38, was arrested at home and interrogated in the Daoli Police Department. She was beaten and force-fed the Harbin Second Detention Center. Her case was twice returned to the police by the Daoli Procuratorate due to lack of evidence.
Ms. Fan Rong, in her 50s, is also being held in the Harbin Second Detention Center. The police said they had monitored her for several months before the arrest.
Mr. Li Rui, 47, is being held in the Daoli Detention Center.
Ms. Jiang Xiaojie, 56, was arrested by Xinhua Police Station officers and later taken to the Harbin Second Detention Center.
Mr. Gao Guoqing was arrested by officials from the Sidalin Police Station and taken to a police hospital. His arrest warrant was not issued until December 19, 2018.
Wang Dianming, manager, Domestic Security Division of Daoli Police Department: +86-13351100359, +86-451-87663277Yu Lu, deputy director, Domestic Security Division: +86-13089998511, +86-15104609681Zhou Yuxuan, judge, Daoli Court: +86-451-85961105, +86-18503601121Li Liying, prosecutor, Daoli Procuratorate: +86-451-84353055