Four Sichuan Residents Tried for Their Faith
(Minghui.org) Four Luzhou City, Sichuan Province residents stood trial on November 24, 2020 for their faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
The four practitioners, Ms. Ao Qizhen, Ms. Tang Zuqun, Ms. Peng Shaoqun and Ms. Zhang Xinglian, all in their 50s, were arrested at their respective homes on September 10, 2019. It has been reported that the police targeted them after seeing them putting up Falun Gong banners on surveillance footage.
Ms. Tang and Ms. Zhang’s lawyers entered a guilty plea for her and asked for lighter prison terms. Ms. Peng was represented by a court-appointed lawyer, who also entered a guilty plea for her.
While Ms. Ao’s family hired a lawyer from Beijing to enter a not guilty plea for her, the court appointed a second lawyer for her, claiming that the lawyer from Beijing wasn’t allowed to travel to Luzhou during the pandemic. During the hearing on November 24, Ms. Ao’s own lawyer still attended the session and defended her innocence, while her court-appointed lawyer entered a guilty plea, just like his colleague who represented Ms. Peng.
Ms. Ao’s Beijing lawyer said that as early as on December 5, 2019, he had filed an appeal with the Jiangyang District Procuratorate, demanding the prosecutor drop the case against his client. The lawyer said that there is no legal basis for the persecution of Falun Gong, and freedom of belief and freedom of speech are Ms. Ao's constitutionally protected rights that can’t be taken away by any other person or entity. The lawyer added that Ms. Ao didn’t harm anyone in raising awareness about her faith, but was merely exercising her rights, so she shouldn’t be prosecuted.
The prosecutor dismissed his legal opinion and still indicted Ms. Ao.
At the hearing by the Jiangyang District Court, Ms. Ao’s Beijing lawyer pointed out that the prosecution evidence presented by the prosecutor in court was different from that included in the indictment, which had unclear sources and hasn’t gone through any authentication process. The prosecutor refused to provide any explanation regarding it.
The lawyer continued to argue that the prosecutor failed to demonstrate how Ms. Ao undermined enforcement of any law, the standard pretext used to charge Falun Gong practitioners, even with all the additional evidence he had presented. He emphasized again that the Constitution protects one’s freedom of belief and there is no legal basis for the persecution.
The prosecutor didn’t refute his argument, but still made a recommendation of imprisonment against Ms. Ao at the end of the hearing.
Now the four practitioners are awaiting verdicts at the Naxi Detention Center, where they have been held since their arrests.