(Minghui.org) Four Luzhou City, Sichuan Province, residents stood trial on April 2, 2021, for their faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. Two of the Falun Gong practitioners were represented by their own lawyers, who entered a not guilty plea for them. All four practitioners also testified in their own defense and demanded acquittal.
The four practitioners, including Ms. Li Shifang, Ms. Dai Qunyin, Mr. Liu Kaisheng and his wife Ms. Jian Hongmei, were arrested at a farmers' market on August 16, 2020. They were first held in the Hejiang County Detention Center and then transferred to the Naxi District Detention Center. The police ransacked their homes while they were still detained. Their Falun Gong books, a photo of Falun Gong’s founder, computer, cellphone, and some computer memory cards were confiscated. The police fabricated the number of confiscated items in the prosecution evidence against them.
Ms. Dai’s lawyer visited her at the detention center on September 4, 2020, and also urged Wang Zhonghe, the police officer in charge of her case, to drop the charge against her.
After learning that the police had handed over the practitioners’ cases to the Hejiang County Procuratorate on October 23, 2020, Ms. Dai’s lawyer submitted his legal opinion on November 30, urging the prosecutor not to indict her.
The lawyer wrote that freedom of belief is a universal value and his client didn’t violate any law in practicing Falun Gong or telling people about it. He urged the prosecutor to uphold justice and make the decision based on his conscience.
The prosecutor, however, still indicted the practitioners on January 5, 2021. When Ms. Dai’s lawyer went to the Hejiang County Court to submit his Power of Attorney on January 26, the judge said he had already appointed four lawyers to represent the practitioners and a hearing had been scheduled for February 3.
Ms. Dai’s lawyer said to the judge that he was entrusted by Ms. Dai’s family and Ms. Dai didn’t need to be represented by any court-appointed lawyer, who would enter a guilty plea for her at the judge’s direction.
Unable to refute the lawyer, the judge rescheduled the hearing for March 3.
When Ms. Dai’s lawyer visited her on January 27, she told him that the court-appointed lawyer had visited her earlier and lied to her that her own lawyer hadn’t contacted the procuratorate or the court to follow up on her case.
Upon finding out about the court’s appointing lawyers for the practitioners, Ms. Li’s family also hired a lawyer to enter a not guilty plea for her, which prompted the judge to further postpone the hearing until April 2.
On the day of the hearing, both Ms. Li and Ms. Dai’s lawyers were ordered by the bailiffs to go through a security check. The lawyers refused to do so, as they were exempt from a security check by law. The presiding judge, Chen Xiaorong, initially blamed the lawyers for giving up their representation of the practitioners by not cooperating with the security check, but the lawyers refuted that it’s the judge who tried to deprive their right to defense. After moments of a standoff, another director of the court came over and allowed the lawyers to go in.
During the hearing, Ms. Jian dismissed her court-appointed lawyer, while Mr. Liu retained his. Both Ms. Li and Ms. Dai’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea for them. All four practitioners also testified in their own defense and pleaded not guilty.
Several bailiffs stood close to the lawyers during the hearing and the court also set up cameras to record the lawyers’ every move.
Ms. Dai’s Lawyer’s Not-guilty Defense
Ms. Dai’s lawyer said in his defense statement that Ms. Dai practices Falun Gong to improve her health and character. She strives to live by the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance, and has no intention to commit any crime or harm anyone. The lawyer added that one can’t be prosecuted for one’s thoughts or spiritual belief, which should be protected by the law in the first place.
The prosecutor charged all four practitioners with “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization.” Ms. Dai’s lawyer refuted that the prosecutor failed to provide any evidence indicating which law had been allegedly undermined by her. Additionally, no law ever criminalizes Falun Gong in China or labels it as a cult. There was no evidence pointing to Ms. Dai’s membership or role in any “cult organization” or any funding and directions she received to obstruct the law’s enforcement as alleged by the prosecutor.
“As a matter of fact, Falun Gong doesn’t have any membership or any form of roster. One could come and go as they wish. No evidence ever supported how practicing Falun Gong is engaging in cult activities.” the lawyer said.
He continued, “My client is just a regular Falun Gong practitioner. She just wants to be a good, law-abiding citizen. Everything she did was to peacefully let people know the facts about Falun Gong and clarify their misunderstanding about it. She didn’t cause harm or damage to anyone or any entity, nor did she disrupt social order. Regarding the Falun Gong materials confiscated from her, part of it was spiritual teachings for her own daily use, and others were like promotional flyers given out in the stores. Falun Gong’s tenets of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance are universal values. I don’t see anything wrong in promoting it.”
During her self-defense, Ms. Jian recounted how the police forbade her from drinking water for extended periods of time during interrogation and also forced her to make a false confession by threatening to force her son to divorce his wife. She said the confession she was forced to make under such a circumstance was false and should be excluded.
Ms. Jian added that the police showed her photos of Mr. Liu and Ms. Dai, and asked her whether that was Mr. Liu or Ms. Dai. She answered yes, which was then recorded by the police as her admitting distributing materials with Mr. Liu and Ms. Dai. Other practitioners said the police also did the same thing to them.
Ms. Dai’s lawyer argued that as the practitioners knew each other before their arrests, their recognition of each other’s photo couldn’t support the charge that they went together to distribute materials.
The prosecutor claimed that the practitioners distributed more than 800 copies of Falun Gong flyers and he had six witnesses to testify about it in court, but none of the witnesses showed up during the hearing.
Practitioners’ Families and Friends Blocked Outside of the Courtroom
The court only allowed one family member of each practitioner to attend the hearing. But both Ms. Li and Ms. Dai’s family members were barred from attending the hearing, as the police claimed that they were witnesses against the practitioners, simply because they’ve signed the confiscation lists. Most of the gallery was filled with government officials.
Armed officers patrolled outside of the courthouse and blocked the practitioners’ friends and other family members from entering. Many passersby were also questioned by the police about what they were doing there.
This is not the first time that the four practitioners have been targeted for their faith.
Ms. Li, 67, is a former director and secretary of Luzhou Towel and Bed Linen Factory. She credits Falun Gong for curing her myriad of illnesses, including insufficient blood supply to the brain, dizziness, insomnia, gallstones, anemia, hepatitis, and memory loss. Having obtained a healthy body, she held firm to her faith after the persecution started in 1999. As a result, she was detained six times prior to her latest arrest, with the longest detention being 15 months. Her home was ransacked five times, and she was sent to a brainwashing center twice.
Mr. Liu, 48, is a senior engineer at the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau and a technical consultant and chief engineer of the Hydrogeological Survey Institute. He said Falun Gong taught him to be an upright and considerate person. He never took bribes and won trust and respect from his colleagues. His wife Ms. Jian is an elementary school music teacher. She recovered from her hyperthyroidism, severe anemia, and gynecological diseases upon taking up Falun Gong in 1996. Her weak vocal cords were also cured and she was able to sing and teach again. For upholding their faith, the couple was arrested in 2001, with Ms. Jian given two and half years of forced labor.
Ms. Dai, 68, is a retired worker of Luzhou Carton Factory. Her numerous illnesses, such as chest pain, cervical pain, and a corn on her foot were cured after she began practicing Falun Gong in August 2009. She was arrested in 2010 for distributing Falun Gong materials. The police took away her bag for a search and found Falun Gong materials inside. She was released a few hours later after having her photo taken and making a statement.
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