(Minghui.org) Five Yuxi City residents were arrested in Eshan County on July 24, 2016 for distributing materials about the Chinese communist regime’s persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline based on the principle of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

Bai Weiliang, the presiding judge overseeing the case and vice president of Eshan County Court, harassed the five Falun Gong practitioners in the days leading up to their joint trial on February 16, 2017. He threatened them with heavy sentences if they refused to plead guilty but promised leniency if they complied with his demand.

Ms. Li Li and Ms. Qin Liyuan dismissed their lawyers under pressure and were later acquitted. Ms. Pu Zhiming instructed her lawyer to enter a guilty plea for her and was later sentenced to 3 years in prison with 5 years of probation.

Ms. Li Qiongzhen and Ms. Deng Cuiping refused to give in to Bai’s threats, as no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong. Ms. Li’s lawyer also filed a complaint against Judge Bai and Eshan County Court to Eshan County Procuratorate, but the latter dismissed the complaint before the trial.

Judge Bai sentenced Ms. Li Qiongzhen to 4 years in prison and Ms. Deng to 6 years in prison.

Ms. Li Qiongzhen immediately filed an appeal to Yuxi City Intermediate Court. Her lawyer also filed a new complaint against Eshan County Court and Eshan County Procuratorate. He argued that the court denied his client the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and sentenced her to prison for not complying with the judge’s demand. He also argued that the procuratorate failed to ensure the court’s compliance with the law.

Threats Issued Before Trial, Lawyer’s Complaint Dismissed

Bai held a three-day marathon interrogation of Ms. Li Qiongzhen between January 11 and 13, 2017. He also brought two women, who were neither court employees nor assigned to the case, to the interrogation sessions.

Bai demanded that Ms. Li plead guilty and not mention Falun Gong in the upcoming trial. She refused because she was arrested for handing out Falun Gong materials and her defense would have to center around Falun Gong.

Bai then promised to offer Ms. Li a court-appointed lawyer for free if she dropped her own lawyer. She turned down the offer again. However, her husband and daughter were soon brought in to plead her to comply with Bai.

The two women, who were with Bai at the interrogation, misled Ms. Li’s family to believe that using their own lawyer to defend her would only do her harm. Ms. Li’s husband and daughter then wrote a statement to dismiss the lawyer, but Ms. Li firmly refused to sign the paperwork.

Upon learning of what happened to her, Ms. Li’s lawyer filed a complaint on February 13 against Judge Bai and Eshan County Court to Eshan County Procuratorate. He also mailed a copy of his complaint to Na Ruqiong, president of Eshan County Court. The Procuratorate soon responded that Bai broke no law, without conducting any investigation with the lawyer or other involved parties.

Recusal Requests Ignored

Ms. Li Qiongzhen and her co-defendants appeared in court on February 16. Her lawyer requested that Judge Bai and court president Na be recused because the former had threatened his client and the latter failed to maintain a fair judiciary. He presented Ms. Li’s affidavit of how she was interrogated and threatened by Bai.

By law, any recusal request concerning a court president must be reviewed by a special committee. Na, however, immediately denied the lawyer’s recusal request.

The lawyer then turned to prosecutor Wang Xi and demanded that the latter maintain the court's impartiality. Wang responded that the court did nothing illegal in the prosecution of Ms. Li.

New Complaint After Sentencing

Judge Bai issued his decision on February 23, sentencing both Ms. Li Qiongzhen and Ms. Deng to prison. The other three practitioners who gave in to his demand were given leniency to various degrees.

Ms. Li immediately filed an appeal to Yuxi City Intermediate Court. Her lawyer also filed a new complaint against Eshan County Court and Eshan County Procuratorate, this time to Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Yunnan Province Procuratorate, Yuxi City Procuratorate, and Yuxi City Intermediate Court.

He demanded that the higher agencies investigate the lower court and the procuratorate’s dereliction of duty and acquit his client, who he said was exercising her constitutional right to freedom of belief.

Related Reports:Three Practitioners from Yuxi City Sentenced to PrisonFive Practitioners from Yunnan Province Illegally Arrested