Ningxia Man Tried for His Faith, Lawyers Urge Judges to Follow the Law and Make a Just Decision
(Minghui.org) A Yinchuan City, Ningxia Province resident stood trial in late November 2020 for his faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. Mr. Ma Zhiwu’s lawyers entered a not guilty plea for him and argued that it’s his freedom of belief to practice Falun Gong and he shouldn’t have been persecuted for it.
Mr. Ma’s lawyers, family and friends are urging the judges and everyone else involved in his case to follow the law and make a just decision, so that they wouldn’t be held accountable in the future for being complicit in the crimes against humanity.
Prior to his latest persecution, Mr. Ma has been repeatedly arrested and held in detention for 12 years for upholding his faith.
Arrest and Indictment
Mr. Ma, a 50-year-old former railroad crew driver, was arrested on June 5, 2020 while looking for a job in Guyuan City in the same province. The Yuanzhou District Procuratorate approved his arrest on June 25.
Mr. Ma held a hunger strike at the Guyuan City Detention Center. His family frequented the local police station and detention center to seek his release, but to no avail. The detention center also kept his family from visiting him.
Mr. Ma’s lawyers went to the detention center on July 10 and 28 to meet with him, but were rejected both times.
The police submitted his case to the Yuanzhou District Procuratorate in late August, with the charge of “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization” and “subversion of state power,” two standard pretexts often used by the Chinese communist regime against Falun Gong practitioners and dissidents.
The Yuanzhou District Procuratorate stated that given the charge of “subversion of state power,” the case should be handled by the higher level procuratorate. So they forwarded it to the Guyuan City Procuratorate on September 2.
After much effort, one of Mr. Ma’s lawyers was finally allowed to see him on September 17. The lawyer explained the prosecution procedure to Mr. Ma and his rights.
Mr. Ma was indicted on September 24 and his case was submitted to the Guyuan City Intermediate Court.
A Short First Hearing
The presiding judge of Guyuan City Intermediate Court assigned to Mr. Ma's case initially planned a video hearing, with the part of the hearing concerning the charge of “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization” open to the public, but the part about “subversion of state power” to be a closed-door hearing.
Both Mr. Ma and his lawyers objected to the video hearing and requested to have it in person. The judge agreed to their request, but ordered that everyone attending the hearing in person must present negative coronavirus test results beforehand and that the hearing couldn’t be a “walk-in” session for those who haven’t done the test.
At 9 a.m. on November 19, when Mr. Ma’s two lawyers entered the courthouse, they were stopped by the bailiffs, who said that they weren’t allowed to bring their cellphones, computers or bags into the courtroom. The lawyers argued that all of the documents they had prepared were in their computers.
After two hours of negotiating, the court offered to provide computers to the lawyers and they could transfer their files to the court’s computers. But the lawyers didn’t accept this proposal. After further negotiation, the court allowed the lawyers to save the files in their flash-drives and then use the court’s computers to show the files.
At the beginning of the hearing around 11 a.m., Mr. Ma requested to have prosecutor Ma Zhigang to be recused from his hearing, as the prosecutor had failed to address his earlier complaints about the police not showing proper IDs while arresting him. Mr. Ma said that the prosecutor’s avoiding his complaints demonstrated that he was unable to process the case based on the law and justice.
The presiding judge discussed Mr. Ma’s request with his assistant judges and adjourned the hearing without making a decision.
Judges’ Thought Education to the Lawyer
Hours later, one of Mr. Ma’s lawyers returned to the courthouse to submit additional materials, requesting that the court exclude illegal prosecution evidence against their client and have all witnesses appear in court to accept cross-examination. The judges kept the lawyer there for the entire afternoon and attempted to educate him with “the Communist Party's policies and ideologies.” One judge said, “The Chinese Communist Party is the ruling Party and we have to uphold and protect its power.”
The lawyer replied, “What does that have to do with the hearing? Do we follow the Party or the law? As a legal professional, I’m upholding and protecting the Constitution. Everyone is equal before the law.”
A second hearing was held on November 22. The judges denied Mr. Ma’s request to recuse the prosecutor, and they didn't issue subpoenas for any witness to appear in court.
At the two lawyers and Mr. Ma’s request, the court exhibited the testimonies by the witnesses. It was found that the three witnesses’ testimonies were exactly the same. Some of the videos and files that they accused Mr. Ma of spreading in April 2017 never even existed in April 2017, and the time stamps indicated that they were actually created later on.
The lawyers asked the prosecutor, “What law has our client broken? And which law’s enforcement has been undermined by him?” The prosecutor couldn’t answer.
The lawyers continued to say that the Constitution grants every Chinese citizen the freedom of religious belief. He said that in “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” it’s said in Article 18 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” The “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” that China signed in 1998 rules that no law can restrict one’s freedom of belief, freedom of thought, and freedom of speech.
As the lawyer was talking, prosecutor Ma interrupted him and said, “What you just said doesn’t have a clear source. Where did you get it?” He also demanded the court investigate the lawyer’s statement.
The lawyer replied that everything is on the United Nations’ and the government’s officials websites. “You are a veteran prosecutor. I don’t know why you don’t even have such basic legal knowledge.” he said to the prosecutor.
The prosecutor became very angry and accused the lawyer of “attacking the Chinese Communist Party.” He asked the presiding judge to drive the lawyers out of the courtroom, detain them and give them fines.
The judge dismissed the prosecutor’s demand.
The lawyers continued their not guilty defense for Mr. Ma by arguing that no victims have been identified in the case and Mr. Ma’s practicing his own faith didn’t cause any harm to society. They also urged the judges to follow the law and their conscience in ruling on the case. They demanded Mr. Ma's acquittal.
After the part of the hearing about “undermining law enforcement” ended at around 3 p.m., the court drove all the attendees out and continued the remaining part of the hearing about “subversion of state power” in private.
According to the lawyers, the evidence against Mr. Ma for “subversion of state power” was the prophecy he cited from Liu Bowen, a renowned sage from the Ming Dynasty, in his Taibai Mountain Monument Inscription.
One lawyer said, “The whole world knows about doctor Li Wenliang and how he was reprimanded for sharing information about the coronavirus. Now you are going to charge our client with the same thing?”
The hearing lasted from 9 a.m until 10 p.m. The court didn’t provide any food or water to the lawyers. The bailiffs also refused to accept the food Mr. Ma’s family delivered to the lawyers.