(Minghui.org) Nine residents of Qishan County, Shaanxi Province appeared in court on August 18, 2020, to be tried for their faith in Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Arrests and Detention

Eight of the practitioners, including Ms. Wang Ruiqin, Ms. Cao Luxia, Ms. Hui Hui, Ms. Li Huiqin, Mr. Shao Qihu, Ms. Xu Mingxia, Mr. Jiao Binglan, and Ms. Ya Lan, were arrested on July 10, 2019 while they were studying the Falun Gong teachings together.

The ninth practitioner, Mr. Shen Hongqi, was arrested on July 22, 2019.

Five of the practitioners, including Ms. Wang, Ms. Cao, Ms. Hui, Ms. Li, and Mr. Shao, were later released on bail.

The other four practitioners, including Ms. Xu, Mr. Jiao, Ms. Ya, and Mr. Shen, were transferred to the Qishan County Detention Center, where they have since been held. Family visits have been denied.

Court Hearing

During the hearing by the Qishan County Court on August 18, only Mr. Shen and Ms. Xu were represented by their lawyers, who entered not-guilty pleas for them. Mr. Jiao acted as his own lawyer. It’s not clear whether the other practitioners were represented by court-appointed lawyers.

Unlike many other court sessions when practitioners’ families were blocked from attending the hearing, the judge allowed every family member of the practitioners who came that day to enter the courtroom.

When Mr. Shen and three other practitioners were brought from the detention center, they were wearing handcuffs and shackles. At the request of Mr. Shen’s lawyer, the bailiffs removed the shackles and handcuffs.

Mr. Shen’s lawyer argued that no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong. He also pointed out that Falun Gong has been spread to and celebrated around the world, but is only persecuted in China. As he was talking, the prosecutor twice attempted to stop him. The lawyer wasn’t deterred and finished reading his defense statement.

Mr. Shen added that the former Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin, slandered Falun Gong during an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro in 1999 and the communist regime’s mouthpiece People’s Daily published a follow-up report about the interview. Those two reports were often cited by the Chinese judges as legal basis to label Falun Gong as a cult, but the reports are not laws and have no binding power.

He continued by emphasizing that it’s the practitioners’ freedom of religion to study and own Falun Gong books, a fact that was affirmed by the lift of the ban on Falun Gong books in 2011 by the Chinese publication bureau.

Ms. Xu’s lawyer also argued that his client’s practicing Falun Gong and following its principles of “Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance” can only bring benefits to society, and that the practitioners shouldn’t have been prosecuted for trying to be good people.

Ms. Xu’s daughter also defended her innocence in court. She recounted how Ms. Xu’s health improved after she took up Falun Gong, and how she used Falun Gong’s principles in teaching her and her brother to become better people.

Ms. Xu appeared to be very tired during the hearing. She told the lawyer that she was having trouble sleeping at night, and that she felt exhausted and couldn’t keep her balance while walking.

Mr. Jiao denied the charges against him. He said he just wanted to be a good person by practicing Falun Gong and didn’t violate any law. He demanded acquittal.

Related reports:

Eight Shaanxi Residents Face Indictment for Reading Books of Their Faith Together

Nine Shaanxi Residents, Including Widow and Grandfather-to-Be, Face Trial for Their Faith