Henan Woman On Trial for Her Faith, Mother Barred from Defending Her
(Minghui.org) A Yuzhou City, Henan Province resident stood trial on December 16, 2020 for her faith in Falun Gong. Ms. Qiao Shuhong's lawyer entered a not guilty plea for her. Only her younger brother and mother were allowed to attend her hearing. The judge blocked her mother from defending her, with the excuse that she didn’t have any documents to prove their relationship.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Ms. Qiao was first arrested on May 13, 2020. Although she was soon released due to a fever, the police arrested her again on July 16, after suspecting her of exposing the death of Ms. Zhang Zhiwen, a Falun Gong practitioner who lived in the same building as Ms. Qiao and died in police custody four days after her arrest, also on May 13.
When Ms. Qiao’s family went to seek her release, the police attempted to make them provide a false accusation of Ms. Zhang in exchange for a quicker release of Ms. Qiao.
After her family refused to comply, the Yuzhou City Procuratorate quickly approved Ms. Qiao’s arrest and indicted her. The Weidu District Court initially scheduled a hearing in late November, but later postponed it to December 16 at the lawyer’s request.
Meanwhile, the police forced Ms. Qiao’s husband to move out of their government funded apartment. Her husband is a truck driver. He had just purchased a new truck after he totaled the old one in an accident. He has a car loan of thousands of yuan to pay each month. Unable to afford day care for their two children during the summer, he had to bring them with him when he went to work.
After school started in the fall, Ms. Qiao’s mother, Ms. Lou Yufeng, in her late 60s, moved in to take care of her two grandchildren.
Ms. Qiao’s parents-in-law are in their late 70s. Her father-in-law doesn’t only have to care for his bedridden wife, but also a brother with a mental disorder.
Ms. Lou is worried about her family and the negative impact of Ms. Qiao’s persecution on her children, who are at an age where they need their mother’s care the most.
Mother Denied the Right to Defend Daughter
Ms. Qiao’s family went to the Xuchang Detention Center on the early morning of December 16 to attend her hearing, but were blocked outside by the guard on duty. Initially, the guard said that only two family members were allowed to enter. But when Ms. Qiao’s lawyer called the presiding judge Yuan Shaowu to complain about it, Yuan reduced the attendance to one person, using the pandemic as an excuse. After further negotiation, both Ms. Qiao’s younger brother and mother entered the detention center with the lawyer, as her mother had signed up as her non-lawyer defender beforehand.
Before the hearing started, Yuan asked Ms. Lou to provide a legal document proving her relationship with Ms. Qiao. As she was never asked to prepare such a document and she didn’t have any with her, the judge ordered her to go back to the gallery for observation only.
Lawyer’s Not Guilty Plea
At 9 a.m., Ms. Qiao was brought into the makeshift courtroom with handcuffs and shackles. At her lawyer’s demand, the judge agreed to remove her handcuffs, but still kept her in shackles. He also ordered two bailiffs to stand on both sides of Ms. Qiao.
Ms. Qiao’s lawyer argued that no law has criminalized Falun Gong in China and refuted her charge of “undermining law enforcement,” a standard pretext to frame Falun Gong practitioners.
The prosecutor accused Ms. Qiao of distributing Falun Gong materials. She listed the video taken by a witness’ cellphone, the surveillance video taken by Ms. Qiao's apartment complex, and the police’s interrogation records as prosecution evidence against her. The witness didn’t appear in court to accept cross-examination. The judge also dismissed the lawyer’s request to have the witness to appear in court.
At the lawyer’s repeated requests, the judge finally agreed to play the witness’ video recording in court. However, it turned out the woman in the video was the late Ms. Zhang, not Ms. Qiao. And the apartment complex’s surveillance video was a broken file. The police’s interrogation record, as the lawyer pointed out, was invalid as Ms. Qiao had refused to sign it.
Ms. Qiao also testified in her own defense, but was frequently interrupted by the judge. She was allowed to say three sentences in the end: “Falun Gong is not a cult. I didn’t undermine any law enforcement. Falun Gong is an advanced Buddha school discipline that teaches people to be good by following the universal principles of ‘Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance.’”
Her lawyer reiterated that Ms. Qiao didn’t violate any law and demanded her acquittal at the end of the hearing.
The prosecutor Yu Yancai suggested a light sentence for her.
Ms. Qiao’s family was appalled by the persecution against her. They said they wouldn’t give up seeking justice for her.
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