(Minghui.org) The presiding judge overseeing the case against eight Falun Gong practitioners in Nong’an County, Jilin Province did not allow their lawyers to review their case documents or defend them in court. He also claimed that, “Murderers can hire lawyers, but not Falun Gong practitioners!” He cited a secret document issued by Jilin High Court to justify his violation of legal procedures in handling the Falun Gong case.
Neither the judge nor other relevant agencies ever showed the practitioners, their lawyers, or families the document itself, but from what had happened to the practitioners, it was believed the secret document was about depriving Falun Gong practitioners of their legal rights to a fair trial.
All eight practitioners were wrongfully convicted for their faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
The practitioners’ family members tried to appeal the verdicts for them, only to be blocked by the authorities. Their family members are now filing complaints against the judge and asking that he be held accountable for violating the law.
Snapshot of the Case
Ms. Gao Xiaoqi, Ms. Cai Yuying, Mr. Shan Weihe, Ms. Zhao Xiulan, Ms. Sun Fengxian, Mr. Zhang Jingyuan, Ms. Yu Jiaoru and Ms. Sun Xiuying were taken from their homes during a police sweep on July 15, 2020. The arrests were ordered by the Changchun City Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC) and Nong’an County PLAC and directed by Zhang Kainan (Nongan PLAC Party Secretary) and Li Xingtao (Nong’an police chief).
Judge Wang Rongfu of Dehui City Court blocked the practitioners’ lawyers and non-lawyer family defenders from reviewing the case documents or attending the hearing on April 9, 2021, on the grounds that they failed to provide documents proving that they didn’t practice Falun Gong themselves.
He blurted out insulting and humiliating language while talking to the practitioners’ families, saying things like, “We have asked higher-level courts about it and this [not allowing lawyers to defend practitioners in court] is what I was told.” “Don’t talk with me about whether it is legal or not – this is how we do things. Let me tell you something: Falun Gong cases are special.” “No defense is no defense. Yes, we have violated the law, so what?! You can sue wherever you want.”
Judge Wang also failed to inform the practitioners themselves of the hearing three days ahead of time as required by law.
He handed down the following sentences against the practitioners on July 26, 2021:
Ms. Gao Xiaoqi, 56, was sentenced to 9 years.Ms. Cai Yuying, 66, was sentenced to 9 years.Ms. Yu Jiaoru (Ms. Cai’s daughter), 34, was sentenced to 6 years.Mr. Shan Weihe was sentenced to 6 years.Ms. Zhao Xiulan, 67, was sentenced to 5 years.Ms. Sun Xiuying, 68, was sentenced to 4 years.Mr. Zhang Jingyuan was sentenced to 2 years.Ms. Sun Fengxian, 65, was sentenced to 2 years.
The practitioners’ lawyers and family members tried to appeal the verdicts for them, but Changchun Intermediate Court refused to accept the case. The family members are now filing complaints against judge Wang of the trial court, accusing him of 1) obstructing the defense lawyers and non-lawyer family defenders from exercising their legal rights to defend Falun Gong practitioners, 2) committing dereliction and violating the criminal procedural law, and 3) insulting and humiliating defendants’ family members.
The complaints also request that judge Wang publicize the secret document he cited to justify his violation of legal procedures.
Below are details of the case.
Lawyers and Family Defenders’ Representation of the Practitioners Denied
Ms. Sun Fengxian’s lawyer submitted his Power of Attorney to the Dehui City Court on November 11, 2020. As judge Wang Rongfu wasn’t in his office, his assistant Zhao Feng received the documents from the lawyer. The lawyer also submitted his legal opinion, urging the judge to dismiss the case, as Ms. Sun’s residence wasn’t in the jurisdiction of the court’s district. Judge Wang called the lawyer a day later, saying that the lawyer must submit documents to prove that he doesn’t practice Falun Gong before he could represent Ms. Sun in court.
When Ms. Zhao’s son called judge Wang on November 16, 2020, the judge made more specific that their lawyer had to submit 1) a letter issued by the local justice bureau, indicating that he doesn’t practice Falun Gong; and 2) another letter by the justice bureau or the administration bureau that issues his professional license, to approve his entering a not guilty plea for Ms. Zhao.
Ms. Zhao’s son also asked judge Wang about the application to represent Ms. Zhao he submitted on November 11. Wang despised him, “Defending her? How come you think so highly of yourself? I’m really finding that you are overconfident.”
Wang threatened to give Ms. Zhao a heavy term if her son didn’t cooperate with the authorities or had a bad attitude (in insisting that Falun Gong is innocent).
Not deterred by judge Wang, Ms. Zhao’s family went with Ms. Gao’s family to the court on November 24 to follow up on their application to represent their loved ones. The vice president of the court, Li Kuiliang, received them. Li claimed that in order for them to represent a family member who practices Falun Gong, they had to get a letter from the local police or residential committees affirming that they don’t practice Falun Gong themselves.
The families asked Li what’s the legal basis for the requirement. Li insisted that there were such rules and he said they would approve their representation requests only after they submitted all the required materials.
Ms. Zhao’s family called judge Wang again on November 25. Wang said to him, “Giving you what? I’m not granting you anything! You are such an idiot! B*S*! I dare you even think about defending her in court! Let me be clear with you. You must get a letter from the local police, saying that you don’t practice Falun Gong.”
When Ms. Zhao’s family said he would file a complaint against Wang, he shouted, “Whatever. You can file complaints against me wherever you want.”
On November 30, Ms. Sun Xiuying’s lawyer submitted his Power of Attorney to the court. The staff member Zhao Feng said the lawyer could leave it with security at the entrance, who would then deliver it to judge Wang. Days later, Wang called the lawyer, asking for a letter showing that he didn’t practice Falun Gong before he is allowed to defend Ms. Sun in court.
When Ms. Gao’s lawyer went to the court on December 8 to submit his Power of Attorney, Wang received him at his office, still demanding the letter proving that he didn’t practice Falun Gong. Wang also denied the lawyer’s request to review Ms. Gao’s case document.
Two days later, Ms. Zhao’s lawyer went to the court to submit his Power of Attorney. The security connected him to the deputy presiding judge Jia Xiaoqiu, who agreed to forward his materials to judge Wang, if he could submit 1) a letter from the police indicating that he didn’t practice Falun Gong; and 2) a letter from his local justice bureau and law firm, approving him of entering a not guilty plea for a Falun Gong practitioner client.
The lawyer asked whether Jia had any documents to support his demand, Jia responded that the High Court of Jilin Province had issued the requirement. If the lawyer wanted to review that document, he could only contact judge Wang. He hung up the call after telling the lawyer to refer to Wang for the specifics.
Some practitioners’ family members filed complaints against judge Wang for denying their rights to represent their loved ones with the Appeal Office of Jilin Provincial People’s Congress and the Legal Office of Changchun City People’s Congress on December 13, 2020. Their complaints were then transferred to the appeals office of Dehui City People’s Congress.
One practitioner’s family member called judge Wang on December 14, still trying to communicate with him. Wang said this time that the Jilin Province High Court issued the requirement that anyone representing Falun Gong cases must provide proof that they don’t practice Falun Gong themselves. But he refused to provide any other details about the high court’s document.
With no other choice, the practitioners’ family members contacted the Nong’an County Domestic Security Office and their local police stations about the required letters, but both said they couldn’t issue it, unless they get the request directly from the court.
When one family member followed up with judge Wang on December 18, Wang responded that it’s not the court’s responsibility to contact the police. “You should stop dreaming about it. You and your lawyers can stop thinking about defending them in court if you can’t get the letters.”
Wang claimed that he could easily approve a lawyer to represent a murderer, but not Falun Gong practitioners. The family member asked for the relevant regulation that bars the lawyers from representing Falun Gong practitioners. Wang said, “It’s the government’s decision. Why do I have to show it to you? Who are you?”
The family member did more research into related laws, and found that Wang’s request was illegal. So he called Wang again on January 11, 2021, and said that the lawyers can represent Falun Gong practitioners anywhere else in the country, why not in Jilin Province?
Wang replied, “You just can’t in Jilin. There is nothing special about it. This is what was passed down from above. I’m just following it.”
As the court was yet to approve Ms. Sun Fengxian’s lawyer representation request submitted on November 11, 2020, the lawyer went to the court on March 4, 2021, to meet with judge Wang and request to review Ms. Sun’s case document. Wang rejected the lawyers’ requests, citing the same secret document from the high court.
Mr. Zhang’s lawyer went to the court on March 11, 2021, also to submit his Power of Attorney. Wang received him in the hallway. He denied the lawyer’s request to review the case document, and asked for a letter showing that the lawyer didn’t practice Falun Gong.
The lawyer responded that there was no way for him to get the letter Wang asked for. He also asked Wang what’s the legal basis for his requirement. Wang said that it’s an oral order and he didn’t have a hard copy of it.
The lawyer refuted him whether the Dehui City Court was beyond the jurisdiction of the law. He later filed a complaint against Wang for depriving his client’s right of legal defense.
On March 15, 2021, the practitioners’ families received a call from director Fang of the Dehui City People’s Congress, regarding the complaint they filed on December 13, 2020. Fang claimed that he would communicate with the court and the court was also required to provide a formal response to them.
When Mr. Zhang’s other lawyer went to the court on March 25, 2021, to submit his Power of Attorney, judge Wang refused to meet with him. He also denied the lawyer’s request to review the case document.
Wang asked again for the letter proving the lawyer didn’t practice Falun Gong. The lawyer asked if he should contact the police in his birthplace, his residence, or where he worked. Wang said that he didn’t know either but supposed it would be the police station where the lawyer resided. He also asked the lawyer to show the approval letter from his law firm and local justice bureau for him to enter a not guilty plea for Falun Gong practitioners. The lawyer asked for a referral letter from the court or for the court to contact the justice bureau themselves, but Wang responded that it’s not their responsibility.
The lawyer said he was willing to work with the court to obtain all required documents if Wang could provide a copy of the supporting legal document. Wang replied that the Jilin Political and Legal Affairs Committee, the Jilin Province High Court, and Changchun City Intermediate Court all had it. But it’s a confidential document and he couldn’t show it to the lawyer. He said it’s up to the lawyer whether to cooperate or not. If he couldn’t submit the required letters, there was no way for him to represent Mr. Zhang in court.
The lawyer then asked that since he traveled such a long distance for the case, whether the court could accept his Power of Attorney first, while he worked to get the other letters. Wang rejected him and said he would accept it when the lawyer got everything he asked for.
Ms. Yu’s lawyer also called judge Wang on March 25 and asked to represent Ms. Yu. Wang repeated the same thing he had told other lawyers.
One family member called judge Wang one more time on April 1, 2021, and said that they knew of one lawyer entering a not guilty plea for a Falun Gong practitioner at Longshan District Court in Liaoyuan City, Jilin Province. “If the court in Jilin allows lawyers to represent Falun Gong practitioners, why can’t your court?”
Wang responded that it was from a new policy from the Jilin High Court in 2020. He claimed that he had asked for special permission from the higher court, but was told that all the documents were still required. He also said, “Don’t talk to me about what’s legal or not – this is how we do things. Let me tell you something: Falun Gong cases are special.”
The Illegal Hearing
Days later, the court informed the practitioners’ families that a hearing was scheduled for April 9, 2021. None of the defense lawyers or family defenders was granted permission to defend them in court. Only one family member from each practitioner was allowed to attend the hearing, on the condition that they provided a letter from the police that they didn’t practice Falun Gong.
The practitioners’ families called prosecutor Teng Jikun of Dehui City Procuratorate the day before the hearing and told him about how judge Wang blocked the practitioners’ legal representation. Teng replied that Wang’s request was legitimate.
The practitioners’ families and their lawyers also went to the appeals office of the Dehui City Court and local discipline department, but to no avail.
On the afternoon of April 8, the practitioners’ families and their lawyers went to the Dehui City Procuratorate to seek justice. Its directors Pang and Xu claimed that they were aware of the situation and they had communicated with the court. They added that the court’s requirement did come from the provincial-level officials.
When the families asked why they had to show the non-practicing Falun Gong letters in order to attend the hearing, Pang and Xu said they had to leave for a meeting and ordered the lawyers and practitioners’ families to leave.
The practitioners’ families then returned to the court, submitting a request to the vice court president, Li Kuiliang, to have judge Wang recused from the hearing. Li responded that they weren’t qualified to make the request. Li maintained that Wang was simply following orders from his superiors in requesting the above-mentioned documents.
On the morning of April 9, the bailiffs went to the practitioners’ cells in the Nong’an County Detention Center, dragged them into the car, and took them to the court. Ms. Gao’s hair was pulled by the guards and she was beaten on her back, which still hurt weeks later. Ms. Yu’s arm became bruised after she was dragged by the guards. All eight practitioners were forced to wear protective gear, before being taken to the court.
Among the eight practitioners, only Mr. Zhang’s father attended the hearing after he got the letter at his local police station. All other practitioners’ family members and lawyers were blocked outside of the courtroom. They had to lean on the door in order to hear what was going on inside. Yet judge Wang still claimed that he was having an open hearing.
During the hearing, the eight practitioners refused to accept the court-appointed lawyers, who were instructed to enter a guilty plea for them. After their requests to be represented by their own lawyers were rejected by judge Wang, the practitioners acted as their own lawyers and they all pleaded not guilty. Their request to have Wang recused from the hearing was also turned down. Wang laughed at them and said they didn’t have the right to do so.
The hearing ended at around 1:30 p.m. and the practitioners were taken back to the Nong’an County Detention Center afterward.
Appealing the Verdicts
On July 26, 2021, nearly four months after the hearing, judge Wang handed down the guilty verdicts against the practitioners.
All practitioners appealed the verdicts with the Changchun City Intermediate Court. Ms. Gao, Ms. Zhao and Ms. Sun Fengxian’s appeals were accepted on September 1 and judge Zang Wancheng was assigned to handle their case.
Ms. Cai, Ms. Yu, Mr. Shan and Ms. Sun Xiuying’s appeals were accepted on September 9 and judge Fan Wenhao was assigned to handle their case. The same judge was also in charge of Mr. Zhang’s appeal case, after it was accepted on September 13.
Ms. Gao’s lawyer went to the Changchun City Intermediate Court on September 9, after making an appointment with judge Zang Wancheng to review her case document and submit his Power of Attorney. Upon arriving at the court, the court clerk told him that he had to register his representation of Ms. Gao with the local justice bureau.
The lawyer called judge Zang and asked what’s the legal basis for the requirement and how can he find the supporting legal document. Zang replied that it’s not their requirement, but a policy made by the Jilin Province High Court.
The clerk refused to accept the lawyer’s Power of Attorney and told him that his client’s case document was with Changchun City Procuratorate, not them. The lawyer then went to the procuratorate, which confirmed that they had the case document, but was unable to let the lawyer review it, as it hadn’t been loaded into their system.
The lawyer returned to the procuratorate the next day. This time, the front desk receptionist relayed the words from prosecutor Song Chunhui that they hadn’t made a disk for the case document. They asked for the lawyer’s phone number and said they would inform him when the case document was ready for review.
In the next few days, the lawyer kept calling back to check on the status of the case document, only to be told that the police were making an additional investigation and adding more evidence to the case. As a result, they couldn’t make it available to the lawyer yet.
On September 22, nearly two weeks after the lawyer’s initial visit to the intermediate court, he learned that the procuratorate had transferred the case document to the intermediate court on September 14. Yet the procuratorate kept telling him that it wasn’t available for him to review.
Also on September 22, Ms. Sun Fengxian’s lawyer and family went to the intermediate court to submit their representation document and review her case document. Judge Zang and court clerk Wen Heng received them. Zang refused to accept Ms. Sun’s family defender’s document, saying that she also had to register it with Changchun City Justice Bureau, just like the lawyer.
Zang also said that it’s a national policy, not something specific to Changchun or Jilin Province. He said they were strictly following the rule. He added that in addition to the legal requirement, there is also relevant policies based on the current situation.
The lawyer asked which law specified that the lawyer had to register the representation of their clients with the justice bureau? He had traveled around the country and never had any problem representing a Falun Gong practitioner elsewhere, so why were the courts in Jilin Province different from other provinces? If they were following a national law, then does it mean the courts in other regions had all violated the law?
Ms. Zhao’s son went to the Changchun City Justice Bureau on September 24 to submit his application as a family defender for her. Director Chen Guang told him that he only needed a letter from Ms. Zhao, entrusting him to represent her, as well as providing documents to show their family relationship. As he wasn’t a professional lawyer, he didn’t have to register it with the justice bureau. Chen said the intermediate court could contact him themselves if they had any questions about it.
Ms. Zhao’s son then called judge Zang. Clerk Wen Heng answered the call. He said Zang wasn’t in the office. He said that he could relay the message for him, but it’s better for him to talk to the judge himself. Ms. Zhao’s son kept calling the judge in the afternoon until the court closed at 5 p.m., but no one ever picked up the phone.
Ms. Zhao’s son went to the Changchun City Procuratorate on September 26 to file a complaint against Zang for depriving his mother of legal representation. The procuratorate said they would only accept complaints about cases that were already closed. Ms. Zhao’s son called the Jilin Province Procuratorate, and was told the same thing. He then filed the complaint with the Jilin Province Political and Legal Affairs Committee, which oversees the judiciary and public security branches, and it agreed to accept his materials.
At the same time, Ms. Zhao’s son called the disciplinary department of Changchun City Intermediate Court to complain about judge Zang. He kept calling for one hour, but no one ever answered the call. He called Zang’s direct number, but no one answered the call either.
With no other option, Ms. Zhao’s son called the court’s appeals office, only to be told that the disciplinary department never answers any call, both internal or external. The only way to contact them was through the mail. Outraged, Ms. Zhao’s son filed another complaint with the reporting hotline owned by the Supreme People’s Court.
The next day, Ms. Zhao’s son received a call from Wang of the disciplinary department of Changchun City Intermediate Court. Wang asked for some details of the case and asked him to mail the materials to them for review. After the call, Ms. Zhao’s son mailed four registered letters to them.
Ms. Zhao’s son called judge Zang again at 2:36 p.m. on September 28. When clerk Wen answered the call, the son reiterated what he had heard from director Chen of the justice bureau. He asked Wen to relay the message to Zang and demanded that he get back to him.
The son called Zang again at 3:24 p.m. This time, Wen said Zang was working in his office upstairs, which didn’t have a phone. He didn’t say anything about whether the son still needed to register the case with the justice bureau, but asked him to get a letter from the Domestic Security Office to show that he didn’t practice Falun Gong himself.
At 4:20 p.m., the son went to the post office to mail more documents about Ms. Zhao’s case. A postal worker told him that the letter he mailed to judge Zang on September 25 was found to have Falun Gong related content, and they had just been reprimanded by their supervisors that morning. They refused to mail any more letters to him, fearing further punishment.
The son videotaped their conversation and said that his mother was wrongfully sentenced to five years for practicing Falun Gong. The mailing was to seek justice for her, not to promote Falun Gong.
The postal worker called his supervisors. While one supervisor said there should be no problem for the son to mail the letter after reading it, another supervisor surnamed Yuan urged him to think more carefully about it. Yuan began to make a phone call and tried to block the son from videotaping him. The son followed him to the outside of the post office and heard that he was calling for the police to check the letters.
A few more post office supervisors came to the lobby. One person said someone from higher up just came that morning to investigate the letter the son mailed days earlier. They said they understood that there was nothing wrong with his appeal letters, but they were under tremendous pressure themselves for mailing the letters for him.
Another supervisor added that they didn’t have the power of law enforcement and it’s better for the police to decide whether they could mail the letters. Ms. Zhao’s son said if that’s the case, then do they have to call the police every time he came to the post office to mail something? The supervisor responded that they were just following the rules and they don’t have any other way to go around it.
As they were talking, more customers and postal workers were drawn to their conversation. Ms. Zhao’s son took the opportunity and read his appeal letter to them, especially how judge Wang said insulting and humiliating words to him. “How can a judge say things like that?” he asked the crowd.
A few minutes later, the police came. Ms. Zhao’s son continued to videotape the scene. He showed the police his appeal letter and explained why he was filing complaints against judge Wang, after briefly talking about the arrest and sentencing of his mother, as well as how Wang blocked the lawyer and him from representing her.
The police searched his bag and demanded to take the appeal letters he was planning to mail to the police station for further evaluation, as it contained too much information about Falun Gong.
The son called his lawyer right then and told him that he was summoned to the police station. The lawyer asked the police to provide documents about the interview.
After arriving at the police station at 4:50 p.m., the police looked through all the documents the son had. An officer asked the son what’s the situation of the non-practicing Falun Gong letter. The son told him about judge Wang’s requirement. He said that when he went to the Nong’an County Domestic Security Office and talked to director Yu Baixiang, Yu replied that he had never issued such letters. He said the son came to the wrong place and it was like going to a bank to buy crop seeds.
The police officer also said that he had never heard of such a non-practicing Falun Gong letter in his 10 years working as a police officer.
The police officer indicated that even if he was fine with the son mailing the materials, he couldn’t force the post office to do it, as they were facing the persecution policy coming from the very top of the communist regime. He asked if the son could just deliver it to the court himself. The son told him how judge Wang refused to answer his call or accept the materials when he tried to deliver it in person.
The Secret Document By the Jilin Province High Court
Throughout the practitioners’ families and lawyers’ efforts in seeking justice for them, the authorities kept mentioning a secret policy issued by the High Court of Jilin Province.
When the practitioners’ families contacted director Fang of the Dehui City People’s Congress on April 1, 2021, to follow up on their complaint against the Dehui City Court, Fang claimed that he received a reply from the court which stated that the policy was in accordance with document No. 226 in 2020 issued by the high court. Yet he refused to provide a copy of the policy.
The practitioners’ families contacted Fang again on April 21, 2021. He received them and showed them a letter from the Dehui Court regarding this secret document, titled “Notice on Further Strengthening the Trial of Cult Criminal Cases.”
“According to document No. 226 issued by Jilin High Court in 2020, ‘Notice on Further Strengthening the Trial of Cult Criminal Cases,’ lawyers should closely follow it for certification review when handling cult cases. In principle, they [lawyers] are forbidden to be involved in cult cases [for representing (Falun Gong) practitioners].” said the letter from the Dehui Court.
The practitioners’ families then applied to the Jilin Province Justice Bureau to publicize the document, which responded to them on April 25 that they didn’t have such policy and referred the families to the high court.
Meanwhile, the families went to the high court four times, on April 23, May 11, May 13, and June 9, 2021, asking about the secret policy, only to be told by the receptionist that they never heard of it before.
The families mailed an application to Xu Jiaxin, the president of the Jilin Province High Court, on June 11, 2021, demanding that he revoke the secret policy and publicize it. They have yet to receive any reply from Xu.
In their latest efforts to seek justice, the families are now filing further complaints against judge Wang and seeking more information about the secret policy.
They summarized in the complaint that before the hearing, family members had made requests based on laws to defend detained practitioners. But Wang bluntly denied the requests and asked the family members to produce a “certificate of not practicing Falun Gong.” When lawyers hired by family members went to the court submitting paperwork of entrusted defense, Wang repeatedly declined it 10 times. Many times, the court and Wang also ordered lawyers to present various documents, which was illegitimate and unlawful. Even on the day of the hearing, no family members or lawyers were permitted to defend practitioners in court.
They said that by claiming to follow a secret document, Wang has undermined the legal rights of practitioners.
Based on words and actions from Dehui Court officials, especially judge Wang, the practitioners’ family members believed in the existence of the secret document No. 226. From their conversations with relevant agencies, it seems that much of the secret document’s contents are about depriving procedural rights of practitioners, which are protected by the Chinese Constitution and other laws. Starting from the procedural rights of Falun Gong practitioners, the document also restricts and deprives procedural rights of lawyers and family members to defend practitioners. In a written response from Dehui Court to family members, the court did acknowledge the existence of this document.
The secret document is not only unfair to Falun Gong practitioners, but also vicious. This is because it has violated the Chinese Constitution, Criminal Procedure Law, Lawyers Law, Judge Law, Supreme Court’s Interpretation on the Application of the Criminal Procedure Law, Criminal Procedure Rules of the Supreme Court, and others. It has also violated “Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security and other departments on Legally Protecting Lawyers’ Practicing Rights.”
Perpetrators’ contact information:
Zang Wancheng (臧万成), judge: +86-431-88558653Song Chunwei (宋春微), prosecutor: +86-17643106693, +86-431-89988402Wang Rongfu (王荣富), judge of Dehui City Court: +86-431-87005016
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