(Minghui.org) When the police arrested Ms. Zhang Guixiang on October 20, 2020, they told her family that they had to make the arrest to meet a quota but that she would be released in ten days. That was six months ago, and Ms. Zhang is still detained and faces trial.
Ms. Zhang, from Changchun City, Jilin Province, was targeted for her faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice also known as Falun Dafa that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. For upholding her faith, she was fired by the Changchun Automobile Import and Export Company and sent to forced labor camps twice for a total of three years.
A dozen plainclothes officers broke into Ms. Zhang’s home on the morning of October 20. They took out a copy of a law-enforcement guide and claimed it was the search warrant but wouldn’t let her family see it up close.
The officers took photos and videos as they searched the home. They confiscated her two Falun Gong books, an MP3 player, a radio, several flash-drives, a sticker on her closet that said “Falun Dafa is good,” and 111 banknotes worth 220 yuan that had information about Falun Gong printed on them (as a way to raise awareness about the persecution given the strict information censorship in China).
One officer asked Ms. Zhang, “Why do you have so few things? Shouldn’t you have some photos [of Falun Gong’s founder]?” Another officer slandered Falun Gong in an attempt to enrage Ms. Zhang and video her lashing out at them, but Ms. Zhang remained calm and asked the officer to stop.
The police didn’t provide any information about Ms. Zhang’s status after taking her away. When her family managed to find out that she was in the Weizigou Detention Center, the guards didn’t let them visit her or send her any daily necessities. They were only allowed to make a deposit for her to buy things inside.
The police later said to Ms. Zhang’s family that the arrest was to meet a quota and that they would release her in ten days. When her family went to the detention center to take her home ten days later, they were confused to see chief Zhang Pengfei taking her away.
Chief Zhang claimed that they still had some questions for Ms. Zhang and would take her to the police station for a short talk. The family waited all day at the police station but never saw her leave.
A few days later, they found out she’d been taken to the Changchun No.4 Detention Center on the day of her release from Weizigou Detention Center. They went to the Changchun No.4 Detention Center and confirmed that she was there. Just like at the previous detention center, they weren’t allowed to visit Ms. Zhang or send in anything, but they could deposit cash for her.
On November 13, Ms. Zhang’s family finally received the notice of her detention and arrest. The detention notice said she was given ten days of detention for “making and spreading information that undermines the nation’s policy on religion, promotes a cult, feudalism, and superstition.” In the arrest notice approved by the Chaoyang District Procuratorate, she was charged with “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” the standard pretext used to charge Falun Gong practitioners.
Ms. Zhang’s family talked to chief Zhang several times and tried to explain that no law in China says that practicing Falun Gong is a crime. Zhang replied that he was just following orders from his superiors in arresting Ms. Zhang and there was no big deal about it.
After the police submitted Ms. Zhang’s case to the procuratorate, the prosecutor refused to meet with her family or provide any information about her case.
At the same time, citing the pandemic as an excuse, the detention center banned Ms. Zhang’s family from appearing in person to make cash deposits for her. They only accept money transfers, and her family isn’t allowed to check and see if the transfer is successful or what her account balance is.
On February 24, 2021, Ms. Zhang’s family learned from prosecutor Liu Yang that she had been indicted and her case had been forwarded to the Chaoyang District Court on February 5. Judge Qu Dong has been assigned to her case but no court date has been set.
After much effort, Ms. Zhang’s lawyer was finally allowed to visit her on March 11. She told the lawyer that no one has the right to change her faith. She also said that she was charged for talking to people about Falun Gong at the entrance of her subdivision.
When the lawyer submitted his Power of Attorney to judge Qu, he was told that he had to meet two requirements in order to represent Ms. Zhang. The first was that he had to register with the Changchun City Justice Bureau and pass their background screening. The second was that the lawyer’s official residence had to be in Jilin Province as, supposedly, no out-of-province lawyers are allowed to defend Falun Gong practitioners in Jilin.
Qu said the requirements were based on an internal document and that he was strictly following the guidelines in approving lawyers’ qualifications.
Between March 13 and 26, Ms. Zhang’s family repeatedly contacted the court and protested the illegal requirement. The judge insisted that there is no leeway when it came to the rules. He also denied Ms. Zhang’s family's request to defend her themselves.
Judge Qu said he could have appointed a lawyer to represent Ms. Zhang, but because she refused to plead guilty, there is no way for him to “help” her, as all court-appointed lawyers are instructed to enter guilty pleas for Falun Gong practitioners.
Ms. Zhang’s family went to the procuratorate on March 26 to file a complaint against the judge, only to be told that such officials have the right to refuse meetings or to accept their cases. The receptionist also revealed that Falun Gong cases are not handled according to the law but as directed by “government policies” instead. He said it was no use for her family to file complaints, because the notices are issued by the higher-ups, and they don’t have the authority to change them.
To Ms. Zhang’s family’s surprise, the detention center allowed their lawyer to visit Ms. Zhang on March 27, a Saturday. The lawyer said Ms. Zhang was in good spirits. He told her that she has the right to not attend the hearing if she isn’t represented by her own lawyer.