(Minghui.org) The authorities in Anda City, Heilongjiang Province secretly sentenced three local residents to prison for their faith in Falun Gong, even before allowing one practitioner’s lawyer to visit her.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Ms. Chen Jingjie, 65, was reportedly sentenced to 1.5 years. Ms. Zhao Xiuzhi was given two years. Ms. Pei Yufeng’s prison term is being investigated.
All three practitioners were arrested at their respective homes on the evening of December 24, 2020. They have been held at the Anda City Detention Center and denied family visits since then, despite the fact that Ms. Zhao was having high blood pressure and Ms. Pei also has some health issues.
Due to pandemic lockdown, Ms. Chen’s lawyer wasn’t able to review her case document at the procuratorate until March 19, 2021. When he went to the detention center to visit Ms. Chen, the guards turned him away, citing the excuse of the pandemic. Only after his persistent requests, did the detention center allow him to visit Ms. Chen.
When the lawyer visited Ms. Chen on April 19, however, he was shocked to find the judge had sentenced her and two other practitioners via a virtual trial on April 8. The lawyer called the procuratorate and questioned the prosecutor on why they did not inform him of the trial. They responded that they didn’t know Ms. Chen had a lawyer, despite the fact that he had already reviewed her case document and submitted his Power of Attorney a month ago.
Li Yingming, the assistant to the prosecutor, directed the lawyer to the court, but he also expressed his doubt that the court would reverse their sentencing decision. “There is no use to talk to the court. The government has ruled that Falun Gong is a cult,” Li mumbled to himself.
The lawyer responded that no law has criminalized Falun Gong in China or labels it as a cult. Li then said to him, “You can just go ahead and talk to the court. If they ask us to release them, we will. If they want to change the terms, we don’t have any objections either.” Then he hung up the phone.
Ms. Chen’s family also tried to meet with the prosecutor, but he refused. The family left the prosecutor a letter, detailing the health benefits that Ms. Chen has gained from practicing Falun Gong. The prosecutor called them in the evening and said that they were handling the case according to the law and orders from their supervisor.
Ms. Chen’s family later found the prosecutor again and tried to urge him to release her. He insisted that the court didn’t know Ms. Chen had a lawyer and it’s not their responsibility, but that of the public security division, to inform the lawyer of the trial.
Ms. Zhao was arrested at around 6 p.m. on December 24, 2020. The police spent three hours ransacking her home. Her Falun Gong books, a photo of Falun Gong’s founder, laptop, and printer were confiscated. Her family was also brought to the police station for interrogation and released late at night.
At 8:30 p.m., the police and residential committee staff members stayed outside Ms. Pei’s home and arrested her when she came back. Her Falun Gong books, a photo of Falun Gong’s founder, desktop, laptop and printer were confiscated. Her family asked the police why they were arresting her. They responded that they have been following her for a year.
Also at around 8 p.m., over 20 officers, including those from the local police station, residential committee, and 610 Office (an extralegal agency specifically created to persecute Falun Gong), broke into Ms. Chen’s home. The officers confiscated not only her computer and printer, but also many valuables, including the 5,000 yuan cash that the family prepared for the Chinese New Year, bank deposit slips, bank debit cards for Ms. Chen and her husband’s pension, their cellphones, their apartment deed, as well as the antique banknotes and stamps they’d collected.
One officer shouted, “We are here to rob you! Feel free to file complaints against us wherever you want!”
Both Ms. Chen and her husband were taken to the police station. After one night of interrogation, her husband was released the next day.
With all of their savings, his cellphone, and ID taken away, Ms. Chen’s husband struggled with his daily life, given the strict lockdown in the city during the pandemic. He called the 610 Office and demanded to have his ID and other confiscated items back, but the police refused to return them and they also investigated the family’s bank account to see where their savings came from.
Ms. Chen used to work at the Anda City Candy Factory, but was laid off in the early 1990s. When her husband, an employee of a local textile factory, was also laid off, the family struggled to make ends meet, especially when Ms. Chen was suffering from various medical conditions. She later took up Falun Gong and her health recovered soon after, which saved her family a significant amount of medical expense.