(Minghui.org) Eleven Falun Gong practitioners were sentenced by the Dongcheng District Court in Beijing on January 14, 2022, after being arrested for sending photos of the empty city during the pandemic to overseas media. The sentencing came weeks before the 2022 Winter Olympics, set to be held in China from February 4 to 20.
- Ms. Xu Na was sentenced to eight years with a 20,000-yuan fine.- Mr. Li Zongze, Mr. Li Lixin, Ms. Zheng Yujie, and Ms. Zheng Yanmei were each sentenced to five years with a 10,000-yuan fine.- Ms. Deng Jingjing, Mr. Zhang Renfei, Mr. Liu Qiang, and Ms. Meng Qingxia were each sentenced to four years with a 8,000-yuan fine.- Ms. Li Jiaxuan and Ms. Jiao Mengjiao were each sentenced to two years with a 4,000-yuan fine.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
The eleven practitioners were arrested on July 19, 2020 by over 100 police officers dispatched by Beijing Domestic Security Office and Dongcheng District Police Department. About ten officers were assigned to arrest each practitioner. Ms. Xu was painting at home, when officers of Beijing Domestic Security Officer, Shunyi District Domestic Security Office and Konggang Police Station broke in and arrested her. The police returned on the next day and confiscated her computer, cell phone and video camera.
Officers of the Ministry of State Security saw photos of Beijing published on The Epoch Times website in June 2020. By examining surveillance videos, the officers saw Ms. Xu and other practitioners walking by and thus began to monitor them.
One month after their arrests, on August 28, the authorities approved the eleven practitioners’ arrests. The police kept most practitioners’ families in the dark of their situation, and no formal detention notices were ever sent out.
In early November 2020, the practitioners’ lawyers learned that their cases had been submitted to the Dongcheng District Procuratorate. Prosecutor Zhang Li didn’t provide copies of their case documents as promised and only allowed the lawyers to take photos and hand-copy sections from the documents at the procuratorate. Each lawyer was only given four hours to go over the documents. Most of the prosecution evidence consisted of photos of the practitioners’ daily lives, taken without their knowledge.
The prosecutor returned the cases to the Dongcheng District Police Department due to insufficient evidence in late November. The police resubmitted them between December 2020 and January 2021, only to have the prosecutor return them again in late January 2021, still citing insufficient evidence.
On April 2, 2021, the prosecutor indicted the practitioners and moved their cases to the Dongcheng District Court. Similar to the prosecutor, the judge also restricted the practitioners’ lawyers in reviewing their documents. He ruled that only when all the lawyers representing the eleven practitioners came to the court at the same time, would he allow them to see it. Additionally, the lawyers weren’t allowed to make copies or take photos of the documents, nor would the court provide any paper or electronic copies of the files.
Some of the lawyers filed complaints against the judge’s ruling, as it violated relevant Chinese laws that stipulate that procuratorate and courts grant lawyers opportunities to review and make copies of case files at their convenience. The law also prohibits procuratorate and courts from setting upper limits on how many times or how long lawyers can review case files. The judge’s ruling severely restricted the practitioners’ lawyers’ ability to review cases at their own convenience, which may in turn affect the lawyers’ ability to defend the practitioners to the best of their ability and influence the legal outcome of the case. The lawyers’ complaints, however, didn’t get addressed by the relevant agencies.
After one year of detention, the practitioners stood trial at the Dongcheng District Court on October 15, 2021. Five of the defense lawyers entered not guilty pleas for their respective clients.
While cross-examining the evidence in the afternoon, the lawyers pointed out that The Epoch Times, to which the practitioners sent the photos, is a legitimate media outlet registered in the U.S. It covers uncensored news inside and outside of China, including the persecution of Falun Gong and other minorities and religious groups.
In addition to the photos, the prosecutor also accused the practitioners of having illegal gatherings and distributing Falun Gong materials based on the Falun Gong materials found in the practitioners’ homes. The lawyers argued that the confiscated Falun Gong books and materials were for their personal use, not for distribution.
The lawyers said that it fell under the Constitution’s guarantee of “freedom of expression” for the practitioners to submit news tips to media outlets and under “freedom of belief” to discuss their experiences practicing Falun Gong. Some of the practitioners were artists and they had discussions on how to improve their artwork. Nothing mentioned justified the charges against them.
The prosecutor said to Ms. Meng, “You’ve been sentenced before, so we arrested you when you gathered with other practitioners and participated in their activities.”
The presiding judge, Bai Chongwei, constantly interrupted the lawyers’ arguments. When it was the practitioners’ turn to testify in their own defense, the judge ordered the bailiffs to move the microphones far away.
Ms. Zheng said that she was held in solitary confinement for 28 days and the guards grabbed her hair and hit her. Before she could finish, the judge interrupted her and asked, “What do you want to say? Just tell me, are you (pleading) guilty or not?”
Mr. Li Zongze prepared a defense statement, but the judge never let him read it.
The lawyer representing Ms. Jiao was appointed by the judge. He entered a guilty plea for her and started to smear Falun Gong during the hearing, so she asked him to stop talking.
The judge said that Mr. Liu’s interrogation record indicated that he once said “Falun Gong is a cult.” Mr. Liu immediately spoke up and said he had never said such a thing. The judge had no reply.
Other lawyers pointed out that the prosecutor violated legal procedures in handling the case, including arbitrarily changing the charge against the practitioners from “picking a quarrel and provoking trouble” to “undermining law enforcement,” with no proper police investigation. When the lawyers went to review the practitioners’ case documents, the prosecutor made certain that they couldn’t.
Another lawyer added that the judge failed to inform the practitioners of the hearing ahead of time, as required by law.
The prosecutor, Zhang Li, recommended heavy terms for the practitioners even though she was unable to say what law the practitioners had violated or how they’d “undermined law enforcement.” When she kept slandering Falun Gong, the practitioners called her out and clarified the facts. She responded by saying, “How dare you promote Falun Gong in court?”
When the judge announced the practitioners’ verdicts on January 14, 2022, he also ordered the forfeiture of all items confiscated by police from the practitioners, including their Falun Gong books, 14 laptops, 40 cell phones, 17 hard-drives, and 29 flash-drives, cameras and audio-recorders. The verdict also accused The Epoch Times of being a “foreign hostile media.”
Ms. Xu Na’s Past Persecution
Born into an artist family in 1968, Ms. Xu is an award-winning artist herself. Her husband, Mr. Yu Zhou, an alumnus of the prestigious Beijing University, was a musician and proficient in several different languages.
After the communist regime ordered the persecution of Falun Gong, Ms. Xu was arrested in July 2001 for providing shelter to out-of-town practitioners who came to Beijing to appeal for their faith. She was sentenced to five years in November 2001 and served time in Beijing Women’s Prison, where she was put in solitary confinement, deprived of sleep, not allowed to take showers, and denied family visits.
Ms. Xu and Mr. Yu were arrested on January 26, 2008, on their way back home after a performance. Mr. Yu died in custody 11 days later on February 6, at the age of 42. Ms. Xu was sentenced to three years on November 25, 2008.
Perpetrators’ contact information:
Bai Chongwei (白崇伟), judge of Dongcheng District Court: +86-10-84190716Wang Xin (王欣), assistant judge: +86-10-84190722Zhang Li (张莉), prosecutor of Dongcheng District Procuratorate: +86-18911018593Cong Jian (丛健), head of Dongcheng District Detention Center: +86-10-84081716Liu Lanbo (刘澜波), officer of Beixinqiao Police Station: +86-18668756929
(More perpetrators’ contact information is available in the original Chinese article.)
Views expressed in this article represent the author's own opinions or understandings. All content published on this website are copyrighted by Minghui.org. Minghui will produce compilations of its online content regularly and on special occasions.