(Minghui.org) The families of eight Falun Gong practitioners in Nongan County, Jilin Province, who were wrongfully sentenced for their faith recently filed a complaint with the Jilin Provincial Supervision Commission against Xu Jiaxin, the president of Jilin Provincial High Court.

The families accused Xu of issuing a secret document, No. [2020] 226, which demanded anyone, including professional lawyers, secure letters from their local justice bureaus to show that they don’t practice Falun Gong themselves before they are allowed to represent Falun Gong practitioners in the province. 

The eight practitioners, including Ms. Zhao Xiulan, Ms. Sun Fengxian, Ms. Gao Xiaoqi, Mr. Zhang Jingyuan, Ms. Yu Jiaoru, Ms. Sun Xiuying, Ms. Cai Yuying and Mr. Shan Weihe, were arrested on July 15, 2020, days before the Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to the region on July 23.

Before the practitioners appeared in Dehui City Court on April 9, 2021, the presiding judge, Wang Rongfu, blocked their legal representation by citing a secret high court document. He sentenced all eight practitioners to prison on July 26, 2021. Ms. Gao and Ms. Cai were each given nine years; Ms. Yu and Mr. Shan, six years; Ms. Zhao five years; Ms. Sun Xiuying, four years; and Ms. Sun Fengxian and Mr. Zhang, two years.

After the practitioners appealed the verdicts, Zang Wancheng, a judge of the Changchun City Intermediate Court, also demanded the lawyers and family defenders submit documents showing they don’t practice Falun Gong, citing the high court’s secret document. Zang also pressured the local post offices to not accept and mail out any legal documents from the practitioners’ families, after he refused to accept the materials in person. He also instructed the local detention center to block the lawyers from visiting the practitioners.

Zang upheld the practitioners’ original verdicts without ever informing their lawyers or families on November 29, 2021. He also refused to provide copies of his ruling, rendering the families unable to file motions to reconsider the case for the practitioners.

Ms. Sun Fengxian, one of the practitioners, suffered a stroke on December 3, upon hearing about the intermediate court’s decision. She passed away on December 15, 2021. She was 65.

Seeking Access to the Secret Document

In order to seek justice for the practitioners, their family members went to the high court four times, on April 23, May 11, May 13, and June 9, 2021, to ask about the secret document, only to be told by the receptionist that they never heard of it before. 

The families mailed an application to Xu Jiaxin on June 11, 2021, demanding that he revoke the secret document and publicize it. But Xu never responded to them. 

On October 25, 2021, the families saw the following in a report by the Dehui City Court, which said, “According to the ‘Notice of No. [2020] 226 document by the Jilin High Court on Further Strengthening the Trial of Cult Criminal Cases’: Strictly examine the qualifications of lawyers to represent cult-related cases. Relevant persons who do not have the practice license of the judicial and administrative organs in the region where they are located, and who have not provided proof to clear their participation in cult organizations, are not allowed to represent cult-related cases in principle.”

The families called the high court on November 3, 2021, and this time the receptionist confirmed the existence of the secret document, adding that it was drafted by the third criminal division of the high court and it’s up to them whether the document can be publicized. 

On November 22, 2021, the families applied with the Jilin Provincial Department of Justice, requesting information disclosure of the No. [2020] 226 document. The justice department responded on November 25 that they weren’t involved in issuing the document so there was nothing they could disclose to the families. The families then contacted the Ministry of Justice on November 29, 2021, and January 11, 2022, asking if No. [2020] 226 documents have ever been submitted to it for reference. The families next filed a motion with the Ministry of Justice on January 16, 2022, requesting the agency to order its subordinate Jilin Provincial Department of Justice to investigate the No. [2020] 226 document. 

The Ministry of Justice declined to take up the case, and the families proceeded to file an administrative complaint against the Ministry of Justice with Beijing Third People’s Intermediate Court. The families also filed a request with the State Council to investigate the secret document.

Meanwhile, on November 23, 2021, the families called Bo Haiyan, the presiding judge of the third criminal division of Jilin Province High Court, who indirectly admitted that No. [2020] 226 is their division’s internal document and it couldn’t be publicized. 

The families also contacted the National Appeals Office and National People’s Congress, the Jilin Provincial People’s Congress, demanding they investigate the secret document and repeal it. 

Province-wide Suppression of Legal Representation

Since the onset of the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, very few lawyers have been allowed to represent practitioners in court, especially the lawyers who received their licenses in Jilin. When out-of-province lawyers came to Jilin to work on Falun Gong cases, it has been a common practice for the judges in Jilin to demand unreasonable documents from the lawyers, block their meetings with the practitioners and deny them from reviewing the practitioners’ case documents. It has been a few years since any lawyer has been allowed to defend Falun Gong practitioners in a Jilin court. 

Many lawyers said they usually have no problem representing Falun Gong practitioners in other provinces, but they encounter the most difficulties moving things forward in Jilin.

According to information collected by Minghui.org, at least 657 Falun Gong practitioners have been sentenced to prison in Jilin Province for their faith in the past 12 years. 

It is because of the backing of the Jilin Province High Court and the secret document, the judges of the lower courts have become increasingly blatant in arbitrarily suppressing the practitioners’ legal representation. 

While talking to the practitioners’ families, judge Wang Rongfu blurted out insulting and humiliating language several times, 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.”

Secret Document Illegal

The eight sentenced practitioners’ families argued that the secret document has violated a plethora of laws, including the Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Law, the Lawyers Law, the Judge's Law, and the Provisions of the Supreme People's Procuratorate on Legally Safeguarding the Lawyers' Rights to Practice Law. All these laws guarantee defendants’ right to legal counsel of their choice and lawyers’ right to practice law and defend their clients in any kind of case, without seeking approval from their local justice bureaus. 

But the secret document has deprived defendants and their lawyers’ right to defend their innocence in court by imposing prerequisites not mandated by law. In addition, any law that may be used as a basis to prosecute anyone must be public information easily accessible by citizens.

The Jilin Province High Court, however, has been pressuring its subordinate courts to cite its secret document in prosecuting and sentencing Falun Gong practitioners. 

The eight sentenced practitioners’ families argued that Xu Jiaxin, as the president of the Jilin Province High Court and a key member of the Judicial Committee of the court, has committed the crimes of abusing power and dereliction of duty. Xu bears ultimate responsibility for facilitating the persecution across Jilin Province. The families demand the authorities hold him accountable, repeal the secret document and restore a fair, just, and healthy judicial environment in Jilin Province.

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