(Minghui.org) Two residents of Xianghe County, Hebei Province, made a second court appearance on May 23, 2023, for their faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party since July 1999.

Mr. Zhang Xian, 50, and Mr. Wang Zhishan, 52, were arrested on September 28, 2022, while they were meeting up with each other. The police snatched their house keys and raided their homes, confiscating a large amount of valuables.

Both practitioners were taken to Xianghe County Detention Center and had their arrests formally approved in October 2022. In addition to targeting the practitioners, the police also intimidated their families. Succumbing to the mental pressure, Mr. Wang’s parents died one after another, and Mr. Zhang’s father-in-law also passed away, only a few months after their arrests.

Mr. Wang’s family hired a lawyer to represent both him and Mr. Zhang. The police used the pandemic as an excuse to bar the lawyer from visiting the practitioners at the detention center. The lawyer was later allowed to see them once virtually, before they were released on bail in January 2023.

The Xianghe County Court initially scheduled a hearing for March 3, 2023, but suddenly canceled it the day before. Around March 20, the court notified the lawyer that the hearing was to be held on March 28, but the lawyer was already scheduled to defend another client in a different city on that day. He requested a postponement of the hearing but was denied. Mr. Wang and Mr. Zhang thus faced the judge without any legal representation. The court didn’t call any prosecution witnesses to the hearing, and all the prosecution evidence presented consisted of photocopies of the original items. There was also no independent third-party authentication of the evidence as required by law.

Outside the court on the day of the hearing, the authorities arranged for over 20 police officers to patrol the area. Many passersby were questioned whether they were Falun Gong practitioners coming to support the two on trial.

The lawyer was able to attend the second hearing on May 23. He said that the police had been monitoring his clients for a long time before making the arrests. More specifically, the case documents included screen capture images from police surveillance videos showing that his clients went to residential buildings in different places to distribute Falun Gong informational materials and that some officers went inside those buildings to retrieve the materials about 20-30 minutes after the two practitioners left.

The videos were dated between July and September 2022. The lawyer argued that the police had intentionally allowed his clients to “go free” each time after they distributed Falun Gong materials during those two months so that they could gather more “evidence” against them.

The lawyer’s observation corroborated with what an insider said. The insider revealed that Cao Junying, an officer of Xianghe County Domestic Security Office, led the surveillance of the two practitioners and orchestrated the arrests. Cao intended to score political points to advance his career, as heavy sentencing of Falun Gong practitioners would be considered a big “achievement.” In order to fabricate evidence against the two practitioners, Cao and other officers harassed their families at home after the arrest and threatened them to sign documents that may incriminate their loved ones.

The hearing lasted just over an hour, during which time the presiding judge, Ding Fucai, stopped the two practitioners whenever they talked about Falun Gong and its persecution. He said, “This is not a place for you to promote Falun Gong.”

Previous Persecution

Both Mr. Zhang and Mr. Wang have been repeatedly targeted for their faith in the past.

Mr. Zhang took up Falun Gong in the summer of 1995, right after he graduated from Hebei Province Police Academy. He strove to live by the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and was recognized as an excellent police officer in 1998.

Because he held firm to his faith after the persecution started in 1999, he was detained in brainwashing centers four times, given three forced labor terms, forced to pay two huge fines, and subjected to frequent vilification by the authorities. At one point, their lies even deceived his wife, who asked if he might one day kill her and their son.

Mr. Wang, a medical doctor, was also arrested, detained, and fined multiple times. While in detention, he was beaten and shocked with electric batons. In order to avoid further persecution, he had to close his clinic and lived away from home for more than ten years before his latest arrest.

Related Reports:

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Police Official Mr. Zhang Xian Repeatedly Persecuted Over the Last Eleven Years for Practicing Falun Gong

Respected Police Officer Thrown into Labor Camp