(Minghui.org) A resident of Maoming City, Guangdong Province has filed an appeal after he was sentenced to nine years for mass texting information about Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party since July 1999.
Mr. Zhou Huajian, a 72-year-old security guard, was arrested on March 26, 2020 for using a mass texting device to send out Falun Gong messages at a local market. The police took him to the Maoming City No. 1 Detention Center, where he still remains at the time of writing.
After more than three years of detention, Mr. Zhou’s health has declined quickly. He suffers from blurred vision and hearing, as well as constant dizziness.
The Maonan District Court scheduled a virtual hearing for April 6, 2021, with Mr. Zhou expected to join remotely from the detention center. The presiding judge cancelled the session at the last minute after Mr. Zhou’s two lawyers refused to surrender their personal laptops before entering the courthouse. By law, defense attorneys are allowed to use their personal computers during court hearings.
The second hearing took place as scheduled on January 5, 2022, still with Mr. Zhou appearing virtually from the detention center. While this time the lawyers were allowed to use their personal laptops, one of them was removed from the courtroom when he refused to follow the judge’s order to have court staff cover his laptop mic and webcam with tape. There is no law dictating that defense lawyers must disable their laptop mic and webcam during court hearings.
The third hearing was an in-person session held at the detention center on April 27, 2023. Only two of Mr. Zhou’s family members were allowed to attend, with the rest of the seats taken by street committee workers and agents from the local Political and Legal Affairs Committee, an extra-judicial agency tasked with overseeing the persecution of Falun Gong.
The judge held a sentencing hearing on July 10, 2023 and sentenced Mr. Zhou to nine years with a 20,000-yuan fine. He immediately expressed his desire to appeal the wrongful conviction.
Mr. Zhou’s family hired a new lawyer to represent him in the appeals case. The new lawyer soon submitted his appeal to the Maonan District Court. [In China, appeals and related requests are submitted to trial courts to forward to appeals courts.]
Days later, the lawyer submitted a request to the trial court, requesting that the Maoming City Intermediate Court hold an open hearing of Mr. Zhou’s appeals case. The lawyer emphasized in the request that the trial court had violated legal procedures in the the first three hearings in prosecuting his client.
The details of Mr. Zhou’s arrest and prosecution can be read here.
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