(Minghui.org) A 51-year-old man in Sanhe City, Hebei Province, was tried on January 5, 2024, for practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. His two lawyers pleaded “not guilty” on his behalf.

Mr. Zhang Xuefu

Mr. Zhang Xuefu, the owner of a private school, was arrested on July 14, 2023. The Sanhe City Procuratorate approved his arrest 13 days later and moved his case to the Sanhe City Court on October 27, just a month after receiving it from the police.

On the morning of January 5, 2024, over 30 of Mr. Zhang’s relatives and friends checked in at the front desk of the courthouse. As they were waiting, a bailiff told them that they had to apply for permission beforehand if they wanted to attend the trial. In the end, only Mr. Zhang’s daughter, older sister, and younger brother were allowed in the courtroom. They were shocked to see the 30 seats in the gallery were filled, mostly by young people they didn’t recognize.

When Mr. Zhang entered the courtroom, he looked at the gallery, but the two bailiffs on either side of him stopped him. He turned back to look at the gallery again after he sat down, but the bailiff standing behind him tapped him on the shoulder and signaled at him not to look.

Prosecutor Xu Lei accused Mr. Zhang of “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” the standard pretext used to criminalize Falun Gong in China. Mr. Zhang’s lawyers challenged the prosecutor to explain which law their client was accused of undermining. When Xu had no answer, prosecutor, Rui Shuang chimed in with many many legal terms but never addressed the lawyers’ question.

Mr. Zhang added that the Chinese General Administration of Press and Publication had lifted the ban on Falun Gong books in 2011 and that he should never have been charged for possessing or distributing Falun Gong materials.

Prosecutor Xu recommended a prison term of three years and two months, which was exactly what Mr. Zhang’s family heard from an insider at the procuratorate three months ago when he was indicted. It was apparent to them that the hearing was just a formality, and they were worried sick that he’d indeed be sentenced to that amount of time in prison.

At the end of the hearing, presiding judge Shi Shaolin asked Mr. Zhang if he had anything to add. Mr. Zhang said, “I have three points to make. The first is that I have benefitted tremendously from practicing Falun Gong. It is a Buddha school practice that teaches people to be good and has made my family harmonious. The second point is that Falun Gong has spread to over 100 countries and regions throughout the world. The Tiananmen self-immolation incident is a hoax.”

Before he could finish, judge Shi stopped him, saying, “You only need to give your opinion about the case, not discuss whether Falun Gong is good or not. Do you understand?”

Daughter Not Allowed to Talk to Her Father

At the end of the trial, Mr. Zhang’s daughter tried to talk to him, but the bailiffs pushed Mr. Zhang back down into his seat. Four tall bailiffs stood side by side, preventing the father and daughter from even seeing each other. Other bailiffs hustled the family out of the courtroom.

Mr. Zhang’s daughter asked a female bailiff, “We were told before the hearing that only immediate family members would be allowed inside. Why were there so many people in the gallery that I didn’t recognize? How did they get in?” Seeing that the female bailiff was unable to answer her, a male bailiff nearby handed the family the phone number for the court, urged them to leave quickly, and told them to call the court if they had any questions.

When the family called the court moments later, the judge’s assistant said that the people in the gallery were approved to attend Mr. Zhang’s hearing through a special application channel, but gave no details about this “special channel.”

Related Report:

Private School Owner Faces Trial for Practicing Falun Gong, 129 Locals Sign Petition Demanding His Release