(Minghui.org) Ms. Zhang Chao’s family received a text notification from an intermediate court saying that they received her appeals case on January 18, 2024 after she was sentenced to prison for her faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party since July 1999. 

The text only indicated that Ms. Zhang stood trial on December 25, 2023 but didn’t state her exact sentencing date or prison term. Her family was shocked because the trial court never notified them of her hearing or sentencing. 

Ms. Zhang, a resident of Changtu County, Liaoning Province, was arrested on June 26, 2023, by vice captain Sun Licheng from the Shuangliao City Domestic Security Office in Jilin Province (about 60 miles away). The Jilin police targeted her likely because she talked to people about Falun Gong in their jurisdiction. She is still held at the Siping City Detention Center in Jilin Province at the time of writing.

Ms. Zhang’s family went to the Shuangliao City Procuratorate many times to inquire about who was in charge of her case but was never given a direct answer. The case was later assigned to the Lishu County Procuratorate in Siping City, Jilin Province, which in turn forwarded it to the Lishu County Court. 

Presiding Judge Li Nan (+86-434-3196046), who is also president of the criminal case division of the Lishu County Court, denied Ms. Zhang’s sister’s request to represent her as a family defender and asked her loved ones to wait to be notified of her court date. Li never told her family about her hearing as promised. They thought her case was still with the trial court when they received the text notification from the Siping City Intermediate Court saying she had filed an appeal. 

They called judge Li and asked why she never notified them of Ms. Zhang’s trial and sentencing and she claimed that she did not have to do so. She only revealed that a court-appointed lawyer represented Ms. Zhang but refused to say what exactly was the prison term she handed down. She also said she didn’t know where the hardcopy of Ms. Zhang’s verdict was because the case was no longer her business. She hung up the phone and did not answer when Ms. Zhang’s family called her again.

Ms. Zhang’s family quickly hired a lawyer for her appeal case, but the lawyer was denied visits with her when he went to the detention center on January 29, 2024. He was told that anyone who wanted to visit a Falun Gong practitioner there must have secured prior approval from some government agencies.

While agonizing over Ms. Zhang’s wrongful conviction, her loved ones also recalled how her sister, Ms. Zhang Shuang, was interrogated at the Lishu County Court for 40 minutes in November 2023.

Judge Deceives Sister into Going to Court, Interrogated by Police for 40 Minutes 

Ms. Zhang Shuang applied to be her sister’s non-lawyer family defender, but the Lishu County Court refused to accept her application in person. She then mailed her application to the court.

Judge Li called Ms. Zhang Shuang on November 28, 2023 and asked her to report to the courthouse. Li did not say what it was about, but Ms. Zhang still went that day as she thought it might be for her to review her sister’s case file. Her mother and cousin also tagged along.

After the three of them went through security checks at the courthouse, judge Li and an assistant took Ms. Zhang to a room and searched her. She then went to the restroom with her mother and cousin. After the trio was done, they saw a few police officers standing outside the restroom.

Li took the three family members to a room and ordered Ms. Zhang to take off her clothes and shoes. Li even searched her undergarments. Her cousin protested the illegal body search. Li then took Ms. Zhang to another room and did not allow her mother and cousin to go inside. 

Ms. Zhang saw eight police officers in the room, seven of them in uniforms. They ordered her to sit on a small bench and surrounded her on all four sides. They interrogated her and repeated the communist regime’s hate propaganda against Falun Gong. She refuted them and said her sister became a much better person after practicing Falun Gong. 

While Ms. Zhang was being interrogated, her mother and cousin waited outside. Four officers came to watch them. One of them sat next to Ms. Zhang’s mother and asked the 82-year-old woman if she knew how to surf the internet. Ms. Zhang’s cousin stopped the officer from asking such questions but was shooed away. 

The cousin then knocked on the door of the interrogation room. More officers came and dragged her and her aunt to a different room. Ms. Zhang’s mother was so terrified that she cried. 

The police kept Ms. Zhang’s mother and cousin in that room for about 40 minutes until she was let out of the interrogation room. The three women were then let go. As they walked through the lobby, they saw more than twenty officers standing guard there.

Three days later, on December 1, 2023, Ms. Zhang received a text message from the court saying her request to represent her sister had been denied. She called judge Li to ask why and Li said that she was simply barred from defending her sister. 

Ms. Zhang inquired about her sister’s court date and Li asked her to wait for a notice. She never received a notice and Li never answered the phone again when she called a few more times to inquire about her sister’s case status.

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