Citizen Journalists Put on Show Trial in Beijing
In July 2020, 11 citizen journalists who practice Falun Gong were arrested for taking pictures of Beijing during the pandemic and submitting them to overseas newspapers.
The detained include artist Ms. Xu Na, Mr. Li Zongze, Mr. Li Lixin, Ms. Jiao Mengjiao, Mr. Liu Qiang, Ms. Meng Qingxia, Ms. Zheng Yanmei, Ms. Deng Jing, Ms. Zheng Yujie, Mr. Zhang Renfei, and Ms. Li Jiaxuan. Many of the detained are artists and musicians in their 20s, and recent graduates of prestigious universities in China.
On October 15, 2021, the practitioners were tried at the DongCheng District Court.
The trial would be preceded by the threatening of practitioners’ families and lawyers. The practitioners’ families were ultimately prevented from attending the hearing.
When the trial opened, it was also marked by continual obstructions of justice.
For example, as the practitioners’ lawyers were presenting their defense, the prosecutor Zhang Li constantly interrupted.
Zhang also made accusations on grounds that were unconstitutional. She claimed it was illegal for the practitioners to submit the pandemic photos and used FLG materials ransacked from the practitioners’ homes as evidence of their promoting the practice, the practitioners having “illegal gatherings”.
When the practitioners’ lawyers successfully refuted all the claims, under the Chinese Constitution’s provisions of “freedom of expression” and “freedom of belief”, Zhang used arbitrary excuses.
Zhang said to one of the practitioners,
“You’ve been sentenced before, so we arrest you when you gather with other practitioners and participate in their activities.”
The presiding judge, Bai Chongwei, also constantly interrupted the lawyers’ arguments. When it was the practitioners’ turn to testify in their own defense, the judge ordered the bailiffs to move the microphones far away.
When Ms. Zheng began her defense that she was held in solitary confinement for 28 days and the guards grabbed her hair and hit her, Bai interrupted her and asked, “What do you want to say? Just tell me, are you (pleading) guilty or not?”
Mr. Li Zongze also prepared a defense statement, but the judge never let him read it.
The lawyer representing Ms. Jiao was appointed by the judge. He entered a guilty plea for her and started to smear Falun Gong during the hearing.
Practitioners were also made to wear protective gear with goggles and masks and prevented from using the restroom and drinking water. It was only under the lawyers’ repeated protests that they were allowed these basic rights.
Based on an original article from Minghui.org:
U.S. State Department Calls for Release of Citizen Journalists Who Documented Pandemic in Beijing – Falun Dafa Information Center (faluninfo.net)