Denial of Fair Public Trial and Perscution of Defense Attorneys

Chapter 5, 2010 Annual Report

The CCP and 6-10 Office continued to use their influence over judges, the legal profession, and law enforcement agencies to deny Falun Gong practitioners their basic rights to due process, fair trials, and access to counsel. These efforts included direct instructions to judges on how to decide Falun Gong cases and an escalation in the assaults and harassment of Chinese lawyers seeking to defend Falun Gong clients. Such actions violate China’s own laws and exemplify the CCP’s “rule of law” veneer.

Since the Communist Party launched its campaign to wipe out Falun Gong in 1999, it has relied extensively on “brainwashing” centers and RTL camps to detain hundreds of thousands of innocent practitioners, violating their rights under Chinese and international law. Practitioners are typically sent to the camps without formal charges or trial for up to three years. A smaller number of adherents have been sent to prison camps for longer periods following sham trials. Once incarcerated in either type of facility, practitioners are subject to frequent torture, hard labor in hazardous conditions, and other measures to forcibly “transform” them and induce them to renounce their religious convictions.

Following the end of the Beijing Olympics and ongoing criticism from the United Nations and foreign governments of the Chinese authorities’ use of extrajudicial means to detain practitioners, the Center observed in late 2008 and throughout 2009 a sharp increase in the number of judges “sentencing” practitioners to prison camps under orders from Party officials and agents of the extralegal 610 Office. In place of one to three years detention in an RTL camp, practitioners faced illegal incarceration for much longer—routinely exceeding eight years (see Chapter 6 for additional details).

As an indication of the prearranged and ultimately illegal manner in which practitioners were imprisoned, a range of basic rights, including those guaranteed under Chinese law, were routinely violated: most “trials” lasted only a few minutes or hours; a large percentage of “trials” were held in secret without the victim’s family or lawyer being informed; detainees were subjected to pretrial detention of as much as 18 months, during which time many were tortured; all verdicts that were appealed to higher courts were upheld, sometimes without even a hearing.

The CCP’s use of judges and courts to “sentence” adherents while at the same time manipulating them from behind the scenes exemplifies the “rule of law” veneer in which the CCP has tried to veil the persecution against Falun Gong from its outset. The issuance of instructions, as detailed below, that “not guilty” verdicts are not permitted in Falun Gong “trials” or that judges and lawyers must seek “guidance” from CCP committees before accepting Falun Gong cases, reaffirms that even if the surface proceedings were to align more closely with Chinese and international legal standards, the CCP would continue to seek avenues, extrajudicial and illegal if necessary, to achieve its aims of detaining and “transforming” any citizens known to still adhere to the Falun Gong faith.

This phenomenon is explained partly by the fact that any systematic protection of adherents’ rights to be free from arbitrary detention and imprisonment would undermine the CCP’s decade-long campaign to wipe out the group and hence, its own legitimacy. This broader political significance that the CCP continues to attach to the campaign against Falun Gong, and which pervasively colors its treatment, is evident from a 6-10 Office directive to judges leaked from Shenyang, which affirms:

Our trying of ‘Falun Gong’ cases is not simply the handling of criminal cases. More importantly, it is a concrete manifestation of political struggles. It is an important platform on which to solidify the Party’s ruling position, to solidify the foundations of the ruling Party. (original Chinese and complete English translation available upon request)

6-10 Office interference in judicial proceedings

Throughout the year, the CCP’s 6–10 Office, an extralegal agency created in 1999 and granted authority by the politburo to oversee the eradication of Falun Gong, continued to interfere in the adjudication of practitioners’ cases. This took a variety of forms, ranging from direct and personal contact with judges during proceedings, to directives for judges to seek “guidance” prior to making decisions, to sweeping, pretrial instructions on how judges should “handle” such cases. The following examples are illustrative of this phenomenon:

  • The Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s 2009 annual report found: “In November 2008, defense lawyers for two practitioners on trial at the Jiguan District People’s Court in Jixi city, Heilongjiang province, challenged the court’s independence when the presiding judge was seen meeting with 6–10 Office agents during a court recess.” [1]

  • The Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s 2009 annual report also noted: “In February 2009, the Xi’an District People’s Court in Liaoyuan city, Jilin province, reported that when preparing for a trial involving Falun Gong …, the court must first ‘petition’ the municipal 6–10 Office, and only after receiving an affirmative response is the court then permitted to hear the case.” [2]

  • In February 2009, a document ascribed to the Shenyang City 6-10 Office was leaked through contacts in China and posted online. It describes the manner in which Falun Gong cases are to be prosecuted and the steps taken by the 6-10 Office to “counter” efforts by human rights attorneys to properly defend practitioners. The document illustrates the extent to which the 6-10 Office is intimately involved in manipulating the proceedings and outcome of Falun Gong “trials” (emphasis added):

“The [Shenyang] City 6-10 Office has convened the leaders of the public security, state security, city procuratorate, court and justice departments and officers of relevant departments to brief them … The City Court is required to continue to put in place the internal review system, deepen guidance on court work, apply strict gate-keeping standards, and not allow ‘not guilty’ sentencing to be issues on any ‘Falun Gong’ cases…. it is absolutely not allowed for a ‘not guilty’ sentencing to be issued….

The following specific issues call for attention in their handling:

First, district 6-10 Offices are required to dispatch personnel to attend the court sessions of trials involving ‘Falun Gong’ cases … We should ask the court to brief the 6-10 Office in advance on the schedule…

Second, district 6-10 Offices are required to … remind courts to pay attention to setting up a proper courtroom environment, to select a court with a relatively small room for people to attend the court session, to restrict people who are going to show up…

Third, … upon discovery of out-of-town or out-of-province attorneys, information on the attorneys’ names and their local law firms, etc should be collected.

Fourth, … When handling the so-called ‘not guilty’ defense in the courtroom … both decisiveness and appropriateness are required, so as to prevent the incident from spreading further.” (See appendix for the original Chinese and complete English translation)

Legal Defense: Attorneys’ Efforts and the CCP’s Obstruction

Throughout the year, approximately 30 lawyers continued to defend Falun Gong adherents, despite Party directives banning such action and a high degree of harassment for taking up such cases. On repeated occasions throughout the year, lawyers defended practitioners in court, presenting detailed arguments as to the innocence of the practitioners in question and the broader need to observe the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. The attorneys also raised the issue of the highly questionable legality of including personal belief in Falun Gong or related nonviolent acts of free expression under the provision of “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law.”

In an indication of the scale of these lawyers’ efforts, from among the above-mentioned preliminary sample of over 800 cases of Falun Gong adherents’ being “sentenced” to prison camps in 2008 and 2009 published by the Center in December, 136 of the practitioners were found to have been represented by human rights attorneys. Among those taking such cases were many of China’s most prominent lawyers such as Li Heping, Tang Jitian, and Jiang Tianyong.

The Party’s response has been to instruct judges to disregard the lawyers’ legal arguments, while ordering security forces and the Party-run lawyers’ association to punish the lawyers and block them from representing their clients. The measures taken have included obstructing lawyers from meeting their detained clients in contravention of China’s 2007 Law on Lawyers; physically preventing lawyers from representing practitioners in court; assaulting and beating attorneys visiting their client’s families; refusing to renew over 20 lawyers’ licenses to practice law. At least one lawyer, Wang Yonghang, has himself been “sentenced” to seven years in a prison camp for defending practitioners and challenging the legality of judges using Article 300 to imprison them.


Amnesty International: Cases of Lawyers Physically Prevented from Representing their Falun Gong Clients

The following excerpts are drawn from Amnesty International’s September 2009 report “Breaking the law: Crackdown on human rights lawyers and legal activists in China.” [3]

  • “On 23 and 24 March 2009, Beijing-based lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian (who was also briefly detained in June), after being appointed by their client’s family, were denied the right to meet their client Ge Hefei, a detained Falun Gong practitioner in Hebei. Judge Liu Yanfeng of the Feixiang County People’s Court, Hebei province, told the two lawyers on 23 March that Gei Hefei did not want to meet with them. However, the judge failed to substantiate this claim. According to article 33 of the Law on Lawyers of the People’s Republic of China (Law on Lawyers), lawyers can meet with their clients as long as they present their lawyer’s license, certification from their law firm and an authorization letter requesting their representation.”

  • “On 13 April 2009, Beijing-based lawyers Cheng Hai and Zhou Peng were attacked by at least four individuals who claimed to be from an … agency responsible for coordinating the offices of the police and courts in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The lawyers were on their way to meet a client’s family when they were attacked. Their client, Tao Yuan, is a former Beijing Normal University graduate student and Falun Gong practitioner who is currently imprisoned for ‘using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law.’ His family had asked the two lawyers to apply for Tan Yuan’s release on medical parole.”

  • “On 13 April 2009, two other Beijing-based lawyers – Wu Jiangtao and Li Renbing were also blocked from meeting the family of their client, detained Falun Gong practitioner Wei Cheng, when they arrived at Changchun city in northern Jilin province. Police put Wei Cheng’s family and relatives under surveillance and threatened them with imprisonment if they hired a lawyer.”

  • “On 13 May 2009, a group of Jiangjin district police officers in Chongqing beat up and took Beijing-based lawyers Zhang Kai and Li Chunfu from their client’s house in handcuffs. The client’s father was a 66-year-old Falun Gong practitioner who had died suddenly in custody in Chongqing’s Xishanping Re-education Through Labour facility on 28 January 2009. The client intended to sue the Re-education Through Labour facility for wrongdoing.”

According to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s report on the incident, “officers took Li and Zhang to the PSB where they hung them inside iron cages, interrogated, and beat them. Police reportedly told Li and Zhang that ‘you absolutely cannot defend Falun Gong; this is the situation in China.’” [4]


Chinese Human Rights Defenders:
Judge Strips Lawyer’s Rights in Middle of Trial

  • “On the morning of July 10 [2009], Beijing lawyer Jin Guanghong was in Panshi City, Jilin Province to defend Liu Qingqian and two other defendants on trial […] Liu and Liu’s co-defendants are Falun Gong practitioners. During the trial, however, Jin was repeatedly interrupted by the Panshi City court judge, and when Jin protested, the judge stripped Jin of his rights to speak in defense of his client, and banished him from the proceedings.” [5]

Lawyers’ Harassment and Loss of License

According to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, “In cases where authorities did not physically assault or detain attorneys who defend Falun Gong, officials often harassed and intimidated them … As of early September 2009, at least 21 rights lawyers had not passed the ‘annual assessment and registration’ [effectively disbarring them]. Rights lawyers and NGOs believe that authorities are punishing the lawyers for taking on cases the government deems sensitive or controversial, such as cases involving Falun Gong … In late March 2009, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian—two of the human rights lawyers whose licenses to practice law were not renewed by the May 31 deadline this year—were prevented from meeting their detained client, Ge Hefei, a Falun Gong practitioner, in Hebei province.” [6]

Detention and Torture of Lawyers

The escalation in the abuse against lawyers was exemplified by the detention, and in some cases torture and imprisonment, of at least five lawyers during the year. In official statements, and reports from the lawyers themselves, it was evident that their abuse was as punishment for taking Falun Gong cases and challenging the legality and morality of the persecution against the group.

The torture and disappearance of Gao Zhisheng: The Congressional-Executive Commission on China summarizes his ordeal as follows: “The Chinese Government’s harsh treatment of lawyers who defend Falun Gong has been most severe in the case of Gao Zhisheng, a prominent human rights attorney who was last seen being forcibly taken from his hometown by public security officials on February 4, 2009. When public security officials abducted Gao in September 2007, Gao was tortured in a secret location outside Beijing for more than 50 days. Gao’s account of the abduction describes how he was repeatedly struck with electric batons all over his body, including his genitals, and subjected to other forms of torture. Gao recounts how his tormentors admitted that Falun Gong practitioners were indeed tortured as Gao had previously alleged: ‘‘you are not incorrect in saying that we torture Falun Gong followers. That’s right, we do. The 12 courses we’re serving you were perfected on the Falun Gong followers.’’ Gao was also warned that he would be killed if he told anyone about being abducted and tortured. He has not been seen since February.” [7]

The Imprisonment and Beating of Wang Yonghang

In several Urgent Actions on his behalf, Amnesty International describes Wang’s situation:

On 4 July 2009 authorities in Dalian city, Liaoning province, criminally detained lawyer Wang Yonghang, who has represented Falun Gong practitioners. On that day, approximately 20 plainclothes police broke into his home and took him and his wife to a detention centre. The police, who had no warrant, also searched their home, and confiscated their computer, camera, printer, and several books. His wife was released the next day, and Wang Yonghang was moved to another place of detention.

After repeated requests from his wife, Dalian City Police Detention Centre, the place where he is currently held, gave her a detention notice which said that Wang Yonghang had been detained on suspicion of violation of Article 300 of the Criminal Law, which deals with “superstitious sects, secret societies and evil religious organisations” and has been used to imprison many Falun Gong practitioners.

His wife has learned from sources that he has been beaten during interrogation. The two lawyers his wife hired tried to visit him at the detention centre on 14 July, but they were turned back. On 20 July, a Dalian City internal security police officer called the two lawyers and again told them that they were not allowed to meet with Wang Yonghang. This violates article 33 of the Law on Lawyers. [8]

Wang was subsequently sentenced in November 2009 to seven years in prison, under Article 300, as reported by Amnesty International, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, and others. [9] Also according to Amnesty International:

Police beat him while he was in custody awaiting trial, breaking his ankle. They told his wife on 27 July that he had a broken ankle, but did not take him to hospital until 11 August, by which time the fracture was seriously infected. His ankle was operated on but remained infected. According to his wife, who met with him briefly just before the sentencing hearing, for the first time since he had been detained, he could not walk properly. [10]

  • Wei Liangyue (m) and wife (Du Yongjing): Amnesty International – Urgent Action: China: Fear of torture and other ill-treatment (26 March, 2009)

Human rights lawyer Wei Liangyue and his wife Du Yongjing were detained on 28 February in the city of Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, reportedly for attending a Falun Gong meeting. They are currently held at Nangang District Detention Centre in Harbin. … Amnesty International believes they are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Human rights lawyer Wei Liangyue and his wife Du Yongjing have been released and returned home after 30 days of detention. Both were released on bail on 30 March pending further investigation. Wei Liangyue remains under suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” and Du Yongjing is still under suspicion of “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law”…. Wei Liangyue believes that international attention and pressure contributed to him and his wife’s temporary release, and would like to thank those who have taken actions for them.

Wei Liangyue is an experienced lawyer in Heilongjiang province and has often provided legal aid to local people who face human rights violations, including Falun Gong practitioners who have been detained by the Chinese authorities simply for their beliefs.

In addition to Wang Yonghang, two other lawyers who had defended Falun Gong practitioners were detained in Northeast China around the same period of time.

  • Three Lawyers Detained for Defending Falun Gong Practitioners (July 15, 2009)

CHRD learned on July 15 that three lawyers in different locations in Northeastern China have been detained in recent weeks by local authorities. The three, Liu Ruiping, Wang Yonghang, and Wang Ping, who have previously been harassed because of their work defending Falun Gong practitioners, were seized between July 2 and July 8 in Shandong and Liaoning Provinces. [11]

 


[1]  CECC 2009, pg 126

[2]  CECC 2009, pg 126

[3]  Amnesty International, “Breaking the law: Crackdown on human rights lawyers and legal activists in China,” September 7, 2009; http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/042/2009/en/4e47d88a-c9d4-4e42-8b37-0a59cda0752a/asa170422009eng.pdf

[4] CECC 2009, pg 124.

[5] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “Judge Strips Lawyer’s Rights in Middle of Trial,” July 2009; http://www.faluninfo.net/topic/164/

[6] CECC 2009, pg 104.

[7] CECC report, pg. 125

[8] Amnesty International, “Urgent Action: China: Human rights lawyer detained, tortured: Wang Yonghang,” July 28, 2009; http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/036/2009/en/ec5e5876-1b97-4b84-ad93-4f9ba3b9b091/asa170362009en.html; Amnesty International, “Urgent Action: China: Further information: Wang Yonghang formally arrested,” August 28, 2009; http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/050/2009/en/5c347790-81e8-4de8-a9c0-f885ada8fb76/asa170502009eng.html 

[9] Amnesty International, “China: Further Information: Lawyer Jailed for Defending Human Rights,” December 4, 2009; http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/068/2009/en/ae46f208-65b3-4cd5-b32b-7be0f9415e7f/asa170682009en.html 

[10]  Ibid.

[11] Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “Three Lawyers Detained for Defending Falun Gong Practitioners,” July 15, 2009; http://www.faluninfo.net/topic/164/ 

 

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