Shandong Woman Convicted for Her Faith, Family Members Also Targeted
Ms. Zhan Zhongxiang, a resident of Pingdu City, Shandong Province, was arrested last year for her faith in Falun Gong and sentenced to four years in prison. Since then, several of Zhan’s family members have been targeted for seeking justice for her.
Zhan was arrested on September 24, 2019, at a farmer’s market. Two other Falun Gong practitioners, Ms. Zhou Jun and her aunt Ms. Zhou Yuxiang, were arrested alongside Zhan.
On August 12, 2020, the Huangdao District Court conducted a virtual hearing for Zhan at the Pudong Detention Center. Her lawyer entered a not guilty plea and Zhan also testified in her own defense. She asked the prosecutor, “What did I do wrong by going to the farmers’ market?” She also questioned the prosecutor as to why the police ransacked her home without her or her family members’ presence.
Unable to answer her questions, the prosecutor accused Zhan of having Falun Gong materials at home for distribution. He also cited a few witnesses who reported her for distributing materials.
The lawyer refuted the accusations on the grounds testimony submitted by witness Han Xiaodong gave no indication the materials he received were distributed by Zhan.
The prosecutor then blamed Zhan for talking about Falun Gong at her son’s wedding. Zhan’s lawyer replied, “Every citizen has the right to talk about their faith, including Falun Gong practitioners. This is very normal. It’s one’s freedom of belief.”
Before the end of the hearing, Judge Ou Xiaobin asked Zhan, “Are you pleading guilty?”
Zhan said, “I am not guilty. We Falun Gong practitioners are good people. We shouldn’t be tried for our faith.”
On August 26, the judge sentenced Zhan to four years.
Zhan then asked the judge, “When you sentence a good person like me to prison, doesn’t it weigh on your conscience?”
The judge was taken aback by her question, but after replied, “As long as I’m following the law.”
Zhan said: “You didn’t follow the law at all. I didn’t break any law in practicing Falun Gong,”.
The judge lowered her head and remained silent.
Zhan’s lawyer visited her at the detention center on September 1 and filed an appeal for her. Her family recently learned that the Qingdao Intermediate Court has refused to accept the appeal, upholding the original verdict.
Family Members Arrested and Tried
On September 25, 2019, the day after Zhan’s arrest, Zhan’s son, her nephew, and her sister-in-law went to the police station to inquire about her case. Her son, Mr. Shao Zhanpeng, was then beaten by the police which caused severe injuries to his right eye and ribs. Shao also had bruises all over his body.
On October 22, 2019, The police called Shao, Zhan’s sister-in-law, and her nephew to report to the Tonghe Police Station. Her sister-in-law went, only to be arrested at the police station and later sent to Pudong Detention Center, with the charge of “obstructing law enforcement.” She was later sentenced to one year and two months on a fabricated robbery charge.
Shao and Zhan’s nephew escaped arrest by not going to the police station, but received calls threatening to arrest them if they kept seeking Zhan’s release. Jia Shuhao, deputy head of the Renzhao Police Department, blamed Zhan’s family for submitting information to Minghui.org about the beating Shao sustained at the police station.
On July 29, 2020, two weeks before Zhan’s court hearing, Shao was arrested at a train station. This was merely days after he submitted a request to represent his mother in court. Shao was interrogated and put on criminal detention with the charge of “disrupting social order.”
On August 14, Shao was sent to the Chengyang Detention Center. The police submitted his case to the Pingdu City Procuratorate, with the additional charge of “robbery” On August 27.
On August 31, the prosecutor indicted him and moved his case to the Pingdu City Court.
On September 1, Shao’s lawyers went to the court to submit the appropriate paperwork. The court staff said they had not received his case document, so the lawyers could not review the case.
In the afternoon, Shao’s lawyers visited him at the detention center. He asked the lawyers to deliver the message to his family that he missed his wife and ten-month-old daughter, as well as his grandfather. He said he was sorry that he could not help care for his elderly grandfather, who was in his late 80s and in poor health.
On September 14, Shao was transferred to the Pingdu City Detention Center and has been held there since.
On October 10, Shao appeared before the Pingdu City Court. His lawyers said that because he filed complaints against the police for beating him while he sought his mother’s release, the police may have arrested him in retaliation. The lawyers also said Shao was innocent of any robbery charges.
As judge Dou Zaiqiang has revealed that he was planning to sentence Mr. Shao to 3.5 or 4 years, the lawyers questioned the rationale for such a heavy term. The judge replied that it was because Mr. Shao’s “attitude was bad” and he refused to plead guilty.
On November 6, the court held a second hearing and Shao’s lawyers again entered a not guilty plea for him. They said that it was normal for Shao to seek justice for his mother and he had not done anything harmful to society. On the contrary, the police had exhibited harmful behavior, by beating Shao.
The prosecutor then attempted to smear Falun Gong and blamed Shao for exposing the police violence on Minghui.org. This was stopped by the judge, who reminded him that he did not have any legal basis for his claims.
When the prosecutor then listed Shao’s asking the police about his mother’s case as “prosecution evidence” to charge him for “robbery,” even the judge found it ludicrous. The judge later told Shao’s lawyers in private that he also thought there wasn’t enough evidence for the charges and he was pressured to take the case by his supervisor and the president of the procuratorate.
On October 26, the police arrested Zhan’s nephew, with the excuse that he had shouted at the police “Why are you beating my cousin[Shao]?” when the police beat Shao when they went to the police station to seek Zhan’s release.
The next day, the Renzhao Police Station told Zhan’s sister to come sign documents about her son’s case. When she went there, the police asked whether she had also come to the police station on September 25, 2019, to seek Zhan’s release. She answered in the affirmative and was immediately arrested.
By a Minghui correspondent in Shandong Province, China