The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed a playbook for its judicial system: punish law-abiding citizens when they tell people about how the peaceful spiritual practice of Falun Gong is being persecuted.
Institutions involved in the CCP's judicial system, from law enforcement agencies to detention facilities, from the Procuratorate to the courts, are following a predetermined script in their prosecution processes of Falun Gong practitioners.
Blatant violations of practitioners' constitutional right to belief are commonplace as authorities follow the regime's directives to illegally sentence practitioners to prison.
No Exceptions: There Is No Law for Falun Gong Practitioners
Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Niu Guixiang (牛桂香) and her family from Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, were no exception to the CCP's irrational treatment.
Sixty-four-year-old Ms. Niu became a target after the persecution began in 1999. She was monitored for six months before her most recent arrest in April 2014. After tracking her for distributing Shen Yun DVDs, police officers deceived her by posing as water commission agents at her house. They barged in, ransacked her home, and then sent Ms. Niu to a detention centre the next day.
In order to fabricate evidence against her, the police lied to Ms. Niu's family. They said that she would be given “at most” a one-year sentence if they could provide the requested information. Eager to get her out of detention, the family signed the documents, only then to be told that her sentence would actually be “at least” a year.
The family consulted lawyers, who agreed they would be able to defend Ms. Niu if they would be allowed to argue her case based on the actual law; however, they all admitted that when it comes to Falun Gong cases, there is no law.
Before forwarding her case to the court, the local Procuratorate sent an affiliated lawyer to bargain with the family. This lawyer claimed that Ms. Niu's sentence could be reduced if the family agreed to pay a predetermined amount of money. The family declined the bribe.
Ms. Niu's trial in early August lasted only 15 minutes. She pleaded not guilty, but the judge dared not acquit her. The hearing was adjourned without the judge issuing a verdict.
The same judge disclosed to the family that the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (another powerful administrative division of the CCP) is heavily involved in all sentencing for Falun Gong practitioners.
At this time, Ms. Niu is still being held at the Shenyang City No. 1 Detention Centre. One of her cellmates, who was recently released, revealed that Ms. Niu is suffering from high blood pressure and has frequent chest pains. However, the authorities have denied Ms. Niu's family's request for medical parole.
Arrested, Home Ransacked
Ms. Niu was arrested at her home on April 18th, 2014 after plainclothes police officers posed as water commission agents and tricked her into opening the door.
With an officer filming the ordeal, Ms. Niu was handcuffed, and the police ransacked her home and confiscated many of her personal items. The arrest was coordinated by deputy director Cheng Xiaozhou of the Wusan Police Station in Dongling District.
Ms. Niu's son was also taken to the police station, but he was released later that day. Ms. Niu was briefly interrogated at the Auti Investigation Squadron before being taken to the Shenyang No. 1 Detention Centre that night.
Director Cheng called Ms. Niu's family on April 19th to inform them that she had been transferred to the Shenyang No. 1 Detention Centre. He also said that the police would file charges against her based on Article 300 of the Criminal Law.
He told her family that there was a policy that Falun Gong practitioners over 60 years old or older could only be sentenced to a year at most. Cheng assured the family that Ms. Niu would only serve a one-year term in a detention centre, if that much.
Given false hope, the family complied with Cheng's request and signed a written statement that was later used as “evidence” against Ms. Niu in court.
However, Cheng changed the story after the case was filed in court. “The Procuratorate will issue the arrest warrant even though Niu is over 60 years old,” he said. “There's no pulling strings even if you know officials in high positions.”
Cheng also told the family that “Niu won't be released. She has to go through the legal process now, and there is a team involved in this case—I am not in charge.”
Ms. Niu's arrest was officially approved in mid-May, and her case was transferred to the Dongling District Procuratorate.
Denied Medical Parole
Ms. Niu's attorney visited her in June at the detention centre and reported that she was in poor physical and mental health. In particular, her blood pressure remained high.
When the family inquired about applying for medical parole, an official at the Shenyang No. 1 Detention Centre responded, “High blood pressure is not considered a problem here. Even the young inmates can have high blood pressure because of mental pressure.”
When consulted by Ms. Niu's family, a number of lawyers from different law firms agreed that Ms. Niu was eligible for medical parole. Yet they also understood the difficulty in garnering approval for a Falun Gong practitioner.
The lawyers were open about the direct instructions they had received from the Liaoning Province Department of Justice: All provincial law firms are prohibited from representing Falun Gong practitioners. Moreover, the defence of Falun Gong practitioners must be submitted for review by the local Political and Legal Affairs Committee prior to trial.
Further, since all verdicts are decided internally, a legal defence has little or no bearing on the outcome of trials involving Falun Gong practitioners.
Case Submitted to Local Court
Ms. Niu's case was submitted to the Dongling District Court in July and assigned to the No. 2 Court within a week. Judge Gao Yaonan told Ms. Niu's family that although she was the presiding judge, she had no say in the case.
Judge Gao also told the family that the court uses Article 300 of the Criminal Law as the legal basis for sentencing practitioners, which usually results in at least three years in prison. She also noted that no law exists in support of shorter sentences for practitioners; if a practitioner were to plead guilty of breaking the law, however, he or she could be released on bail or probation.
Trial and Medical Parole Denied
Ms. Niu's trial was held on the morning on August 6th, 2014.
The trial, which took place after the trial another practitioner, lasted only 15 minutes. Ms. Niu was asked a few questions, but was stopped short by the judge before she could finish any of her answers. She pleaded not guilty, but no verdict was reached.
Her family's request for medical parole was denied. Director Cheng of the Wusan Police Station told the family that Ms. Niu would not be released on medical parole without a guilty plea.
Ms. Niu, 64, retired from the Railway No. 2 Hostel in Shenyang City. She started to practise Falun Gong in 1996 and benefited both physically and mentally.
However, she was reported to police in Banjia Village on July 4th, 2007, for distributing fliers with information about Falun Gong. Officers from the Taoxian Township Police Station then arrested her and ransacked her home. Ms. Niu was sentenced to one year and three months of forced labour at the notorious Masanjia Forced Labour Camp.
Parties involved in the persecution of Ms. Niu:
Cheng Xiaozhou (程孝周), deputy director of the Wusan Police Station (police# 104442): +86-15942357177 (mobile), +86-24-23816351 (office)
Zhu Hongbin (朱红斌), officer of the Wusan Police Station: +86-24-23813110 (office)
Gao Yaonan (高亚男), presiding judge at the Dongling District Court: +86-24-84829920 (office)
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