Mr. Gao Zhisheng is one of the ten lawyers whom China's Ministry of Justice honored in 2001. He has taken on many cases that caused a sensation throughout the country, one third of which were pro bono lawsuits, representing people who could not afford to hire a lawyer. One of his former clients was human rights advocate Ye Guozhu (1). Recently, Mr. Gao Zhisheng took the case of Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Huang Wei in Shijiazhuang City. Mr. Gao Zhisheng's experience in handling this lawsuit verifies the inside story of the Chinese legal system on the issue of Falun Gong.
Huang Wei's Case
Huang Wei, 36 years old, used to work as a sales representative for Hebei Biomedical Engineering Company. He was well liked among family members, neighbors and colleagues. His wife Hao Qiuyan, 33 years old, graduated from the Department of Fashion Design of Hebei Institute of Light Industry and Chemical Technology. According to Hao Qiuyan, Huang Wei started practicing Falun Gong in the spring of 1995. He benefited tremendously from the practice and was able to quit drinking, smoking and gambling, and his temperament improved greatly. However, in late 1999 after the persecution of Falun Gong began, he was convicted of "attempted appeals," among other charges, and was sentenced to three years of forced labor.
In late 2002, Huang Wei was finally released and returned home. At the end of 2003, with the help of friends, he set up a business along with several other Falun Gong practitioners who had also lost their jobs due to the persecution. The business involved the sales of medicine and clothing. He also rented a workshop at No. 301, Entrance 3, Building 19 at a tractor factory dormitory, and used it as a storage unit.
On April 13, 2004, right after Huang Wei took his five-year-old child to kindergarten, four perpetrators, including local policeman Yang Yuliang from Hedong Police Station and Li Guoqiang from the Chang'an District Police Department, abducted him without showing a warrant. They illegally detained Mr. Huang and ransacked his workshop. They also took away nearly 40,000 yuan worth of merchandise.
Huang Wei received the release statement on the 38th day of his detention. However, Wang Ping, Zhai Qingmin and others from Hedong Police Station wanted to take him back to the police station to continue the detention. Huang Wei asked them to show a warrant and Wang Ping said, "What nonsense! We follow no law in dealing with Falun Gong practitioners!" Zhai Qingmin said, "We are supposed to follow legal procedures, but we wouldn't be able to do anything against Falun Gong if we truly followed the law!" They called in a few members from the United Security Team, who handcuffed Huang Wei, pushed him into a car and sent him to the detention room at Hedong Police Station, where they held him for 15 days. On June 4, they sent Mr. Huang to the Shijiazhuang City Forced Labor Camp. During a physical examination Huang Wei's electrocardiogram and blood pressure were found to be abnormal. According to regulations, he should not have been held at a labor camp, but the labor camp authorities accepted him anyway.
That same day, after being illegally sentenced to three years of forced labor, Huang Wei was taken to the Division 2 of the Shijiazhuang City Forced Labor Camp. Later he was transferred to Division 3. The guards held him in solitary confinement and strictly blocked any information about his detention.
While being held at the labor camp, Huang Wei mailed a petition letter to the relevant departments in the city government. On August 28, Huang Wei held a hunger strike after failing to receive any response from the government, and he re-sent the letter. On October 18, the 52nd day of the hunger strike, the city government's Legal Office sent people to meet with Huang Wei. After that, Huang Wei appealed to the Hebei Provincial Committee of Reeducation through Labor and asked for a reconsideration of his sentence. But he has met with many difficulties.
Lawyer Gao Zhisheng met with Huang Wei in the labor camp
After learning of Huang Wei's case, lawyer Gao Zhisheng decided to contribute to the anti-persecution efforts.
On the morning of December 27, 2004, Mr. Gao Zhisheng and another lawyer went to the Shijiazhuang City Forced Labor Camp and asked to see Huang Wei. The labor camp authorities told them that meetings with other detainees could be arranged, but meetings with Falun Gong practitioners had to be approved by the 610 Office before they could go through the regular procedure at the Administration Division of the labor camp.
Mr. Gao Zhisheng and his colleagues persevered with their efforts and went back and forth between the Administration Division's 610 Office of the labor camp and the 610 Office of the Judicial Bureau.
The personnel at the 610 Office were very arrogant and said to them, "As lawyers, you should know better! How is it possible for you to see detained Falun Gong practitioners?" Mr. Gao Zhisheng said, "This 610 Office of yours is notorious abroad because you operate above the law, like the Gestapo." The 610 Office personnel answered, "We know we have a bad reputation, so we have changed our name to the 'Stability Office'."
Mr. Gao Zhisheng was persistent, and after more than three hours of negotiating back and forth and waiting for approvals by officials on various levels, the Administration Division of the labor camp eventually granted Mr. Gao Zhisheng a three-minute meeting with Huang Wei.
Gao Zhisheng's impression of Huang Wei and Huang Wei's account of the case
Mr. Gao Zhisheng describes Huang Wei as very rational. He said, "Falun Gong practitioners like Huang Wei can wipe out all the misunderstandings people have about them with their words and actions."
Mr. Gao Zhisheng learned from Huang Wei that he had forwarded a letter to the city government on July 28 to ask for a reconsideration of his case. He didn't receive any response after a month. On August 28, Huang Wei held a hunger strike to make his voice heard. On September 9, he forwarded some "supplementary materials," on which he noted that the plaintiff was holding a hunger strike calling for a response. He sent it to the government. He did not hear anything until the afternoon of October 18, when personnel from the city government's Legal Office came to visit him. One of them was surnamed Li. They told Mr. Huang, "We haven't performed a reexamination for many years," and they refused to give Huang Wei a reply in writing. They told Huang Wei to appeal to the Hebei Province Education-through-Labor Committee, although the legal deadline for reexamination of his case had already passed.
Mr. Gao Zhisheng confirmed after his meeting with Huang Wei that Huang Wei was not at all able to appeal when he was sentenced to forced labor in 1999. He had to pay the painful cost of holding a hunger strike to push the case forward every time he appealed.
Mr. Gao learned that on April 13, 2004, after 38 days of detention, the police transferred Huang Wei to a detention room, where they held him for another 15 days because they didn't want to be accused of arbitrarily extending the detention. They didn't explain the transfer. Two officers who refused to give their names interrogated Huang Wei. When Huang Wei asked for the officers' names and work unit; they answered, "We are interrogating you, not the other way around."
Because the officers documented things completely different from what actually transpired during the interrogation, Huang Wei refused to sign the notations. Shockingly, one of the officers calmly signed Huang Wei's name and pressed his fingerprint on the signature of "Huang Wei" in his presence.
Huang Wei guessed that the interrogation deposition records were to be used as evidence against him, to validate his sentence. On June 3 Huang Wei was again sentenced to three years of forced labor and was sent to the Shijiazhuang City Forced Labor Camp the following day. From then on, to receive a citizen's procedural right to appeal according to the law, he had to hold hunger strikes in order to appeal and to make the city government reconsider his case for every step in the appeal process.
Lawsuit rejected; judge claims both the court and the law belong to the Communist Party
Before he went to Shijiazhuang City, Mr. Gao Zhisheng prepared a lawsuit to be filed with an administrative court, in which he charged the Shijiazhuang City Government with non-action for failing to respond to Huang Wei's appeal. He asked the defendant, the city government to follow the law and reverse the decision (No. 0000152) against Huang Wei by the Shijiazhuang City Re-education-through-Labor Committee, in addition to paying for the litigation expenses incurred in the lawsuit.
In the afternoon of December 27, 2004, Mr. Gao Zhisheng took the paperwork prepared for the lawsuit to the Shijiazhuang City Intermediate Court, but the court refused to accept it.
At 8:30 a.m. on December 28, Mr. Gao went to file the lawsuit with the Intermediate Court again, but it was again rejected. A judge from the administrative court of the Intermediate Court met with Gao Zhisheng and told him to file the lawsuit with the Xinhua District Court. At 9:20 a.m. the same day, Mr. Gao Zhisheng went to the Xinhua District Court in Shijiazhuang City. A judge with the surname Miao said, after reading the documents, "We have orders from above that we won't accept any Falun Gong practitioners' cases, and we do not provide any legal procedures." When Mr. Gao Zhisheng asked him for the relevant legal regulations, the judge said that these rules came from "above" and that they were only following orders. He asked Mr. Gao to talk with the judge in the original court again.
Two female officers at the case-establishing court said, after reading the deposition and other information, that cases involving Falun Gong were not to be dealt with and no legal procedure would be provided, because the central government had issued documents regarding Falun Gong.
Mr. Gao Zhisheng said, "Whether a case should be accepted or not should be judged by the law; if a government document contradicts the law, such a document should be considered illegal and therefore void."
A young officer shouted, "If you think the government document is void, then go and ask the National People's Congress to change the law!" Just then, a judge whom the officers addressed as "Head of the Court," came out and said to Mr. Gao Zhisheng, "You are probably not a Communist Party member. Don't you know lawyers are not allowed to take on this type of case? The court belongs to the Communist Party, and the Communist Party makes the laws. Since the central government doesn't allow us to accept Falun Gong lawsuits, we won't accept them. You can go to whomever you want and file the suit with whoever you can."
Mr. Gao Zhisheng writes to the National People's Congress and asked whether Falun Gong practitioners have rights as Chinese citizens
Mr. Gao Zhisheng is angry that the court straight-out refuses to follow the law. On December 31, 2004, he wrote a letter to the National People's Congress, a body also under the Chinese Communist Party's control, asking, "Aren't Falun Gong practitioners also Chinese citizens? Aren't they protected by the Constitution of China? Shouldn't they have rights as Chinese citizens?"
In his open letter, Mr. Gao Zhisheng stated with keen sorrow, "Up until now, Huang Wei's wife and child have not been allowed to visit him. This is a public and flagrant violation of law. More discouraging is the fact that the perpetrators of this violation against the country's rules are the very law enforcers who are supposed to safeguard the country's execution of the law. The executors of the law regard brutal transgression as a justified occurrence, and they no longer regard upholding the law as their responsibility. They personally set the examples to constantly destroy justice and civilization, and the rights upon which power operates; whose needs are they serving?"
(1) In May 2003, Beijing resident Ye Guozhu and his extended family of three generations lost their homes and property during a forced eviction. They never received a penny from the developer or the government, yet the government insists it has paid Ye Guozhu and his family the compensation. Ye Guozhu and his family were forced into homelessness. He was forced to beg in the streets along with his brother and son, while appealing to the government at various levels. They were arrested and detained. They re-appealed and were again arrested and detained.
Ye Guozhu told the reporter that he had never seen or heard the government resolving any appeals cases. He realized that appealing was fruitless, so he decided to become a human rights activist. He tried to organize a 10,000-people parade a few times, but the police either didn't approve the parade or they put him under house arrest. On August 24, 2004, he and about 100 appellants went to the General Security Division of the Beijing Police Department and applied for a permit for a 10,000-people parade on September 18, 2003. Three days later he was detained and charged with "suspicion of disrupting the public security" and later was arrested with the charge of "disrupting the social order."
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