There is no honour in China's legal system. The family of Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Wang Guiqi learned that firsthand, when they hired lawyers to defend Mr. Wang. Mr. Wang was forced to appear in many secret hearings between March and November 2013, without legal counsel. And the court intended to bypass his lawyer and try him in June 2014.
First Secret Trial
Officers from the Hangzhoudao and Daliangzi police stations in the Tanggu District planned to arrest Mr. Wang in November 2012 because he practises Falun Gong. The Tanggu District Court in Binhai New District tried Mr. Wang secretly on March 21st, 2013. The court didn't inform his family and appointed him a lawyer that Mr. Wang objected to. During the trial, Mr. Wang insisted on defending himself.
Mr. Wang's family hired two human rights lawyers from Beijing after they learned about the secret trial. On two occasions, April 25th and May 8th, 2013, the two lawyers went to the Tanggu Court and asked to see Mr. Wang's files. Chief judge Li Hongliang said that the case had taken too long and denied their requests. On May 8th, the lawyers officially appealed to the court and submitted Legal Opinion on Reopening Wang Guiqi's Case.
Mr. Wang's lawyers received the verdict on July 29th: he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. The lawyers appealed to the Tianjin Second Intermediate Court on August 2nd, 2013.
The intermediate court notified the lawyers on August 30th that they could read Mr. Wang's files. This was the first time the lawyers had been allowed access to their client's files. With only one day to prepare, the lawyers were told to submit their defence in writing on September 1st and September 16th, because the authorities were planning to conduct another closed trial. The lawyers refused to comply and submitted letters demanding that the trial be public.
The court finally held an open trial on November 4th. During the proceedings, the presiding judge interrupted the defence attorneys repeatedly, which obstructed them from defending Mr. Wang effectively. Nonetheless, the lawyers were able to defend Mr. Wang with a substantial amount of evidence.
That afternoon, Mr. Wang's lawyers filed a complaint with the Second Court of the Tianjin Procuratorate against those who participated in Mr. Wang's unlawful trials. The lawyers accused them of abusing their power, malicious prosecution, and detention. Nevertheless, the court upheld the previous verdict passed down by the Tanggu District Court.
Mr. Wang was then sent to the Binhai New District Prison, where the guards severely tortured him in an attempt to “transform” [forcibly renounce Falun Gong] him. The torture harmed him mentally and physically, and he became very thin and weak.
Family Continued Asking Lawyers to Appeal
In early April 2014, Mr. Wang's family again asked the lawyers to appeal on Mr. Wang's behalf, and the two lawyers agreed without hesitation. They filed a grievance with the Tianjin Second Intermediate Court. The court accepted their petition and told them to wait until further notice.
Mr. Wang’s lawyers went to the Binhai New District Prison in early April this year. They asked to see him, but the prison officials denied their request.
The lawyers warned the officials that they had the legal right to meet with their client, Mr. Wang, and that they would sue the prison for abuse of power if their request continued to be denied.
The prison officials were afraid of being held responsible and told the lawyers to contact the Tianjin Prison Bureau, which is in charge of the Binhai New District Prison.
When the lawyers went to the Tianjin Prison Bureau to submit their request, the bureau officials gave them the runaround. They showed the lawyers unrelated documents and regulations, and evasively replied that they were not responsible for Mr. Wang’s case. The lawyers refuted the excuses and demanded that their legal right to visit their client be met. The officials had nothing to say in response and physically removed them from the office.
The following day the lawyers went to the Tianjin Bureau of Justice, which is in charge of the Tianjin Prison Bureau. They filed charges against the prison bureau for their omission, but were again subjected to the officials’ attempts to obstruct them in every possible way.
On June 14th, during a prison visit, Mr. Wang's family saw that his physical and mental condition had worsened. He was having trouble walking. As he talked with his family, he began to cry and said he could not endure it anymore. It seemed that Mr. Wang was being severely tortured. After that, the jail contacted Mr. Wang's family several times to say that they would take Mr. Wang for a physical examination and medical treatment.
The Third Trial
On June 15th, 2014, Mr. Wang's family received a phone call from the Tianjin City Second Intermediate Court. They were told that the court had scheduled a trial to respond to Mr. Wang's appeal and that the family should arrive at the courthouse at 9 a.m. on June 17th. The family asked whether or not they had notified Mr. Wang's lawyer. The court staff person said, “It's just to clarify a few facts. It's not necessary to notify the lawyer.”
When the family told the lawyer about it, Mr. Wang's lawyer said that the court had violated the law for not notifying him. The lawyer called the court, and the court said that they were only going to ask the family a few things and it was not a trial. The lawyer believed them and informed the family.
When the family arrived in the courtroom on the appointed day, the female judge whose last name was Meng said, “This will be a trial on this case.”
The family was shocked, in disbelief that the court would lie so blatantly. They immediately called the lawyer, who talked to the judge on the phone and stated that this deception by the court was not acceptable. The judge did not contradict the attorney and hung up. The judge accepted Mr. Wang's plea and quickly ended the trial.
After the “trial” ended, Judge Meng admitted in a conversation with the family that, according to the law, the lawyers had the right to see Mr. Wang. She also revealed that she could not do much in Mr. Wang's case, due to pressure from higher authorities.
Sadly, Mr. Wang's arrest and trials are not unusual in today's China, where the legal system is abused as a tool of persecution.
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