Around 9:00 a.m. on December 29th, 2009, an unusual trial took place in the First Criminal Court of Jining City in the Zhong District Court, Shandong Province. None of the participants--neither the judge, the prosecutor, nor the plaintiff--were from Jining City. Instead, they all came from neighbouring city of Qufu. This was the trial of Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Zhao Genfa. In the preceding days, Qufu Court officials changed the trial venue several times. This was not a case of an official need for a trial in a "different location." Qufu Court officials simply arranged to "borrow" a small courtroom that could only accommodate 20 to 30 people from the First Criminal Court of the Zhong District Court.
Before this, Qufu Court had changed the location of the trial many times in their conspiracy against Mr. Zhao. Initially, the trial was set for 9:00 a.m. on December 24th, 2009. Out of nowhere, on December 21st, Monday, at around 10:00 a.m., Qufu Court called Mr. Zhao's family to tell them that the trial was about to start. His family said there was no time to notify Mr. Zhao's relatives to attend the trial so they would not be present. The court then said the trial was changed to 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday. By then the attorney the family had hired had arrived from Beijing. Qufu Court officials did not expect that Mr. Zhao's family would hire an attorney from Beijing, so they postponed the trial until 9:00 a.m. on Thursday. Then another famous attorney arrived from Beijing, so the Qufu Court officials panicked and postponed the trial date for another week, claiming the attorneys' licences had to be verified and audited from Jining City. Then the trial date was again suddenly changed to 9:00 a.m. on December 29th, Tuesday, and the location was changed to the First Criminal Court of Jining City in the Zhong District Court, which is 45 kilometres from Qufu City.
These changes and postponements by Qufu Court officials suggest that they were trying to hide something, because this was the first time a Falun Gong practitioner had ever been tried in Qufu. It wasn't clear what kind of charges were to be filed against Mr. Zhao. How would the attorneys from Beijing defend him? People who had knowledge of the case wanted to sit in on the trial. Qufu Court knew very well that there was no way they could charge Mr. Zhao based on current laws. They were afraid that if people from Qufu knew the truth, those in charge would not only embarrass themselves but also not be able to satisfy their superiors.
Mr. Zhao Genfa is retired from the Kongfujia Winery in Qufu City. On September 16th, more than 20 police officers ransacked his home and took his personal belongings, such as a computer, printer, DVD burner, cash, and other items valued at about forty thousand yuan1.
According to a witness who was outside the First Criminal Court of the Zhong District Court on the morning of the trial, dozens of riot police showed up, instilling terror into the onlookers. Plainclothes police frequently came over, taking photos of those who came to attend the trial, and asked each one whether or not they practised Falun Gong. If the answer was yes, they would say: "Be careful. Someone will arrest you in a short while." In the end, only Mr. Zhao's wife was allowed to sit in, with two policemen sitting beside her. She was not allowed to talk. Mr. Zhao's son-in-law and his sister were refused entry and had to remain outside the courthouse. Mr. Zhao's daughter, Zhao Dan, was not allowed to sit in because her school - Qufu Shiyan Elementary School - refused to allow her to take time off.
People participating in the trial included Criminal Court Head Judge Zhang Qun and Judge Li Bing from the Qufu Court and prosecutors Xu Tao and Kong Jing. The defence attorneys were the famous human rights attorney Mr. Jin Guanghong and another young attorney from Beijing. After the trial started, the prosecutors accused Mr. Zhao of violating Article 300 of the Criminal Law because 1500 CDs were found in his home. The young defence attorney pointed out that there were at least nine places where Qufu police did not follow legal procedures in their handling of Zhao Genfa's case. For example, the prosecutors alleged that 1500 CDs were found in Mr. Zhao's home, but they were never listed and signed off on by Zhao Genfa and his family.
In his defence statement, Mr. Jin Guanghong pointed out that practising Falun Gong is an issue of belief and that the Chinese Constitution clearly states that citizens have freedom of belief. If there was something Mr. Zhao did that was inappropriate, then it was only an issue of education and did not warrant such extreme treatment. Mr. Jin said that Mr. Zhao should be acquitted. The prosecutors and judges responded with silence.
In his final statement to the jury, Mr. Zhao Genfa asked the prosecutor, "You accuse me of violating Article 300 of the Criminal Law. Let me ask you, which law says that Falun Gong is evil? What law or regulation did I break by practising Falun Gong?" The prosecutors were again silent. After two hours, the judge ordered that the trial be adjourned.
1. "Yuan" is the Chinese currency; 500 yuan is equal to the average monthly income of an urban worker in China.
Chinese version available at http://www.minghui.org/mh/articles/2010/1/6/215783.html