By Wang Quanzhang, published: June 30, 2015
On June 18 I went to Liaocheng City in Shandong Province (山东聊城) to participate in the defense of a number of Falun Gong practitioners. Gaining the right to actually mount a defense, as a defense lawyer, before and during the trial, was a process filled with difficulties. Finally, at the end of the court session, presiding judge Wang Yingjun (审判长王英军) directed the bailiffs to drag me from the courtroom and beat me savagely.
[Note: Following is an abridged translation of pretrial negotiations, the opening of the court session, the demands made during the court session, and numerous other procedural irregularities documented by Wang Quanzhang, as well as the violence dealt him. A full translation of the remaining portion of Wang’s statement, describing how he was beaten, appears below.]
On June 17 I was called to carry the defense of Yang Yuxi (杨玉喜) by his family, as the second lawyer on the case. I met him on the day, registered with the Dongchangfu District Court (东昌府法院), and met judges Wang Yingjun and Xu Chengxin (许成信). I asked that the hearing be rescheduled to at least ten days later, per the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which guarantees citizens the right to an adequate defense, and for a lawyer to have a ten day period to prepare the case. Judge Wang refused.
On June 18, the day of the court session, there was a mass of police and plainclothes officers. For a trial that had only 7 defendants, there were at least 100 police present, the majority of whom were not regular court police officers, but public security. Police cars, ambulances, and vans with wireless interference equipment were parked all over the streets, and police with cameras were dispatched to record bystanders.
We were harassed before getting to court by being subjected to humiliating security checks, forced to turn off our cell phones, and forbidden from carrying our own water or any electronic equipment. At one point, a man dressed in black deliberately collided with me from behind, then proceeded to loudly abuse me. When asked, he said he was merely a bystander. He seemed intent on getting into a fight before being held back by others present.
The courtroom itself had been packed early with people who appeared to have been sent specifically for the task. The defendants’ family and friends were unable to enter the courtroom. This kind of show has become common in religious prosecution cases — Party members fill the seats, both to prevent regular people from watching and getting the word out about the trial, and to give a superficial appearance of normalcy and an open trial. It became clear that this was the reason the judge refused to budge on the date — the court had already spent so much effort and money mobilizing these people.
During the court session, the judges violated established procedures and began questioning defendants in reverse order — beginning with the least important, rather than the “head organizer,” Yang Yuxi; when the judges were asked to recuse themselves by Yang, in part because of their abuse of the gavel and incessant interruption of defendants, presiding judge Wang Yingjun refused.
Defendants were repeatedly interrupted and prevented from answering questions in detail or depth. In particular, whenever asked about why they practiced Falun Gong, any attempt to answer led to their being interrupted. This happened multiple times, with the judges delivering a threat that if the defendants attempted to respond further, they would be removed from the courtroom.
Problems were also apparent in the evidence brought to the trial. Defending counsel found that an interrogation transcript made on July 21 was actually claimed to have been signed by Yang Yuxi on August 24—after inquiring, we soon found that the police must have fabricated the signature. Moreover, the certifying stamp for the transcript was absent, and there was no named staff member of the certifying agency—both requirements of the law. When we demanded that evidentiary procedure be followed, the court refused.
We were held for 40 minutes during the lunch break and subjected to computer search. When we returned to the for the afternoon session 20 minutes late, we were accused of “poor professionalism.”
As the prosecutor displayed evidence, he changed the charges against the defendants: from “using an evil religion to undermine the implementation of the law” to “slandering the Communist Party” and “inciting subversion of state power.” I immediately retorted that they could have charged the defendants with defamation and inciting subversion, why use Article 300 [ the commonly used, but legally problematic, law used to prosecute Chinese citizens who practice Falun Gong]?
In the final stages of the hearing, lawyers Chen Zhiyong (陈智勇) and Shi Fulong brought up the legal principles of why the court should follow the law, and they were immediately silenced by the judge. When I tried to speak, I could hardly finish a sentence when judge Wang Yingjun stopped me; I asked her what she was doing, and why she wouldn’t let me speak. This exchange — in which I also explained that orders given by the court were not allowed to violate the law, and that constantly and arbitrarily silencing defendants was outside the scope of proper behavior for judges — then led them to hold me in contempt of court. Their vision of the proceedings is that whatever the judge says goes, and that only a lawyer who reverentially obeys them is a good lawyer—otherwise it’s contempt of court and disrupting court order.
[Note: The translation resumes in full.]
Black Ten Minutes
I protested the incessant interruptions by Wang Yingjun, while mounting a legal defense. At the end of the trial Wang was handed a small piece of paper. She then suddenly ordered the bailiffs to remove me from the courtroom for disrupting court order. A dozen or so bailiffs rushed into the courtroom. Some gripped me by the arm, one man clenched me by the throat, and they hauled me out. At this point, someone had started fiercely punching me in the head; others were hurling abuse; and one screamed out “Take him down to the basement!” So these officers of the law pulled me around and started dragging me out of the courtroom. I yelled out: “I’m being beaten, why are you beating me!” A court police officer again began throwing his fists hard into my head and face. My glasses were knocked off.
I was dragged into a room on the first floor of the courthouse, and was ordered by one of the police to kneel. I refused. They started beating me again. When I asked why, the violent pounding began once more. I again asked—and was again savagely punched. This continued until I didn’t dare venture the question.
This lasted about about 10 minutes. Once they tamed me, they stopped the beating and had me sit in a chair and brought me my glasses upon my request. I found that my shirt had been ripped to tatters, my face felt like it was on fire, my head felt swollen, and my whole body was racked with ache.
What must have been the head bailiff came over and said that my torn shirt looked bad, and offered to give me a new one. When I declined, two or three of them forcefully ripped my shirt off and put one of their own on me. The head bailiff left with mine.
A cadre with the court came over and aggressively criticized me, said I should do a reflection or self-criticism, and said that if I didn’t do a good job I’d be criminally detained and fined 1,000 yuan. I’d been beaten so badly that I felt sick. I had no energy left, and was on the verge of vomiting as they remonstrated with me on roughly the following “crimes” of mine:
1) I hadn’t respected the judge. She had already explained the reason for the short time I had to prepare the case, but I kept bringing it up and wouldn’t let go.
2) I contradicted the judge, didn’t listen to the orders of the court, pointed and gesticulated at the judge, and held the court in contempt.
3) We exhibited poor professionalism, arriving 20 minutes late to the afternoon session.
4) I was a “repeat offender,” having once been criminally detained by a court in the south of China.
I stayed silent the whole while. After one or two hours, Wang Yingjun and Xu Chengxin came over and again began berating me. Wang Yingjun said that though we were alumni, her cultural level and legal knowledge wasn’t as great as mine, and that I was discriminating against her by saying she couldn’t control the courtroom. Xu Chengxin said: “Yesterday I told you that the court is a place where criminals are smashed—that’s the principle and doctrine of the criminal procedure law, and it includes the protection of human rights you speak of.”
The president of the court, Li Xinying (李新英), then came over and angrily questioned me, saying:
- We found among your personal effects four recording devices;
- We found a large number of Falun Gong documents in your USB drive;
And then they continued a bizarre line of enquiry:
- Who sent you here? The family of the defendant didn’t hire you, so did you both invite yourselves here?
- Were you coerced into helping these people?
- We found Falun Gong materials among your belongings, so are you are Falun Gong practitioner?
I was so depleted. It all seemed preposterous and laughable, like we’d gone back to over a decade ago. My head and body started aching again. I responded that as defense lawyers, we often go to courts and copy those materials, and that it was all legally collected in the process of executing our professional duties.
From 7pm until midnight, the court went through no formal procedures to search us and inspect our belongings. After conducting extensive investigations on our electronic items, they still didn’t find any recordings of the court proceedings. The judges seemed very disappointed at this. Still frustrated, they made accusations in connection to the documents we had on the USB disk, and transferred us to the Huxi local police station.
The officers there prepared a short record of the matter, and we were then able to walk free. It was now 2 a.m. in the morning on June 19.
The black ten minutes I experienced in a court in my home province of Shandong is the worst treatment I’ve suffered in my career. I had received telephone calls with people threatening to break my arms and legs; I’d had my home barged into and been arrested; I had been deliberately hit by a car; I had been followed; I had been slapped in the face by a judge, I had been detained; and I’d had my telephone and computer confiscated—I had been through all that, but the savage thrashing at close-quarters by a gang of bailiffs inside a courthouse makes the rest of it pale in comparison.
And yet, inside nearly all courtrooms across China, the quotes of Party leaders are hung high upon the wall: “In every case before the court, allow the masses to experience fairness and justice.”
Chinese Lawyers Worry New Rules Will Limit Clients’ Defenses, The New York Times, June 30, 2015.
(Translated by Matthew Robertson)