Latest Developments in the Dawu Group Legal Case: Statements Made by Sun Dawu and Other Defendants at the Pretrial Meeting

Dawu Legal Team, May 25, 2021

Dawu Group, “a pearl on the North China Plain.” Screenshot from Dawu website.


Sun Dawu is an agricultural entrepreneur in Xushui district of Hebei Province’s Baoding city, and the founder of Dawu Group. Beginning nearly 40 years ago with 1,000 chickens and 50 pigs, Dawu Group has transformed a remote and undesirable tract of saline land into a pearl on the North China Plain, building a modern community with production, conference center, education, healthcare, leisure and entertainment, tourism, and retirement care rolled into one. Dawu Group employs nearly 10,000 employees, and operates 28 subsidiaries with assets totalling more than 10 billion yuan. It is one of the key agricultural enterprises in Hebei.

In the early morning of November 11, 2020, Sun Dawu and the senior management of the group suddenly suffered its biggest crisis since 2003. Sun and 24 others, including his wife, two sons and daughters-in-law, have been imprisoned. On April 4, 2021, the Dawu defendants’ legal team released “10 Questions and Answers Concerning the Dawu Case,” which shed some light on the circumstances. It was followed up by a second Q & A on April 22, after which — in the short space of 20 days — the case advanced from investigation of charges to the prosecution, then to pretrial meetings. On May 20, 2021, the legal team released its third set of questions and answers, which discussed the pretrial meeting and drew keen international attention, particularly in regards to what Sun Dawu said during the meeting. This attention motivated the legal team to update the previous issuance of Q & A.

1. How long did the Dawu case pretrial meeting last?

The pretrial conference of the Dawu case started on May 17, 2021 and ended in the morning of May 22, 2021, lasting five and a half days in all.

2. Was the trial date set following the pretrial meeting?

Given that the Dawu case was moved to court from the prosecution and the court held the pretrial meeting all in such rapidity, allowing the defense attorneys no time to review the files, which amounted to a serious violation of the right to due process, lawyers in the Dawu case have been very concerned that the court will disregard the time needed for review and other proceedings, and hastily organize a trial. Fortunately, no trial date was set following the pretrial meeting. It’s unclear whether the court will speed up trial arrangements.

3. What did Sun Dawu say at the pretrial meeting?

On May 18, Sun Dawu said the following:

While under residential surveillance, I wished I could get everyone’s charges dismissed at the cost of my own life. I asked the lawyers to obtain the surveillance footage. I am already dying, they’re already putting me to death. The specific sentence is immaterial, but they have to adhere to facts. My family are all being held in detention centers, my five [underage] grandchildren are at home, making me burn with worry that I cannot find a solution.

On May 19, Sun said the following:

I can take responsibility, even if it’s a felony. All the others are to be pitied, and I should take responsibility for them. They are hostages. We have four or five billion in assets, and we can afford to be 1 billion in debt. In the morning of April 22, the case officer said he would give us an opportunity to reduce the severity of the charge, whereby we’d plead guilty and accept punishment. They’d wanted us to plead guilty to the crime of disturbing social order.

I am an outstanding Communist Party member. I have managed the business with my wife for 36 years, and we’ve never cashed on the dividends. The way they’re investigating me now is making those close to us suffer and those who hate us rejoice. I wish to take the charges upon myself, even if they’re severe, in exchange for the release of others. We are people who have made contributions to society.

(Sun Dawu cries, as do the others present)

The law, at the end of day, is about human sentiment. It is true that we made mistakes, including posting messages on the Internet, as well as mistakes made on the land issue. I am willing to take responsibility. But even if I bear the burden, others will suffer even more. I value harmony. We are an outstanding enterprise that engages in socialism and sets a positive example. I have done business with feelings and ideals. I’m very pained, as now I’ve been turned into a criminal. This enterprise isn’t a stock corporation, and everyone is paid a salary. This model is my original creation. We are engaged in common prosperity, real socialism. I am responsible for everything. Let the others go, I am willing to take responsibility.[1] (Sun Dawu cries.)

On May 20, Sun Dawu said the following:

Li Qunying (李群英) didn’t even want to run his restaurant anymore. The appraisal price was 230,000 yuan, and I gave him 400,000 yuan. The procuratorate says the facts are clear and the evidence is sufficient, but the facts are not clear. You did not review it properly. When Prosecutor Cai met with me to talk about the aspect of 1 billion illegal deposits, I told him that some employees participated in the financing, and that a portion of the 1 billion yuan deposits are that of our employees’. I asked him to find out how much is made by our employees. Prosecutor Cai said that it’s also illegal to collect deposits from employees. I don’t understand the procedure, but I hope for an opportunity to review it properly.

If I admit guilt, will you spare the others? Or will others take less responsibility than me? I hope they are released, as the business has to develop, pay more taxes, and contribute more to society. I’m willing to take full responsibility.

I have a problem with the RMB1.037 billion figure [the amount of “illegal deposits” Dawu Group is accused of receiving – Translator]. A large portion of this comes from our employees’ deposits. Our company has a large amount of assets and the ability to repay the money. Some of the 183 vehicles that were seized were ambulances. The proposed punishment should be factual. It is not appropriate to count my salary as an asset implicated in this case. I have been working in Dawu Group for more than 30 years and have a certain amount of income. If you tell me I need to give it to the Party as my dues, it is fine, but this treatment is not OK!

The lawyers argued with the procuratorate, I guess all they wanted was to have more time to review the case files. I don’t know if I’m right or not. Is it possible to release my wife and two daughters-in-law? How about releasing the others? Let’s loosen up a bit. Why such a rush? 

It’s been seven months [since our detention] and the business is still running. Our enterprise is a very good one. I still hold goodwill for the government believing that the Party and the government are stepping into the management to prevent capital outflow. I hope the government will not drive the business into the ground.

On May 21, Sun Dawu said:

I respect my lawyers’ opinion. Also, wearing black hoods is now the norm in our lives. We have to wear them whenever we leave this place, including for medical appointments. Eight people watch us in two-hour shifts. The guards complained a lot. Conditions in the designated residence are insufferable beyond description, it’s worse than death. If I have to, I will go on hunger strike in order to be sent to a regular detention center. I asked for Chairman Xi’s book, they said I couldn’t have it even if someone brought a copy to me. A request for English-language books was also not granted. I need to take my meds at certain hours, they wouldn’t tell me what time it was. I couldn’t tell time, there wasn’t any clock where we were detained. My wife, sons, and daughters-in-law are all behind bars. The pressure is too much, it’s simply unbearable. I’d rather take all the blame, even death would be better than this. I would happily die if everyone else could be released. What’s the matter with Dawu digging up some family graves [in the process of construction]? These families gave us their consent. The interrogators made 98 recorded statements with me, but I can’t even tell how many of these are my true thoughts. But their attitudes towards me were all pretty good.

Deposits through the Group’s office of comprehensive business are from friends and relatives. With regard to Qunying Restaurant handled by Wang Zhongchen (王忠臣), the dirt piled up there was for road construction, not putting there  intentionally to block the restaurant. Officer Liu Jun’s (刘君) transcribed the interrogation selectively and didn’t write down everything. He said that my younger brother admitted [to the wrongdoing] and wanted to get me to confess as well. Wang Yingxue (王英雪) must come to the trial to give testimony. At first Li Qunying agreed with the deal [for Dawu to purchase the restaurant], the initial appraisal was at 230,000 yuan, and later we offered a bit more since Li’s wife wanted a higher price, so I agreed to 400,000 yuan. But [the police] said misleadingly that we had blocked off the road with the dirt in order to force them into an agreement. Dawu Group will never do anything to harm the local people. We have not wronged any of the local people. This kind of charge is meant to frame us, we have been falsely accused.

(After Sun’s younger brother Sun Dehua (孙德华) spoke) I wanted to say something. It’s only now that I learned that my younger brother was not even aware of the dirt piling incident, but Officer Liu Jun claimed that my brother had confessed to piling the dirt and he did it. Liu forced me to say I knew about it. Isn’t this a coerced confession?

Prosecutor Cai: During the period of residential surveillance, I went to see Sun Dawu as part of the procedure of approving formal arrest. He said to me that no torture had been used to extract a confession from him, and that public security officers treated him well.

Sun Dawu: How about the fact that I was in a living hell, did you ever care to ask me about that? How about the fact that I wasn’t allowed to see sunlight for three months? Did you ask me about it? They claimed that because of the high lipid content in my blood, I couldn’t eat chicken, pork, or pig feet, leaving me with nothing but pickled vegetables. Did you ask about that? Did you ask me about the coerced confession? If this is the way you want to do things, I can’t stay polite anymore. I admit we made mistakes. This country is run by Chairman Xi, what are you trying to do? We’re so close to Beijing, and you dare to act like this?

The premise of my guilty plea is what they referred to as “provoking trouble,” and none of you mentioned the eight other charges. How can I plead guilty? There is nothing I can do if you set out to snare me. 

4. What did other defendants say at the pretrial conference?

Sun Dawu’s eldest son, Dawu Group chairman Sun Meng (孙萌) (crying):

Sun Dawu is my father. He got the year off, it is 38 years (Sun Dawu said that he and his wife had gone 36 years without cashing on their dividends), from 1984 to now is 38 years. Dawu’s cadres are living on their salaries, not shares. There have been financing issues and land use issues in the course of Dawu’s development. But Dawu has been contributing to society. What’s happening now is a tragedy for society. Sun Dawu and my uncles have made mistakes, and they are taking responsibility for them. But we are a socially responsible enterprise, and we all have received a salary only. My father asked me, “Why can’t I get a visa to visit America?”[2] I told him, “You don’t have assets so you can’t go.” Sun Dawu has no house, only an electric car worth 30,000 or 40,000 yuan. At Dawu, everyone is committed to doing some good for society. Dawu Group is a good enterprise. Dawu Group will continue to contribute to society in the future. Even if the court slaps a heavy sentence on me, I am willing to take responsibility.

But I strongly reject the charge that my own property is criminal. Our housing and vehicles are paid for by the earnings of my wife and myself, and have nothing to do with illegally absorbing public deposits. I bought my house in 2007 when I got married. I don’t know what the prosecutor’s office is trying to do and why they are treating me this way. I heard that I will be charged with a felony and my house will be disposed of, so what will my wife and children do? (Sun Meng cries, Sun Dawu interjected: “So what if it’s confiscated? Don’t be like that.”) What about my children? Is this what Chinese law looks like? My child is only seven years old! Why should I be treated like this? My child is only 7 years old! Just because I’m Sun Dawu’s son? My wife and I are in custody, and our wages are being withheld. I don’t even have money for my kids at home! I think my salary should be released and given to my parents-in-law to help me raise my child! I didn’t commit any crime! What have I done? Am I being treated this way just because my last name is Sun? Am I damned just because I’m a Sun?

The company has been in business since 1984, it really has no shares, my parents do not have any assets now, all of our cadres are salaried, we are really implementing the national ideal of common prosperity. In the August 4 incident,[3] we were wrong, in this matter we must take responsibility. The issue of financing Dawu Group encountered in the process of its development has been a historical problem, but Dawu Group has adhered to good faith and conscience in its development. I implore the government to give us a chance, we should not be destroyed for one mistake. At first I worried so much about my child and my spouse. But even if the court finds me guilty of a major crime, so be it. But if this society cannot understand the social contribution made by Dawu Group’s practice of common prosperity, it would truly be a tragedy for society. It would also be a tragedy for those in power, for our leaders. As I said, Sun Dawu has faults, I’ll admit that even though he is my father. My uncle also has faults. But Sun Dawu has no house, for so many years he wanted to visit the U.S. but could not. Dawu Group made mistakes, I admit that, and I hope we will be given a chance. These lawyers, I am very grateful to them, I know they did not receive a penny in legal fees, and by defending us, they are also doing something for this society. My father is almost 70 years old, and my heart goes out to him, but the August 4 incident was simply wrong, and he has to accept the blame. But the Group itself has not done wrong, Dawu Group can and will continue to do more for this society. Dawu Group is innocent.

The place where we are being held in RSDL, the sound-absorbing cotton wrapped walls and plastic floor seem to be all glued together. I am worried that it exceeded the safety standard. When I asked the doctors if it is hazardous, they said they don’t know anything about this specifically, but I think it may be carcinogenic. You should definitely check it out. I probably won’t go to that place again in my life, but don’t let anyone else in that place again, don’t create tragedy! It’s true that I ate much better meals every day than I did at home. They told me, “this mess was all caused by your father and your uncle, so you should be able to get out. The leaders need to see your attitude.” If I tried to debate with them, it meant my attitude was bad. I was not allowed to say “I don’t know,” I was  only allowed to say “yes or no.” To answer their questions, I could only say what they wanted me to say. 

Sun Fushuo (孙福硕), Sun Dawu’s younger son and Deputy General Manager of Dawu Group:

I request for all witnesses who testified against me to appear in court. I request that information from the witnesses, testimonies, and the real-time audio and video recordings be consistent. Additionally, I would like to request for the appearance of the chief of Xushui District’s Public Security Bureau as well as the policeman who gave us directions at the scene of the so-called “gathering to assault a state organ” incident on August 4th. I don’t quite remember his police ID, I think it was “886” or “688,” he was the one who told us to go to the main entrance of the Public Security Bureau. I need to speak to my lawyers regarding the other people. I can’t quite remember who they are right now as I have a bit of a headache.

I ask to obtain the real-time audio and video recording of my interrogation. I was handcuffed for more than 30 hours. I would like to talk to my lawyers regarding the other evidence, as I fear that there are some who wish to tamper with my evidence. I also want videos of the detention center and the case-handling unit. The way they interrogated me was to first threaten and intimidate me, brainwash me, then take down my responses. The threats they made on the 14th is an example. Since I don’t have access to my case file, I do not know whether the transcripts from that day are in there. Specifically, I want the audio and video recording of everything that transpired on August 4th, including those of the employees, the public security organ, as well as the Group. I’m not clear on which specific employees as I have yet to look into it in such detail. There are some things that I cannot recall, I will provide supplemental evidence later. When I gather my memories, I will also provide supplemental witness testimonies, I will inform my lawyer. (Sun Fushuo was continuously interrupted by the judge)

Sun Dehua, Sun Dawu’s second younger brother and Vice Chairman of Dawu group:

This is about the incident regarding Li Qunying. Our company had been trying to build a road for a while. A restroom facility was to be built on the side of this road where Li Qunying’s restaurant was. And so we got in touch with his father-in-law Wang Fuqun (王福群, approximate phonetic spelling) via Liu Yushan (刘玉山, approximate phonetic spelling), and through the father-in-law, we got in touch with Li Qunying. Contrary to the police bureau’s claims, Qunying restaurant is a roadside restaurant and was not a competitor of ours. If a witness is needed, [Li Qunying’s wife] Wang Yingxue’s younger sister Wang Yingli (王英丽) can testify to this. I know nothing of the dirt piling incident. We went through many intermediaries to negotiate with them numerous times, offering to give him a store space elsewhere, but they refused. They asked for 400,000 yuan. We later sold that store front initially offered to him for 500 thousand yuan.

Li Dahong (李大红), Deputy General Manager of Dawu Group:

I’m applying for the court to disclose audio and video recordings of the entire incident on the morning of August 4th. I was wearing a work uniform, and was not violent. I’m also applying for disclosure of all audio and video videos of my arrest on the night of November 10th. My child was handed over to an unknown law enforcement officer, and is now psychologically unwell. I request to pull up the arrest process by the Public Security Bureau. At the same time, I would like to apply for bail while awaiting trial. No evidence should be left out, not even a minute, or a second, of it. I believe that the law enforcement process of the public security bureau is inhumane. I do not recognize the charge of gathering people to attack state agencies. I request for the entire audio and video recording of myself at Xushui District’s Government building to be shown. Nothing should be taken out of context, and not a single second should be omitted. We obeyed the instructions of Xushui District’s Government personnel, and we did not charge or attack.

Zhang Ping (张平), Deputy General Manager of Dawu Group and manager of Dawu hot spring resort:

(Sobbing) I was charged with picking quarrels and provoking trouble, (the indictment) said I willfully beat up others. I never assaulted anyone. I request for all the relevant materials of that time to be retrieved. At that time, the Public Security Bureau selected  only a snippet of the audio visual information. I can’t be deemed guilty based on just a snippet. I want my lawyers to gather all evidence regarding this accusation.

Ji Weilian (纪玮莲, female), Secretary of the General Office of Dawu Group:

I strongly insist that the court investigate the location of the designated residential surveillance. I had a pen and used it to keep a daily record of my physical condition. But it was taken away. They also threatened me by saying that if I continued to take notes, I would be given a heavier sentence.

5. Criminal charges described in Sun Dawu and other defendants’ pretrial meeting

What Sun Dawu and the other defendants said in the pre-trial meeting brought up certain substantive issues in addition to procedural issues. For example, Sun Dawu, Sun Meng and others admitted to there indeed being handling errors in the “August 4th Incident.”  Due to this incident they were charged with the crimes of gathering crowds to attack state agencies, disrupting public affairs, and provoking disturbances. In regards to the charge of illegally absorbing public deposits and illegal occupation of agricultural land, they admitted that these were existing capital and corporate issues in the course of Dawu Group’s development.

6. Other serious issues exposed in the pretrial meeting

Residential surveillance done in violation of the law: being made to wear black hoods, no access to windows or sunlight, being subjected to threats and intimidation.

Sun Dawu said despairingly: Living through [RSDL] was an experience worse than death. I will give you all the details during the trial. You need to investigate it. I want to remind you that I lived for three whole months without a single window, without sunlight. That is psychological torture in its ultimate form. I wished I was dead, there are no words for what I suffered there [at the RSDL location]. If I have to, I will go on hunger strike in order to be sent to a regular detention center. I asked for Chairman Xi’s book, they said I couldn’t have it even if someone brought a copy to me. A request for English-language books was also not granted. I need to take my meds at certain hours, they wouldn’t tell me what time it was. I couldn’t tell time, there wasn’t any clock where we were detained.  

Sun Fushuo: I ask to obtain the real-time audio and video recording of my interrogation. I was handcuffed for more than 30 hours. I would like to talk to my lawyers regarding the other evidence, as I fear that there are some who wish to tamper with my evidence. I also want videos of the detention center and the case-handling unit. The way they interrogated me was to first threaten and intimidate me, brainwash me, then take down my responses. The threats they made on the 14th is an example. Since I don’t have access to my case file, I do not know whether the transcripts from that day are in there.

Ji Weilian: I vomited frequently. Under RSDL, I had no access to windows for six months, and my body couldn’t take it anymore.

Inhumane law enforcement: Brutal arrest, indiscriminate seizure of assets, psychological trauma to minors, leaving behind minors without guardianship care.

Li Dahong: I’m applying for disclosure of all audio and video videos of my arrest on the night of November 10th. My child was handed over to an unknown law enforcement officer, and is now psychologically unwell. I request to pull up the arrest process by the Public Security Bureau.

Sun Meng: My child is only 7 years old! Is this all just because I’m the son of Sun Dawu? My wife and I are both being detained and our wages seized. Our child at home doesn’t even have money to pay for living expenses!

7. Results of the pretrial hearing

Due to the hasty scheduling of the pretrial hearing, it was impossible for the three parties — prosecution, defense and judge — to have time to read the case files. This infringement of rights to review files and rights to defense resulted in fierce arguments between the three parties. Between the shouting protests of the lawyers and messy sobbing of the defendants at the meeting, a consensus could hardly be made. The pretrial hearing was reduced to nothing more than a formality, negating the purpose of the pretrial, that is, “to ensure concentrated and continuous trial at court, and to raise the quality and efficiency of hearings.”

8. Lawyers’ opinions of the Dawu case

The attorneys’ outlooks on the Dawu case are not optimistic. The rapid advancement of the Dawu case by the prosecution and court in the early stages of case handling indicates that the decision makers behind the Dawu case aim to complete the second instance of the Dawu case before July 1, the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party’s founding.

The Dawu defendants face an expedited trial and heavy sentences. Based on the feedback of what the defense lawyers have gathered from the state procuratorial organ, the latter has recommended extremely heavy sentences: Sun Meng (Chairman of Dawu Group and eldest son of Sun Dawu), to be given 20 years for pleading not guilty or 16 years for pleading guilty; Sun Zhihua, (孙志华, Sun Dawu’s second younger brother), to be given 14 years for pleading not guilty or 11 years for pleading guilty; the 67-year-old Sun Dawu faces a maximum sentence of 25 years.

9. Veteran Communist Party members’ opinions of the Dawu case

Many veteran Party members believe that Sun Dawu is a classic example of socialist economic development, leading the masses towards common prosperity and making outstanding contributions towards the development of the socialist private economy. Some veteran cadres in the Party told us that such a heavy sentencing of people like Sun Dawu, [assuming it is] to be made to score political points in the lead-up to the centenary of the Party’s founding, is nothing other than foolishness. They [the Party members] believe it is in direct defiance of Xi’s series of speeches regarding private entrepreneurs and that these stunts will inevitably meet with backlash.

10. How the local populace and villagers view the Dawu case

Many of the local populace and villagers expressed their grievances for Sun Dawu. They believe that Sun Dawu brought common prosperity as well as economic progress, and that everyone benefited from Dawu Group’s growth. They see this case as an act of government persecution against conscientious entrepreneurs.

The villagers who made deposits to the Dawu Group (the so-called “victims” of the Group’s illegal absorption of public deposits) also believe that Sun Dawu and the Dawu Group have been wrongfully charged. It turns out that these villagers made criminal reports under deceitful circumstances. According to the villagers, people from the police station visited the village committee to request that the villagers who made deposits to Dawu Group register their names at the village committee with copies of their deposit receipts. However, on the registration form, the area where the name was to be filled was titled “crime reported by,” meaning that anyone who registered was in fact making a criminal report. This detail was not made clear by the police. The villagers registered, believing that it was the only way to get their deposit back.

The local populace and villagers are extremely concerned that the Dawu case will result in irreparable damages to, or the collapse of the Dawu Group, which would in turn affect the local economy and their own incomes.

[1] Gathering from what is discussed later on, apparently one of the charges brought against Dawu defendants involves Dawu’s purchase, for a construction project, of a roadside restaurant owned by a man named Li Qunying. — Translator

[2] Sun Dawu has been repeatedly denied a U.S. visa for some reason. — Translator

[3] The August 4th incident refers to a standing conflict among Langwuzhuang village, Dawu Group, and a state-owned farm in Xushui over who has a legitimate lease of a swath of land from Langwuzhuang, Sun Dawu’s home village and the headquarters of Dawu Group. According to a 1961 lease, the state farm leased 740 mu (about 120 acres) of land from the village but over the years it has been increasingly using more land from the village to over 2,000 mu (about 325 acres). As Dawu grew rapidly, the village leased the land to Dawu Group’s seed production company but the state farm refused to let go of the land. In June and in August, 2020, Dawu workers and personnel from the state farm clashed twice. Dawu workers protested in front of government buildings asking for a fair resolution of the conflict. These events became the ostensible reasons for the arrest of Dawu’s entire senior management last November. Lawyers did not believe the incidents, especially the one in August, could have been the real reason for such drastic treatment of Dawu Group. — Translator


Latest Development of the Dawu Case: Charges Brought to Court, Dawu legal team, May 12, 2021.

10 Questions and Answers Concerning the Dawu Case, Dawu legal team,  April 4, 2021.

Sun Dawu: A Chinese Agricultural Entrepreneur’s 36-year Dream in the Era of Reform and Opening Up (Part One), Yaxue Cao, March 30, 2021.

Sun Dawu: A Chinese Agricultural Entrepreneur’s 36-year Dream in the Era of Reform and Opening Up (Part Two), Yaxue Cao, April 2, 2021.

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