Briefing on the Seventh Day of Dawu Trial

Dawu Legal Team, July 21, 2021

Riot police at the site of disputed land on August 4, 2020.

The Dawu trial has been in session for seven days. After working overtime on weekends and with three consecutive days of 12-hour or longer sessions, the court has now completed its investigation of the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” the crime of “obstructing officers in the discharge of duties,” and the crime of “gathering a crowd to assault state organs.”

The three charges are all related to the “August 4 [2020] incident.”

The “August 4 incident” specifically refers to a series of collective rights’ protection actions by Dawu Group employees on August 4, 2020, when the Xushui District Public Security Bureau (徐水区公安局) intervened with excessive force in the land dispute between Dawu Group and a state-owned farm.

At the end of July 2020, the Dawu Group built fences and prefabricated mobile houses on the Sijiatai (四家台) lot for farming and management needs in accordance with the land contract signed with Langwuzhuang village (郎五庄).

On August 4, 2020, the state-owned farm obtained the protection of a large number of police from the Xushui District Public Security Bureau (PSB) through a mere written request without prior notice to Dawu Group, without negotiating with Dawu or taking other legal approaches. The state farm personnel unilaterally demolished Dawu’s enclosure and mobile houses valued at 18,000 yuan. After the Dawu Group’s employees found out what happened, they intercepted vehicles owned by the state-owned farm and demanded an explanation. Because the Dawu Group employees did not permit the state farm’s vehicles to leave, a large number of riot police, who had already completed their assignment to protect the demolition by the state-owned farm personnel and left the scene, returned. They used shields and other police gear to push Dawu employees and villagers; they used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowd. The state-owned farm vehicles drove away successfully. Many Dawu employees who had been trampled on needed medical treatment, but the riot police still did not allow them to pass through and the two sides continued to confront each other. The riot police sprayed tear gas and pepper spray at the crowd again, causing several Dawu employees to be injured.

Based on the obvious unfairness of the Xushui District PSB’s involvement in a civil dispute and the fact that multiple Dawu employees were injured, also given that there had been other cases and rumors around the Xushui District in Baoding City [about police protecting thugs and gangsters], the Dawu Group issued a post on their public WeChat account, “Dawu Caifeng” (大午采风, Dawu Snapshots), stating “Officer Cui of Xushui District PSB is an umbrella who is protecting criminal gangs,” and Sun Dawu (孙大午) reposted it on his personal Weibo account. At the same time, in order to air their grievances and request that Officer Cui be held accountable, Dawu employees headed to the Xushui district government and the Xushui District PSB to petition on the afternoon of August 4. The aforementioned three acts [confrontation at the demolition scene, Dawu post of the incident, and Dawu protest in front of Xushui District government and Xushui PSB] in the “August 4 incident” constituted the so-called “crime of obstructing officers in the discharge of duties,” the “crime of picking quarrels and provoking trouble (online),” and the “crime of gathering a crowd to assault state organs” respectively.

The seventh day of the trial, the court focused on investigating the “crime of picking quarrels and provoking trouble (online)” and the “crime of obstructing officers in the discharge of duties.”

Dawu banners protesting Xushui State Farm’s illegal use of Langwuzhuang’s land for 60 years.

1. The case of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ in the ‘August 4 incident’

In 2013, the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate issued “An Interpretation on Several Issues Regarding the Application of Law in Criminal Cases of Using Information Networks for Defamation,” which defines the following actions to be within the scope of the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”:  “using information networks to insult and intimidate others,” “fabricating false information, instigating disturbances, and causing serious public disorder.” In this case, the logic of the prosecution’s allegations was that the defendants fabricated false information (i.e., “Officer Cui of Xushui District PSB is an umbrella who is protecting criminal gangs “), resulting in reposting by overseas media as well as more than 100,000 views, and causing serious damage to the image of the PSB. Therefore it constituted the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

However, the so-called “fabricated false information” has not yet been proven to be true or false, and the evidence presented by the procuratorate has not attempted to prove that it is false. In court, Sun Dawu also elaborated on the reasons for raising this reasonable suspicion [of the unfair nature of the Xushui PSB’s handling of the incident], and it was not intended to provoke disturbances out of nothing. Further, the number of views was not a constitutive requirement for the determination of guilt for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” but a standard for judging the severity of insult and defamation in a private criminal prosecution. There is no inevitable and direct cause-and-effect relationship between information release and the image of the public security agency being damaged. The descriptive content of the Dawu Group’s public account’s posting regarding the use of excessive use of force by the police and the resulting injuries of Dawu employees, as well as photos of injured employees receiving medical treatment were all true and objective. Reposting by overseas media outlets was not the result of any voluntary action by Sun Dawu and others.    

The cross-examination of Lawyer Wang Shihua (王誓华) focused on the evaluation of 17 overseas websites made by an authentication center engaged by the investigative agency. Lawyer Wang pointed out that the determination of evidence was not within the scope of the judicial authentication center. When browsing, downloading, and opening these 17 websites, the software used by the authentication center was unable to scale the firewall, and the center therefore could not have objectively completed the determination of evidence. Meanwhile, expanding the legally-defined scope of information protection and ignoring the basis of reasonable suspicion by the public will inevitably erode freedom of speech.

Dawu employees gathered in front of Xushui District PSB in the afternoon on August 4, 2020. Screenshot from Epoch Times report.

2. The case of ‘obstructing officers in the discharge of duties’ on August 4 [2020]

In the morning of August 4th, personnel of the state-owned farm, under the protection of Xushui District PSB, unilaterally demolished Dawu Group’s structures. This incident was the direct cause of Dawu Group’s public account’s posting and the peaceful demonstration in front of government buildings in the afternoon of the same day.

In a previous trial session, there were defendants who already pointed out: “The scene where the riot police of Xushui District PSB pepper sprayed and tear gassed a group of employees and villagers was like an American blockbuster.” A defendant also stated in court today: “The scene was very chaotic. The confrontation escalated when the police forcefully pushed Dawu employees to back off and get out of the way, and several police officers used batons to beat employees on the legs, injuring multiple female employees and causing them to fall, beginning a stampede. According to live video, five or six riot police officers even threw an employee into a ditch beside the road. The police sprayed employees with tear gas and pepper spray repeatedly, even after the employees stopped trying to block the farm vehicles. Several employees were injured and received emergency first aid.

Prior to this, the defense lawyers had repeatedly requested that the court subpoena the medical records of injured employees in the “August 4 incident,” but the court has not yet procured them. Today the defense lawyers formally submitted to the court the records of 17 employees injured in the “August 4 incident” retrieved from Dawu Hospital. Among them, the person with the worst injury suffered a rib fracture. However, without investigation or verification, the prosecutor issued a cross-examination opinion in court, and determined that the medical records were not relevant to the “August 4 incident”.

Of the evidence presented by the public prosecutors, there was one piece of written evidence of special importance. Lawyer Wang Shihua regarded it as “the eye of the case” (“案眼”), evidence of a “case-critical” nature, and believed that this evidence alone could explain why the well-known entrepreneur Sun Dawu is standing trial today. This evidence is the “Minutes of the Public Security Bureau [2020] No. 1 Meeting of Xushui District Public Security Bureau of Baoding Municipality.” The minutes of the meeting show: On August 3, 2020, the state-owned farm, planning to clear the Dawu Farm’s structures on its own initiative, requested Xushui District PSB to provide police presence to maintain order at the scene. Xushui District PSB decided that the police force would arrive at the demolition site before 5 a.m. on August 4. Yet the manner in which the Baoding Farm requested police protection was no more than a written document submitted to the PSB on August 2, and its main content simply stated that the farm planned to demolish the fencing and mobile houses erected by the Dawu Group on August 4.

Several defense lawyers focused their cross-examination on this piece of evidence. Lawyer Wang Shihua pointed out that the written request of the state-owned farm was not a report of criminal conduct. The illegality of requesting police protection in such a manner, as well as the police force’s intervention in a civil dispute, is obvious. “If I believe I face physical danger while defending a client in court in Gaobeidian today, and I ask the PSB to send policemen to protect me, is that acceptable? Of course not. Because I represent private interests, and the police can only be used to protect public affairs and public power.” In addition, given that the minutes of the PSB meeting and the state farm’s written request were both created before the August 4 incident, “it is a trap set up for Dawu. The case we are going through such lengths trying today is no more than a case involving a civil dispute.”

Lawyer Zhang Peng (张鹏) also questioned the authenticity of the minutes, pointing out that the minutes of the meeting may very well be false evidence created ex post, after the event: “First, the document number of the minutes is No. 1, 2020. By then, more than half of 2020 had passed, and it is completely unreasonable that Xushui District PSB only had its first minutes of the year then; second, the names of the participants were not signed under the minutes, meaning the document could not prove that any of these people were actually in attendance; third, the minutes of the meeting did not comply at all with Communist Party and government provisions regarding official document formatting, and did not specify the subordinate departments to which the document needed to be copied. Therefore, it can only be concluded that the meeting minutes themselves are illegal and false. The purpose of forging this evidence is to prove that this instance of law enforcement had a legal basis.”

If the minutes of the meeting were indeed forged, its sole purpose was to provide justification for the police intervention. The fact that Xushui District PSB has illegally intervened in a civil dispute, in any case, is undeniable.

By referencing other evidence in the case, the defense lawyers also questioned the legitimacy, legality, and rationality of the so-called “official duties” carried out by Xushui District PSB. Lawyer Yang Xuelin (杨学林) pointed out that the two witness testimonies by demolition workers of the mobile houses proved that the demolition was carried out in a surreptitious manner. The two witnesses were not informed of their work assignments was to demolish the Dawu structures; meanwhile, unilaterally demolishing 18,000 yuan worth of structures was already allegedly committing the crime of deliberately destroying property. Lawyer Yang Xuelin couldn’t help asking: “Are the public security enforcing the law? Isn’t this kind of law enforcement shameless? I ask the court to directly reject the alleged legality of the PSB’s law enforcement actions in this incident.”

The trial today adjourned at 19:35 p.m., and will resume at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Dawu Legal Team

July 21, 2021


Translated by China Change from 大午案第七日庭审简报


Related:

Video footage of the August 4 incident, Epoch Times.

Briefing on the Sixth Day of Dawu Trial, Dawu Legal Team, July 20, 2021.

Briefing on the Fifth Day of Dawu Trial, Dawu Legal Team, July 19, 2021.

Briefing on the Fourth Day of Dawu Trial — ‘I Want to Dig a Window’, Dawu Legal Team, July 18, 2021. 

Briefing on the Third Day of Dawu Trial, Dawu Legal Team, July 17, 2021.

Briefing on the Second Day of Dawu Trial, Dawu Legal Team, July 15, 2021.

Briefing on the First Day of Dawu Trial, Dawu Legal Team, July 15, 2021.

Latest Development of the Dawu Case: Charges Brought to Court, Dawu Legal Team, May 12, 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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