Dawu Legal Team, July 22, 2021
Today’s court session mainly focused on three crimes — “disrupting market operations,” “coercing business transactions,” and “fraud” — as charged by the procuratorate. The court investigation specifically involved charged offenses numbered (6), (7), (8), and (10) alleged in the indictment.
The floods in Zhengzhou seem to have diminished attention on the Dawu case, but those who have been following the case are still paying attention. When the trial briefing was delayed on any given day, inquiries from concerned friends flooded in.
Today’s court session lasted until 11:23 p.m. in the evening, and the court continued on with its accelerated trial proceedings. Lawyers have also received constant warnings and threats from the judicial and administrative agencies.
On the morning of July 22, the court session kicked off with the investigation into the obstruction of construction of the Rongwu Highway (荣乌高速路).
The indictment alleges that in September 2010, the government expropriated the land used by Dawu Group for the construction of Rongwu Highway and paid compensation for the destroyed seedlings and related losses, in accordance with the law. In order to extort unreasonable land compensation fees, the indictment alleges, Sun Dawu arranged for Sun Zhihua to organize personnel to dig trenches, sever roads, intercept construction vehicles to obstruct construction, resulting in a two-day suspension of work.
Sun Dawu stated, when the government acquired the land of Dawu Group for the Rongwu Highway, the compensation fee was insufficient. It was negotiated between the Dawu Agricultural Co. and the Transportation Bureau. Sun Dawu said that he himself didn’t know about this, but during his time in Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), Sun was coerced by the investigators into making a false statement.
Sun Sanwu (孙三午) stated that when the highway was built that year , the agricultural company was provided with land that was remote and had poor soil quality. The Dawu Agricultural Co. was unhappy about it, and sought resolution from the government. But he did not know of the obstruction incidents, nor did he participate in them, nor did he organize and lead employees to block the road. This matter had nothing to do with him.
The defense lawyer explained several points during the cross-examination. First, because the defendants in this case were placed under RSDL during which evidence was illegally obtained, the evidence gathered during this period should all be excluded and cannot be used as evidence. Second, the compensation for the land reallocation was unreasonable and the agricultural company had made a reasonable demand. Third, the procuratorate’s evidence could not prove the defendants committed this crime; the evidence presented could not be mutually verifiable, and the content of the witnesses’ testimonies contravene common sense. Therefore the crime can not be established.
The defense lawyer believed that, at the time Dawu Road was under construction, the old cement road could not withstand the passage of large trucks without damage. At that time, there were a large number of heavy trucks passing on these roads, causing damage to Dawu Road. Some villagers confronted the state construction company because of this damage. The resulting instance of road-blocking had nothing to do with the two defendants.
Other defense lawyers also mentioned that the statute of limitations had expired for this charge, and that the loss incurred was less than the 5000 yuan minimum to meet the criteria for the crime of sabotaging production and operations. Further, there was no objective evidence for this charge, but only verbal statements and opinions.
At 11:00 a.m. the court initiated an investigation into the charge of obstructing the production and operation of a milk warehouse operated by a person by the surname Sun.
The indictment alleged that, in April 2020, Dawu Group hired villagers from Langwuzhuang to surround a wholesale milk warehouse built on the state-owned farm’s land for 25 days in order to illegally occupy the farm’s land. As a result, the tenant was unable to operate normally and was forced to terminate the contract early. The landlord (victim) had to refund the rent amount of more than 30,000 yuan.
Sun Dawu and Sun Erwu objected to this accusation, saying that they were not aware of this incident, and nor was that business affected. If this were true, it would be unconscionable.
Sun Erwu’s defense lawyer also asked him about Yinwuzhuang village’s establishment of the Shijiatai Land Management Committee (四家台土地管理委员会). Sun Erwu replied that the purpose of establishing this Committee was to facilitate the negotiation over this disputed piece of land between the village, the government and the state-owned farm.
Sun Erwu also stated to the court that the warehouse involved was in fact built by the village without proper certificates, and the rent could not have been as high as 30,000 [unclear monthly or annually].
During cross-examination, Sun Dawu stated that the action was committed by the villagers, and he pointed out that there were no Dawu employees in the video of the warehouse scene. In addition, after checking the accounting ledger presented by the prosecutor, Sun Dawu believed that the records were taken from the account book of the Sijiatai Land Management Committee of the Yunwuzhuang Village Committee and had nothing to do with Dawu Group. The indictment was therefore wrong to identify Dawu Company as responsible.
Sun Erwu believed that all the witness testimonies of the incident were false. The village Party Secretary Yang Xueming was in charge of this matter. Only after he viewed the live video of the scene, said Sun Erwu, did he realize the seriousness of the incident. He did not arrange for anyone to block the warehouse, and no one had informed him about it afterwards. He should not be held responsible.
The defense lawyer’s main points were as follows:
1. The testimony of Mr. Yang, the village party secretary involved in this case, is untrue. Yang wants to stay clear of Dawu Company and Sun Erwu. His false statement is understandable from human nature, as he is afraid of taking responsibility.
2. When stating warehouse losses, the indictment is confusing about who lost what. In addition, the losses were minimal and did not meet the requirements for filing a criminal case. One moment the indictment says the milk business suffered losses, the next it says the losses are rental losses; at one point it identifies the victim as a person surnamed Peng, at another point it identifies the victim as a person surnamed Sun, but Peng and Sun are not of the same family. A person surnamed Xing as well as the Farm were also mentioned in the prosecutors’ evidence. It’s confusing.
3. In addition, victim Sun said he suffered no losses, but that he was under psychological pressure, which cannot be counted as a monetary loss.
4. The evidence in the case files confirms that the warehouse incident was handled by the Shijiatai Land Management Committee of Langwuzhuang village, and villagers who went and confronted the warehouse operators were from Shijiatai. It had nothing to do with the two defendants.
The defense lawyer believed that the prosecution’s case was obviously untenable.
Sun Dawu’s defense lawyer once again applied for the village Party Secretary Yang and other witnesses to appear in court, commenting that, from Yang’s transcripts, one can conclude that “as a Party member he’s commendable, but as a human being he’s rotten.”
But Sun Erwu’s defense lawyer did not agree with Sun Dawu’s defense lawyer, saying that the village party secretary Yang is rotten both as a Party member and as a human being.
Before the morning session adjourned, lawyer Wang Shihua read out and submitted to the court two reports jointly signed by the defense lawyers. One report asks the court to hold accountable the verification agency and the verifiers for suspected perjury by providing false documents; and the other report asks the court to hold accountable Wang Suxia and others for suspected crimes committed by a criminal gang.
The morning session ended at 1:45 p.m., and the afternoon session started at 2:20 p.m.
Before the afternoon session began, Sun Meng’s defense lawyer, Professor Tong Zongjin (仝宗锦) insisted on cross examining item by item the prosecutor’s evidence for the crime of “coercing business transactions” (强迫交易罪). The presiding judge and the prosecutors both objected. Professor Tong argued that, during his meetings with his client, Sun Meng expressed strong objection to this accusation, and if the court didn’t agree to item-by-item cross-examination, the defense lawyer would demand that the defendant be allowed to read the case files. The three parties (the prosecutor, the defense, and the court) argued fiercely before the session began. Prof. Tong refused to back down.
Because of his insistence, Prof. Tong was reprimanded and berated several times during the session [by the collegial bench and the prosecutors], receiving censure [a disciplinary warning] once and an admonition [a more severe disciplinary warning] once. At the same time, he also received pressure from outside the court. This indicates that the court is very determined and has powerful backing.
First the court investigated alleged offense of Sun Meng coercing business transactions regarding construction projects.
The indictment alleges that, in June 2011, in order to receive a contract for sections of the central government’s South-to-North Water Diversion Project (南水北调项目), Sun Meng organized Dawu personnel to prevent the normal operation of the Construction Project Department [entity overseeing the water project] and subsequently received a contract for two road construction projects near Langwuzhuang village for 374,000 yuan.
Sun Meng argued that the accusation does not match the facts. The village had its own roads but were of poor quality. When the Rongwu Highway was built, the state construction company had its own temporary access road but it was farther off, so they sometimes used the village roads. But those were heavy trucks that damaged the village roads badly. So some villagers tried to stop them. I did not lead people to coerce them for a project contract for no reason. They could have very well rejected us.
The defense lawyer said that, because it had to use the village roads, the 17th Bureau of China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) agreed at a dinner meeting organized by Cui (崔某某) to let Dawu Construction Co. build part of the highway. First of all, the 17th Bureau of CSCEC voluntarily agreed to the arrangement, and there was no coercion; secondly, the deal as well as the price were negotiated with Cui as a main participant. If this constitutes “coercing business transactions,” Cui should be criminally charged as well.
Sun Meng said the content of the interrogation transcripts were coached by the police investigators. During RSDL, he was made to rehearse his confessions for 1-2 hours with the investigators before they led him out [to the case center] to produce the transcripts. Confessions of “illegal absorption of public deposits” (非法吸收公众存款) and “coercing business transactions” were produced in the same manner, so were confessions relating to all other charges. The RSDL room had no windows with a pungent smell due to new renovation. I was not allowed to speak, said Sun Meng, nor did I have newspapers or books to read. No sunlight, not knowing whether it was day or night. During RSDL, three, sometimes two, investigators interrogated me for long hours and would not let me rest.
The defense lawyer said that illegal collection of evidence occurred in this case, and it’s serious. It wasn’t until today that the defense lawyer had learned that, at the RSDL location, the investigators had subjected the defendant to grueling long hours of interrogation, and it’s shocking. We will lodge complaints about such illegal behaviors, [he said], and we also want to remind the People’s Procuratorate of its responsibility to supervise the public security officers for suspected crimes when carrying out official duties.
Around 3 p.m., presiding judge Jia was falling asleep. With eyes closed, he raised his head backward while rubbing his temples. At 3:15 p.m., his head drooped. The morning session lasted from 9 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and resumed at 2:15 p.m. in the afternoon. At 12:30 p.m., during the morning session, the defense lawyers reminded the presiding judge that it was lunch time, but the collegial bench declined [to let them break for lunch.] The people’s assessor sitting on the far left was also dozing off, and the female judge on the bench was also rubbing her temples. All looked exhausted.
The court recessed at 6:50 p.m. and resumed again at 7:30 p.m., investigating the crime of fraud alleged against Sun Meng and others who are accused of falsely claiming insurance payouts for workplace injury.
The indictment alleges that Dawu Construction Co. falsified medical records using employees who had workplace injury insurance policy to make claims for those who didn’t, and defrauded the insurance company of a total of 300,690.40 yuan from 2014 to 2020.
The other two defendants charged for this crime in the indictment, the surnamed Wang and Zhang, admitted guilt and would accept punishment.
Sun Meng stated that, when he first took charge of the Dawu Construction Co. in 2014, he had little understanding of insurance policy for workplace injuries. After he learned more about it, he instructed subordinates to stop the practice of making claims using others people’s policy. In addition, Sun Meng only knew the total sum of the company’s insurance purchase, and did not know the specific names of the policy holders. After examining the claim forms, he pointed out that some signatures were fake.
The defense lawyer is of the opinion that, because of the seasonal nature and the high turnover rate of workers, most construction companies buy insurance policy in a lump sum or per project, which is different from how an average business purchases workplace injury insurance. It is not fair when the case officers treat the situation as a typical fraud case without considering how construction companies purchase insurance policies.
The session continued late into the night…… The lead prosecutor was falling asleep, the presiding judge was drowsy….
After repeated requests by lawyer Tong, the presiding judge finally agreed to end today’s session.
The trial adjourned at 11:23 p.m., and will resume at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning [July 23].
Dawu Legal Team
July 22, 2021
Translated by China Change from 大午案第八日庭审简报
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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.
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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.