January 19, 2016 | By a Minghui correspondent from Yunnan Province, China
(Minghui.org) Ms. Zhao Zuli, a school teacher from Zhaotong City, Yunnan Province, was tried without legal representation and sentenced to three years in prison on December 14, 2015. The court violated numerous legal procedures and handed down the sentence under pressure from the local branch of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC).
The PLAC and and the “610 Office” are two organizations tasked with carrying out orders from the Chinese Communist Party’s central leadership to eradicate Falun Gong in China. They direct law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to arrest and imprison Falun Gong practitioners and force them to renounce their faith, often through violence and torture.
Ms. Zhao was arrested on August 4, 2014 for distributing DVDs containing information about the persecution of Falun Gong by the communist regime.
Despite the authorities’ attempt to stop Ms. Zhao from appealing her sentence, her husband managed to mail out her appeal letter on January 2, 2016.
Ms. Zhao’s Lawyers Withdrew Her Case Under Pressure from County Bureau of Justice
After Ms. Zhao was arrested, her husband Mr. Wu Shiqi hired a lawyer. However, a guard prevented her lawyer from seeing her at the Zhenxiong County Detention Center. The chief director of the Zhenxiong County Bureau of Justice talked to the lawyer and demanded that he withdraw from the case.
When Ms. Zhao’s case arrived at the Zhaotong City Intermediate Court, which also serves as a trial court in the prosecution of local Falun Gong practitioners, her husband again hired a lawyer for her. Soon after accepting the case, however, the lawyer received a threatening phone call from the Zhaotong City Bureau of Justice, which demanded that he withdraw from the case immediately or face consequences. Under the pressure, the lawyer withdrew from Ms. Zhao’s case.
Due to the intervention from the local Political and Legal Affairs Committee and the Bureau of Justice, Ms. Zhao’s husband could not find a lawyer willing to represent her.
Threatened by Local Party Secretary
Liu Zichang, former Party Secretary of the Zhenxiong County PLAC and head of the 610 Office, went to the detention center to talk to Ms. Zhao many times. He said to Ms. Zhao that if she didn’t defend herself in court and agreed to admit guilt, she wouldn’t be sentenced and would be allowed to go back to work.
Ms. Zhao was tried by Zhaotong Intermediate Court on August 25, 2015 after being detained for over a year. Her family was not informed of the trial date; her husband received news of the trial halfway through its proceedings, and he was the only one to sit in the public gallery.
The prosecutor read testimonies and showed a few pictures as evidence. No witnesses were called. Ms. Zhao was not given an opportunity to defend herself.
The judge issued a verdict on December 14, 2015. However, when Ms. Zhao’s husband asked about the case, he was told that it was pending a decision from a higher court.
Unbeknownst to her husband, Ms. Zhao was told by court officers to sign the verdict at the detention center, which she suspects was an effort to prevent her husband from lodging an appeal.
Ms. Zhao’s husband received news of the verdict on December 28, 2015. He filed an appeal to the provincial superior court on his wife’s behalf a few days later.
On the day that Ms. Zhao was arrested, officer Wang Lunpu from the Zhenxiong Domestic Security Division and another dozen officers broke into her home, handcuffed her husband, and seized a number of their personal belongings. The plainclothes officers refused to show identification during the raid.
Her husband was taken to the local Domestic Security Division, where he was cuffed and shackled to an “iron chair” for one day before being bailed out.
Other Practitioners Arrested
Practitioners Mr. Wang Xianshu and Ms. Wang Jianying were also arrested at the same time as Ms. Zhao.
Mr. Wang was sentenced to five years in prison for practicing Falun Gong. He was released in critical condition due to abuse he suffered while incarcerated.
Ms. Wang Jianying managed to flee from the local Domestic Security Division, but had to leave her home to avoid further persecution.
Category: Accounts of Persecution