Lawyer defending a Falun Gong practitioner thrown out of court in China

During a defense hearing for his client, a Falun Gong practitioner, attorney Xie Yang was repeatedly interrupted by the judge and eventually expelled from court.

Immediately after he was evicted from the courtroom in Hui County, China’s Henan Province, he was arrested by local police. He was released later that night.

The incident, which took place during the Feb. 17 trial of Falun Gong practitioner Zhang Suqin, is a sign that the Chinese legal system is dead, Xie told The Epoch Times.

In China, Falun Gong practitioners and their lawyers stand united against a system that no longer even appears to be legal.

As late as September 2022, a Reuters Investigates report wrote: “Chinese and foreign legal scholars say using the Code of Laws to quash dissent gives semblance of legitimacy in an era when Xi is calling for the party to rule China by “law.” -based governance.’”

However, according to Xie, his experience shows that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) no longer bothers to uphold even the most superficial court cases.

China’s Human Rights Lawyers

In China, court cases result in a conviction rate of over 99 percent. However, some attorneys continue to work with the legal system to try to obtain justice for their clients. Their efforts often earn them prison terms and torture. But a tiny fraction of Chinese lawyers aim to “chip[ping] away from Communist Party power, case by case,” the Reuters report said.

For years, this small but heroic group of human rights lawyers – some 300 of China’s approximately 500,000 lawyers – have been a thorn in the side of the communist regime. Like Xie, they defend those wrongly accused, often Falun Gong practitioners.

Xie defends several Falun Gong adherents. “All cases involving Falun Gong followers were political persecution,” he told the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times on February 18.

The ancient practice of Falun Gong is rooted in Chinese culture and emphasizes the cultivation of truth, compassion and tolerance. The practice has gained hundreds of millions of followers worldwide.

In 1999, former CCP leader Jiang Zemin launched a campaign to persecute Falun Gong. The regime’s persecution, which continues to this day, has resulted in the imprisonment, disappearance, and death of countless Falun Gong adherents — as well as their defending lawyers.

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An invented process

Zhang Suqin is a Falun Gong practitioner in Hui County. The local police detained her twice because she persisted in her belief. She is currently being held in the Xinxiang Detention Center.

Xie said Zhang’s case was bogus, had nothing to do with any law, and was simply a political witch hunt with no evidence.

During the trial, presiding judge Qin Keyan interrupted Xie at least seven times. Xie said, “I have listed all the legal grounds to stop her inappropriate disruption. But then she started questioning my relationship with Zhang.”

According to Xie, Qin targeted his defense credentials and stressed that his relationship with his client was friendly.

Xie had submitted the relevant authorization statement and materials in accordance with legal procedures. However, he said, “During the trial, the presiding judge maliciously attacked my acquaintance with Zhang.”

Falun Gong practitioners participate in the Chinese New Year parade in Flushing, New York on January 21, 2023 (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

He stated that all the materials presented had been confirmed by the court. However, the judge’s constant questions about how, when and where he met his client and their private exchange of information went too far: it was “beyond a judge’s duty”.

After Xie objected and protested her questions, the judge suddenly announced an adjournment and said she would ask the leadership for instructions. The interruption lasted about 30 minutes before the process resumed.

Xie said, “Zhang Suqin insisted that I defend her, and I also insisted that my status as a defender and the rights of a defender cannot be taken away from me. I have asked the court to uphold the right of defence.”

Nonetheless, the judge attacked Xie for “violating the court order,” “promoting Falun Gong,” and “twice declining the reprimand.” Xie was dismissed from court.

Xie said, “We discussed; there was no “rebuke.” It seems they had it planned. In order to complete the detention, they had to deprive them of the right of defense. The only way she can do that is by expelling me and excluding me from the defense [the judge] attack the client.”

A police state

The judge also told Xie that the police had been notified. Xie said, “I cannot tolerate this. A judge relies on the police to decide disputes between the defense attorney and the court. It is a very shameful and sad act that shows the dignity of the judiciary is gone.”

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For Xie, the judge’s actions show that China is now a police state. It means the complete loss of the right of defence, the disappearance of China’s criminal justice system, and the death of the entire legal system that until recently maintained at least the semblance of trial. “It’s no small matter,” he said.

The repression of lawyers has been dubbed a “modern mass media era against the Cultural Revolution,” according to an AP report.

Although Zhang will most likely be imprisoned, Xie said he will not drop the case.

“I respect the facts and the law and will insist on being independent according to the law. Nothing of their perverse behavior will stop my legal status and my will. I will carry out my tasks as entrusted by my client. No matter who it is, no illegal violence will deprive me of the right to perform my duties,” Xie said.

The 709 Incident

Xie was a victim of the 709 Incident – the attack on hundreds of Chinese human rights lawyers that took place on July 9, 2015.

The regime cracked down on hundreds of human rights lawyers, dissidents and their families in China’s 23 provinces. The incident was believed to represent a drastic regression of the judiciary under the rule of the communist regime.

Xie was being held in prison and his family was not informed of his detention until Beijing formally arrested him months later in January 2016. He was finally released on bail over a year later, on January 18, 2017.

After the incident, Xie, like many other human rights lawyers involved in cases involving religious groups, lost his license to practice law.

(LR) Yuan Shanshan, Li Wenzu, Liu Ermin and Wang Qiaoling address the media after shaving their heads to protest the detention of their husbands, who were arrested during Incident 709, in Beijing December 17, 2018 . (Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images)

According to attorney Wang Yu, losing China’s human rights lawyers’ license to practice has presented major obstacles. However, Wang said they still insist on defending their rights.

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Wang was also a victim of the 709 incident. He is currently defending Liu Lijie, another Falun Gong practitioner. Sentenced to three and a half years in prison in November 2021, she was barred from meeting with her lawyers and family members until February 10, despite multiple appeals.

Covering the persecution under the guise of the law

In 2016, new amendments to China’s “lawyers’ law” — “law firm management measures” and “lawyer management measures” — allowed China’s Justice Ministry to revoke a lawyer’s license on arbitrary grounds, a lawyer using the pseudonym Fang Yuan told The Epoch Times.

In addition, Fang said, cases involving Falun Gong practitioners are tried in specially designated courts.

Although Xie’s license to practice law has been revoked, a provision in Chinese law allows the accused to choose guardians, relatives or friends as their defense counsel “so that they can fully exercise their right of defense”. Under this provision, Xie was legally able to appear in court as Zhang’s defense attorney.

Zhiwei (a pseudonym) is a fellow attorney who once represented Falun Gong cases.

He told The Epoch Times he shares Xie’s respect for the Falun Gong adherents, whom he defends. Their “kindness, good faith and sense of rule” are “rare” in China, he said.

He said that the human rights lawyer “is outstanding for the fact that he has staunchly defended Falun Gong adherents. He is trying above all to win the respect and reconciliation of all parties.” Though Xie may pay dearly for his words, his words of “rational discussion” are just what the world needs now, Zhiwei said.

Shining light on evil

Xie said he believes the judge deliberately obstructed his defense to minimize the impact of his defense during the court hearing. While there’s little chance his words will change the outcome of the trial, he knows someone will hear what he has to say, and maybe hearts will be changed.

Xie said the incident had a positive side: it exposed the illegal forces at work in China today.

“I’ve seen people’s hearts change,” Xie said. “There are good people. The power of justice is unstoppable. I felt that [on the day of the court hearing].”

Haizhong Ning and Hong Ning contributed to this report.