|Five of the six lawyers defending the four defendants in the Hualin Kindergarten case stand outside the Liunan District Court in Liuzhou, holding signs that read “Protesting secret trial.” (Photo: China Aid)|
By Rachel Ritchie
(Liuzhou, Guangxi—Feb. 11, 2015) During the trial for four individuals charged with “illegal business operations” on Monday, five out of six lawyers representing the defendants were expelled from the courtroom, after which, the judge attempted to continue the trial.
The trial began on Friday and resulted in one lawyer being removed from the courtroom after arguing that the judge was biased.
When the trial resumed Monday morning, Liunan District Court officials forced the same lawyer, Sui Muqing, to undergo a search, which the group of lawyers had already proven to be unlawful in an incident in January.
“First of all, the court police said my bag was too big and that it must go through the security check,” lawyer Wen Yu, who represents defendant Huang Quirui, said. “I said I would never go through the security check. When I entered the courtroom after the exchange, they let me through. However, they stopped lawyer Sui and claimed that he had a lighter in his hand that he might use to set the courtroom on fire so they weren’t going to let him enter. They argued for a long time and finally let him enter the courtroom.”
“Then, we entered the courtroom and noticed that the computer screen in front of the lawyers’ table didn’t show the trial transcript so we requested that the court give us access. The judge replied that they had decided not to let us look at the transcript. We all protested that such conduct violated the law.
“We protested immediately,” defendant Cheng Jie’s lawyer Ge Yongxi said. “During last Friday’s court session, we could see the written record. Judge Qi Songmei said that today’s written record wouldn’t be available to us in real-time. When we asked her why, she said the law didn’t require the lawyers to have real-time access to the transcript.
“I raised my hand in protest. I said to the judge that the most important thing we should do in this courtroom is to let the defendants have their right to a proper defense… You can’t make such a decision [to not allow the lawyers’ access to the transcript] in a hurry and shouldn’t think that you can sentence the defendants to whatever you like. This would be a violation of the law and a crime.
“All five lawyers stood up in protest,” Ge said. “Then Qi Songmei gave two warning and expelled us from the court. Now, they are trying to go ahead with the court trial without us; they are engaging in an illegal trial.”
“A local lawyer named Tan stayed in the courtroom. He was hired by Fang Bin, the defendant who isn’t from Liangren Church,” Wen said. “Because the local bureau of justice has threatened Tan, he could not protest with us in the courtroom.”
|One of the defendants’ lawyers was forcibly removed from the
courtroom on Monday, February 9, 2015. (Photo: China Aid)
“The family members left the courtroom in protest [of the judge’s actions],” Du Hongbo, Cheng Jie’s husband said. “We don’t know what the heck the court is doing.”
Following the trial, the lawyers were denied access to their clients by officials at the detention center, and the court was attempting to nullify the defendants’ contracts with the lawyers. The lawyers plan to submit a lawsuit against the court.
Defendant Cheng Jie, director of the Hualin Foreign Language Experimental Kindergarten was taken into custody from the kindergarten in Liuzhou in February 2014. She is suspected of being in charge of marketing the character building textbooks to other schools.
Huang Quirui, a church elder at the Guangzhou-based Liangren Church, was taken from his home on June 24, 2014. He is accused of being in charge of shipping the textbooks.
Defendants Li Jiatao, a Liangren Church member and Hong Kong national, and Fang Bin, a Guangzhou-based printer, were also taken from their respective homes during the early morning on June 24, 2014. Li was allegedly in charge of handling income and expense related to the books, and Fang was contracted by the church to print the books, which have no overtly religious context.
The kindergarten, in Liuzhou, was founded by Liangren Church in Guangzhou.
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
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