(Hohhot, Inner Mongolia) On January 11, Christian lawyers Fang Xiangui, Zhu Shujin, Zhao Qingshan, and Yuan Mao traveled to Huimin District People’s Court to submit documents for the case of four Christians who were charged with “illegal business operations” for selling the Holy Bible. However, the clerks told thelawyers a trial has been scheduled for January 17. This means lawyers have no time to finish reading all the documents and will have to go to the trial without proper preparation. The four lawyers posted a complaint on Hohhot Intermediate People’s Court’s official Weibo page. They openly criticized judge Han Yanjie and director Duan Wen for infringing their practicing rights and appealed to the court to give them enough time to prepare for the case before the trial.
Authorities arrested Wang Honglan, her husband, her younger son, and her late older son’s wife in April 2021 for selling the Holy Bible. They were charged with “illegal
business operations”. Sister Wang Honglan is 66 years old. She became a Christian when she was 24. She has been serving the church since then. The Procuratorate
suggested a 15-year sentence for her because the total sales amount exceeded ¥40 million (6,290,593 USD).
Judge Han Yanjie of Huimin District People’s Court accepted the documents from the four lawyers and told them the trial will happen on January 17. The lawyers saw three big boxes of files (123 total) for the case. They told the judge it was impossible to finish reading all the case files within a week and hoped she could
give them more time to read the files.
However, the judge denied their request, saying everything has been arranged for the trial.
Due to the urgency of the case, the family hired more lawyers last week. For defendants with a suggested sentence of more than 10 years, it is completely normal to request a postponement for preparation. Besides, all of the lawyers were just hired over the weekend. They travelled to Hohhot immediately to submit documents without any delay.
The lawyers handed Judge Han Yanjie a “legal opinion on ensuring defendant’s pre-trial preparation time” document and continued to express their concerns. But the judge interrupted them and put the document aside. She responded, without looking at the document: ”Don’t talk about it anymore. I fully understand your opinion. I’ll include your document in the case files. There is no way to postpone the trial.”
During the negotiation, a lawyer tried to play some audio and video recordings included in the case files on a computer, but he couldn’t play them. He also voiced his concerns.
The judge became impatient and called security.
”As a young female, I feel uncomfortable to be surrounded by four males and bombarded with questions,” she complained.
Obviously, she wasn’t willing to listen to the lawyers’ opinions. So, they went to the director’s office to talk to Mr. Duan Wen.
Mr. Duan seemed enthusiastic to talk to the lawyers. When the lawyers notice the court’s police officer was video recording them, they voiced their concern and video recorded Mr. Duan. He seemed comfortable with that. He read the lawyers’ legal opinion document in front of the video camera. “Make sure I look good in the video. I want to be famous among lawyers,” he said.
The four lawyers continued to express their opinions. According to article 25 of “Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Legally Protecting Lawyers’ Practicing Rights” and article 3 of “Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on Legally Protecting Lawyers’ Procedural Rights,” when the court determines the trial date, it shall leave necessary time for lawyers to prepare for the court appearance. The Procuratorate has at least one to one
and half months for criminal investigation or examination for prosecution. According to the principle of equality of arms between prosecutors and lawyers, it
is reasonable and legal to allow lawyers no less than one month to read all the 123 case files.
If the court has a problem with the time frame, the case can be postponed according to article 208 and article 58 of the ”Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China.”
Mr. Duan suddenly interrupted them:
In my opinion, good lawyers are those who are good at exploiting loopholes in the law. We are ready for the trial. I’ll escalate your concerns to my supervisor, but I don’t agree with postponing the trial.
The lawyers had to leave but insisted, ”How can lawyers defend freedom and life without the basic practicing rights?” Huimin District People’s Court only gave them five days to read all the case files.
In the end, the lawyers posted a complaint on Weibo against Judge Han Yanjie and director Duan Wen for infringing their practicing rights, urging them to take action and give lawyers enough time to prepare for the trial. The complaint was based on the following laws:
Article 41 of “Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Legally Protecting Lawyers’ Practicing Rights”: if a lawyer believes that the case-handling organ and its staff have clearly violated the law, obstructing the lawyer’s legal defense and agency duties, or infringing on the lawyer’s right to practice rule of law, he may file a complaint with the case-handling organ or higher level organs.
Article 42 of “Provisions of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Legally Protecting Lawyers’ Practicing Rights”: in criminal proceedings, if a lawyer believes that the following acts of the case-handling organ and its staff hinder the lawyer from exercising his practicing rights in accordance with the law, he may appeal to the people’s procuratorate at the same level or higher level: 1. Failure to inform, and notify lawyers; 5. Failure to listen to lawyers’ opinions; 6. Other acts hinder lawyers from exercising their practicing rights.
~Yu Bing, ChinaAid Special Reporter