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Trial for 4 detained for 'illegal business operations' begins

Monday, February 9, 2015

China Aid

Concerned citizens gathered outside the Liunan District Court
on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy of Sui Muqing)
By Rachel Ritchie

(Liuzhou, Guangxi—Feb. 9, 2015) Four individuals accused of engaging in “illegal business operations” attended the opening of their trial on Friday in China’s southern Guangxi; one lawyer was removed from the courtroom after suggesting that the judge was biased.

One of the four defendants was detained in February 2014 from the Hualin Foreign Language Experimental Kindergarten while the others were detained from their homes during early morning hours of June 24, 2014. All four are accused of gaining a profit from a self-compiled textbook used by the kindergarten for character development.

“During today’s trial, the court was constantly violating the law,” Du Hongbo, the husband of defendant Cheng Jie said. “Whenever our defense attorneys began to speak, the judge would interrupt them.”

“The judge and I had a big conflict over issues I proposed,” lawyer Sui Muqing, who defends Li Jiatao, said. “The judge became very angry when I asked why they didn’t allow my client’s family members to attend the trial. She then said I was harassing her. During the recess, the judge ordered the bailiff to escort me out of the courtroom.”

Sui said his suggestion that Chief Judge Qi Songmei was too biased to lead the trial and his request that she recuse herself were rejected. All the defense lawyers said they were upset by this refusal.

“On many occasions, we proposed the exclusion of illegal evidence and brought up issues involving the judge,” defendant Huang Quirui’s lawyer, Wen Yu, said.

During the trial, the prosecutor verified the identity of each defendant and read the indictment to them. A total of 15 family members of the four defendants were allowed to attend Friday’s trial. The trial will continue today and tomorrow.

The four defendants are Cheng Jie, the director of the Liangren Church-founded, Liuzhou-based Hualin Kindergarten, Li Jiatao, a Guangzhou resident, Hong Kong national, and Liangren Church member, Huang Quirui, also from Guangzhou and a Liangren Church elder, and Fang Bin, a Guangzhou-based printer who was contracted to print the controversial textbooks.

Authorities allege that, under the direction (corrected on May 5) of Sun Haiping, the wife of former Liangren Church pastor Dao “Joshua” Wang, Fang printed the textbooks, Li was in charge of finances and expenses associated with the books, Huang was in charge of shipping, and Cheng was in charge of marketing the books to external sources.

Sun, who now lives in the United States with her husband, said that no profit was ever made of the books, which aim to build students’ character.

“These books were compiled by the church for the kindergarten’s curriculum,” Sun said. “These teaching materials are used in the kindergartens Liangren Church founded and by kindergartens founded by former teachers at our kindergartens. For each textbook, we only charge 42 Yuan (U.S. $6.72). Similar books on the market usually sell for 100-200 Yuan (U.S. $16-32). These textbooks were not compiled to make a profit.”

China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: r.ritchie@chinaaid.org 
Website: www.chinaaid.org