UPDATED: Henan court rejects house church pastor’s final appeal against 12-year sentence

Friday, September 5, 2014

Zhang Shaojie
China Aid Association

Updated at 2:06 p.m., Sept. 5, 2014

(Nanle County, Henan—Aug. 21, 2014) China Aid learned today that Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s final appeal against his 12-year sentence for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and a fabricated fraud charge was rejected by the Puyang Intermediate Court in China’s central Henan on Aug. 21.

Li Fangping, one of Zhang’s attorneys, confirmed that he received a phone call from Judge Ma, who presided over the case, saying that the original verdict was being upheld. Ma told Li on Aug. 21 that the second verdict had already been sent to Zhang.

This decision came despite Li’s official request that the Henan Provincial People’s Court appoint a third court to conduct the second appeal trial for Zhang’s case because the “Puyang Intermediate Court is already disqualified for its mishandling of the first trial,” Li told China Aid. Li’s request, made on Aug. 1, was never acknowledged. The request is translated below.

“The only other procedure left to file is a judicial review,” said China Aid founder and president Bob Fu.

“By issuing a verdict in a hastily-arranged, secret mock-trial against Pastor Zhang Shaojie, Henan authorities have delivered a new low for the rule of law in China,” Fu said. “The continuing harassment and persecution against Pastor Zhang’s family members and his church members shows the total disregard of religious freedom. We urge the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Pastor Zhang and the other arrested church leader and restore the church’s normal worship and other services.”

Zhang was initially detained in November 2013, along with more than 20 fellow Nanle County Christian Church members. Since that time, many of the other believers have been released. While all but five, including Zhang, have been released, Zhang is the only believers to have been tried (see http://www.chinaaid.org/2014/08/nanle-county-christian-church-land.html and http://www.chinaaid.org/2014/07/nanle-county-authorities-release-2-from.html).

Zhang’s oldest daughter, Zhang “Yunyun” Huixin, said she felt angry at the occurrence and result of the secret trial of second instance. “I think this is a typical case in which the local government is persecuting my father, other Christians’ and our church with groundless charges,” she said. “I will never give up my efforts in overseas countries to get my father released from prison on innocence, and I will fight until my father regains freedom.”

“China Aid will never stop appealing for Nanle County Christian Church, Pastor Zhang Shaojie and the two other Christians, whose cases will soon be tried, until all the people here have gained their freedom,” Fu said. “I call on the Chinese government to come back, in the true sense of the word, to the rule of law [governing] that President Xi [Jinping] proposed and to truly safeguard every citizen’s right to religious freedom.”

Legal opinion letter that Zhang Shaojie’s trial of second instance for fraud and gathering a crowd to disturb public order should be heard by an intermediate court at a third location designated by the High Court of Henan.
Dear Puyang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court,

I am the defense counsel for Zhang Shaojie, whose fraud and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” case is being handled by this court. After a preliminary reading of the records and meetings with the appellant, I believe there to be serious problems with the facts and evidence in this case, so serious that they have affected conviction and sentencing. In accordance with law, I hereby request that the court for the trial of second instance be changed and that the case be tried in public for the following reasons:

1. In the trial of first instance of this case, the court failed to exclude the illegal evidence obtained through torture for the so-called “fraud.”

When the appellant Zhang Shaojie was in detention in the Nanle County Detention Center, it was already winter. Under the “careful arrangements” of the investigating departments, for a period of more than an entire month, Zhang Shaojie had no padded cotton shoes or a comforter for the bed. During this time, his family members were unable to deposit money [into Zhang's account in the detention center so that he could buy padded cotton shoes and a comforter] and his lawyer was not allowed to visit. Meanwhile, he was interrogated intensively (the interrogations often began at 11 a.m. so that he missed the lunch). For a long time, he was both freezing and starving. Investigator Song Qingze demanded that Zhang Shaojie cooperate with him before he would buy padded cotton shoes and a comforter for him. He took advantage of Zhang Shaojie’s desire to protect intermediaries by putting into his confession [content] that worked against him. Then he used Zhang Shaojie’s confession to induce his so-called victims, Liu Yankun and Li Cairen, to confess, thus creating misunderstandings and even resentment on the part of Liu Yankun and Li Cairen for the appellant.

2. The appellant in this case has consistently asserted his innocence in both the trial of first instance and the trial of second instance, and also raised objections to the facts and evidence presented in the trial of first instance. These facts and evidence have already affected the conviction and the sentencing. Therefore, in accordance with the law, the case should be tried in court.

Article 223 of China’s Criminal Procedural Law stipulates that “For the following cases, a people’s court of second instance should form a collegial panel and should try the case in court: (1) the defendant, the private prosecutor and their legal representative put forth their objections to the facts and evidence determined at the trial of first instance.”

Li Cairen, the so-called victim and also a witness in this case, is a direct witness in this so-called fraud case. However, after she was kidnapped by Nanle authorities, she was unable to return to living a normal life for eight long months. There is definitive evidence to prove that Li Cairen was illegally detained from late December 2013 to early March 2014. Though Nanle County Public Security Bureau clearly knew that Li Cairen was being illegally detained, nonetheless, it concocted the so-called witness’s testimony, which is completely invalid. The request by the defense counsel in the trial of first instance for witness Li Cairen to appear in court was not granted by the court. When the court opens for the trial of second instance, we will continue to seek the appearance of the witness Li Cairen to give her testimony.

3. This court is no longer qualified to be the court for the trial of second instance. I hereby request that this court continue to instruct the High Court of Henan to designate an intermediate people’s court in a third location to try this case.

Page 395 of trial transcripts of the Nanle County People’s Court has the following content: “This court will no longer officially reply to the case in which the defendant Zhang Shaojie is charged with fraud and gathering a crowd to disturb the public order. We request your court to instruct Nanle County Court to investigate the facts thoroughly and handle the case in a prudent manner in accordance with law and to pay attention to the following issues…”

The contents above from the trial transcript is sufficient to prove that the Puyang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court has repeatedly asked the Henan Provincial High People’s Court for instructions and specific guidance in handling this case. This act violates the principle that the [outcome of the] trial of first instance is final, resulting in the trial of second instance becoming the trial of first instance. Furthermore, as soon this case arrived in this court, the judge from the collegial panel wanted the defense counsel to take a statement. After giving defense counsel only seven days to read 16 volumes of the case [records], they asked him to submit his legal opinion, clearly leaning toward a quick trial and quick verdict. It’s clear that this court can no longer maintain its objectivity and neutrality, and [therefore] in accordance with the law, cannot try this case as a court of second instance. I hereby request that this court continue to ask the Henan Provincial High People’s Court to designate an intermediate people’s court at a third location to try this case.

Defense counsel: Lawyer Li Fangping, of the Beijing Ruifeng Law Firm in Beijing
August 1, 2013
Cc: Henan Provincial High People’s Court

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