China Change Update: Briefing on the Fourth Day of Dawu Trial — ‘I Want to Dig a Window’

Dawu Legal Team, July 18, 2021

Gaobeidian Municipal People’s Court. Three of the defense lawyers leaving the court (from left to right): Zhang Peng (??), Wang Shihua (???) and Zhao Jun (??).

On the fourth day of the trial, the sky in Gaobeidian City was gloomy with light rain, as if it were grieving! The trial started at 9 o’clock in the morning.

The Gaobeidian Municipal Court continued yesterday’s trial proceedings of evidence production and cross-examination of the alleged crime of “gathering a crowd to assault state organs”. The presiding judge first announced his decision on the exclusion of illegal evidence. After dismissing the defense lawyers’ new application to exclude illegal evidence from yesterday afternoon, the prosecutors continued to read the defendants’ interrogation transcripts.

The defendant Ji Weilian (???, female) said: I could see that there were once windows in the Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) room. I applied to change rooms, I was extremely agitated, and wanted to dig out the window. I wanted to open the door. I wanted air. I was interrogated too many times. My memory was declining. The case handlers tried to help me recall the details, but I couldn’t recall them. Everything written in the transcripts was prompted by the case handlers, as evidenced by the interrogation video recording. I had hoped to be taken out of the room to be interrogated, because then I could have a breath of fresh air. When a female member of the custodial caretaking staff came into my residential surveillance room she fainted within 5 minutes. During my final two days of detention, the doctor gave me an oxygen bag, which I had kept on requesting but they they had not given it to me. (Crying.) Why did they seal off the windows that had been there, why? I will keep asking, and waiting, for an answer.

One of Sun Dawu’s defense lawyers said angrily, referring to the inhuman treatment during RSDL that Ji Weilian said previously, how could anyone but the cruelest people not believe it? We don’t want to reduce everything to a formality, but haven’t these last four days of applying for the exclusion of illegal evidence been nothing other than a matter of formality? The prosecutors were creating evidence that the defendants could not cross-examine. Why not submit real-time audio and video recordings of the interrogations? Shouldn’t the court handle its procedures according to law? Is that not a good thing? During the pretrial meetings the court tried to steamroll everything through, but can you avoid the cross-examination of evidence by the defense?

The defense counsel learned in court yesterday that, even though the defendant Jin Fengyu had her own residence in Gaobeidian City, she was still put under RSDL for more than five months by the Gaobeidian Municipal Public Security Bureau. The defense counsel filed supporting materials demonstrating the investigative agency’s suspected illegal detention of placing Jin Fengyu (???) under RSDL. Jin Fengyu said this morning, “I will not pursue the issue of being made to sell my property and placed under RSDL. I don’t want to dwell on this issue; I hope that my lawyer will not pursue it either. This is my attitude.” Several defense lawyers seriously refuted Jin Fengyu during cross examination. Legal supervision is the statutory power of the prosecutorial organ and should not be influenced by the defendant, Jin Fengyu. If a violation is found, it should be corrected. Jin Fengyu has the right to forgive those who wronged her, but it is the right of citizens to report clues of suspected violations and illegal criminal acts. It is the duty of the prosecutorial organs to perform its legal supervision functions based on clues of violations and crimes. You [defendant Jin Fengyu] have no right to interfere, and the prosecutorial organ has the duty to pursue whether investigators suspected of illegal detention should be held criminally responsible.

Sun Dawu (???) said that there was a problem with the air quality at the RSDL facility. Later, the government installed an air purifier, but it didn’t improve much. That’s why Sun Zhihua’s (???) health deteriorated. The transcripts must be true to facts, and the duration of RSDL shouldn’t be longer than three months. Because the judges won’t allow the exclusion of illegal evidence, I hope the court will allow me more time to speak. Sun Zhihua’s transcripts are also the result of the fact that the investigators used deception to extract confessions.

Sun Fushuo said: I remember that when asked to verify the interrogation transcripts, the transcripts produced by the officers were inconsistent with the facts, indicating that the transcripts were produced according to the investigators’ need to prove guilt, with some details not recorded. For the sake of fairness and justice, the transcripts should be shown to us in court. These inconspicuous details cannot be discerned from the prosecutor’s reading aloud of the transcripts in the court. Are the transcripts true? I want to read the transcripts, which is also why I asked to watch the real-time audio/video recordings of the interrogation.

When multiple members of the defense team cross-examined the defendants, they firmly demanded that the court obtain real-time interrogation audio and video recordings and play them in court to verify the authenticity of the defendants’ confessions. However, the court was noncommittal, and intentionally so.

The defense counsel pointed out that the case investigators violated the law. Is the Baoding municipal Public Security Bureau’s “1110 Special Case Group” (“1110???”) under the jurisdiction of the Gaobeidian Municipal Public Security Bureau? Transcripts made by investigators who had no investigative authority should be wholly excluded in the case.

Several female defendants said that the dark rooms they were placed in during RSDL had no windows, and that the smell of the newly renovated room was pungent and malodorous. They said that they had only taken two baths during their 5-months in RSDL, and they were not afforded their personal dignity.

Dawu Animal Feed Company.

In this case, Dawu employees gathered to voice their grievances with regard to the use of excessive force by the Xushui Public Security Bureau when handling the land dispute on August 4, 2020. Sun Dawu asked employees to participate in the petition voluntarily, limited the number of people, limited the times of protest, and intentionally avoided rush hours. The main purpose of the complaint was to protest against Cui Chao (??), deputy director of the Xushui Public Security Bureau. In the afternoon, as requested by the defense counsel, the court played video recording of the scene of petition on the afternoon of August 4. Everyone could see clearly that the Dawu petitioners protested more than ten meters away from the entrance of the government building, and were extremely orderly. The chaos was only caused by SWAT-type forces purposely pushing the crowd from behind and police officers pulling them forward from in front. Many unarmed petitioners were forcibly pulled into the PSB building, some of the petitioners’ clothes were torn by the police, and some women were shoved to the ground by the police. It was a textbook example of police luring Dawu petitioners into a trap.

When showing the video, the prosecutors were unwilling to play the video in its entirety and were evasive when questioned about the video. The defense counsel asked the court to broadcast the entire video evidence of the alleged crime and show it to the defendants sitting in the court to facilitate their self-defense. The presiding judge was reluctant to play the video in its entirety and asked the defense counsel to give the court a time stamp for the part of the video they wanted to be played. The defense counsel argued forcefully that there was no need to require the video play at a certain time node, because it should be played in its entirety to demonstrate evidence beneficial to the defendants. The demand, the defense counsel pointed out, is based on the judicial interpretation of “General Procedures for Court Investigations for People’s Courts Handling of First Instance of Criminal Cases (Provisional)” issued on January 1, 2018, by the Supreme People’s Court. Article 28 states: “After the completion of initial questioning of the defendants by both prosecutors and defense lawyers, the prosecutors shall first present evidence. After the prosecutor has finished presenting evidence, the defendants and their defense lawyers shall present evidence. After the prosecutors present their evidence, with the permission of the presiding judge, the defendants and their defense counsel may then present specific evidence to refute prosecutors’ evidence.”

After watching the video of the Dawu petition scene on the afternoon of August 4, the defendants all expressed their disbelief that what they had seen could have constituted a crime, and if the Dawu petitioners thought this would have been considered criminal behavior, no one would have participated. The defendant Li Dahong stated that we went to the government agencies to complain about our grievances and petition the government. We had no intention to, nor did we, attack the government organs, and we did not act radically. I feel Dawu Group was wronged, and the people of Dawu Group were wronged. We were wronged for being detained here for more than 8 months. After watching the video, Sun Dawu said that the woman screaming loudly in the back row of the petitioning crowd at the entrance of the PSB was unknown to him, and I hope Dawu Group will investigate who this person is, but she was very suspicious! Sun Fushuo also said that there were a few people in the crowd dressed in black that he didn’t know, but he believed they were plainclothes policemen and suspicious. Did some people deliberately mingle with the petitioning crowd to create chaos and frame the petitioners? One shudders at the thought.

The trial is still in progress and it is expected to continue until 11 o’clock in the evening……

Dawu Legal Team

July 18, 2021