The state-sanctioned Nanle County church pastor, Shaojie Zhang, was sentenced to 12 years in prison in China, charged with “fraud” and “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.” On August 21, Pastor Zhang Shaojie’s final appeal against this 12-year sentence was rejected by the Puyang Intermediate Court. The trial for two other Nanle County believers detained in mid-November together with Pastor ShaojieZhang began on Tuesday in China’s Henan province with the verdict expected to be announced at any time.
09/08/2014 China (ChinaAid)– The trial for two Nanle County believers detained in mid-November began on Tuesday in China’s central Henan with the verdict expected to be announced at any time.
The courtroom opened at 9 a.m. on Tuesday for trial of first instance for Christians Zhang Cuijuan, sister of Pastor Zhang Shaojie, and Nanle County Christian Church employee Zhao Junling and ended without a verdict, which was expected to be announced within three days. At this time, the verdict is still unknown.
Zhang Cuijuan was represented by Li Baiguang and Liu Peifu; meanwhile, Zhao was without an attorney after being tricked into dismissing his lawyer. Zhao was told by the public security bureau, the procuratorate and the court that he would be granted bail pending trial and a shorter sentence if he would dismiss his lawyer.
A person was overheard asking a court employee why Zhang Cuijuan had lawyers present. “We failed to talk Zhang Cuijuan into doing what she should do… We tried to talk her into dismissing her lawyers and into pleading guilty,” the court employee said.
During the trial, Zhang Cuijuan’s lawyers said that the authorities had violated procedure while handling the case. “Zhang Cuijuan was taken away on Nov. 16, 2013, and it was not until Sept. 2, 2014, that the court opens for her case, in which she is charged with gathering a crowd to disrupt public order,” Liu told China Aid.
Liu also said that detention for such a charge should last six months at most; however, Zhang Cuijuan and Zhao were detained for 10 months. He also reported that the court denied the lawyers’ request for witnesses to appear in court.
Lawyers learned at the trial that there were three incidents, over the course of several years, which the court used to prosecute Zhang Cuijuan for “gathering a crowd to disrupt the public order.”
The first of these incidents involved Zhao. Authorities confiscated church property worth 10,000 yuan (US $1,630) via a local bank to cover an extra-child fine Zhao owed. Zhang Cuijuan, who knew the bank’s governor, went to mediate the removal of church property. The court said that this was the first instance of disrupting the public order.
The second instance involved a dispute between a local dentist and Zhang Cuijuan’s sister after the dentist made a mistake. Zhang Cuijuan’s 8-year-old niece, Zhang Yuqing, was taken to the dentist for braces by her mother. An elastic band was forgotten on her gums, resulting in the removal of a section of gums above her two front teeth and leaving Yuqing embarrassed by her appearance. Zhang Cuijuan tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the responsible doctor and reported the incident to the Bureau of Health.
The final incident used to charge Zhang Cuijuan was when she negotiated with the life insurance company of church member’s husband, who passed away in his hotel room while on a business trip. The family consulted Zhang Cuijuan because she was a manager at another insurance company. Believing that the family was owed the sum of the life insurance policy, she went to inquire about the conflict, which police deemed disruption of the public order. [Editor’s note: This incident was incorrectly confused in a previous report with a situation that occurred between another church member, Li Cairen, and her son’s employer.]
Meanwhile, the court only allowed two family members to enter the courtroom as visitors despite the more than 50 church members who arrived, hoping to attend in a show of support.