New York—A Shanghai court sentenced Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Liu Jin to three and a half years in prison on November 3 for downloading information about the practice from the Internet and printing it to distribute to others.
Liu, a former librarian at Shanghai Normal University, was sentenced by Fengxian District Court in a trial that lasted less than one day, according to reports from sources inside China, as well as overseas Chinese news outlets Dajiyuan (news) and Radio Free Asia (news).
Having downloaded information about Falun Gong from the internet and using it to print leaflets, Liu was charged with “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law,” a vague provision of the penal code commonly used to imprison Falun Gong practitioners for practicing their faith or distributing information about the persecution against the group.
Liu was sentenced in spite of statements made to the court in her defense by prominent Beijing rights lawyer Mo Shaoping.
“She saw on the internet some articles that she thought were good, so she downloaded them, and gave them to others to read. This behavior does not harm society whatsoever.” Mo said in an interview with Dajiyuan (Epoch Times). “[Her] actions conform to her rights to freedom of expression and freedom of belief enshrined in the Chinese Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“So, of course, we think that Liu Jin’s actions do not constitute a crime. She should be found innocent and released.”
Mo is among a core group of defense lawyers who have taken on cases of China’s most vulnerable and persecuted citizens in recent years, including Falun Gong practitioners. Featured by Time Magazine as one of Asia’s heroes, (news) Mo has also defended New York Times staffer Zhao Yan, attorney Gao Zhisheng (news), and Sichuan activist Huang Qi.
“This case is a typical example of how Chinese courts remain a tool of political persecution at the hands of the Communist Party,” says Falun Gong spokesperson Erping Zhang. “We commend Mo Shaoping for his courageous defense of Liu and others. We urge the international community to show similar courage in demanding Liu’s immediate and unconditional release. She is innocent and at serious risk of torture.”
Liu has been held since November 2007 when police detained her from home without a warrant, confiscating computer equipment and 20,000 yuan (~$3,000). She is currently still being held at Fengxian District Police Station before being transferred to a yet to be determined prison.
According to Liu’s husband, Mr. Zhang Zhanjie, during her detention she has suffered physical abuse, including severe beatings and sleep deprivation. Liu’s family also reports being threatened themselves by security agents immediately after traveling to Beijing to seek Mo’s legal services.
Liu had previously served a four-year sentence at Shanghai’s Women’s Prison for practicing Falun Gong, during which time she suffered abuses including being placed in solitary confinement, being force-fed, and being subjected to “re-education” classes in an effort to force her to renounce her beliefs. Her husband Mr. Zhang, was simultaneously sentenced to four and a half years in prison, which he served at Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai. Liu was released in 2004 and Zhang in early 2005. The couple has a teenage daughter.