The China Aid Association (CAA) reported in a press statement that the first trial of the 17 top leaders from a Chinese religious group finished at noon on March 3, after three and half days. During the court trial, some defendants disclosed that the authorities had subjected them to torture, including sexual abuse, in order to extract confessions.
According to Ms. Xu Baiyin, the daughter of Mr. Xu Wenku, the number one defendant, the trial started at 8:30 a.m. on February 28 at Shuangyashan Intermediate Court, in Heilongjiang Province. CAA learned from a government source that only one relative of each of the 17 defendants but all the provincial directors of Bureau of Justice related to this case were allowed to attend the hearing.
Ms. Xu Baiyin, who attended the hearing, told CAA that her father immediately revoked his so-called “confession” as soon as the court finished reading the prosecutors' interrogation records. When asked why he had signed the statement, by Mr. Li Heping, the chief defense attorney, Mr. Xu told the court that he had signed the “confessions” under enormous torture when “I would rather die than live.”
Mr. Xu told the court how inhumanly he was tortured by the interrogators. In order to force him to admit that he had given the order to murder members of Eastern Lightning, Mr. Xu said that his interrogators hung him in the air for five hours and deprived him of sleep for five days and nights.
Both Mr. Xu and Mr. Li Maoxing, the number two defendant, cited extremely inhumane torture used against them by some self-claimed “torture experts.” Mr. Xu described to the court that in order to get false confessions, the interrogators tied his fingers, toes and genitals with wire and then connected the wire with electricity. Mr. Li Maoxing showed his wounded fingers to the court and said that the torture experts used a new torture method called “Pi Long Pao” (put-up-dragon-robe) by hanging him in the air with a very thick, wet blanket and then electrifying him.
Mr. Li Heping, the partner and director of Beijing Global Law Firm and a well-known human rights defender in China, defended Mr. Xu. The chief judge interrupted Mr. Li Heping more than 20 times while he made his case for Mr. Xu's innocence. Mr. Xu denied all the accusations in the court. According to the prosecution paper, a copy of which was obtained by CAA, Mr. Xu Wenku (also known as Xu Shuangfu and Xu Shengguang) along with 16 of his top leaders was accused of having murdered 20 leaders from a group called Eastern Lightning. Xu was also accused of fraud involving over 32 million yuan ($4 million).
Xu has been the leader of the Chinese religious group known as the Three Grades of Servants with over half a million members nationwide. Mr. Xu's daughter Ms. Xu Baiyin described him as “calm and peaceful.” She said, “My father told the court he was very sad after hearing the [accusations of] murder today, and he said murder is evil and forbidden by God. In his final remarks, he urged everyone in the court to believe in Jesus; otherwise they will one day face eternal judgment in heaven. He also urged his children to continue to follow Christ without fear.”
Approximately 20 other relatives of the defendants, including Mr. Xu's wife, Ms. Wang Jun, were waiting outside the courthouse in the freezing weather throughout the days of the trial. However, the police escorted the defendants, with their faces covered, out of the courthouse.
China Aid Association Inc. is a non-profit Christian organization with a mission to report on the issue of religious freedom in China, particularly focusing on the fate of the unofficial church.