A Chinese human rights lawyer was subjected to humiliating body searches, beaten up, and prevented from defending a practitioner of a persecuted spiritual discipline in a court in northern China recently, according to reports.
On Oct. 11, lawyer Dong Qianyong went to Feixiang District Court to represent Falun Gong practitioner Li Congchun. Li, formerly the assistant director of public security in Handan Prefecture, was arrested this January with five other practitioners for hanging banners bearing Falun Gong messages.
Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese meditation practice, has been targeted for suppression since July 1999 on then Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.
Human rights lawyers who defend practitioners have frequently been barred from entering courtrooms, and even roughed up. Dong Qianyong is the latest rights lawyer to be subjected to such treatment.
Dong was searched once at a police perimeter outside Feixiang District Court that appeared to have been set up specifically for the trial of Li Congchun and the other Falun Gong practitioners. He was allowed to pass, but was stopped at the door of the courthouse by presiding judge Liu Yanfeng.
Judge Liu told Dong that he couldn’t bring any bags—a briefcase and three small bags with material and documents he prepared for the case—into the courthouse, and personally escorted Dong to an adjoining building to inspect his belongings. Despite finding nothing of note, Judge Liu still forbade Dong from entering the courthouse.
At this juncture, Dong realized several plainclothes police had gathered in the room. After Dong asked a police officer about his presence, the police officer got angry and physical.
“He pushed me onto a couch, gave me two slaps, and my glasses were knocked on the floor,” lawyer Dong Qianyong said. The policemen briefly confiscated both of Dong’s cellphones, and the lawyer was barred from entering the courthouse.
Later, Dong faced even worse abuse when he attempted to lodge a complaint about the treatment he received with the local prosecutor’s office. Several policemen pressed him down onto a sofa, and handcuffed his hands behind his back. They seized his cellphones, frisked him, and emptied the contents of his bags onto the floor.
“I felt extremely humiliated,” Dong said.
Zhang Zanning, an attorney and law lecturer at Nanjing’s Southeast University, said that the court and prosecuting office’s treatment of lawyer Dong Qianyong was in fact illegal.
First, Zhang said, its court staff, not judges, who are responsible for carrying out security checks using body scanners. Physical searches of a person’s body and belongings are forbidden.
Frisking is “an insult and discrimination against lawyers,” Zhang said. “This is extremely vile.”
Zhang, however, was able to make a not guilty plea for Falun Gong practitioner Li Mingtao, who was also due in court that day.
This year, the leadership of Chinese leader Xi Jinping appears to be shifting their stance on Falun Gong, and has hinted at a future redressing of wrongs. But practitioners and rights lawyers are still being persecuted, although the situation seems to vary from region to region.
For instance, Zhang Zanning and three other human rights lawyers were able to defend a prominent practitioner husband and wife and the teachings of Falun Gong in a court in the port city of Tianjin in mid-September without suffering any push back.
However, lawyer Dong Qianyong was recently handled very roughly by the local security officers in Handan Prefecture.
With reporting by Li Yun and Ye Feng.