The following is an open letter written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in December 2017 by a group of lawyers including three who previously represented Sun Qian, a Canadian citizen from Vancouver who was arrested in Beijing in February 2017 because she practises Falun Gong. Due to pressure from officials in the justice system, the lawyers have now dropped her case.
A Letter to Canadian Prime Minister from the Detained Canadian Citizen Qian Sun’s Attorneys
The Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
We, certified attorneys from the People’s Republic of China, act as defender and agent ad litem for your fellow Canadian citizen Qian Sun, who is alleged by Beijing judicial organs to have involved in “using heretical religious organizations to disrupt the implementation of law.” First of all, we would like to thank you and your administration very much for all efforts you have made in protecting Ms Sun’s human rights!
It has been more than nine months since February 20, 2017, when Ms Sun was detained for allegedly “using heretical religious organizations to disrupt the implementation of law” by Public Security Division of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau. We are convinced, after consulting files, all parties and processing officers, that Ms Sun is innocent; and that she is suffering from illegal treatment and political persecution, and that her situation is very dangerous and urgent! In view of the fact that she is a citizen of your country, we deem it necessary to inform you of relevant circumstances of her case and our legal advice on lawful, objective and independent grounds.
Our conclusion that Ms Sun is innocent, and that she is being subjected to illegal treatment and political persecution, is completely based on China’s current law. Her present situation is definitely not an outcome of Beijing judicial authorities implementing China’s current law. It reveals a will of a handful of individuals in power who outmatch China’s Constitution and all other laws, out of wrong judgement or personal interests, rather than a will of law or state.
In fact, our defending attorneys and agents ad litem have been subjected to undue pressure and unlawful disruption in our normal intervention of this case. For instance, attorney Hanzhong Huang was given a warning by Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau; attorney Chengcai Gao was unlawfully interfered by Henan judicial and administrative organs; and attorney Dongmei Xiong faced varying degrees of pressure and interference. Since the first day of filing, Ms Sun’s case has not been treated as an ordinary criminal case; and Qian Sun herself was subjected to torture while in custody. Currently, we are striving to exclude all illegal elements to bring the case back to the track of rule of law in pursuit of a legitimate result.
We are informing you of the aforesaid, without intention to request you or your government to exert influence to change China’s current legal system and criminal policies for a result of an extrajudicial act. Instead we hope you and your government will fully understand and respect China’s current laws and regulations. Sun’s subjection to illicit treatment was not a result of China’s current legal system and criminal policy but that of breach. The determination of such an unlawful result is not based on universal human rights notions or international standards. We as Chinese practicing lawyers can come to the conclusion that Ms Sun is innocent even solely on grounds of the existing domestic laws, namely the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, and the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, needless to cite international legal norms, e.g. the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the CPP, the International Covenants on Human Rights, etc., to which, though, China is a signatory.
Paradoxically, Articles 35 and 36 in the Constitution provide that citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of speech, of the press and of religious belief, while Article 300 in the Criminal Law stipulates that “Whoever forms or uses superstitious sects or secret societies or heretical religious organizations or uses superstition to undermine the implementation of the laws and administrative rules and regulations of the State shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than seven years; if the circumstances are especially serious, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than seven years.” The latter is quite controversial in that it violates the constitutional provisions on freedom of religious belief. Even under the latter, it cannot form the basis for prosecuting Falun Gong practitioners, as there has been so far no basis to identify Falun Gong as a heretical religious organization in the Chinese legal system, without direct or indirect identification standards (which can be logically reasoned).
Admittedly, more than a dozen of years have witnessed a large number of Falun Gong practitioners convicted and sentenced to imprisonment of varying lengths through Article 300 of Criminal Law by Chinese judiciary authorities. However, there are historical and political reasons. In 1999, the then General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin abused his power to launch a campaign of total suppression and persecution of the Falun Gong community to consolidate and extend his power. Illegal organizations 610 Offices, so called Anti-Heretical Religious Organizations Offices, were created in all levels of Chinese governments from top to bottom. Jiang’s followers and a large number of public officials within China’s system threw themselves into the political movement out of fear for Jiang’s power, and in view of political risks or personal gains. They disregarded constitution, laws and regulations, and slandered and arrested millions of Falun Gong practitioners through state apparatuses, including public security bureaus, procuratorates, courts, and media. Those in power used whatever means they could find to crack down upon Falun Gong believers. Hence a lasting and unprecedented contest between the persecutor and the persecuted across China.
Understandably, follow-up actions or struggles were a forced response to suppression and persecution. Falun Gong practitioners suffered ruthless persecution rare seen in the history of the human race, solely for their belief in Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. Broken families and homeless sufferers sprung up. Even inflicted upon with such unfair treatment and offenses, they still respond with rationality, patience and restraint. They still believe in the power of benevolence, peacefully taking legal action and demonstrating that Falun Gong is never a heretical religious organization as labeled to be, and that its believers are actually slandered good people. It is unbelievably true that there has been no reports of violent or unlawful revenge from Falun Gong practitioners, who, though, have experienced repeated suffering themselves, or heard of true stories of their relatives or fellow practitioners who were tortured to death, disability, or whose organs were harvested against their will. What a saintly spirit they have! And what mercy they have shown! If such a community must be found guilty, they could only be accused of their speech, thought or expression, or their act of defending their fundamental rights: belief, dignity, and life.”
Obviously, they are no offenders but victims.
At the same time, over the past eighteen years, unjustly false cases have appeared in large numbers due to China’s judges’ misunderstanding and misapplication of Article 300 of the Criminal Law and misuse of criminal penalties against Falun Gong practitioners, out of fear for those in power. As we all know, the construction of Mainland China’s rule of law did not begin until its reform and opening up in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Judging from the perspective of mankind historical development, such construction has just started in a modern sense. Across China the concept of rule of law is still disappointingly weak whereas the mindset of autocracy is deeply rooted. Authorities resort to whatever means to consolidate their ruling. Power faces little restraint. And the contest between legitimate and illegitimate wills has existed all along within China. For the above historical and personal reasons, mass conviction of Falun Gong practitioners has not only affected the fate of millions of Falun Gong followers and their families, but also for a long time directly eroded and destroyed the legitimacy foundation of China’s entire judicial system, and nipped any chances of constructive reform. Such man-made tragedies of justice have rendered authorities and numerous judicial personnel accountable for those illegal acts, bringing them a heavy historical burden. It is precisely for such reasons that both active and passive law-breakers are afraid that, if the will of law is truly implemented, their own power, status, interests in reality must be inevitably affected or liquidated. Thus they try to prevent such a correction from happening; hence an increasing number of cases of injustice against Falun Gong practitioners.
Here we would like to mention the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate on Several Issues concerning the Application of Law in the Handling of Criminal Cases involving Sabotaging the Enforcement of Laws by Organizing and Utilizing Heretical Organizations, issued in February 2017, for dealing with such type of cases—a completely new interpretation after those two previous ones of this respect were issued in 1999 and 2001. The former has abolished the effectiveness of the latter and greatly raised the threshold for arresting and punishing so-called crimes of cult organizations. At least it has set three or four conditions for that purpose, which, if combined together, will easily lead us to a conclusion that the new interpretation represents not only the personal inclinations of Qiang Zhou, President of the Supreme People’s Court, and Jianming Cao, head of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (both with professional legal backgrounds), but also, definitely, the will of the highest authority of the CPC (and the Think Tank thereof). This, obviously, is a signal of breaking away from those historical debts on this issue. This document, if boiled down, can be summarized as: STOP PERSECUTION! Although the authorities intend to cut off those historical burdens, perhaps they know very well that it is extremely hard to get all things right again because thousands and thousands of Chinese officials, police officers and judges in the system have been burdened with historical debts, who created hundreds of thousands of prisoners of conscience in their own hands in more than a decade. However, in today’s China, we equally know that China’s disasters will never come to an end if injustice against Falun Gong is not corrected! Fundamentally, persecuting such an innocent community is wiping out goodness, and fighting against humanity. Such a humanitarian crisis is so extensive and far-reaching that nobody can avoid making his or her choice between good and evil, justice and injustice! No one can be excluded! For those in power, the only solution is to stop persecution and come to reconciliation. Only by abandoning the philosophy of struggle and embracing love and goodwill can the Chinese society stop from heading toward the abyss of disorder and turmoil. The entire Chinese society needs to meet this challenge together and overcome weaknesses in human nature, thus creating a new, human-rights-first-based, law-ruled, and peacefully democratic China which can truly fulfill its humanitarian mission!
We note that your country has recently passed the Human Rights Accountability Act, and we highly appreciate Canada’s moral responsibility. We sincerely hope that you and your government will gain an in-depth understanding of current China’s laws and social conditions in China. And we will be pleased to see the Canadian government taking proactive actions to protect its citizens’ legitimate rights and interests, and see Ms Sun released acquitted as soon as possible.
China has been undergoing unprecedented changes since its reform and opening up. Although it is very hard for China to turn into a modernized and law-abiding society, generations of the Chinese people have never ceased their efforts toward this goal. This transformation must be linked to the common dignity of all mankind since any social change has its origin in universal humanistic pursuit. So, regard for rule of law, justice and humanitarianism from your country and any other civilized nation in the world will exert certain historic effect on this process.
It is not only an act of performing your country’s commitment to rescue citizens and defending human rights and dignity, but also an act of safeguarding the authority of China’s laws including the Constitution and preventing those evil-doers from committing further serious acts of crime, if Canada takes necessary actions for the legitimate handling of Ms Sun’s case in China. Pursuant to Articles 399, 305 and 238 in the Criminal Law it is clear that the investigators and prosecutors involved in Ms Sun’s case have been suspected of constituting abuse of power, unlawfully prosecuting, perjury, infringing upon citizens’ freedom of belief and illegal detention. As her defender and agent ad litem, we have begun our comprehensive prosecution of those involved. Undoubtedly, your necessary actions will be a perfect response to the Chinese who have awakened to rights concerns, a strong support for those still sticking to conscience and rule of law within China’s existing system, and a heavy blow to a handful of offenders with vested interests, who will fall into further isolation and defeat for their acts against law, justice and humanity. Your actions will definitely feed China’s growth towards rule of law. Even further, they will be of greater significance as a firm defense of the common dignity of the human race, and a reaffirmation of universal values cemented in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!
Defender and agent ad litem: Yanyi Xie, Hanzhong Huang, Chengcai Gao, and Dongmei Xiong.
With copies to: The CPC Central Committee, the NPC Standing Committee, the State Council, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China
Article 35 Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.
Article 36 Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.
No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.
Article 33 The state respects and guarantees human rights.
Article 40 Article 40 Freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens of the People’s Republic of China are protected by law. No organization or individual may, on any ground, infringe upon citizens freedom and privacy of correspondence, except in cases where, to meet the needs of state security or of criminal investigation, public security or procuratorial organs are permitted to censor correspondence in accordance with procedures prescribed by law.
The Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China:
Article 300 Whoever forms or uses superstitious sects or secret societies or heretical religious organizations or uses superstition to undermine the implementation of the laws and administrative rules and regulations of the State shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than seven years; if the circumstances are especially serious, he shall be sentenced to fixed- term imprisonment of not less than seven years.
Whoever forms or uses superstitious sects or secret societies or heretical religious organizations or uses superstition to cheat another person, and causes death to the person shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of the preceding paragraph.
Whoever forms or uses superstitious sects or secret societies or heretical religious organizations or uses superstition to rape a woman or swindle money or property shall be convicted and punished in accordance with the provisions of Articles 236 and Article 266 of this Law respectively.