A 23-year-old woman went on trial on Wednesday for protesting in front of a Hebei prison after she was rejected permission to visit her jailed father, a Falun Gong member.
Hebei citizen Bian Xiaohui was charged of “using a cult to undermine the enforcement of the law”. She has been detained since her arrest in March after holding a banner outside the Shijiazhuang Fourth Prison.
Photos her supporters uploaded to the internet show Bian unfurling a home-made yellow banner outside the prison with the words “I want to meet my father” inked in red characters. A petition Bian posted online said the prison had repeatedly rejected her requests to visit her father. The post has been shared over three thousand times on Weibo.
Bian’s father, Bian Lichao, was accused of disseminating video materials for the Falun Gong, a spiritual group outlawed by Chinese government shortly after it’s foundation in the 1990s. He was found guilty of “using a cult to undermine enforcement of the law” last year and was given a 12-year sentence.
Qiaodong District People’s Court has not released information about Wednesday’s trial and did not respond to telephone enquiries on Thursday.
But human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who is Bian’s leading attorney, told the South China Morning Post that he and three fellow lawyers retired from the court in protest during the trial.
Wang said the judge snubbed the defendant’s request to add two citizen juries to the trial without giving a legitimate reason, which he said “seriously breached” legal procedures, resulting in an “illegal tribunal.”
“If we had stayed in the court, then we would be cooperating with this illegal tribunal, which would make us an accomplice in this illegal trial,” Wang said in a phone interview.
He also argued that the charge against Bian was unreasonably harsh.
Normally a petitioner holding a banner in protest in China would be subject to a period of detention of up to 15 days, Wang said.
However, Bian’s charge of “using a cult to undermine the enforcement of the law” is normally subject to a sentence of at least three years under Chinese law. Serious offences can be met with a sentence of more than seven years.
Wang said he and his fellow lawyers were seeking a retrial, on the basis that the trial on Thursday was “illegal”.
The court has not announced when the trial was likely to resume.