SAN FRANCISCO (FDI) -- After more than 50 days of isolated detention, American citizen Dr. Charles Li was hurried through a show trial by China’s "high court". The Intermediate People's Court in Yangzhou announced its anticipated "guilty" verdict late yesterday, March 21.
Early reports indicate that Dr. Li has been sentenced to three years in prison.
"This show trial of an American makes a mockery of the so-called ‘rule of law’ in China," says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman Erping Zhang. "In fact, it is, in essence, a trial for the Communist legal system in China, which can prosecute any innocent citizen including an American doctor for its political interests."
"We demand that Dr. Charles Li be released immediately," Mr. Zhang says.
Chinese Authorities Alter Charges as International Pressure Mounts
Chinese authorities initially accused Dr. Li of "sabotaging TV and/or radio equipment," and threatened to sentence him to as many as 15 years in prison. In recent weeks, however, while Dr. Li’s case gained public awareness and support worldwide, the charge was diminished to "preparing" to sabotage.
The Chinese authorities cite a walkman-like VCD player Li carried in his luggage as "evidence" that he might have been able to interfere with a TV broadcast.
Dr. Li, who specializes in importing Chinese herbs, has no engineering background.
Throughout his detention and trial, Dr. Li has maintained that the Chinese government is targeting him simply because he practices Falun Gong.
"We have always been clear that Dr. Li has done nothing wrong," says Adam Leining a close friend of Dr. Li’s. "The fact that Charles traveled to China with consumer electronics doesn’t justify arresting him in the first place, let alone sentencing him to three years in prison."
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
According to a U.S. consular official last week, Dr. Li intended to defend himself in court on Friday.
Ms. Yeong-Ching Foo, Dr. Li’s fiancée, was able to correspond with him via the U.S. consulate in Shanghai. "Charles refused to hire an attorney," says Ms. Foo. "Doing so would only be going along with an unfair trial."
Friends and fellow Falun Gong practitioners say the entire judicial system is turned upside down and used as a tool for persecuting Falun Gong. "The [Chinese] regime starts by wanting to target Falun Gong for persecution," says Mr. Leining. "They then trump-up charges against Falun Gong practitioners and then work backward to gather or fabricate "evidence" to support the charges. The entire process is completely turned on its head. It all stems from the state-sponsored persecution that the former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin, has unleashed."
Mr. Leining concludes, "This trial is just one of the tools of the persecution."
A History of Shady Judicial Procedures
In its 1999 Country Report on East Asia, the U.S. State Department stated that in certain sensitive or political cases, the Chinese legal system "denies criminal defendants basic legal safeguards and due process because authorities attach higher priority to maintaining public order and suppressing political opposition than to enforcing legal norms."
Moreover, in Chinese courts, "the conviction rate is over 98%, and very few cases are reviewed on appeal, for fear of longer sentences and/or new charges," says U.S. human rights attorney Terri Marsh. In such a legal system, practitioners of Falun Gong -- one of Beijing’s main targets -- have no chance to a fair trial, she says.