At 9 a.m. on July 16, 2021, the Dawu trial resumed for the second day.
In the morning, the defendants mainly expressed their opinions on the decision of the pre-trial meetings. The prosecutors mainly responded to the defendants and defense lawyers’ request to exclude illegal evidence, to which the defense lawyers provided supplementary opinions. In the afternoon, the collegial bench nonetheless rejected all applications to exclude evidence on the grounds of “lack of needs” and “no illegal evidence collection”, and then proceeded with a court investigation on the crime of “gathering a crowd to assault state organs.”
1. Life was worse than death under “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” (RSDL); court’s rejection of “the exclusion of illegal evidence”
In the Dawu case, seven defendants were placed under RSDL. During RSDL, they were subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. The other defendants also provided relevant clues and requested the court to exclude illegal evidence.
1). Sun Dawu (孙大午): “Under RSDL, I suffered terribly, life was worse than death!”
During the trial, Sun Dawu stated: “During RSDL, I once requested to be transferred to the detention center because my treatment produced misery beyond words and life was worse than death. I went on a hunger strike for three days. I asked to read Chairman Xi’s “Thirty Lectures on Socialist Thinking” because the Dawu Group sought to abide by the socialist road of common prosperity. But when interrogators finally requested guidance from their leadership, they decided not to allow me to read it. It was not until the first month of the Lunar Year when they resumed work that they gave me an hour of yard time. I saw the sun for the first time in three and a half months.”
2). Sun Sanwu (孙三午): “Under RSDL, I lost 12 kilograms [about 26 pounds] and could not relieve my bowels for 5 days. I begged them to send me to the detention center!”
Sun Sanwu (孙志华) stated: “All the interrogation transcripts were agreed upon with me in the RSDL room. First, they made me confess, and then they put a hood over my head and took me to the law enforcement investigation center to synchronize my speech. The treatment we received under RSDL was inhuman. Dying was better than living. I lost 12 kilos in 160 days, and I did not relieve my bowels for 5 days. Later, I suffered a hernia, which became more and more severe, but as of yet I have not been allowed to undergo surgery. There is no hope under RSDL. I signed whatever they asked me to sign. I only begged them to send me to the detention center as soon as possible.”
3). Sun Meng (孙萌): “They recommended other companies to me to take over Dawu Group!”
Sun Dawu’s eldest son and chairman of Dawu Group, Sun Meng, said: “After I was placed under RSDL, an official came and said that Dawu Group needed someone to operate it and recommended several companies to me to take over the group. I said that those companies were not even in the same industry, how could they take over Dawu? From the perspective of the long-term development of the company, my father should be granted bail. As a result, the official was very angry and slammed the door as he left. Later they promised me that I would be released in ten days or half a month. Therefore, many things were scripted in the RSDL room where I was made to memorize their lines and then record the interrogation transcripts with them. Now their suggested sentencing is 16 years in prison. I was deceived and wronged. The current accusations against me are all based on my own faked transcripts, and this evidence must be excluded.”
4). Sun Fushuo (孙福硕): “I was handcuffed to the interrogation chair for 30 hours. They said that if I refused to cooperate, they would place me under RSDL!”
Sun Dawu’s (孙大午) second son, Sun Fushuo, said: “I don’t know what forced confession made under duress means, but after I was arrested, they handcuffed me to the interrogation chair for more than 30 hours, until my legs were swollen. They all knew what they were doing. The police interrogators made it clear: Don’t think we can’t make you submit; we can place you under RSDL. I knew that RSDL was terrible, and I was scared. The subsequent interrogation transcripts were made under such duress.”
By book, Residential Surveillance in Designated Locations is a relatively minor form of criminal detention measure, but the experience of the defendants in the Dawu case made clear that under RSDL “death is better than life”. Given that these places are without humane living conditions, that female relatives are held as de facto “hostages”, and that investigators used threats and deception for their aims, RSDL has in fact become “illegal detention”. The defendants’ confessions obtained under such circumstances is of course illegal evidence and should be excluded in accordance with the law.
In response to defendants and defending counsel’s insistence on the exclusion of illegal evidence, the prosecutor provided the defendants’ health check-up forms and documents verifying the legality of the interrogation transcripts to prove the legality of the investigation activities.
However, the physical examination form did not reflect that Sun Sanwu (孙三午) was suffering from a severe hernia at that time, and the defendants’ alleged illegal evidence collection was not strictly from corporal punishment. The physical examination form thus cannot rule out the possibility of illegal evidence collection. As for the transcripts verifying the legality of the interrogation, not only did the same prosecutor appear absurdly at two inspection sites at the same time, but the signatures of the same prosecutor in the two verification transcripts were also obviously different. The prosecutors interpreted this as a flaw in evidence.
Based on this, the collegial bench stated that the panel did not believe there was any suspicion of illegal evidence collection and did not initiate a court investigation procedure to exclude illegal evidence.
2. Bail is categorically denied; all requests by defendants and defense lawyers are dismissed
Among the 20 defendants in the Dawu case are the parents of a four-year-old child, Bai Xuesong (柏雪松) and Li Dahong (李大红). On November 11, 2020, the public security officers forced black hoods on the two and took them away in front of their four-year-old son. The child was then left to government workers who are complete strangers for more than 12 hours, until relatives discovered the situation. The child has since then not gone to school, refused to return home or speak up, and is still receiving psychotherapy.
Another defendant in the Dawu case is Ji Weilian (纪玮莲). A former assistant to Sun Dawu (孙大午), she was also placed under RSDL. Ji suffers from severe depression. After being taken into custody, she has been vomiting dozens of times a day. She is extremely weak and on the verge of mental breakdown.
The prosecutors’ recommendations for sentencing Bai Xuesong (柏雪松), Li Dahong (李大红), and Ji Weilian are all less than three years, which fully meets the conditions for bail pending trial. In the pre-trial meetings, the prosecutors also promised to process the bail requests as their first priority. However, none of the defendants in the Dawu case has been released on bail so far.
During the trial, several defendants questioned the failure of the judicial authorities to uphold their promises, at the same time filing another application for bail pending trial. Li Dahong (李大红) said: “It’s not that I have a bad attitude, I am a mother.” Ji Weilian pointed out: “I don’t understand it: the RSDL room as well as the detention center all have 360-degree rotating cameras. They can clearly observe my physical and mental condition. Why can’t I be granted bail?”
The defendants in the Dawu case clearly met the conditions for bail pending trial, why have they not been granted bail?
Perhaps this is an unanswerable, yet self-evident, question.
In response to this, a number of the defending counsel, based on the most basic duties of legal professionals and the most basic kindness of a human heart, urged the collegial bench to process the application for bail pending trial in this case in accordance with the law. Lawyer Tong Zongjin (仝宗锦) said: “I am also the father of a four-year-old child. My heart hurts when I hear about the situation of Bai Xuesong and Li Dahong.” Lawyer Zhou Haiyang (周海洋) pointed out: “Although my client had previously also been persuaded to dismiss his counsel, and my opinion may irritate my client because I’m not the defending counsel of Bai Xuesong and Li Dahong, for my conscience as a lawyer, even if it means I may be dismissed in the afternoon, I have to raise the point that Li Dahong and Bai Xuesong’s request for bail is the minimum requirement for humane treatment.”
At the hearing in the afternoon, the collegial bench rejected all the applications of the defendants and defending counsel on the grounds that “there is no doubt about the legitimacy of the evidence and [what’s requested] is deemed unnecessary upon further deliberation.” The bench made clear its refusal to notify witnesses, police investigators, and appraisers to appear in court; to inspect designated residential surveillance sites; and at the same time made clear that the defending counsel’s viewpoints would no longer be heard.
3. While the court handles the case with a presumption of guilt, the facts of the case are gradually becoming clear
The court began its investigation first on “the crime of assembling a crowd to attack state organs.”
The prosecutors allege: On August 4, 2020, Sun Dawu (孙大午) organized employees of Dawu Group and villagers of Langwuzhuang (郎五庄) to block the seat of Xushui District Communist Party Committee, Xushui District government seat, and the Xushui District Public Security Bureau. A total of more than 200 people displayed banners, shouted slogans, and blocked the entrance and exit passages of the gates, causing serious chaos in the Xushui District Public Security Bureau and serious losses.
The prosecutors asked Sun Dawu: “Are the transcripts of your interrogation true?” There are a total of 99 interrogation transcripts in Sun Dawu’s (孙大午) case file. Except for one transcript, the other 98 transcripts were all formed during the period of RSDL. Sun Dawu and his defense lawyers have repeatedly applied for the exclusion of this illegal evidence. Although the court has not initiated the investigation procedure for evidence exclusion, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the legality of these interrogation transcripts is confirmed. The prosecutors’ vague and non-specific questioning was intended to lead Sun Dawu to recognize his confessions of guilt, while at the same time to cut off the possibility of filing evidence exclusion applications again [by Sun and his lawyers]. The defending counsel and Sun Dawu himself opposed such manner of questioning by prosecutors that is neither objective nor impartial, that was conducted under the presumption of guilt.
The prosecutors then said: “Because Sun Dawu refuses to answer, the prosecution will not carry out further questioning.”
Sun Dawu said helplessly: “You have to tell me which of my confessions you are asking about. If you ask me so abstractly, I don’t know how to answer. I am not refusing to answer, you cannot bully me like that!”
Later, when answering the defenders’ questions, Sun Dawu pointed out the falsehood of his interrogation transcripts: “I told the investigators that the transcripts were wrong. I had never said that if you get two hundred people together, it will be enough. This is not what I said; the police said that. But the investigator said that they couldn’t make corrections. They told me, ‘if we fail to establish your crimes, how are we going to have a case? Do you expect us to set you free innocent of any crime, and arrest ourselves?’”
Through the questioning procedures of the defendants involved in the case, the so-called criminal facts of “the crime of assaulting state organs” gradually became clear:
Langwuzhuang Village and the Xushui District State Farm (徐水区国营农场) had a long-standing dispute over land in the Sijiatai plot. After Langwuzhuang leased the land to Dawu Group, the Dawu Group built mobile houses and enclosures for management needs. In the early morning of August 4, 2020, under the protection of special police sent by the Public Security Bureau of Xushui District, the state farm covertly demolished the houses and enclosures of Dawu Group. After the Dawu Group staff found out, they asked the farm to give an explanation. The Public Security Bureau personnel believed that the Dawu Group’s interception of farm vehicles was illegal. They sprayed pepper spray, tear gas, and forcibly shoved the Group’s staff, resulting in injuries to several staff members who were rushed to Dawu Hospital for emergency treatment.
The actions of Xushui District Public Security Bureau caused great indignation in the Dawu Group. The employees of the group voluntarily went to the Xushui District Government and the Xushui District Public Security Bureau to report the situation and express their request for the police who had injured staff members to be held accountable. Group employees shouted at the gates of the district government and the public security bureau, lasting no longer than half an hour. Yet the district public security bureau dispatched personnel to arrest the shouting employees. The employees never entered the Public Security Bureau or the government buildings. The so-called “scene of chaos” began only when the Dawu employees found out that the representative appearing before them on behalf of the Public Security Bureau was not the bureau chief, and worried that their demands would not be considered fairly, they began to “shout loudly” again.
Throughout the whole process, the Dawu Group’s behavior was based on the damage to its own rights and unfair treatment. It was a behavior that expressed grievances and hoped to attract the attention of the government leaders. Moreover, the cause of the incident was that the state-run farm destroyed structures belonging to the Dawu Group worth 18,000 yuan, and may have been guilty of premeditated purposeful destruction of property. The Public Security Bureau of Xushui District did not prosecute the crimes that occurred right in front of them, and instead protected the perpetrators. The unfairness towards Dawu employees and the diametrically opposite attitudes towards equal civil subjects is the fundamental cause of the Dawu employees’ rights defense incident.
In the afternoon, the court hearing started at 13:30 and ended at 20:00. Procedural questioning of the defendants for the crime of assembling a crowd to attack state organs had basically ended. The court questioning procedure also revealed that the defendants’ statements in court were completely contradictory to the witness testimonies. In this regard, the defendants expressed their willingness to confront the witnesses in court to restore the facts of the case.
At 19:00, several defense lawyers proposed to adjourn the court to protect the right to rest of both the defendants and defending counsel. The presiding judge responded to this request: “Your objection is invalid, I have the final say.” Although tomorrow is not a working day [Sunday], the trial will continue at 9 am.
Dawu Legal Team
July 16, 2021