The decision of Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky District Court concerning the expulsion of a Chinese national Li Dan who is a member of the organization Falun Dafa, prohibited in People’s Republic of China, has been reviewed by the Moscow City Court. After Philip Shishov, a lawyer working with the network «Migration and law» of the human rights society «Memorial», filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights upon the Civic Assistance Committee’s request to defend Li Dan, the ECHR restricted the expulsion of Li Dan to China as he risked facing abuse there. Moscow City Court ruled to postpone execution of the decision of the lower court until the ECHR pronounces its decision.
Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a spiritual practice combined with qigong, a special set of exercises. According to experts, in particular, Leeshai Lemish, who had been sentenced to a prison term for being a member of the organization and later spent several years interviewing activists of Falun Dafa, the Chinese government proclaimed this spiritual practice illegal as it feared growth of the number of adherers of the practice. Lemish believes that the prosecution of Falun Gong followers began after statistical data was published, stating that the number of Falun Dafa adherers had surpassed the number of the members of the Communist Party of China.
Li Dan has resided in Russia since 2000. His wife is a Russian national. Together they take care of their 17-year-old daughter and support their 20-year-old son, as well as his spouse’s daughter from her first marriage. Prior to 2016, Li and his family lived in Irkutsk, where they had set up a small tourism business. The Chinese national came to Moscow to solve the problem of retrieving his documents, as the Chinese consulate in Irkutsk failed to help him. Li Dan’s son is studying at university in Moscow since 2015.
Photo: Li Dan’s son and wife (left)
Prosecuted for spiritual development
Li Dan, an adherer of the Center of spiritual and physical development Falun Dafa, was detained in Moscow, in his son’s apartment, while visiting his son several weeks ago. The people who entered the apartment introduced themselves as the FSB agents, but provided no documents. However, they did require Li to show his documents. When he tried explaining that he had lost his passport and was just trying to retrieve it to apply for asylum in Russia, those people asked him to follow them to a police station. A court trial took place the following day. What is more, Li’s wife and son were not informed of the time of the trial, so they could not assist.
Instead, an «interpreter» was present in the courtroom: a 22-year-old Chinese girl who was studying in Russia. Not being a certified interpreter, she had been invited to the hearing in the Dorogomilovsky District Court by an Andrey and brought there by one of the alleged FSB agents who had detained Li Dan.
Li could not understand the interpretation provided by the girl, no lawyer had been provided. Certainly, he experienced horror upon hearing the sentence: expulsion from Russia.
In the recent years journalists and human rights activists have been drawing attention to the fact that inner organ transplantation surgeries are rising sharply in number in China, while the number of donors has not grown significantly, as follows from medical reports.
According to Freedom House, organization that prepares reports concerning the situation with civil and political freedoms in different countries, from January 1, 2013 to June 1, 2016 933 Falun Gong adherers were sentenced to prison terms exceeding 12 years.
This is why human rights defenders in Russia and Europe believe that if expulsed to China, Li Dan may be in a plight. Besides, he has already been under special surveillance in the People’s Republic of China for a long while. During his stay in Russia, Li Dan has been actively spreading information about illegal organ recovery that Chinese inmates, in particular, Falun Dafa followers, are suffering. In 2002 Li managed to avoid a tragedy by miracle: he came to China to visit his relatives, but got detained by Chinese security service and was brought first to some secret place, where he was tortured, and then to a prison. According to Li’s spouse, he was set free after 2,5 months of detention, apparently, due to the fact that during all that time she was conducting negotiations with the Russian embassy, human rights defenders and media.
Have you ordered interpretation services?
Subject to the decision of the Dorogomilovsky District Court, Li Dan was placed in the Center for Temporary Detention of Foreign Nationals. Attorney in Law Philip Shishov immediately sent a letter to the European Court of Human Rights asking to apply the Rule 39 to the Chinese national’s situation, namely prohibit his expulsion to China as he may face torture and abuse there. The lawyer also filed an appeal with Moscow City Court.
Judge Olga Pankova was hearing the case in Moscow City Court. Philip Shishov was representing Li Dan. The court invited the girl who served as interpreter in Dorogomilovsky District Court hearing as a witness.
“Were you told the address of the court or were you given a ride there?” the lawyer asked the “interpreter”.
“He drove me there,” the Chinese nodded in the direction of the man who claimed to be a FSB agent during Li’s detention.
“This person?” clarified the lawyer.
“Yes,” nodded the “interpreter”.
“Did he also drive you here this time?”
The detailed interrogation was interrupted by the judge. “You could as well ask her what she had for breakfast.” Then the judge went on to ask questions herself, but this interview did not last.
“Did the person you interpreted for understand you?” asked Pankova.
“I don’t know, he sort of did, or not” the girl replied.
“Was it a police officer who drove you to the court hearing?” the judge clarified.
“No, I am not a police officer,” replied the interpreter, not having understood the question.
When answering the questions, the Chinese student was constantly turning her head and looking at the person who claimed to be a FSB agent and who drove her to the court hearing. When leaving the court building, this person was accompanying her and blocking her with his massive body from Li Dan’s friends who were trying to take photos. The “interpreter” was delivered to the hearing upon the request of the court. Case file does not contain any information on her, therefore, the FSB agent simply makes her follow him in the court hearings, despite the fact that her Russian is not advanced enough. Besides, according to Li Dan’s wife who arrived in the court in advance, the man accompanying the student arrived before the hearing started as well and managed to have a talk with the secretary.
Photo: the “interpreter” and the FSB agent.
A prosecutor was not present at the hearing, neither was there a court hearing transcript. Attorney Shishov’s corresponding requests were declined by the judge in the very beginning of the hearing.
According to the lawyer, a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights were violated in Li Dan’s case: right to liberty and security of person, prohibition of torture, right to respect for family life, right to a fair trial. For instance, the court refused to conduct a hearing transcript, to appoint a prosecutor, in fact taking up the function of the prosecutor. The Moscow City Court decision did not reflect certain important statements of witnesses. Li Dan was not provided with a qualified interpreter and translator in the lower court hearing, even though he clarified that he speaks some Russian but has difficulties with written Russian.
As soon as the decision of the Moscow City Court was pronounced, Li Dan was placed in the Center for Temporary Detention of Foreign Nationals again. Attorney Philip Shishov is currently preparing an application to file with the European Court of Human Rights.
Daria Manina, Civic Assistance Committee
Translated by Daria Gorbacheva, Civic Assistance Committee