(Clearwisdom.net) On July 24, 2008, Shizhong District Court judges in Jining City, Shandong Province, sentenced Falun Gong practitioners Mr. Zhou Ning and Ms. Yue Lihua without notifying their lawyers. Mr. Zhou was sentenced to five years in prison, and Ms. Yue to three. Prior to sentencing, Zhou Ning's lawyer called the judge several times to inquire about the progress in the case. But the court officials either didn't answer the phone or said the judge was out if they did.

Lawyer Li Subing has been threatened and his work interrupted since he began to defend his clients. Police from Beijing also threatened the lawyer, telling him that if he accepted an interview from international media, they would retaliate. The police kept his homes in Luoyang and Beijing under surveillance and phoned him whenever they felt like it to follow his every move.

The following is a petition Mr. Zhou Ning wrote from the detention center. His lawyer presented the petition to the court on August 4, 2008. It's unknown whether Ms. Yue appealed to the court. Someone said that her lawyer hesitated about an appeal.

To: Jining Intermediate Court

My Belief - Petition to the Jining Intermediate Court

My name is Zhou Ning and I am 39 years old. I graduated from the Shandong Art Institute in 1994 and was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. Prior to the start of the persecution of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999, I was a teacher and dean of Academic Affairs Office in the Shandong Special School.

Prior to the persecution, my wife and I set up a "True Word Art Studio." More and more international art institutes, celebrities and art lovers collected our work, which benefited from Falun Dafa. Falun Dafa gave me a brand new way of thinking, unlike before I began cultivation. Many artists and experts highly praised my work. One person working at the Shenzhen Art Gallery told me, "These are works from a person who practices cultivation; I can sense the tranquil and refined beauty from these works." Cultivation allows me to understand how to genuinely face everything, and my work represents this.

Colleagues and others also recognized my work. Because of my outstanding achievements, four years later I became the dean of the Academic Affairs Office. Between October 1995 when I began cultivation and July 20, 1999 , I was annually awarded the distinction of "Excellent Teacher, Excellent Head Teacher, and Advanced Worker." In 1998, the 40th anniversary of the Shandong Art Institute, I was invited by the school to present a speech as a representative of outstanding graduates. I deeply realized that all the honors I was awarded were the result of the practice of Falun Dafa. If I didn't practice, I wouldn't deal with my work, my students, and my life like I do.

Even as everything was going so smoothly, my fate and the fate of millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China changed on July 20, 1999. Overnight Falun Gong was banned. The leaders at my school talked with me. They threatened and attempted to bribe me to stop the practice and to give up my belief in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. I refused and told them that there was nothing wrong with Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and with my being a good person. I believed that the regime would realize that. The officials thought I was stubborn, and I had to leave my work. I have never returned to the school. No one listened to me, and most of my colleagues merely empathized with me in private.

I discussed things with my wife and decided we would go to Beijing to appeal. I wanted to tell regime officials from my own experiences that "Falun Dafa is good" and "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is good," that the regime shouldn't persecute Falun Gong. In October 1999, my wife, who was four months pregnant, and I went to the Office of Letters and Petitions of the State Council to express our views. That office had become a place to arrest people. If you practice Falun Gong, the officials will arrest you without due cause. Jinnan police who were waiting there arrested me. That was the first time I lost my freedom.

Under the persecution, I said some things against my will while I was detained and was released. Later on I greatly regretted what I had done. I again went out to tell people in different departments the facts about Falun Gong. I told them, "Falun Dafa is the righteous Fa and Falun Dafa is good. What I said before is null and void because it was against my will."

Not long after that I was detained for four days and lost my freedom a second time. In the meantime, my seven months pregnant wife was made to stay at home while someone remained at our home to monitor her. Our home was also ransacked for the first time.

After my release I decided to leave Jinan and went to Weifang with my parents. Even though I was treated unfairly, I still wanted to do something for society and for deaf-mute people. I set up the "True Word Art Studio" again, and my wife joined me in Weifang. With the help of my relatives and friends, I rented a place as a studio in the remote countryside and continued the special art education work for the deaf-mute. Our first child was born. My wife and I taught some deaf students, produced artistic work, and lived a peaceful life, but not for long. One year later, when the officials learned that I still adhered to my belief, agents from the Weifang 610 Office and people from my previous school came to Weifang to seize me. The work at the "True Word Art Studio" had just returned to normal and was once again destroyed. I was very sad and wondered why I could not even find a place to live my own life. I once again decided to leave home. Our son was then 11 months old.

I missed my family and also thought about how to help deaf students. Their longing for a future career made a deep impression on me and I couldn't give up teaching them. Several months later I quietly returned to the studio and taught my students at night and left home before dawn. I did this for more than two years. In this special environment, my ways of teaching became more and more proficient, and my woodcarvings became more and more mature.

American collector Mr. Williams visited my studio in the summer of 2003. Having seen some of my work and that of my students, he was quite surprised at our ability to produce such artistic work in such an environment. When he learned of my suffering, he thought it unbelievable. How could this happen to a young artist? When he saw that the unfair treatment did not make me depressed he said to me, "Zhou, you are a respected artist and your work is also respected." With his help, works produced by the "True Word Art Studio" were sent abroad. Since 2003, our work has been exhibited abroad many times. World renowned artists, art critics, and collectors and many media highly praised and reported on our work.

When we developed the "True Word Art Studio" during this difficult time, in April 2004, the police arrested my wife at the studio. She was released 29 days later, thanks to intervention from people with a sense of justice and those from the international community.

Her arrest greatly affected those working in the studio. Several students left, giving up their beloved artistic creations because of the persecution. My wife and I cried quietly. By 2005, only two students remained. We still didn't give up, and the studio kept going and much wonderful work came into being during our suffering. "True Words" woodcraft became more mature.

In October 2005, my second son, Zhou Tianci, was born. His birth brought us much happiness. To provide him with a good environment in which to grow up and for us to work normally, together with our two students we moved to the historic and culturally well-known City of Jining. Once again we were able to pursue our artistic work and live a peaceful life in a strange environment. We could also visit local natural scenes to gain creative inspiration. I thought I had finally found an ideal place to create art.

On September 12, 2007, our peaceful life was destroyed again. Jinning police arrested my wife and me and both of our students. The police beat me during the arrest. They struck me to the ground, stepped on my legs, twisted my arms behind my back, and made me bend over. Then they ruthlessly kicked my back so that I could barely stand. I was again detained. I spent that whole winter in detention with pain in my back and my right arm numb.

The day of my wife's release, she and our second son, accompanied by Shizhong District police, came to see me. Tianci was then almost two years old and had just learned to speak. Before I was arrested, he had always been with me. I spent time playing with him, even if I was very busy producing my art. That was fun for me every day.

Our young son is very active and clever. Though he could not yet distinctively call me "Baba," he was always happy to see me. But now we met in prison. When he entered, even though he was only two years old, he still realized that the room was unusual. He was strangely calm and said nothing, not at all as active as usual. I saw fear in his expression. He walked to the metal bars and stretched out his hands to hold me. Although he didn't speak, I knew what he wanted to say, "Father, hold me." I couldn't help bursting into tears, and my wife also cried. I squatted and, in handcuffs, held my son's hands tightly. We--father and son--looked at each other. My son was unable to speak, and I couldn't speak. He did not let go of my hands. It seemed that he said, "Father, why don't you hold Tianci?" I had no way to hold him. How much I wished to hold him. When I saw him trying to get in through the metal bars I was grief-stricken. What should have been a scene in a bad film was now happening to me.

Because I didn't denounce my belief in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance I was continuously persecuted and had to leave my wife and children. During nine years of persecution I had no home to go back to. We reunited only for several short hours and were separated again. I didn't know when I could see them again. The guard beside us couldn't bear to see this and walked out to wipe away his tears.

It is well known that prisons incarcerate bad people. Like many others, I was trained from childhood that laws should protect the kind and promote justice. But now I am imprisoned for five years because of my belief in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. From the first day of my detention I have demanded my rights as a citizen. I have refused to wear a prison uniform; to squat; to shout, "I am here;" to recite the prison rules; to participate in hard labor; to provide my fingerprints; to be photographed; or to sign any documents. Each time I upheld my legal rights, I paid an unimaginable price. Those are small things for many people, but for me, that has to do with my dignity as a human being. I keep telling people that I am innocent, and merely a good person who believes in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. I have never agreed to any accusations they have imposed on me. It is an insult and tramples human dignity for them to detain and sentence good people. No matter where I am, I will protect my dignity as a Dafa practitioner.

A police officer once asked me, "Why is it so difficult for you to tell a few lies? Why make yourself suffer like this?" It is not difficult for me to tell a lie. If I tell lies, I will be released. If not, I will suffer in prison. I do not believe that it will last long to treat the law as children's play and to ignore human dignity. I believe firmly that this dark era will be over and the dignity of law will reappear in China. When the truth is out, history will restore the reputation of our Master, Falun Dafa, and Dafa practitioners.

Appellant: Dafa practitioner Zhou Ning