(Minghui.org) Mr. Zhao Fugui from Benxi, Liaoning Province was sentenced to five years last December for practicing Falun Gong, a self-cultivation system being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party.

As the sole breadwinner of his family, Mr. Zhao's arrest and subsequent imprisonment sent his loved ones into shock. To save a few pennies, his 9-year-old son now bikes to school instead of taking the city bus. His wife struggles to take care of her aging parents-in-law and two young boys.

Local villagers expressed outrage after learning that Mr. Zhao was put behind bars simply for his belief. At the time of writing, more than 300 residents have pressed their fingerprints on a petition calling for his release.

Villagers petition for Mr. Zhao's release

Mr. Zhao's Arrest and Trial

Officers from Gaoguan Police Station arrested Mr. Zhao and his wife in Pianling Town on July 16, 2014.

Officers threatened Mr. Zhao's wife at the police station. Knowing that she didn't have a legal background, they tricked her into signing documents that she thought would allow her to testify in support of her husband. She didn't realize that her signature made her a witness for the prosecution, not the defense, at Mr. Zhao's trial.

Mr. Zhao was tried on December 10. His lawyer Wang Quanzhang asked the prosecutor to provide evidence proving that Mr. Zhao was involved in a “cult,” as he had been charged. The prosecutor simply said that Mr. Zhao's belongings from a search showed that he practiced Falun Gong. Attorney Wang then asked the prosecutor to cite any law that named Falun Gong a cult. The prosecutor couldn't, and the judge ordered a recess.

Before the judge resumed the trial, he ordered that Wang undergo a security check, a highly irregular procedure meant to intimidate him. The lawyer at first firmly refused but later agreed to avoid potentially leaving Mr. Zhao without counsel.

Wang refuted more of the prosecutor's charges against Mr. Zhao and demanded to see relevant evidence and laws. The prosecutor was unable to comply. Wang said, “There is no law that says Falun Gong is a cult. In fact, practicing Falun Gong is a constitutional right.”

On the day of the trial, court officers searched Mr. Zhao's family members and did not let them carry cell phones, computers, or bags into the courtroom. The officers themselves were free to make calls, however. They also used their cell phones to take videos of the family members. When they were challenged about taking videos, the agents replied, “So what if we're doing that? Call the police if you want.”