(Minghui.org) Three Tianjin woman, including the mother of a U.S. citizen, were sentenced to prison for hanging banners with messages promoting Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.

Ms. Zhao Shuxia, Ms. Xing Wei, and Ms. Wang Sirong, whose daughter is a U.S. citizen, were arrested on February 8, 2016, Chinese New Year’s Day, after they were caught hanging banners reading, “Happy Chinese New Year from Falun Dafa Practitioners in Tianjin! Please remember Falun Dafa is good and Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is good.”

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a mind-body practice that is based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. All three women have personally benefited from practicing Falun Gong, and they felt compelled to tell the public that Falun Gong is nothing like what is depicted by the state propaganda.

The three practitioners first appeared in court on February 7, 2017. Prosecutors Dai and Fu Pengfei charged them with violating Article 300 of the Criminal Law, which stipulates that those using a cult organization to undermine enforcement of the law should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.

The defense lawyers argued that the People’s Congress (China’s legislative body) has never enacted a law deeming Falun Gong a “cult.” Pengfei then cited a statutory interpretation of Article 300 issued by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate in November 1999, which required that anyone practicing or promoting Falun Gong be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.

The lawyers countered that a new statutory interpretation designed to replace the 1999 version had taken effect on February 1, 2017. The new interpretation made no mention of Falun Gong and emphasized that any indictment against anyone engaging in a cult must be based on solid legal grounds.

The lawyers concluded, that since no law in China labels Falun Gong a cult, the indictment against their clients lacked legal basis.

Judge Dai Shuyan adjourned the session without responding to the lawyers’ arguments.

Ms. Zhao’s lawyer filed a complaint against Dai and Pengfei for prosecuting his client without any legal basis. He also talked to them on multiple occasions, requesting his client’s acquittal. During a meeting on April 14, Pengfei told the lawyer that they must carry on with the case as directed by higher-ups and that they planned to count items confiscated from the practitioners’ homes as additional prosecution evidence.

Ms. Xing’s lawyer submitted a legal opinion requesting to have the case dropped. The Nankai District Court never responded to him or released Ms. Xing on bail as requested.

When the hearing resumed on August 30, Ms. Zhao’s lawyer asked Dai and Pengfei if they had received his request for them to recuse themselves from the case. Dai said no. The lawyer then presented a receipt from the post office showing his request had indeed been received by the court.

Dai walked out of the courtroom but returned a few minutes later. Ms. Zhao’s lawyer reminded her that only the court president had the authority to respond to recusal requests. Dai ignored him and signaled for the hearing to continue.

Ms. Zhao’s lawyer again argued that the charges against his client lacked legal basis and that the banners caused no harm to anyone, much less undermined law enforcement.

Ms. Xing testified in her own defense.

Judge Dai sentenced all three practitioners months later. Ms. Zhao and Ms. Wang were each given 2.5 years and Ms. Xing 2 years. Ms. Zhao has filed an appeal.

Related Reports:

Tianjin Woman Detained for Her Faith Files Complaints against Prosecutor and Judge

Prosecutor Tries to Collect More Evidence Against Tianjin Practitioners

Chinese Citizens Sign Petition Calling for the Release of Zhao Shuxia

Ms. Zhao Shuxia on Hunger Strike for Over 130 Days

Rally at Chinese Embassy in Washington DC Calls For Release of Falun Gong Practitioners Detained in Tianjin

U.S. Citizen’s Mother Arrested in China for Hanging Falun Gong Banners on Chinese New Year