(Minghui.org) Two natives of Hebei Province were sentenced to prison in Shanghai for spray painting a message reading “Falun Dafa is Good.”

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a spiritual discipline based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. It has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since July 1999.

Mr. Song Xingwei from Cangzhou City and Mr. Bo Changcheng from Qinhuangdao City were arrested in Shanghai in June 2016. They have since remained at Baoshan District Detention Center.

They were tried on March 21, 2017 and each sentenced to 4 years in prison two months later.

Support from Hometown Touched a Nerve

News of the arrests of Mr. Song and Mr. Bo soon made it to their hometown in Hebei Province. Close to 2,000 people signed petitions seeking their release. The supporters also mailed their petitions to Baoshan District Procuratorate and Baoshan District Police Department in Shanghai.

The Shanghai 610 Office – an extra-legal agency tasked with eradicating Falun Gong and given power to override the judicial system – contacted their counterpart in Hebei Province and asked the latter to use all means possible to prevent their local Falun Gong practitioners from traveling to Shanghai to attend the trial of Mr. Song and Mr. Bo.

Mr. Song’s lawyer dropped the case under pressure from the 610 Office. The families of Mr. Song and Mr. Bo soon found three new lawyers.

Supporters Arrested for Trying to Attend Trial

The initial hearing was held on March 21, 2017 inside Baoshan District Detention Center. Many uniformed and plainclothes officers were stationed outside.

Fifteen Falun Gong practitioners were arrested that morning. One of the practitioners, Mr. Feng Xingji, was seized near a bus stop outside the detention center and had his home ransacked hours later. He was taken to the Jing'an District Detention Center that night. It is unclear whether he has been released at the time of writing.

One Lawyer Temporarily Tossed Out for Defending Clients

Mr. Song and Mr. Bo were charged with “using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese communist regime in its attempt to frame and imprison Falun Gong practitioners.

One of the defense lawyers, Mr. Dong, first requested that the judge and the prosecutor be recused, because he deemed them, both atheist Chinese Communist Party Members, unfit to try his clients who are believers of Falun Gong.

The judge ignored Mr. Dong and kept interrupting the lawyer as he refuted the charges against his clients. Mr. Dong argued that no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong and that the persecution has been illegal from the onset. As all legal channels to appeal for Falun Gong have been blocked, his clients, as well as numerous other Falun Gong practitioners, had to use creative ways to raise awareness of the persecution.

Mr. Dong further argued that their clients’ message caused no harm to society, let alone undermine law enforcement.

The prosecutor began to defame Mr. Dong at this point, but the judge refused to intervene when requested by Mr. Dong. He further ordered his bailiffs to remove Mr. Dong.

In order to stop the unfair trial from proceeding, Mr. Song requested to terminate his legal representation. The judge relented and allowed Mr. Dong to return to court to defend his clients.

Both Defendants Testify Against Police

Mr. Song testified that he and Mr. Bo were brutally beaten by the arresting officers. Mr. Bo corroborated the account and testified that several of his ribs were broken by police.

Mr. Song further testified how the interrogating officers deceived him into giving self-incriminating evidence. They promised to release him in three days if he cooperated with their demands. Mr. Song believed what they said and signed his name on the interrogation records, only to realize in court that his signature was used against him.

Mr. Song On Hunger Strike, Wheeled Into Sentencing Hearing

Mr. Song, 40, has been on a hunger strike since his initial court appearance. The guards began to force feed and beat him on the fifth day.

His health quickly declined, and he was taken to Shanghai Prison Hospital, where he was restrained to a bed and had a feeding tube inserted into his nostrils at all times. His weight dropped by more than 50 pounds in just a few weeks.

Mr. Song was wheeled into his sentencing hearing on May 21, 2017. Both he and Mr. Bo were given 4 years in prison.

Related Report:Cangzhou, Hebei Province: 1,920 Residents Sign Petition Calling for Release of Man Arrested for His Faith

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