(Minghui.org) Four residents of Xi’an City were arrested on July 4, 2015, for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.

The two men and two women were sentenced to prison on November 16, 2016, with Ms. Han Qiuli given 7 years, Mr. Liu Weidong 4 years, Ms. Wang Xiuxia 3 years, and Mr. Su Shaohua 2 years and 2 months.

Yanta District Court based the convictions on the statutory interpretation of Article 300 of the Criminal Law issued by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate in November 1999, four months after the persecution of Falun Gong began. The interpretation required that anyone practicing or promoting Falun Gong be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, declaring the practice an “evil cult.”

As no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong or labels it a cult, the four Falun Gong practitioners filed appeals against their wrongful sentences. Xi’an Intermediate Court held an appeals hearing on July 14, 2017.

The prosecutor presented the same set of evidence and cited the same 1999 interpretation. The defense lawyers argued that the 1999 interpretation has been replaced by a new one that took effect on February 1, 2017.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 have solid legal basis.

The lawyers emphasized that neither interpretation constituted law, based on which a conviction could be drawn.

The four practitioners, who were handcuffed and shackled during the entire court session, testified in their own defense. They argued that they broke no law by exercising their constitutional right to freedom of belief.

Mr. Su’s wife also spoke about how Falun Gong turned her husband into a better man. Judge Luo Chengxing acknowledged that he heard her.

Ms. Han, Mr. Liu, and Mr. Su all had their lawyers enter a not-guilty plea for them and demand the judge overturn their original verdicts. The lawyer for Ms. Wang, 72, entered a guilty plea for her and requested leniency.

The judge adjourned the session without issuing a decision.

Related Report:Seven Falun Gong Practitioners Arrested in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province