(Minghui.org) Three women in Xianghe County, Hebei Province, were tried for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that is being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.

Ms. Yu Zhaoxia and Ms. Wang Jianhua, whose husbands are brothers, were visiting Ms. Jing Lianzhen on February 14, 2017, when police broke in and arrested all three women.

Ms. Wang was released the following day, only to be taken back into custody on March 17.

The three women appeared in court on December 15. Ms. Jing and her lawyer were threatened before the trial, and the lawyer ended up pleading guilty on her behalf.

Ms. Yu and her lawyer were determined to show that she broke no laws by exercising her constitutional right to freedom of belief. Her lawyer said at the end of his defense argument, “Yu Zhaoxia is so kind. Whoever convicts her would be committing a crime and morally condemned!”

The three Falun Gong practitioners remain at Sanhe City Detention Center following their hearing.

Practitioners and Lawyer Threatened Before Trial

Ms. Jing’s lawyer visited her at the detention center the day before the trial. She affirmed her determination to plead not guilty, as no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong.

A judge from Xianghe County Court arrived moments after the lawyer left. He threatened Ms. Jing, “We have all the evidence to sentence you to at least seven years in prison. If you admit guilt, though, we may consider a lighter sentence.”

Ms. Jing and her lawyer were further threatened on the day of the trial. Ms. Jing and the other two practitioners were brought to the courthouse together but were separated into three rooms as soon as they arrived. The local police and court officials threatened to give them heavier sentences if they refused to plead guilty.

The hearing was scheduled to start at 9 a.m., but it was delayed for more than one hour as presiding judge Zhou Xiaoming personally worked to pressure Ms. Jing’s lawyer to agree to enter a guilty plea for her.

Both Ms. Jing and her lawyer ended up agreeing to the guilty plea. Ms. Yu and her lawyer did not give in. It is unclear whether Ms. Wang, who had no legal representation, pleaded guilty or not.

Ms. Yu and Her Lawyer Stand Up for Her Constitutional Right

Ms. Yu testified in her own defense. She shared how she returned to health and became a better person by following Falun Gong’s principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. She also recounted how she almost lost her eyesight after serving one year of forced labor in the past for her faith. Fortunately, her eyesight improved after she resumed doing Falun Gong exercises following her release from the labor camp.

Ms. Yu’s lawyer refuted the charges against her. He pointed out that police arrested his client and her friends and ransacked their homes without showing ID or a search warrant.

The prosecutor alleged that Ms. Yu broke the law by using her cell phone to send out mass pre-recorded messages. Her lawyer countered that the messages were about a 2.7-billion-year-old stone discovered in Pingtang County, Guizhou Province that is engraved with Chinese characters that spelled out “Chinese Communist Party is Doomed.” The lawyer said the stone was a fact and caused no harm to anyone or society at large.

The lawyer also pointed out how his client was following Falun Gong’s principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance to conduct herself in court. He said Ms. Yu practiced “Truthfulness” by answering the judge’s questions truthfully, “Compassion” by still appearing in court despite her poor health condition (as a result of abuse she suffered in detention), and “Forbearance” by refusing to hold grudges against those who arrested and prosecuted her without any legal basis.

The lawyer demanded Ms. Yu’s acquittal. He also requested she be released on bail right after the hearing as she had severe pain all over her body.

Judge Zhou admitted, “I have no say over the case. The higher-ups will make the decision.”

15 Arrested for Trying to Attend Trial

The courthouse was heavily patrolled. Only several family members were allowed inside the courtroom, but they were ordered to sit in the back; the front seats were taken by police and agents from the local 610 Office, an extralegal agency tasked with eradicating Falun Gong and given the power to override the judicial system.

Many locals came to support the three women, but no one was allowed within 200 meters of the courthouse. Both uniformed and plainclothes officers were positioned around the courthouse to question supporters and passersby.

A grandmother who came to pick up her granddaughter at a nearby school was stopped. An officer asked what she was there for, and she wondered why there were police everywhere. The officer admitted, “I don’t know why we were told to come here. We just came when ordered to.”

A group of 14 local Falun Gong practitioners came in three cars. They decided to wait in the cars as the trial unfolded inside the courthouse. All of them were arrested. A 15th practitioner was also seized as he walked past a nearby bank.

Related Report:

Three Women Face Trial for Their Faith, Husbands Write Character Reference Letters to Court