(Minghui.org) Two residents from Baoding City were sentenced to prison in early November 2018 for passing out informational materials about Falun Gong, a mind-body cultivation practice suppressed by the communist regime in China since 1999.

Mr. Zhao Lanchi and Ms. Wang Yanru's families received the verdicts from Qingyuan District Court on the evening of November 7. Mr. Zhao was given 18 months, and Ms. Wang was sentenced to 14 months.

Mr. Zhao's lawyer filed an appeal for him on November 19 after meeting with him at the detention center.

The two Falun Gong practitioners have been detained for more than ten months since they were arrested on January 3, 2018, after being stopped and reported to police for distributing Falun Gong-related materials.

The Qingyuan District Procuratorate approved their arrests on February 9. Mr. Zhao's daughter and his lawyer were given the runaround when they sought his release at different agencies.

A court staff member threatened Mr. Zhao's family that the court would give him a heavy sentence if they didn't dismiss his lawyer. His family chose to have the lawyer continue to represent and defend Mr. Zhao.

The Qingyuan District Court held a hearing for the two practitioners on July 25, 2018, at a legal education center inside the Baoding City Detention Center. Many other local Falun Gong practitioners have also at one time or another been tried at the same education center.

Many plainclothes officers stood outside of the detention center on the trial day to block local Falun Gong practitioners from attending the trial.

Mr. Zhao and Ms. Wang were charged with “using a cult organization to undermine law enforcement,” a standard pretext used by the communist regime to imprison Falun Gong practitioners. Mr. Zhao's lawyer entered a not-guilty plea for him. Mr. Zhao also defended himself and argued that it was within his constitutional rights to practice Falun Gong and that he had not violated any law by doing so.

Mr. Zhao's daughter testified that her father's health improved after he began practicing Falun Gong. She also referred to a notice from the Chinese Administration of Press and Publication in which it lifted its ban on the publication of Falun Gong books in 2011. Thus, she argued that her father should not have been charged for having Falun Gong books and other publications at home. She demanded her father's acquittal, only to see him sentenced less than four months later.

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