(Minghui.org) Three Huidong County residents received heavy prison sentences for “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.

Ms. Zhou Yuqin, Ms. Shi Xuemei, and Mr. Liu Qingqiang were arrested on September 24, 2016, and tried together on January 23, 2018. The day before the hearing, the local authorities threatened to arrest any local Falun Gong practitioner who dared to attend the trial.

Only a total of five family members of the three practitioners were allowed at the hearing, with the rest of the gallery filled with police and agents from the local 610 Office, an extra-legal agency tasked with eradicating Falun Gong and given power to override the judicial system. Heavy police presence was seen outside the courthouse, with two helicopters hovering above.

Mr. Liu and Ms. Shi hired their own lawyers, but the local police got them each a different lawyer without informing them or their families. The two practitioners' own lawyers were at first barred from entering the courthouse before being finally allowed inside.

It is unclear whether Ms. Zhou had legal representation at the hearing.

Mr. Liu's and Ms. Shi's own lawyers entered not guilty pleas for them. The lawyers argued that no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong or labels it a cult and that their clients should never have been arrested for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of belief.

Prosecutor Wang Xiaode alleged that the three practitioners used items confiscated from their homes, such as computers and printers, to produce and distribute Falun Gong informational materials. Judge Zhong Huisong kept questioning the practitioners as to where they obtained their computers and printers and who else they had contacted to distribute Falun Gong materials.

Mr. Liu's and Ms. Shi's own lawyers countered that it was perfectly legal to own and produce Falun Gong informational materials, which caused no harm to anyone, much less undermine law enforcement.

The practitioners' families were informed on March 30 to pick up verdicts at the local court on April 2. They learned that Ms. Zhou has been sentenced to 10 years and fined 50,000 yuan, Ms. Shi to 9 years and fined 30,000 yuan, and Mr. Liu to 4 years and fined 10,000 yuan.

All three practitioners are appealing their cases to Huizhou City Intermediate Court.

Judge Zhong: +86-13927365999

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