(Minghui.org) A 46-year-old man in Pingdu City was sentenced to three years in prison for refusing to renounce Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.

Mr. Gao Hengbai credits Falun Gong for turning his life around. Once known as an abusive husband, he often beat his wife and smashed furniture. Yet he was a changed man after he began following Falun Gong's principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance to conduct himself.

His wife was thrilled to have a loving husband. Their across-the-street neighbor also benefited from Mr. Gao's transformation. Her natural gas pipe suddenly caught fire one day in 2016, and Mr. Gao rushed inside her house to put out the fire. She told her son to never forget about Mr. Gao, a hero that saved their lives.

Having had firsthand experience with Falun Gong, Mr. Gao never wavered in his faith despite the ongoing persecution, and he used every possible opportunity to tell people that Falun Gong is nothing like what was depicted by the state propaganda.

He was arrested on December 16, 2017 and first appeared in court on April 2, 2018. His lawyer entered a not guilty plea for him, as no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong. His sister defended his constitutional right to freedom of belief, and he also testified in his own defense.

When the hearing resumed on May 22, judge Li Yan sentenced Mr. Gao to three years in prison.

Mr. Gao immediately stated his intent to appeal the unjust sentence. He was taken to another room after the sentence announcement. Two bailiffs tried to force him to sign the verdict. He refused to sign, and his sister warned that their family would sue the court for sentencing Mr. Gao without legal basis.

Mr. Gao's brother tried to enter the room, and the bailiffs threatened to arrest him. Mr. Gao's nephew also wanted to go inside, and the bailiffs grabbed his neck to push him out.

Mr. Gao's mother wasn't allowed to talk to him as promised by the judge.

Guo Yucheng, head of the local 610 Office, was present. The 610 Office is an extra-legal agency tasked with eradicating Falun Gong and given power to override the judicial system.

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