(Minghui.org) Three Falun Gong practitioners from Luzhou City, Sichuan Province were fined and sentenced to prison in the Hejiang County Court on Dec. 18, 2018.

Ms. Zou Mingying, 53, received 1.5 years, and a fine of 2,000 yuan. Ms. Zhang Yuanhua, 48, received a 3.5 year sentence, and a 6,000 yuan fine.

Ms. Gao Xianying, who is 75 years old, was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined 7,000 yuan for distributing materials exposing the persecution of Falun Gong.

All three women have appealed their sentences.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that emphasizes the refinement of one's moral character, based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. The practice has been severely persecuted by China's communist regime since July 20, 1999.

This is the third time Ms. Gao has been persecuted for her belief in Falun Gong, and for exposing atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In 2006 she was sentenced to three years; in 2015, 3.5 years.

Starved and Interrogated

The women were arrested on July 12, 2017, while distributing materials at a fair in neighboring Hejiang County. They were taken to Jiuzhi Town Police Station for interrogation.

They received no food or water that day. Ms. Zhang told police that she felt weak and dizzy, and was experiencing heart palpitations due to lack of food. She developed a high fever and collapsed during interrogation. Over the next ten days her body swelled badly.

Zhang and Ms. Zou were detained for more than a month. Police extorted 10,000 yuan from their families before allowing them to return home.

Ms. Gao was released after the first day, but placed under house arrest. She was taken back into custody on July 26, when police convinced her to stop by the station.

The three cases were submitted to the court by Hejiang Procuratorate on April 3, 2018.

Posters, Flyers and Calendars

The women first appeared in court on June 14, 2018. They were charged with “undermining law enforcement by possessing Falun Gong materials,” a pretext used by the Chinese legal system to criminalize and imprison practitioners.

According to court documents, their initial crime was being in possession of five self-adhesive posters, 65 flyers, and 61 calendars. More Falun Gong materials were discovered, which eventually led to the charges and their subsequent imprisonment.

In her defense, Ms. Zhang argued that the China Administration of Press and Publication had revoked its ban on Falun Gong publications in 2011, and therefore they shouldn't be charged for having them.

When challenged over the lack of legal basis, the prosecution offered no rebuttal.

Nonetheless, the judge denied them this defense as proof of innocence and adjourned the hearing without issuing a verdict.

Photographed and Interrogated by Police

Family members of the practitioners were allowed inside to witness the hearing. Friends of the practitioners attending the hearing were forced to wait outside, where police photographed them and attempted to obtain their names and addresses.

Those who refused to cooperate with the interrogation had their cell phones and purses confiscated by police.

Two women were taken to the police station and body-searched. One was cuffed to a metal chair and interrogated, and held throughout the day without food or water. She was released when the hearing ended at 4:00 pm.

While Ms. Zhang and Ms. Zou were allowed to go home after the hearing to await their verdicts, the elder Gao remained in custody.

Before their release, Zhang and Zou were pressured by police to write statements renouncing their belief in Falun Gong, promised lighter sentences if they did.

Both practitioners refused to do so, and instead detailed in writing how the practice benefited them both physically and mentally.

Disabilities Healed by Falun Gong

Ms. Zhang told of her life before the practice. She suffered a bone fracture in her right thigh, which forced her to be laid up at home for 28 days, as her family couldn't afford the medical bills. When her condition worsened, they borrowed money to put her in the hospital.

During treatment, in an act of medical malpractice, a doctor severed a ligament in her leg, disabling her. It took a year before she could even walk with crutches.

She also told how she suffered from family conflicts, as her husband picked on her disability, and for giving birth to a daughter during a time when couples much preferred sons (due to China's one-child policy). Desperate, she tried to commit suicide several times, but failed.

She was introduced to Falun Gong shortly afterwards, and experienced dramatic improvements to her health. Not only was she able to walk again, she could do household chores and work the family farm.

Ms. Zou also shared her story. She had fractured her ankle in the past, and six months after surgery still hadn't recovered. She was told by the doctor that she would have to live with the disability, as there was nothing he could do. Shortly after she started practicing Falun Gong, her ankle was healed.

Related reports:

Four Sichuan Residents Face Indictment for Raising Awareness of Persecution of Falun Gong

Two Practitioners Sentenced to Prison in Sichuan Province

Luzhou, Sichuan: Seven Arrested for Passing Out Materials Exposing Persecution of Falun Gong

Related article in Chinese:

遭威胁逼迫“转化” 四川两女士劝涉案者停止迫害