(Minghui.org) Two Guiyang City, Guizhou Province residents were sentenced to prison for their faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since July 1999.

Mr. Zhou Xiaochao, a well-known entrepreneur among locals, and Mr. Shi Denglin, an army veteran and Mr. Zhou's driver, were pulled over and arrested on July 7, 2017 while driving through Guiding County, about 50 miles away from Guiyang. They were targeted because police suspected them of using pseudo base stations to send bulk text messages about Falun Gong.

The two men were subjected to a two-day marathon interrogation without sleep as the police attempted to extract confessions from them. Mr. Zhou went on a one-week hunger strike afterwards to protest the mistreatment.

Mr. Zhou was sentenced to five and half years and Mr. Shi five years on May 18, 2018. Mr. Zhou's appeal was rejected on September 30. He and Mr. Shi were subsequently sent to Duyun Prison on October 11.

This is not the first time that Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi have been targeted for their faith. Mr. Shi was sentenced to five years in prison in 2001 for talking to people about Falun Gong. Mr. Zhou was also arrested on multiple occasions in the past for his faith.

The Arrest

When the police pulled Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi over on July 7, 2017, they found several pseudo base stations in their car, but there was no evidence that the two men had used the stations to send texts about Falun Gong.

To extract a confession, the police interrogated them for two days and deprived them of sleep, which was against the law. Mr. Zhou went on a one-week hunger strike to protest the mistreatment.

That night, over 30 police officers from Guiding County Police Department, the Guiyang City Police Department, the Bihai Police Station, and the Guizhou Province Public Security Bureau Special Task Force went to ransack Mr. Zhou's parents' home and confiscated a few bags of Falun Gong books.

Lawyers Refute Evidence in Court

Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi appeared in court on the morning of April 25, 2018. Only three of Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi's family members were allowed to attend the hearing, while officers from the public security made up the rest of the audience.

The indictment stated that three different companies testified that Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi had sent out Falun Gong texts. Chongqing Electronics Company claimed that the two men sent out more than 290,000 texts to more than 240,000 of its users. Qiannanzhou Electronics Company claimed that 190,000 texts were sent to more than 190,000 people. Qiannanzhou Mobile Company said three of their stations covering more than 1,000 users received such texts.

The lawyers questioned why the three companies gave such vastly different numbers, and prosecutor Xu claimed that was due to different statistical methods.

The indictment also stated that the defendants were caught sending out texts at three different locations at 2:45 p.m. on July 7, 2017. The lawyers questioned how it was possible for the two defendants to appear in three different locations at the same time. The lawyers also pointed out that their clients had been arrested by 2:30 p.m. that day, and that there was no way for them to be still sending out texts while in police custody.

Xu had no answer. She later called in two prosecution witnesses, Wu Xin and Luo Zhenshan (both technicians of Qiannanzhou Wireless Authority), who testified that they reported Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi to police after discovering they sent out Falun Gong texts. Yao Feng, deputy chief of Guiding County Police Station, soon ordered the arrest of Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi.

Wu and Luo, however, couldn't explain how they found out it was Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi that sent out the texts.

Xu alleged that a total of five people received Falun Gong texts and took pictures of the messages. The defense lawyers argued that by law each piece of prosecution evidence must bear two witnesses. Each of the five pictures, however, only had one witness.

The lawyers and their clients requested the prosecution evidence be verified by a third-party, but judge Luo rejected the request. He sentenced both Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi to prison on May 18, 2018. Mr. Zhou appealed his sentence and went on a hunger strike again in protest.

Verdict Upheld

Seventeen days after Mr. Zhou went on hunger strike, he was sent to a hospital for checkup. The doctors were surprised to discover that he was still healthy and refused to force feed him.

The detention center guards then sent Mr. Zhou to a “compulsory medical center” for anorexia treatment and put him on electrotherapy, causing him to lose consciousness and leaving him with complications to this day. He was later told that many people lost their lives after being put on electrotherapy for the second time.

The local appeals court ruled on September 30, 2018 to uphold Mr. Zhou's sentence without holding a hearing. Mr. Zhou and Mr. Shi were admitted to Duyun Prison on October 11.

Mr. Zhou's parents were allowed to visit him after the prison determined that they are not Falun Gong practitioners.

An Outstanding Entrepreneur

After Mr. Zhou graduated from Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, he became a teacher at Finance and Trade College in Zunyi City, Guizhou Province, where he was nominated as a model employee for three consecutive years.

In 2001, Mr. Zhou was arrested and given one and a half year of forced labor after he went to Beijing to appeal. He resumed his teaching role in 2003 when he was released, but he had to apply for leave in 2004 after the police kept harassing him. Mr. Zhou then worked at Yonyou Software in 2005.

Mr. Zhou became the general manager of his two companies which he set up in 2006. To promote traditional Chinese culture, Mr. Zhou set up a cultural website in 2010. He went on to develop software for the local Guiyang City government in 2011.

However, between 2008 and 2013, the police sent two spies to his companies and stole his company's trade secrets, causing tremendous financial loss for a period of time.

In November 2016, Mr. Zhou represented a team of outstanding technology entrepreneurs and came to the United States for training. When he was arrested in July 2017, many projects that he was involved in could not proceed, causing financial loss to the local area.

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