(Minghui.org) A Falun Gong practitioner in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province was sentenced to prison for buying cellphone SIM cards. A few more practitioners were later implicated and sentenced to prison, as well.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

As information concerning Falun Gong is strictly censored in China, many practitioners have been using peaceful, grassroots channels to raise awareness about the persecution, including making phone calls to the public.

With the growing impact of such phone calls, the communist regime ramped up mass surveillance and required all citizens to register full personal information with the purchase of each SIM card.

As a result, some practitioners found ways to buy SIM cards in bulk and then distributed them to others, in order to minimize the distribution of their personal information.

Sentenced to 3 Years for Buying SIM Cards

Ms. Li Shuangfeng was arrested by Harbin police on September 12, 2017 for mailing SIM cards to practitioners in the adjacent Jilin Province. She was sentenced to three years in prison around August 2018.

The police had been monitoring her for weeks before her arrest. They noticed her mailing a package to Changchun City, Jilin Province. Through surveillance cameras, they found her talking to a SIM card vendor and then interrogated that vendor.

The police subsequently obtained information about three practitioners whom they suspected of being involved in Ms. Li's efforts to purchase and distribute SIM cards. The targeted practitioners included residents in both Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces.

More Arrests Follow Ms. Li's Detention

One day after Ms. Li's arrest, Mr. Liu Qingjie and Mr. Li Guojun (no relation to Ms. Li), both residents in Changchun City, Jilin Province, were arrested by their local police.

Mr. Li was punched by the police and suffered a broken eye socket during the arrest. His wife, Ms. Wang Shuhua, was later arrested on October 12, 2017 for seeking his release. She was sentenced to nine years around June 2018.

Mr. Li Shaozhi (no relation to Mr. Li Guojun), a resident in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province, was arrested at his apartment in Harbin on September 22, 2017 by the same officers from Changchun who arrested Mr. Liu and Mr. Li Guojun.

The officers ransacked Mr. Li Shaozhi's apartment and took him to the local police station in Changchun, before sending him to Changchun City No.3 Detention Center.

Three Sentenced on Same Day

After nearly 14 months of detention, Mr. Li Shaozhi appeared in Nanguan District Court in Changchun City on November 16, 2018. His lawyer entered a not guilty plea for him.

Mr. Liu and Mr. Li Guojun's hearing dates remain to be investigated.

The Nanguan District Court announced the prison sentences against the three practitioners on May 10, 2019.

Mr. Li Shaozhi was sentenced to five years in prison and fined 20,000 yuan. Mr. Liu and Mr. Li Guojue received 4.5 and 4 years, respectively.

Mr. Li Shaozhi's lawyer was denied a visit with him on May 16, as the authorities tried to block the lawyer from filing an appeal for him.

While awaiting a verdict, Mr. Li Shaozhi was hospitalized around January 2019 after going on a hunger strike to protest the persecution.

Related reports:

Jilin Man Punched by Police and Suffers Broken Eye Socket, Wife Arrested for Trying to Seek His Release

Woman Sentenced to 9 Years for Seeking Release of Husband, Who Was Punched by Police and Suffers Broken Eye Socket

Heilongjiang Man Awaits Latest Verdict After Decades of Detention and Abuse

Practitioner Mr. Li Shaozhi's Family Not Notified after His Arrest