(Minghui.org) Two Hefei City, Anhui Province residents were tried on May 22, 2019 for not renouncing their faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Ms. Li Guozhen and Ms. Ding Ziqing were arrested on June 23, 2018 after being reported to the police for talking to people about the persecution. Ms. Li has been held in custody since, while Ms. Ding was released on bail due to a medical condition. The authorities demanded that her children monitor her at home and prevent her from going out.

Both women appeared in Shushan District Court nearly one year after their arrests. They were charged with “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese courts to imprison Falun Gong practitioners.

The practitioners’ lawyer entered a not-guilty plea for them, and the two women also testified in their own defense.

The lawyer argued that no law in China criminalizes Falun Gong and that it was within his clients' constitutional rights and freedom of belief to practice Falun Gong.

The lawyer also pointed out that the prosecutor failed to provide any evidence of how these two elderly women undermined law enforcement. He added that their acts of putting up informational posters about Falun Gong did not obstruct law enforcement.

The judge adjourned the hearing without announcing the verdict.

This isn't the first time that both women have been persecuted for their faith.

Ms. Li has been on the authorities' blacklist since 1999 after she went to Beijing to appeal for Falun Gong. She was repeatedly arrested and detained. She was given 2 years of forced labor in 2002 and 3.5 years in prison in 2008. She was deprived of sleep, beaten, forced to do slave labor, subjected to intensive brainwashing, and administered unknown drugs while serving time. Both of her parents passed away during her prison term, and she wasn't allowed to attend their funerals.

Ms. Ding has been repeatedly harassed by the authorities. She was taken to a local brainwashing center three times and given one year of forced labor. She was also beaten, deprived of sleep, tied to a tiger bench, and exposed to the elements. She developed high blood pressure as a result of the abuses.

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