(Minghui.org) Two residents of Hefei City, Anhui Province, were sentenced to prison for not renouncing their faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

On August 9, 2019, Ms. Ding Shumei was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined 50,000 yuan and Ms. Huang Liping was sentenced to five years and fined 30,000 yuan. Both have appealed the verdicts.

The two women were arrested in a residential area on October 30, 2017, for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong.

The police told onlookers that the practitioners were arrested for stealing cellphones.

It was reported that the police had been monitoring the women for months and waited for the two to go out together to arrest them.

The Gaoxin District Procuratorate indicted them on August 6, 2018, and submitted their cases to the Gaoxin District Court, which held two hearings, on November 9, 2018, and May 31, 2019, via teleconferencing.

The practitioners' lawyers pled not guilty on their behalf and the women also testified in their own defense. The judge frequently interrupted them.

The judge convicted them two months later on the grounds that Ms. Ding passed out more than 1,400 copies of Falun Gong materials and Ms. Huang distributed over 700 copies.

This is the second time that both women have been sentenced for their faith.

Ms. Ding was previously sent to a forced labor camp for a year and given a five-year prison term in 2011 by the same court. She was also fired from her job with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation No.38 Institute.

Ms. Huang was sentenced to eight years by the Luoyang District Court in 2006.