(Minghui.org) A married couple in Shulan City, Jilin Province were both sentenced for their faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. Ms. Yu Hongfu, 72, was given 8.5 years, and his wife, Ms. Chu Yuzhen, 71, received 9.5 years.

The authorities waited more than a month before delivering the verdicts, when the window to appeal the sentences had already expired.

Mr. Yu and Ms. Chu were first arrested on November 13, 2016. The police loaded two cars with items confiscated from their home, including their computer, printer, cellphone, and more than 10,000 yuan in cash.

Ms. Chu was released on bail due to a physical condition. Mr. Yu was held at the Shulan City Detention Center and also released on bail two months later.

The police arrested the couple again on June 5, 2019, claiming that they had violated the bail condition. Their home was ransacked and their Falun Gong books and related materials were confiscated.

The Chuanying District Procuratorate later indicted the couple and submitted their case to the Chuanying District Court.

Ms. Chu suffered a serious medical condition in detention. She was unable to walk and had blood spots all over her body. She was released on October 12 to receive medical treatment. Her daughter paid 5,000 yuan in bail for her release. 

The police frequently harassed Ms. Chu following her release and attempted to bring her in for physical examinations, in attempts to send her back into custody.

Mr. Yu has been held at the Shulan City Detention Center, where he also developed several medical conditions, including high blood pressure, inflammation of the heart muscle, and blurred vision.

The couple were tried by the Chuanying District Court on November 12, 2019. They were charged with “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” the standard pretext used to criminalize and imprison Falun Gong practitioners. 

The prosecution evidence against the couple included their computer, printer, Falun Gong books, some blank DVDs and calendar cases.

Although the judge issued the verdicts on November 29, 2019, the authorities didn’t inform them until one month later, on December 24, when the ten-day appeal window has already expired.

Ms. Chu still appealed to the Jilin City Intermediate Court on December 31. 

This is the second time that Mr. Yu has been persecuted for his faith. He was given 1.5 years of forced labor after he was arrested on August 3, 2010 for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong. The labor camp refused to accept him because of his heart condition.

Mr. Yu took up Falun Gong in 2008, after witnessing the dramatic health improvement his wife experienced after she'd begun to practice Falun Gong in 1997, especially the quick cure of her chronic leg problem that had caused her significant walking difficulties.