(Minghui.org) Four Zhaodong City, Heilongjiang Province residents were recently sentenced to prison for their faith in Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Mr. Yang Xuewen and Ms. Li Yali were each sentenced to 2.5 years with a 20,000-yuan fine. Ms. Zhang Guorong and her mother, Ms. Zhang Kuihua, were each given 2 years and fined 10,000 yuan.

The four practitioners were arrested on July 16, 2019 after being reported for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong. They appeared in the Zhaodong Court twice, on November 18 and December 26, 2019.

During the November hearing, the practitioners’ lawyers entered not guilty plea for them. 

The lawyers argued that the police violated the law when they broke into the practitioners' homes by scaling the fences around their yards and destroying their locks. In addition, the police had no search warrant, nor did they show their IDs during the home raids.

The prosecution evidence included more than 100 copies of Falun Gong books and informational materials confiscated from the practitioners' homes. The lawyers countered that the books and materials were the practitioners' lawful possessions and didn’t cause harm to anyone.

The indictment alleged that five witnesses reported the practitioners to police at 10 a.m. on July 16, 2019, but there was no record of the report or of the police interviewing witnesses. No ID document or other proof of the witnesses' identities was included in the indictment, as required by law. 

Four of the five witnesses were present in court, but they failed to prove that the practitioners on trial had distributed Falun Gong materials to them. The practitioners' lawyers argued that the witness accounts were invalid.

Mr. Yang testified in his own defense.

He emphasized that freedom of belief is every Chinese citizen’s Constitutional right and that he didn’t violate any law in practicing Falun Gong. 

He argued that no law has ever criminalized Falun Gong in China and that the persecution has no legal basis. He also cited a notice by the Chinese Publication Bureau, in which they lifted the ban on publication of Falun Gong literature in 2011.

At the end of his defense, Mr. Yang shared how practicing Falun Gong improved his health and elevated his character. 

The prosecutor listed additional prosecution evidence during the December 26 hearing. The lawyers pointed out the manner in which the police had obtained the evidence violated legal procedure, rendering the evidence inadmissible.

Related article:

Four Heilongjiang Residents Arrested for Their Faith, A Fifth Forced to Live Away from Home