(Minghui.org) The Tianjin No.1 Intermediate Court on October 12, 2018 upheld the prison sentences of four Falun Gong practitioners without a hearing, even though two of the practitioners' lawyers filed an application to request one. The court did not inform the lawyers of its decision until two weeks later, which allows them less time to file appeals within deadlines.

The four practitioners–Mr. Wu Dianzhong, Ms. Li Mingjun, Ms. Wang Lianrong, and Mr. Geng Dong–were arrested on December 7, 2016 together with dozens of other practitioners. One of the practitioners, Mr. Yang Yuyong, was tortured to death in the detention center on July 11, 2017, less than eight months after his arrest.

The four practitioners appeared in Xiqing District Court twice, on February 7 and June 22, 2018, respectively. They were all charged with “using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese communist regime to frame and imprison Falun Gong practitioners.

The practitioners shared how Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, returned them to health and improved their character. They argued that their practice of Falun Gong caused no harm to anyone, much less undermine law enforcement.

Their lawyers argued that the persecution of Falun Gong, which began in July 1999, has lacked legal basis from the outset and that the practitioners should not have been indicted for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of belief.

Legal Procedure Violations

The lawyers also testified against the police and the court for violating legal procedures during the prosecution process.

The police failed to show search warrants before arresting the practitioners and did not provide a list of confiscated items after ransacking the practitioners' homes.

The practitioners also indicated that the interrogation records provided by the police contained fabricated confessions they never made. Ms. Wang testified that police coerced her into signing the interrogation records by promising to release her so she could go home to take care of her bedridden mother. She complied but remained captive.

The court did not notify the practitioners three days in advance of their hearings as required by law. In addition, the prosecutor was changed five days before the first hearing, when Chinese law requires that the procuratorate inform the court and defense lawyer six days before such a change.

Mr. Wu experienced chest pain and fast heartbeat during the second hearing, but the judge ignored his request for a recess and continued with the proceedings.

All four practitioners were convicted one month after their June hearing. Mr. Wu was sentenced to five years, and the other three practitioners each received four years.

This is not the first time that Mr. Wu has been targeted for his faith in Falun Gong. Prior to his latest sentence, he had served four years at Gangbei Prison in Tianjin, where he was severely tortured and suffered from a fractured spine. He had difficulty walking and experienced excruciating pain in his back after he was released.

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