(Minghui.org) Two Beijing residents have begun to serve time in prison after Beijing No.2 Intermediate Court upheld their verdicts without a hearing because of their faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline being persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Ms. Niu Hong, 64, a retired senior journal editor in the field of metallurgical research, is imprisoned at Beijing Women's Prison.

Ms. Wang Xuan, 54, a retired radiometric testing engineer, is held at Liulin Prison in Beijing.

The two women were arrested on January 20, 2018 for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong. They were released on bail after one month of detention.

The Fangshan District Procuratorate indicted them in late August 2018. They were ordered to stand trial on October 15, 2018 in Fangshan Court.

Both women testified in their own defense. They argued that they were law-abiding citizens and didn't commit any crime in following Falun Gong's principles, Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. They also argued that Falun Gong has spread to most countries in the world, but it's only persecuted in China, where no law has actually criminalized it.

Ms. Niu and Ms. Wang received a subpoena on December 19, 2018. When they went to the courthouse, they were arrested and sent directly to prison. Only then were they informed that they had been sentenced to prison – Ms. Niu was given 18 months and Ms. Wang received 17 months.

They appealed the verdicts to the intermediate court. Despite their lawyers' formal request of an open hearing, the judge upheld their prison sentences without a hearing.