(Minghui.org) A married couple in Yingkou City, Liaoning Province were sentenced to prison one day after they appeared in court for their faith in Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. 

Mr. Liu Quanchun, 45, and his wife Ms. Shi Qingxiu, 43, were arrested on March 24, 2020. The police ransacked their residence and confiscated their computer, printers, and 8,000 yuan in cash. 

This was Ms. Shi’s second arrest in a month. She had been arrested on February 26 after being reported for hanging up a “Falun Dafa Is Good” banner. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, she was released after paying a 1,000-yuan fine.

The couple was tried by the Zhanqian District Court in the Yingkou City Detention Center on September 28, 2020. Their two lawyers entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. Only two family members were allowed to attend the hearing.

The lawyers pointed out that no law in China has ever deemed practicing Falun Gong a crime and that the China Administration of Press and Publication lifted the ban on Falun Gong books in 2011. They said that the constitution guarantees their clients the freedom of belief and that they haven’t harmed anyone or undermined any law enforcement in practicing their belief. “Since when is living by Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance a crime?” the lawyers asked.

Without informing the couple’s family and lawyers, judge Zhao Dan sentenced both Mr. Liu and Ms. Shi to 3.5 years with a 10,000 yuan fine each the next day. The couple received an official copy of their verdicts on the third day and they then filed appeals against their sentences with the Yingkou City Intermediate Court. 

Zhao, however, never notified the couple's family and lawyers of their verdicts as required by law. When the couple’s lawyers inquired about the case, Zhao repeatedly told them that she hadn’t made a decision about the case yet. 

Not until mid-November when the intermediate court started investigating the case upon receiving the appeals did Zhao finally tell the couple’s family that she had sentenced them to prison. But she said she made the decision only a short while ago when in fact she issued the verdict on September 29. She also asked the couple’s family not to look for her anymore as she was no longer in charge of their case.

Due to the poor and humid living conditions in Yingkou Detention Center, Mr. Liu has developed scabies. The detention center said no medical treatment would be provided until his family deposited money to cover needed medical expenses.

Related reports:

Liaoning Couple Tried for Their Faith, Denied Warm Clothes

Liaoning Couple Face Prosecution for Practicing Falun Gong

Liaoning Province: 101 Arrested in One Day