(Minghui.org) A Qishan County, Shaanxi Province, resident was recently sentenced to seven years in prison for his faith in Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Mr. Shen Hongqi, an appliance repair shop owner, was arrested on July 22, 2019. The police ransacked his two residences and confiscated many of his personal belongings. He was interrogated in a hotel for four days while being tied in a metal chair. Then he was sent to the Qishan County Detention Center, where he has since been detained and denied family visits.

Mr. Shen’s mother was so traumatized by the arrest that she suffered a stroke and became incapacitated. She requested several times to see her son again in her final days, but the authorities never granted it. So as not to add stress to the still detained Mr. Shen, his family hasn't informed him of his mother's passing.

The police combined Mr. Shen’s case with another ten practitioners, who were arrested on July 10, 2019, for studying Falun Gong’s teachings together. For those ten practitioners, one of them was later cleared of prosecution and another’s situation wasn’t clear.

Mr. Shen appeared in the Qishan County Court with eight of the ten practitioners on August 18, 2020. The court initially arranged a video hearing but changed it to an in-person hearing at the requests of the practitioners’ families and lawyers.

Mr. Shen’s family hired two lawyers for him. While one lawyer from Shandong Province was forced to drop out from the case after being pressured by the authorities, another lawyer from Beijing attended the hearing and entered a not guilty plea for Mr. Shen.

The lawyer pointed out that the police violated legal procedure in handling Mr. Shen’s case, including having the officer who ransacked his home as a witness to the list of confiscated items, and identifying Mr. Shen’s Falun Gong materials as prosecution evidence against him despite the fact that they didn’t have such judiciary power to do so.

The lawyer also argued that it’s Mr. Shen’s freedom of belief and expression to practice Falun Gong and tell people about it. No evidence indicated that he had undermined law enforcement by practicing his faith and no law has criminalized Falun Gong in China.

The lawyer added that the prosecution evidence against Mr. Shen, including his computer, printer, blank discs, and copy paper, weren’t even related to Falun Gong, and much less related to the charge of “undermining law enforcement,” which has been a standard pretext to criminalize Falun Gong by the Chinese courts.

The lawyer cited a quote from Francis Bacon, who said that “One foul sentence does more hurt than many foul examples. For these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupt the fountain.” He urged the judge to make the decision based on the law, not any political pressure.

Mr. Shen also testified in his own defense and argued the lack of legal basis for the persecution. He also mentioned that the Chinese publication bureau has revoked the ban on Falun Gong literatures in 2011.

The judge recently sentenced him to seven years and a 14,000 yuan fine. He has appealed the verdict.

Related reports:

Updates on the 11 Falun Gong Practitioners Arrested in Qishan County, Shaanxi Province, in July 2019

Nine Falun Gong Practitioners Tried for Their Faith

Friend of Falun Gong Practitioner Calls for His Release