(Minghui.org) Ms. Wang Cuiying, 57, and Ms. Zhao Aizhen, 65, residents of Heze City, Shandong Province, were arrested on March 7, 2019 for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual and meditation discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

The police ransacked both of their homes and confiscated their computers, printers and Falun Gong related materials. The two of them have been held at Heze City Detention Center since. Their arrests were approved on April 13, 2019.

Ms. Wang and Ms. Zhao were charged with “using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” a standard pretext used by the Chinese authorities to frame and imprison Falun Gong practitioners.

They were tried by Juancheng County Court on January 15, 2020. The prosecutor listed more than 1,200 pieces of evidence against them, but only exhibited a few blurry photos of the “evidence,” without showing the actual items.

The police also included interrogation notes from the practitioners’ families as prosecution evidence against them, which were collected without their families’ consent.

Ms. Zhao testified in her own defense. She argued that no law has criminalized Falun Gong and the prosecution “evidence” failed to show that she had undermined law enforcement.

She also added that Falun Gong is her spiritual belief and she practices it to improve her mind and body. She urged the prosecutor to read out loud the content from the Falun Gong materials confiscated from her and decide for themselves if there was any content that could have undermined law enforcement.

Ms. Wang also defended her innocence. She said that she merely hoped more people can understand the facts about Falun Gong and that it’s being persecuted by the communist regime. She said Falun Gong has been spread to over 100 countries around the world, but is only persecuted in China. She urged the judge and prosecutor to follow their conscience and acquit her.

Ms. Wang’s lawyer, who entered a not guilty plea for her, also added that the evidence exhibited in the court didn’t match those listed in the case document. In addition, the Chinese publication bureau has lifted the ban on Falun Gong books in 2011, which only shows that it’s completely legitimate for his client to own Falun Gong prints and books.

The lawyer appointed by the court to represent Ms. Zhao remained silent during the hearing.

It was recently learned that the court has returned the practitioners' cases to the local procuratorate due to lack of evidence.

Ms. Wang and Ms. Zhao have not been able to see their families or lawyers, as the detention center has been closed to visitors since mid-February 2020 amid the coronavirus epidemic.

Previous Persecution

Ms. Zhao is a retired worker from Heze City Candy Factory. She began to practice Falun Gong in 2012 and credits the practice for improving her health. In the ten months of detention following her arrest last year, she lost more than 35 lbs and experienced multiple medical conditions, as a result of the poor living conditions and physical abuse.

Ms. Wang took up Falun Gong in 1998. She was an accountant in a government agency and has been recognized several times as the best worker before she retired.

Prior to her latest arrest, she was given two years of forced labor in 2012 for her faith. Her workplace place removed her title as a director and withheld her salary during the term because she didn’t renounce Falun Gong.