(Minghui.org) An elderly man in Mishan City, Heilongjiang Province, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison in August 2020 for his faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Mr. Zhong Guoquan, in his 70s, was arrested on March 4, 2020, while distributing information about Falun Gong on the street. The police took his cellphone and obtained his call and text message history before returning the phone to him. Mr. Zhong was released on bail around midnight after he was found to have a medical condition.

Mr. Zhong appeared in Mishan Court on August 10, 2020. His family wasn’t allowed to attend the hearing. The few copies of Falun Gong flyers confiscated from him were used as prosecution evidence against him, and he was charged with “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” the standard pretext used by the communist regime to frame Falun Gong practitioners.

Prosecutor Wang Kaifeng complained to the judge that Mr. Zhong had a bad attitude for not pleading guilty. Mr. Zhong’s lawyer refuted that it was within his freedom of belief to practice Falun Gong, which didn’t harm or disrupt any individuals or society. Wang shouted back, “Don’t you know how much impact it would cause when people read the materials he passed out?”

After the hearing was adjourned, Mr. Zhong, who was so weak that he almost passed out, was taken away by the police. He was taken to the Jixi Detention Center the next day. A few days later, the judge informed his family that he had sentenced Mr. Zhong to three and a half years. Mr. Zhong’s family was outraged by the verdict and helped him file an appeal.

Mr. Zhong used to have a bad temper. He completely changed after taking up Falun Gong and became much more considerate. After his arrest this year, he repeatedly told his family not to hold grudges against the police, as they are the true victims of the persecution.