(Minghui.org) Five Qingyuan County, Liaoning Province residents were sentenced to prison terms of six to nine months on August 30, 2021, for their faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been targeted by the Chinese Communist Party since July 1999.

Four of the practitioners, Ms. Shi Hongxiang, Ms. Zhu Qinghua, Ms. Lin Guilan, and Ms. Yang Xiaozhi, went to nearby Kaiyuan County in Tieling City (about 80 miles from Qingyuan) on March 10, 2021 to distribute materials, but were arrested by the local police.

The practitioners were given 15 days of administrative detention the next afternoon. Ms. Yang began to suffer high blood pressure on March 15 and was released on bail after paying a 5,000-yuan bail bond.

The other three practitioners were transferred to the Diaobingshan City Detention Center about 40 miles from Kaiyuan County on March 24.

The fifth practitioner, Mr. Yang Bailiang, 62, was arrested some time in April. His arrest was approved on April 28.

The police combined the five practitioners’ cases into one and submitted it to the Changtu County Procuratorate in Tieling City, which indicted them on July 1.

The practitioners stood trial at the Changtu County Court on August 3. They all pleaded not guilty. Ms. Li and Ms. Shi’s lawyers entered not guilty pleas for them. Ms. Zhu’s lawyer was pressured by the court into entering a guilty plea for her. It’s not clear whether Mr. Yang or Ms. Yang had legal representation.

Court Proceeding

During the court session, Ms. Lin argued that it was her constitutionally-protected right to practice her faith and that she didn’t harm anyone in distributing materials about Falun Gong. Rather, she hoped that more people can learn the facts about Falun Gong and benefit from it.

The prosecutor accused her of being a repeat offender, as she had been given a labor camp term in 2003 for her faith. Her lawyer refuted by stating that the forced labor system has been revoked in China and shouldn’t be used against his client.

The lawyer added that the police failed to authenticate the prosecution evidence used against Ms. Lin, including the 74 flyers confiscated from her and the 44 booklets that the police gathered themselves from different places and were alleged to have been distributed by her. As no witnesses appeared in court to accept cross-examination, such materials couldn’t be considered as valid evidence, with only a one-sided story from the police.

Ms. Shi’s lawyer said that it was illegal for the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, an extra-judiciary agency tasked with overseeing the persecution of Falun Gong, to participate in prosecuting the case. The police also failed to provide legal basis in accusing the practitioners of “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” when they distributed materials only about Falun Gong’s health benefits and exposing the persecution.

During Ms. Zhu’s self-defense, she said that she treated everyone in her cell at the detention center with compassion, which helped resolve many conflicts between them. She said that Falun Gong gave her the strength to carry on when her only son passed away in 2018. She demanded her acquittal so she could reunite with her husband, who was dealt a heavy blow by her arrest and detention.

Mr. Yang added that officers from the Kaiyuan County Domestic Security Office broke into his home when no one was around and ransacked his place. The officers also beat, verbally abused, and shocked him with electric batons during interrogation, which caused severe injury to his body. When he pointed out that it was illegal for them to beat him, one officer said to him, “We are here to beat you.” He said he has reported the situation to the prosecutor, but the latter never responded.

One month after the hearing, the judge announced the practitioners’ verdicts: Ms. Yang was given six months. Ms. Zhu, Ms. Shi, and Mr. Yang were each sentenced to eight months, and Ms. Lin received nine months.

Related report:

Four Liaoning Residents Face Prosecution for Distributing Information about Their Faith