(Minghui.org) A 46-year-old middle school math teacher in Gaozhou City, Guangdong Province, was sentenced to two years and ten months with a 10,000-yuan fine on August 18, 2023, for his faith in Falun Gong.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

Eight officers from the Gaozhou City Domestic Security Office and Chengnan Police Station broke into Mr. Yu Tao’s home on the morning of August 12, 2021, (a Thursday). Mr. Yu wasn’t home, so the police forced his high-school son to call him and ask him to come home immediately to answer the police’s questions. As soon as Mr. Yu returned, the police arrested him. They also confiscated the family’s printer and the work computer belonging to his wife, who is an accountant. None of the officers showed their IDs or a search warrant. They also refused to provide a list of confiscated items.

After 15 days of administrative detention, the police attempted to force Mr. Yu to sign a statement to renounce Falun Gong. He refused to comply and was put on criminal detention on August 28. His arrest was approved on September 10, 2021. The police later submitted his case to the Maonan District Procuratorate. Prosecutors Yu Huadan and Mai Haihong twice returned his case to the police citing insufficient evidence but later indicted him on March 15, 2022, after the police submitted his case a third time.

Mr. Yu’s mother, Ms. Zheng Rizhen, filed complaints on December 14, 2022, against Yuan Gujie, the secretary of the Guangdong Province Political and Legal Affairs Committee and former mayor of Maoming City (which oversees Gaozhou City); Wang Turui, the secretary of the Maoming City Political and Legal Affairs Committee; and Liang Shuang, deputy secretary of the Gaozhou City Political and Legal Affairs Committee and director of the Gaozhou City Public Security Bureau.

Ms. Zheng demanded that the officials be held accountable for violating the law in framing her son. She also demanded that the procuratorate and police dismiss Mr. Yu’s case, release him, and return all confiscated items. It’s not clear if she ever received any response regarding her complaints.

The Maonan District Court held a hearing in the Maoming City First Detention Center on May 25, 2023. Mr. Yu, who has been held at the Gaozhou City Detention Center since his arrest, was taken there to be tried.

Mr. Yu testified in his own defense. He emphasized that no law in China has ever criminalized Falun Gong. The judge interrupted him, saying, “The law has long banned Falun Gong.” Mr. Yu asked which law that was, but the judge couldn’t present one. He and the prosecutor also had no answer when Mr. Yu asked which law enforcement he had allegedly undermined.

Mr. Yu’s two lawyers entered a not-guilty plea for him and demanded his acquittal.

Presiding judge Tan Wei and his assistant judges Ke Xuejun and Pan Chuanghua held a sentencing hearing in the Maoming City First Detention Center on August 18, 2023, and announced the verdict. The court clerk was Gong Yanfen. Mr. Yu was taken into the makeshift courtroom in handcuffs and shackles that were connected to each other.

In addition to his mother and younger brother, Yu Jinding, Zhao Fuquan, and Chen Xiaohong of the Changsha Village Committee in Dajing Town, Gaozhou City (where Mr. Yu resided) also attended the sentencing hearing.

Shortly after his sentencing, Mr. Yu’s mother hired a new lawyer to appeal the wrongful conviction. The lawyer wrote in the appeal that the Constitution protects one’s freedom of belief and speech, no law ever criminalizes Falun Gong in China, nor did the prosecutor present any evidence to show how Mr. Yu undermined law enforcement by practicing Falun Gong, as stated by the indictment. He demanded the appeals court follow the law and uphold justice for Mr. Yu.

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Maoming City, Guangdong Province: At Least 13 Falun Gong Practitioners Incarcerated for Their Faith