(Minghui.org) An 87-year-old woman from Qingdao City, Shandong Province, was sentenced to one year and fined 5,000 yuan on September 16, 2023, for her faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party since July 1999.

Ms. Yang Yuzhen’s sentencing stemmed from a police raid of her daughter’s home, where she had been living, on July 28, 2022. The Badahu Police Station targeted her after a surveillance video showed her taking out a flash card from her pocket. Having had her on their blacklist of Falun Gong practitioners, the police suspected that the card had Falun Gong information on it and that she was intending to hand it to someone.

The police confiscated all of Ms. Yang’s Falun Gong books but didn’t arrest her. The next day they summoned her to the police station to verify the confiscated items. She went but refused to sign the list of confiscated items. She urged the police to stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. They put her on bail and let her go home.

In May 2023, a Shibei District Procuratorate clerk called Ms. Yang and told her to come in and sign something as part of the normal procedure. She signed the document without looking at it carefully and soon regretted it.

The Shibei District Court summoned Ms. Yang on July 3, 2023. This time she did not sign her name on the document she was presented. Instead, she wrote “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance is good” on the paperwork. The clerk who was signing her in asked about her financial situation (possibly to see if she could afford a lawyer) and asked if she would like to have a court-appointed lawyer. She said she did not because she did not break any law and knew that almost all court-appointed lawyers would enter a guilty plea for a Falun Gong practitioner.

A few days later, a court-appointed lawyer visited Ms. Yang even though she never requested one. The lawyer said that, if she admitted her “crime” of “using a cult to undermine the enforcement of the law” (the standard pretext used to frame and sentence Falun Gong practitioners), she might get a light sentence and avoid jail time.

Ms. Yang told the lawyer she did not break any law by practicing Falun Gong or owning Falun Gong books. She also told him how she benefited from Falun Gong. Both of her sons died in the prime of their lives. She was grief-stricken and her health declined. She had heart disease and high blood pressure. Her eyes were very sensitive to light and she had to keep the curtains drawn all day. After she took up Falun Gong, she gradually recovered from her symptoms and also became more cheerful. At 87 years old, she had no trouble climbing stairs.

The Shibei District Court heard Ms. Yang’s case on July 18, 2023. She refuted the prosecutor’s allegation against her and emphasized that no enacted law in China criminalizes Falun Gong or labels it as a cult. She also pointed out that the ban on Falun Gong publications was lifted in 2011, meaning that the Falun Gong books confiscated from her home were totally lawful and could not be used as evidence against her.

The court-appointed lawyer concurred with Ms. Yang and also defended her innocence even though he had indeed been instructed to enter a guilty plea for her.

Presiding judge Wang Hanzhi (+86-16653216061 ext. 31) convicted Ms. Yang on September 16, 2023. It is unclear when she will be taken back into custody to serve time.