(Minghui.org) A 67-year-old man in Qinhuangdao City, Hebei Province was sentenced to 4.5 years days after he stood trial on December 14, 2023 for his faith in Falun Gong, a mind-body practice that has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party since July 1999. Mr. Zhao Huanzhen is currently appealing the wrongful conviction.

Mr. Zhao’s sentencing stemmed from his arrest on May 10, 2023, while he and four others were visiting 79-year-old Ms. Zhu Fengchun and her husband, 82-year-old Mr. Zhang Dehai, to read the Falun Gong teachings together. Over 40 officers from the Qinhuangdao City Police Department, the Shanhaiguan District Police Department, and the Shanhaiguan Street Committee were present during the arrest. They used a ladder to scale Ms. Zhu’s fence and jumped into her courtyard. They then broke in and videotaped her, her husband, and their guests. 

Mr. Zhao and the other four guests were taken to their respective police stations in their residential areas. Their homes were raided and valuables confiscated. 

Mr. Zhao was soon moved to the Qinhuangdao City Detention Center. According to his family, he started experiencing persistent rectal bleeding about six months into his detention and became very weak. His family demanded his immediate release, but to no avail.

The Funing District Court held a hearing of Mr. Zhao’s case on December 14, 2023. Only his wife and one of their sons were allowed to attend the session, while other family members were made to wait in the hallway during the hearing. The presiding judge, Lin Shuangquan, claimed that he made the decision to protect courtroom safety. He also cited the small size of the courtroom as an excuse to restrict attendance, when there were enough seats for Mr. Zhao’s family.

Mr. Zhao’s two lawyers argued that their client didn’t violate any law for visiting other law-abiding citizens and reading Falun Gong books together. It was a private gathering, which didn’t cause any harm to any individual or society at large. On the other hand, practicing Falun Gong is expressing their freedom of belief and no enacted Chinese law criminalizes Falun Gong.

The lawyers added that the prosecutor Zou Sumin accused Mr. Zhao of “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” but she failed to provide any evidence to support the charge. In addition, no witness accounts bore their signatures, which rendered them invalid as prosecution evidence.

Judge Lin kept interrupting the lawyers and was very rude to them. 

After the hearing ended, Mr. Zhao was quickly led out of the courtroom. His wife followed him outside to ask him if he still had blood in his stool. He said he no longer had the symptom and asked her to not worry about him. She, however, couldn’t stop worrying about him because she saw that his hair had turned gray and he had lost a lot of weight during his seven months of detention. 

When judge Lin exited the courtroom, Mr. Zhao’s wife said to him, “My husband’s health has quickly declined since his detention. He was not in good health to begin with and I’m really worried whether he...” Lin cut her off and told her to wait for a court decision.

Days later, Mr. Zhao’s wife received a call from the court saying that her husband had been sentenced to four and a half years. She questioned the heavy sentence, since prosecutor Zou recommended three years at the end of the hearing. The caller said that was because Mr. Zhao had not “behaved” well the past few years, as he persisted in practicing Falun Gong. 

Since the persecution began in July 1999, Mr. Zhao has been detained over ten times. He was tortured in Hehuakeng Forced Labor Camp in Tangshan City, Hebei Province, and became disabled. In the past five years, he has been sentenced twice, including an 18-month term following an arrest on May 19, 2019, for talking to people about Falun Gong and another 14-month term after another arrest on August 22, 2021.

Related reports:

67-Year-Old Man Stands Trial for Practicing Falun Gong, Facing Third Prison Sentence in Five Years

67-year-old Man in Serious Condition in Custody, Facing Third Prison Sentence in Five Years

The Persecution of Falun Dafa Practitioner Mr. Zhao Huanzhen from Shanhaiguan City, Hebei Province

How Practitioner Mr. Zhao Huanzhen Was Abused in Hehuakeng Labor Camp, Tangshan City, Hebei Province

Tangshan Labor Camp Persecutes Zhao Huanzhen: Forced Sitting For Several Months Results in Severe Open Sores