(Minghui.org) A private school owner in Sanhe City, Hebei Province, was sentenced to three years and two months on January 29, 2024, for practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. He has appealed the verdict and is now awaiting the result.

Mr. Zhang Xuefu

Mr. Zhang Xuefu, 51, was arrested on July 14, 2023. The Sanhe City Procuratorate approved his arrest 13 days later and moved his case to the Sanhe City Court on October 27, just a month after receiving the case from the police.

Mr. Zhang appeared in the Sanhe City Court on January 5, 2024. Only his daughter, older sister and younger brother were allowed into the courtroom. His other relatives and friends were stopped at the door, as the bailiff claimed that they had to apply for permission beforehand in order to attend the hearing.

Mr. Zhang’s two lawyers entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. He also testified in his own defense. They argued that no law has ever criminalized Falun Gong in China, and that the Falun Gong materials Mr. Zhang had were his lawful assets. They said that he didn’t violate any law or harm anyone by having or distributing Falun Gong informational materials. 

Prosecutor Xu Lei recommended a prison term of three years and two months, which was exactly what Mr. Zhang’s family heard from an insider at the procuratorate three months before when he was indicted. When he was indeed given the exact same prison sentence, it became obvious to his family that his term was pre-determined by the higher-ups. 

Mr. Zhang taught at the Shengjiatun Elementary School and the Sanhe City No. 14 Middle School before starting his own private school, which now boasts three campuses. He was formerly known as a dominant, impulsive, and chauvinistic man, but he turned into a humble, considerate, and kind person after he took up Falun Gong in 2015. When his school had to shut down during the pandemic, he took out a loan to continue paying his faculty and staff.

Mr. Zhang credits Falun Gong for giving him a big heart and curing his facial paralysis. Because of this, he distributed Falun Gong informational materials to inform the public that Falun Gong was nothing like what is depicted in the communist regime’s hate propaganda.

In a letter to presiding judge Shi Shaolin, Mr. Zhang’s sister wrote, “My younger brother was very dominant. He didn’t agree with us on many things. He was very social and often got drunk at various social events. Sometimes he became irrational while drunk and even hit his wife once. When he didn’t return home after a social event, my sister-in-law would be very worried. She would call all of his friends to find him. My brother felt she made him lose face and often fought with her. Their conflict was so intense that they almost got a divorce.

“Because of the frequent drinking, my brother suffered severe gastric perforation and ulcer. He also had facial paralysis. He saw many doctors in Beijing, but none of them were able to cure him. He later began to practice Falun Gong and soon recovered. He changed into a different person. He quit drinking and stopped fighting with my sister-in-law. It’s Falun Gong that gave my brother a healthy body and a happy family. That’s the reason why he persists in practicing it.”

But despite the lack of legal basis for the persecution or any evidence to show how Mr. Zhang had violated the law, the authorities still handed down the predetermined prison sentence.

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