Shandong Man Sentenced to 3.5 Years for Distributing Informational Materials about His Faith
On December 28, 2020, Mr. Li Weizong, a 58-year-old brick factory worker from Jinan City, Shandong Province, was sentenced to 3.5 years for distributing Falun Gong informational materials. Even though Li did not break any laws, he has been sentenced for pleading not guilty.
Arrest and Trial
Li works at a brick factory in Binzhou City. He was initially arrested on the afternoon of March 11, 2020, after police noticed he was distributing informational materials about Falun Gong after work, via a surveillance camera. Due to the pandemic, the police released him on bail in the evening.
Seven months later, on October 14, the police rearrested him at work and have kept him at the Zouping District Detention Center in Binzhou City since.
His family hired a lawyer to represent him. When the lawyer went to the detention center to visit him, the guards demanded that the lawyer obtain permission from the police first. The lawyer then contacted the police, who questioned him in detail on how Li’s family had found him. After several days of negotiation, the lawyer was finally allowed to talk to Li through a video meeting.
After the police submitted Li’s case to the Zouping District Procuratorate in early December 2020, his lawyer also submitted his legal opinion, urging the prosecutor not to indict him. The lawyer wrote that no law criminalizes practicing Falun Gong in China and Li distributing the materials is his constitutional right; Li also did not cause harm to anyone or undermine the enforcement of any law, as the police had claimed.
The prosecutor, however, responded that his superior had instructed them to hand down a heavy term against Li if Li refused to plead guilty.
On December 11, 2020, Li was indicted and booked to stand trial online from the detention center by the Zouping District Court on December 28. His family was not allowed to attend the trial.
Li’s lawyer entered a not guilty plea for him at the hearing. He pointed out the police did not provide any evidence of how his client had undermined law enforcement by distributing Falun Gong materials (a standard pretext authorities use to frame Falun Gong practitioners).
The police, on the other hand, argued that Li is a repeat offender, as in 2018, he had been sentenced to 1.5 years for practicing Falun Gong.
The judge sentenced Mr. Li to 3.5 years with a 5,000 yuan fine at the end of the trial. Li appealed the case with the Binzhou City Intermediate Court.
Li’s family was not notified of his verdict until early January 2021.
Arrest and Trial
Li used to suffer severe headaches, as well as neck and stomach problems. Due to his health conditions, he had to quit school and missed the opportunity to attend college.
After he took up Falun Gong, his health recovered and he applied practice’s principles of Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance to his daily life. He often helps local villagers with their farm work, fixes their farming equipment, or makes donations to repair the road. He rarely turned people down when they came to him for help. Villagers often said to him, “You Falun Gong practitioners are really kind!”
For hanging up Falun Gong banners to raise awareness about the persecution, Li was arrested on January 20, 2017. He was detained for over a year at the Zhoucun District Detention Center, and then sentenced to 1.5 years by Zhoucun District Court on April 9, 2018. He was released in late July of 2018.