A Jilin court yesterday sentenced 15 Falun Gong practitioners to jail terms of up to 20 years after finding them guilty of hijacking local television signals. The Changchun Intermediate Court ruled the accused were guilty of damaging television and radio facilities and using 'evil cult organisations' to obstruct law enforcement. Four people said to be the key figures in the case - Zhou Runjun, Liu Weiming, Liu Zhenxing and Liu Chengjun - were each given sentences of 19 or 20 years. The others, Lei Ming, Zhao Jian, Yun Qingbin, Zhang Wen, Sun Changjun, Li Dehai, Liu Dong, Zhuang Xiankun, Wei Xiushan, Chen Yanmei and Li Xiaojie, were jailed for terms ranging from four to 18 years. The New-York based Falun Gong Information Centre said the trial was a mockery of justice. 'By broadcasting programmes that expose what is really happening in China, practitioners of Falun Gong are exercising their right to freedom of speech, using peaceful means that harm no one,' the group said. 'Throughout history, those who peacefully defy injustice and the persecution of the human spirit have been called heroes. 'Today, in this show trial in Changchun, such people are being labelled as criminals.' The group were accused of hijacking television broadcasts in Changchun and Songyuan on March 5 and transmitting programmes that criticised Beijing's crackdown. In one case, television signals in Songyuan were interrupted for 3.5 hours and 16,000 households were 'harassed' by the footage, Xinhua said. The agency claimed the accused - 11 of whom were men - did not raise objections about the charges. Xinhua quoted the chief judge in the trial, Zhang Hui, as saying the defendants were 'tried and sentenced according to law, not because they are Falun Gong followers'. Kan Hung-cheung, a Falun Gong spokesman in Hong Kong, said it was difficult to determine what had taken place during the trial, which began on Wednesday, because it was closed to the public. The harsh penalties come as the central government attempts to ensure stability ahead of the party congress in November. In May, four Falun Gong members were jailed for up to 16 years for hijacking the Chongqing cable television station. State media have launched a propaganda campaign to depict Falun Gong as a terrorist group. An earlier Xinhua report quoted Li Shizhang, the police officer in charge of the case, as saying the 15 in the Jilin case were financially and technically supported by Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, who lives in the United States. China News Service yesterday released an interview with one of the convicted people, Zhou Runjun, and quoted her as saying the law of Falun Gong should supersede human law. Zhou reportedly said she did not regret her acts.