1400 Falun Gong Practitioners Arrested, Harassed, or Sentenced Heading into 2021

From December 2020 to January 2021, a total of 482 arrests, 734 cases of harassment, and 186 sentencing’s of Falun Gong practitioners in China have been reported. The cases for January 2021 include 216 arrests, 151 incidents of harassment, and 41 sentencings. The cases from December 2020 include 266 cases of arrests, 583 of harassment, and 145 sentencings. These cases are additional to the cases reported in the 2020 annual report by Minghui.org, bringing the number of total arrests and incidents of harassment in 2020 to 16,084. 

Due to the information blockade and resultant difficulty in getting information out of China, the total numbers cases are likely to be higher than the reported numbers. It is notable though, in the month of December 2020 alone, the number of arrests increased to 819 and the incidents of harassment to 1,569, accounting for 12% and 17% of the annual totals.

Compared to December 2020, incidents of persecution in January 2021 have also dropped sharply. The sudden decrease in incidents of persecution in January 2021 through may be an indicator of the severity of the pandemic, as the actual situation is being covered up by the Chinese Communist Party and not known to the outside world. A similar pattern was observed in early 2020 when fewer persecution cases were reported than in December 2019, as most police forces were dispatched to enforce the draconian lockdowns and to control information circulating across the country about the pandemic, leaving less manpower to maintain the suppression of Falun Gong.  

The draconian lockdown measures also make it difficult for Falun Gong practitioners to find out about and record incidents of persecution, resulting in delays in sending information to Minghui.org. 

It also remains to be investigated whether the sudden increase in incidents of persecution in November and December 2020, compared to the earlier months of last year, was a coordinated effort by the authorities to target as many practitioners as possible ahead of the new wave of the coronavirus.

With 260 of the 482 arrested practitioners still in custody and denied visits at the time of writing, their families are very worried about them.

Nationwide Persecution

The targeted practitioners reported in January 2021 hail from 155 cities in 29 provinces and municipalities. The provinces of Heilongjiang, Shandong, Hebei, had the most persecution cases, with over 100 people arrested or harassed. Another 17 regions registered double-digit cases and 9 provinces had single-digit cases.

Financial Extortion

Of the 1,216 arrested and harassed practitioners, 169 had their homes ransacked and 26 had between 100 and 130,000 yuan extorted by the police. The total amount extorted was 296,100 yuan with an average of 11,388 yuan per person. 

When Ms. Jiang Xiaoli and Ms. Jia Liying of Datong City, Shanxi Province, were arrested on January 19, 2021, the police confiscated 13 printers, Falun Gong books, materials, and cash from Ms. Jiang. They confiscated 130,000 yuan in banknotes with messages about Falun Gong printed on them and Falun Gong books and materials from Ms. Jia. (Due to the strict information censorship in China, practitioners use creative ways to disseminate information about their faith, including printing information on banknotes.) 

Twenty-seven practitioners have had their pensions suspended for upholding their faith. Ms. Zhu Xiyu of Yanbian City, Jilin Province, was ordered to pay back the 200,000 yuan pension she was given when the authorities claimed that she was not entitled to be paid during her wrongful imprisonment for her faith, although there is no law China to that effect.

Practitioners from All Walks of Life Targeted

The practitioners targeted in January 2021 come from all walks of life, and include teachers, engineers, and doctors. 

Ms. Wang Yonghua, a retired senior engineer from the Gangwan Engineering Design Institute in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, was forced to live away from home in January 2021 after authorities threatened to suspend her pension and health insurance and take her to a brainwashing center. 

Ms. Qin Yun, a teacher in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, was arrested on January 14, 2021, while teaching a class. She has been put on criminal detention.

Ms. Sun Jing, a factory owner in Weihai City, Shandong Province, was arrested at her factory on January 6, 2021. The police pointed guns at 30 of the workers in the factory and forced them to squat and put their hands on their heads. All the workers’ cellphones were confiscated, and they were not allowed to make or receive any calls. During lunch and when they went to use the restroom, they were also followed by the police.

The police spent an entire day ransacking the factory. Most of the workers were not allowed to go home until after 8 p.m. Ms. Sun’s own home was also ransacked, and her Falun Gong books, a photo of Falun Gong’s founder, computer, and printer were confiscated.

Mr. Zhang Junfeng, a director of the Haiyang Landscape Bureau in Yantai City, Shandong Province, was arrested at work on January 9, 2021. Six officers took him to his home and ransacked it that afternoon. When his wife refused to open the door for the police, they hired a locksmith and broke in. Three of Mr. Zhang’s computers, Falun Gong books, photo of Falun Gong’s founder, and other Falun Gong materials, were confiscated. The police even searched his refrigerator for Falun Gong materials.

Targeting of Elderly

Ninety-four (7.7%) of the practitioners were also 65 or older, with 2 of the harassed practitioners in their 90s.

Ms. Chen Lanzhi, 85, of Jinan City, Shandong Province, was followed by two police officers when she went out on January 15, 2021. They arrested her after seeing her distribute five copies of informational materials about Falun Gong. 

Chen was held at the police station until 10 p.m. The police searched her home, but didn’t find any Falun Gong items. They extorted 1,000 yuan from her daughter. 

Mr. Zhou Shaotang, 83, of Panjin City, Liaoning Province, was arrested for talking to people about Falun Gong at a farmers’ market on January 13, 2021. 

The police ransacked his home that afternoon and confiscated Falun Gong books. They attempted to take him to the police station, but Zhou and his wife were so terrified that they both collapsed. The police finally left after a three-hour standoff with his family, but they came back over the course of the next few days to continually harass Zhou.

Practitioners Sentenced in 77 Cities in 25 Provinces and Municipalities

The practitioners reported sentenced in January 2021 came from 77 cities in 25 provinces and centrally-controlled municipalities. The provinces of Sichuan (22) registered the most cases, followed by Shandong (20), Heilongjiang (17), Jilin (14), Guangdong (13), Liaoning and Hebei (both 12), and Hubei (10). The remaining 17 provinces reported sentencing between 1 and 9 practitioners.

A total of 68 practitioners were fined by the courts for a total of 917,000 yuan. Individual amounts ranged from 1,000 to 50,000 yuan for an average of 13,485 yuan each.

The Lu County Court in Sichuan Province sentenced three practitioners, including an 81-year-old woman, to terms between 4 and 4.5 years over five days in December 2020.

On December 25, 2020, in Yinchuan City, Ningxia Province, 8 practitioners targeted in a group arrest in September 2019, have been sentenced from 2 to 5.5 years and fined amounts between 15,000 and 35,000 yuan. Two of the arrested practitioners also passed away in incarceration from persecution.

Four Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province residents were sentenced on January 4, 2021, one to one year with a 5,000-yuan fine and the other 3 to 4 years and 2 months each with a 30,000-yuan fine. One of them, a 66-year-old retired Aluminum Products Factory worker, was fined 30,000 yuan and also had 13,865 yuan in cash and a 50,000-yuan bank deposit slip confiscated during her arrest.

In another group sentencing, six practitioners in Dazhu County, Sichuan Province, were sentenced to terms of between 2 and 7.5 years. Among them, a 57-year-old teacher was given the longest term and the highest fine of 50,000 yuan.

47 Practitioners Over 60 Sentenced

Of the 82 practitioners sentenced, 47 were in their 60s or older. Their prison terms ranged from 10 months to 10 years.

The oldest practitioner, 88-year-old Ms. Yu Fangzhuang of Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province, was sentenced to 6 months and fined 2,000 yuan in late December 2020.

Mr. Li Dengchen, an 82-year-old retired teacher in Hengshui City, Hebei Province, was sentenced to 10 years around January 2021.

Mr. Xiao Dafu, an 80-year-old Dazhou City, Sichuan Province resident, was sentenced to 8.5 years on September 30, 2020, after over two years of incommunicado detention.

Ms. Li Guoxin, 72, of Pingdingshan City, Henan Province, was sentenced to 9 years by the Lushan County Court around January 2021.

Longest Prison Term of 14 Years

The sentences ranged from 6 months to 14 years in prison, with an average of 3.4 years.

Mr. Ma Zhiwu of Yinchuan City, Ningxia Province resident, was sentenced to 14 years and fined 30,000 yuan on December 17, 2020. Ma, a 50-year-old former railroad crew driver, was arrested on June 5, 2020, while looking for a job in Guyuan City in the same province. He held a hunger strike at the Guyuan City Detention Center. His family went to the local police station and detention center to seek his release, but to no avail. Prior to his latest term, he was held in a forced labor camp for three years and served two prison terms for a total of 9.5 years.

Two men in Linxia City, Gansu Province, Mr. Zhao Yujie, around 44, and Mr. Chen Yongsen, around 65, were arrested in February 2020 for making informational materials about Falun Gong. After nine months in custody, Mr. Chen was sentenced to 9 years and Mr. Zhao to 9.5 years in early November 2020.

A 67-year-old woman, Ms. Zhang Zhenhua, a retired tea company worker in Dazhou City, Sichuan Province, was sentenced to 8 years and fined 8,000 yuan on December 28, 2020. Zhang was arrested on July 10, 2019, while visiting another practitioner. She was punched and handcuffed behind her back by a policeman every day while detained in Xinjin Brainwashing Center. Despite becoming emaciated from the persecution, she was still being interrogated.

Violations of Legal Procedure and Brutal Treatment in Custody

The sentencing cases reported in January 2021 also highlighted police violence in the arbitrary arrests of practitioners and their subsequent detention. The police also fabricated evidence to charge them.

Ms. Wen Yufei, 48, of Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, was arrested on May 1, 2020, after officers deceived her into opening the door. While interrogating her, an officer kicked her in the head, face, eyes, and nose with his boots. He also verbally abused her and threatened to harm her parents and son.

After Ms. Wen fainted from the abuse, the officer ordered two others to drag her into another interrogation room and continued to verbally attack her after she came to. In the middle of the interrogation, the chair she was sitting in suddenly collapsed and she hit the floor, severely injuring her back.

Although Ms. Wen was released on bail due to the injury, she was sentenced to two years by the Jianhua District Court in late December 2020.

In Daqing City, Heilongjiang Province, the police spent eight hours searching every corner and every piece of paper they could find in Ms. Li Yanjie’s home on March 12, 2020. The 50-year-old woman’s husband and daughter were also arrested and had their cellphones taken away. Ms. Li was later transferred to Daqing City Detention Center and denied family visits. She was secretly sentenced to five years in January 2021. When her lawyer visited her on January 14, she was carried out by two guards. She told the lawyer that she was having heart problems and that her legs hurt so much that she couldn’t walk.

Mr. Liu Zhimin of Chongqing was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months based on fabricated evidence. Mr. Liu was arrested on January 8, 2020, when he and Mr. Yang Dingchan were helping Mr. Wu Shenghua, 79, write calligraphy couplets and giving them away for free before the Chinese New Year.

Decades of Imprisonment

While some practitioners were sentenced to lengthy terms for the first time following their latest arrests, others were sentenced again after having served lengthy terms for upholding their faith.

The latest 4.5 years given to Mr. Yuan Zhiqiang of Chongqing on November 18, 2020, was preceded by 2 years in a forced labor camp term and two prison terms between 2000 and 2016, the first for 9 years and the second for 2.5 years.

Mr. Wang Zicheng of Beijing was sentenced to 5.5 years and fined 1,000 yuan in December 2020 for distributing Falun Gong materials. This is the third time that Wang has been sentenced. He previously served a total of 14 years in prison and was once incapacitated as a result of the torture in custody.

While defending her father in court, his daughter said, “During the past two decades, as I grew up, the persecution has always been a nightmare for me and my family. The persecution has harmed countless kind Falun Gong practitioners and destroyed many happy families like ours. When both of my parents were imprisoned for their faith in Falun Gong, my brother and I had no financial support and we almost killed ourselves. Luckily, a relative lent us a hand and helped us through that difficult time. After my father was released, the authorities suspended his pension, leaving our family destitute.

“Since I was a child, my father had always taught me to be kind and listen to my conscience. It’s not easy for me to stand here and defend him. But I have to have the courage to speak up for my father when he is being wronged. I’m also speaking up for those who have suffered in the persecution just for upholding their faith. My father is innocent and all the other tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are innocent, too.”

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