First Half of 2021: 667 Falun Gong Practitioners Reported Sentenced for Their Faith
Based on an original report from Minghui.org
In the first half of 2021, 667 Falun Gong practitioners were confirmed to have been sentenced to prison for their faith.
The newly recorded cases include 7 in 2019, 271 in 2020, and 389 in 2021, which brings the total confirmed sentencing cases in 2019 to 781 and in 2020 to 893. Due to the strict information censorship in China, reports may be delayed or incomplete.
The 667 practitioners who were sentenced are from 154 cities in 26 provinces and municipalities. Henan (70), Liaoning (68), Heilongjiang (65), Jilin (55), and Shandong (54) are the top five provinces with the most cases. Sixteen other regions registered double-digit cases and the remaining five provinces had single-digit cases.
While several northeastern provinces such as Liaoning, Heilongjiang, and Jilin have remained at the forefront in executing the government’s persecution policies over the past two decades, the persecution has escalated in the province of Henan in central China over the past two years. In an earlier report on deaths reported in the first half of 2021, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Henan also took the top four spots in terms of the most confirmed deaths. Among the 70 sentences passed down in Henan, 40 of those resulted from a mass arrest of over 160 practitioners in Nanyang City in August 2019. The Wancheng District Court alone was responsible for sentencing 26 practitioners, with sentences ranging from seven months to 13 years (an additional practitioner’s verdict is unknown). It is still being investigated as to which court convicted the other 14 practitioners, who were given sentences from two to nine years.
Among the 667 practitioners, 234 (35%) were known to be between 26 and 88 years old, with an average age of 62. Sixteen of the practitioners were 80 or older. Fifty-seven were in their 70s, and 76 were in their 60s.
Some of the elderly practitioners were hit with especially lengthy sentences, including an 82-year-old man sentenced to ten years, an 81-year-old man sentenced to nine years, a 72-year-old woman sentenced to nine years, and another woman in her 70s also sentenced to nine years.
The sentenced practitioners are from all walks of life and include teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, accountants, and financial managers. Because of the persecution, some lost their jobs or were forced to divorce.
One example is Mr. Han Xu, who worked in the commercial department of Gansu Province Carpet Import and Export Corporation and was also a translator for the provincial Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. After the persecution of Falun Gong started, he was arrested multiple times and sentenced to ten years in prison. He was beaten multiple times, handcuffed with his arms behind his back for long hours, shocked with electric batons, and locked in solitary confinement for six years. Han was arrested again in May 2019 for distributing Falun Gong materials and sentenced to three years in February 2021.
Sentencing Terms, Fines, and Extortion
Except for 30 practitioners whose terms are unknown, 33 who were given probation and did not have to serve time and two who were only fined but not given prison terms, the other 602 (90%) practitioners were sentenced to prison with terms ranging from four months to 14 years, with an average of three and a half years.
A total of 248 (37%) practitioners were extorted by the police or fined by the court for sums ranging from 500 to 200,000 yuan, with an average of 13,909 yuan per person.
With more group arrests over the past few years, group sentencing is also becoming more frequent, often with heavy terms.
In addition to the sentencing of 40 practitioners in Nanyang, Henan Province, mentioned above, another six residents of Zhoukou City in the province were given sentences from three to seven years for reading Falun Gong books together. The police monitored the practitioners for over a month before arresting them. All had their homes ransacked.
In Fuyang City, Anhui Province, nine practitioners were given between eight months and 12 years and fined from 10,000 to 30,000 yuan. Before the hearings, the judge forced the practitioners’ lawyers to leave and arranged for the court-appointed lawyers to enter guilty pleas for the practitioners. The practitioners’ family members weren’t allowed to attend the sessions in person either but had to watch online videos.
Among the 14 practitioners who were sentenced to seven to nine years by the Lishu County Court in Changchun City, Jilin Province, seven were members of an extended family. Although judges had told the practitioners’ families they had not decided on the rulings, they announced the verdicts the next day. According to an insider, terms had already been predetermined by higher-ups.
Thereafter, the judges refused to provide the practitioners’ families with a hard copy of the verdicts, citing a decision from their superior, and the detention center also prevented the practitioners’ lawyers from visiting them to obtain more information about the verdicts.
Specialized Courts and Expedited Sentencings
Of the 667 cases, 424 (64%) sentences were known to be handed down by 170 courts, including district-, township-, county-, and city-level courts. In most cities, the cases were handled by just one or two courts.
Such consolidation and expedition have further contributed to more sentences since the pandemic. With many practitioners stepping forward in 2020 to expose how the Chinese Communist Party covered up the pandemic using tactics similar to the persecution of Falun Gong, some were arrested and quickly sentenced, oftentimes without the knowledge of their families and lawyers.
The authorities have also used the pandemic as an excuse to prevent the practitioners’ families and lawyers from visiting them, both in the detention centers during the prosecution stage and after the practitioners have already been sentenced and incarcerated.
Violation of Legal Procedure
From arbitrary arrests to incommunicado detention, from fabricated evidence to secret sentencing, the police, prosecutors, and judges have violated the law at every step in the prosecution process.
After Ms. Meng Suying of Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, was denied admission by the local detention center due to a fever and high blood pressure following her arrest in October 2020, the police put frozen bottles of water under her armpits, forced her to stand outdoors in the freezing cold, and forced her to take blood pressure medicine. Despite Meng having persistent symptoms of high blood pressure, the police forced the detention center to accept her. Following a virtual court hearing in March 2021, Meng was sentenced to four years in June.
Five Chongqing residents arrested in 2018 and secretly tried in 2019 were held incommunicado for nearly three years before being sentenced to terms ranging from 5.5 to 9 years in June 2021. The two young children and non-working wife of one practitioner were left in a dire situation during his detention.
Ms. Chen Jingjie, 65, of Anda City, Heilongjiang Province, was sentenced before her lawyer was allowed to visit her. After finding out about her verdict, the lawyer called the procuratorate and asked the prosecutor why they did not inform him of the trial. They responded that they did not know Chen had a lawyer, even though he had already reviewed her case document and submitted his Power of Attorney a month before.
Persecuted Despite Medical Condition
Some practitioners developed symptoms of poor health shortly after being imprisoned due to the deplorable conditions and torture in custody, yet the prison would refuse their requests for medical parole, with the excuse that they did not renounce Falun Gong.
When Ms. Zhang Ruijun appeared in a video conference at her sentencing hearing on June 23, 2021, one month after she was taken back into custody, her family burst into tears when they saw her. The Zibo City, Shandong Province, woman, in her 50s, looked haggard and her reactions were very slow. Walking was even difficult for her. Her family said they couldn’t imagine what torture she’d endured over the past month and they are very worried about her, especially because she now has 3.5 years to serve.
Ms. Zhang Junling, 62, of Huichun City, Jilin Province, was arrested in February 2019 and sentenced to one year. With her high blood pressure, heart condition, and swelling and pain around the area where she had had a mastectomy years ago, she was allowed to serve time at home. Because the police kept going to her home to harass her, her health continued to decline. The police took her back into custody on June 9, 2021 and ordered her to serve a renewed 1.5-year prison term. Because she can no longer wear her artificial leg (which was amputated after a train accident in 1981), she has to use a wheelchair to get around in the detention center.