Mother of California Resident Detained, State Department Responds

Updated with additional information on May 8, 2024.

Ms. Meng Zhaohong, the mother of a U.S. resident, was arrested on May 9, 2023, for talking to people about the persecution of Falun Gong at a local fair in Hebei Province.

Ms. Meng’s daughter in California, Ms. Ding Yue, is calling for her release. Representative Kevin Kiley has joined her, writing to the Department of State on her behalf. A State Department official responded to the letter affirming a commitment to calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong practitioners.

Following a hearing on August 22, 2023, the judge of the Funing District Court sentenced Ms. Meng to an unknown term. Her appeal was subsequently denied by the intermediate court.

Arrest of Ms. Meng and Abuse in Custody

Ms. Meng was arrested with another Falun Gong practitioner, Ms. Yuan Xinhua, after they were reported to the police for raising awareness at a local fair in Hebei province about the rights abuses suffered by Falun Gong practitioners.

Police took the two practitioners to Anziling Police Station where they were interrogated. For refusing to answer the police officers’ questions, police beat the two women. The beatings were severe enough to hospitalize the two women, who were then to Qinhuangdao City Public Security Hospital (秦皇岛公安医院) where they were held for over two months.

While hospitalized, the Qinglong County Procuratorate formally approved their arrests on May 23.

The families of the two practitioners were denied visitation, although Ms. Meng’s family managed to hire a lawyer who was able to visit Ms. Meng on June 30. The lawyer told Ms. Meng’s family that her neck and ear were still damaged from the beating two nearly two months earlier. She was also suffering from high blood pressure and a blocked artery. The police attempted to take the two women to Qinhuangdao City Detention Center and the Qinhuangdao; however, both locations refused to admit the women due to their conditions, and they were taken back to the hospital.

According to Ms. Meng’s daughter, she stood trial in Funing District Court in Qinhuangdao on August 22. Her lawyer entered a not guilty plea and argued that no law has criminalized Falun Gong. Despite the lack of legal basis for charging Ms. Meng, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of 4-5 years. The judge did not announce the verdict at the end of the hearing.

U.S. Government Officials Call for Ms. Meng’s Release

In response to Ms. Ding Yue’s advocacy for her mother, California Congressman Kevin Kiley sent a letter to the State Department urging the U.S. ambassador to China to raise Ms. Meng’s case with his Chinese counterparts. Kiley’s letter emphasized the importance for the international community to raise awareness of and take a stand against the Chinese Communist party’s human rights violations against Falun Gong practitioners.

In response to the letter, State Department official, Philip Laidlaw, said to Rep. Kiley, “We share your deep concerns regarding Ms. Meng’s case and the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) ongoing campaign of repression against the Falun Gong movement and its millions of practitioners, their advocates, and human rights defenders working on their behalf.” Mr. Laidlaw went on to reaffirm the State Department’s Commitment to defending religious liberty in China and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of prisoners of conscience.