Mother of UK Fashion Designer Imprisoned Again for Her Faith
Over the last 22 years, Ms. Minghui Yu, a young fashion designer living in the United Kingdom, has lived in constant worry about the safety of her parents. Her parents are both practitioners of Falun Gong and have been repeatedly persecuted for their faith since she was 12.
Most recently, Yu’s mother, 63-year-old Ms. Meihong Wang, has been sentenced to four years in prison for talking to people about the persecution of Falun Gong.
This is not the first time Wang has been sentenced. Wang was sentenced to 11 years following arrest in 2003 and while in prison, officers deprived her of sleep, forced her to work all day in a machine room at 400 °F, mandated her to sit on a small stool for long periods of time, and deprived her of freedom of movement and speech.
The torture has taken a toll on Wang’s overall health and her right knee now has permanent damage, caused when a guard and a felon dragged her down from her bed and attacked her for meditating on her bed.
Yu’s father, 64-year-old Mr. Zonghai Yu, was also sentenced to 15 years in 2001 and brutally tortured for raising awareness about Falun Gong.
Persecution of the Yu Family
Yu’s family is from the city of Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang Province, China. Her father is a professional oil panter and talented ice sculptor and was an employee of the City Library. He was honored several times as a model employee by the City and State Libraries. Her mother was a senior engineer in the City Geological Institute and an outstanding employee.
Before her second year of middle school, Yu recalls a safe and loving family environment. Her father was a witty and intelligent; he would tease her, tell her stories, and teach her how to draw. He would also bring back big stacks of books from the city library where he worked, which Yu eagerly devoured. Her mother had sparkling eyes and dancing fingers, which dutifully bundled her up for the cold northeastern weather each morning as she left for school.
On July 20, 1999, the Yu family’s peaceful life would change forever. Yu’s father was arrested that day; although he was released, he was again arrested for petitioning to the central government in Beijing for the right of freedom of religion, he was sentenced to a year of forced labor.
In 2001, for spray-painting “Falun Dafa is Good” on a wall to raise awareness in public about his practice, Yu’s father was sentenced to 15 years.
Yu’s mother was then sentenced to 11 years in 2003, for talking to people about Falun Gong.
Yu herself was also detained at one point at a brainwashing center.
While her parents were incarcerated, Yu spent her free time traveling to visit her parents, who were in separate prisons in different cities. She would take the bus, the train, and then walk for miles to see her parents or talk with them, but often was denied visitations. On rare visitations, her parents never told her about the persecution the suffered and encouraged her to be strong. It was only after 2010, when Yu came to the U.K. to study fashion design where she learned of how seriously they had been tortured.
At the time this secret photo was taken of Yu’s father in prison, visitors said beyond the injuries visible in the photo, he had been brutally beaten. His leg had been broken and his breastbone was extruding from his chest. He was also reported to have been suffering from dizziness, could not see clearly, and had problems when walking.
Although Yu has not been physically tortured and left China in 2010 after being admitted to the Cambridge School of Visual & Performing Arts to study fashion design, the emotional impact of the persecution on her has nevertheless been great.
In an open letter published in the International Business Times in 2015, Yu said:
“But for more than ten years, the total time I spent with my parents was less than twenty-four hours. Countless nights I fell asleep crying and missing them, I couldn’t bear the pain of thinking about my parents’ situation and I had a huge fear that I may lose them forever like other Falun Gong kids.”
When her father was released in 2016, two years after her mother was released, they applied for passports to travel to the U.K. to visit her. Their applications were rejected by the Chinese police and were told they would never be able to have passports.
Most Recent Sentencing
On March 31, 2020, Yu’s mother was arrested again for talking to people about Falun Gong. After being detained for a year, she was sentenced to four years around early May 2021 and is currently incarcerated in the Heilongjiang Women’s Prison.
Yu said in an interview with New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) that she called the police station that arrested her mother, but “they didn’t give me any clear information or any clear reasons. They just told me something like, you don’t talk with a policeman about law or regulations.”
Since moving to the U.K., Yu has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of her parents’ plight. Yu has not been together for her parents for more than a day since 2005 and grown up independently, but she wholeheartedly supports her parents’ choice:
“In the face of being tortured and even being killed, they still stand up for their right of belief, by doing so they show the whole world what true human beings should be like.”