Over 100 Falun Gong Practitioners Sentenced, 18 Killed in China Since July
Latest reports bring 2023 persecution tally to 471 sentences and 77 deaths
Since July, courts across China have sentenced at least 100 individuals to prison terms lasting up to 9 years for practicing Falun Gong, exposing rights abuses faced by practitioners, or sharing other information to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) demonizing propaganda. Tragically, the persecution has taken the lives of at least 18 practitioners since July, either due to abuse in custody, medical trauma following torture in detention, or other forms of persecution.
This information is derived from well-documented cases published by the overseas Minghui website, which compiles first-hand accounts from a network of citizen journalists in China.
Sentences or deaths occurred in 23 out of China’s 31 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions with the most documented in Jilin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang provinces. The youngest victim was 36 years old and the oldest was 93. The total for these three months shows a consistent trend when compared to the previous reporting period, July to September 2022, during which there were 103 sentencing cases and 14 deaths.
“The sheer volume of these cases reinforces what is already public knowledge: Falun Gong practitioners across China remain a key target of repression by the CCP,” says Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center. “Each one represents an innocent person and a family torn apart. For victims who have died, their loved ones are left with a gaping hole in their hearts.”
“As more journalists, policymakers, government officials, and business representatives begin traveling back into China in the aftermath of the draconian zero-COVID policy, they should be aware that these depravities and lethal abuses are literally happening around the corner.”
Harsh Sentences and Families Torn Apart
During this quarter, the persecution raged on. In July, 33 Falun Gong practitioners received sentences, and 8 practitioners lost their lives. In August, there were 31 sentences and 9 deaths, and in September, 36 sentences were handed out, and at least one Falun Gong practitioner died as a result of persecution.
Falun Gong practitioners were sentenced to an average term of three years in this period.
One of the latest sentences concerned former Sichuan Economic Daily (四川经济日报) journalist and wife of the former deputy consul at the Chinese Consulate in Melbourne. Ms. He Xiaoling, a 66-year-old retired woman, was sentenced on September 8 to 20 months for distributing information about the persecution to police officers at the Lǜxin Police Station in Leshan City, Sichuan province. She appealed her prison term and went on hunger strike to protest the sentencing.
Another recent case involved the sentencing of two Chongqing residents. On August 18, 2023, Mr. Wang Hong, aged 48, and Ms. Dai Shufang, aged 71, were sentenced to prison on charges of “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law” under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, the standard pretext for sentencing Falun Gong practitioners to prison. Mr. Wang received a 9-year sentence, while Ms. Dai received an 8.5-year sentence. Additionally, both of them were fined 15,000 yuan each.
It remains unclear what the pair had done to garner such harsh punishment, but long terms for Falun Gong practitioners under this provision are typically meted out for preparing and distributing information about the persecution. Officers from the Yubei District Police Department found banknotes printed with messages exposing the persecution as well as Falun Gong books in their possession. Wang had also previously received a four-year sentence in 2001 for distributing Falun Gong flyers.
Among the tragic deaths, Mr. Zhao Xudong, a 78-year-old Falun Gong practitioner in Jilin City, died in August 2023 after years of imprisonment and torture in detention by Chinese authorities.
His death is the latest in a string of persecution tragedies in his family. Zhao’s wife, Ms. Li Yan, died in 2012 after high-voltage electrocution and forced labor re-education camp. His son was sentenced to 10 years, and was released in 2017 after a decade of torture including: electrocution, forced feeding, beating him with threaded steel, stretching torture, and more. And on July 18, 2023, Zhao’s daughter was placed under residential surveillance by the Changyi District Court.
This persecution overview offers a limited glimpse into the persecution campaign against millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
The CCP’s strict information censorship that aims to silence international reporting on rights abuses makes it increasingly difficult for outsiders to see the true picture of repression inside China. For this reason, grassroots networks of informants offer invaluable reports. Even then, police limits on making information available to family or lawyers and other obstacles create delays in reporting.
For example, between July and September 2023, 52 percent of the sentencing cases reported to Minghui occurred in periods before July. These additional cases were reported from years dating back as far as 2003.
Thus, within 2023, new cases that occurred between January and June but were only reported since July numbered 111 unjust prison sentences imposed on Falun Gong practitioners. The deaths of an additional 28 practitioners occurred in previous months or years, but only managed to come to light recently, due to strict information censorship in China.
Among the delayed reports, a 30-year-old Xi’an woman was sentenced in November 2022 to a 4.5-year term for possessing Falun Gong spiritual texts. Ms. Zhang Xiwei is currently imprisoned at Shaanxi Province Women’s Prison. In another belated case, Hunan Province resident Mr. Liu Chaoyang died in custody at Wangling Prison in March 2021 while serving an 8-year sentence. He was reportedly tortured up until his death, according to his wife.