Three individuals with family connections in Canada were sentenced to prison in April for speaking out against the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong. Ms. Chen Yinghua is the daughter of Calgary residents Jinling Huang and Chen Zhiming.She was arrested along with her niece, Bian Xiaohui, while attempting to visit Ms. Bian’s father in a Shijiazhuang city prison on 12 March 2014. All are Falun Gong practitioners. Ms. Chen and Ms. Bian were denied visitation, and held a banner outside the prison reading “I want to see my father.” They were arrested and have been detained ever since. A closed-door trial was held on 12 December 2014, and their lawyers and family members were barred from the courtroom. A representative of the Canadian embassy in Beijing also attempted to observe the trial but was turned away. On 10 April 2015, Ms. Chen was sentenced to four years in prison; Ms. Bian was sentenced to 3.5 years. When the lawyers tried to file an appeal, and were reportedly told that the outcome of an appeal had already been decided. “My daughter has not seen a lawyer in more than eight months,” says Jinling Huang through a translator. “I have heard that her health is deteriorating in custody and that she is very emaciated. I worry that she has been tortured.” In a separate case, the father of Mississauga man Paul Li was sentenced to eight years in prison on 21 April 2015. Li Xiaobo, 60, was arrested in Chengdu in April 2014 for distributing information about Falun Gong and the human rights abuses meted out against its practitioners. This is the second time that Li, a former county magistrate and successful real estate developer, has been imprisoned. From 2005 to 2012 he was detained at Deyang Prison, where he suffered severe physical and mental abuse resulting in permanent injury and partial blindness in his left eye. "My father is now 60 years old, and he has already been through eight years of torture, leaving him blind in one eye and physically weak. His moral courage is an inspiration to me, but I worry every day whether or not I will ever see him again," said Paul upon hearing the news of his father's sentence. An official from the Canadian Consulate in Chongqing was prevented from observing the trial. The family's lawyer and his father were consistently interrupted during the proceedings. This was not the only obstruction in the trial. According to Li, the family's lawyer and his father were consistently interrupted during their testimony by the judge, who called five recesses during the course of the proceedings. Over 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners were sentenced to prison in China in 2014, either for their practice of Falun Gong or for peacefully speaking out against the government’s treatment of the group. In all cases, practitioners are denied rights to a free and fair trial, and sentencing decisions are issued by Communist Party authorities. In addition, thousands of Falun Gong are detained extrajudicially in reeducation centers (“black jails”), where torture and abuse are routine. According to a 2015 report by U.S. human rights organization Freedom House, Falun Gong practitioners represent the largest contingent of prisoners of conscience in China, and are at an elevated risk of dying or being killed in custody. To arrange an interview please contact Joel Chipkar: (416) 399-9000.