At least one Falun Gong practitioner has been killed and another sent to a labor camp in Hebei province, as security forces cracked down surrounding the June visit to the region by Iowa governor Terry Branstad. The assaults came in an effort to identify who posted on the internet details of a petition signed by 700 villagers calling for the release of a Falun Gong neighbor. The series of events began on June 1, 2012, when police attempted to abduct Mr. Li Lankui in Dong’anfeng village for practicing Falun Gong. Villagers successfully thwarted the police effort by surrounding the cars and pressuring officers not to detain Li, a well-respected member of the community. The authorities, including the extralegal 610 Office, continued monitoring Li. They harassed villagers, warning them not to associate with Li and fining a shopkeeper 1,500 for conversing with him. On June 7, Chinese security agents made a second attempt to abduct Li. This time, they succeeded in taking him away and secretly sentenced him to 15 months in a forced labor camp. He is currently being held at Shijiazhuang Brainwashing Center. Li’s abduction was part of a city wide police “cleanup” often carried out ahead of sensitive political dates, international events, or visits by foreign dignitaries. In this case, the sweep occurred in advance of a trade mission visit by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad at the invitation of Xi Jinping, a member of the Communist Party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee and the man expected to succeed Hu Jintao as top leader later this year. The visit took place from May 25 to June 5 and included one night in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province (news). Li’s family and friends have since sent a letter to Governor Branstad requesting his help in securing his release. “Foreign dignitaries visiting China must be aware that the Communist Party often uses their trips to tighten restrictions on local residents—including abducting Falun Gong practitioners to brainwashing classes.” says Levi Browde, Executive Director of the Falun Dafa Information Center. “Foreign officials should make clear to their Chinese counterparts that such behavior is unacceptable and that they will cancel any agreements reached should they learn that even one innocent Chinese citizen lost his or her freedom in connection with the visit.” After Li’s abduction, villagers mobilized again on his behalf. Within three weeks, over 700 people had signed a petition demanding that the elderly man be released, the latest such appeal in what is becoming a nationwide phenomenon (details). Banners and balloons with messages like “Freedom of Belief; Stop the Persecution,” and “The World Needs Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance,” (the core tenets of Falun Gong’s spiritual teachings) appeared in public areas. When images of the petition and banners emerged online—including on the overseas Chinese-language Falun Gong website Minghui—the police reacted swiftly, raiding homes, and interrogating villagers in an attempt to identify who posted the photos. During one raid on the home of Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Yang Yinqiao on August 7, Yang mysteriously "fell" from the window of her fifth floor apartment. Police immediately fled the scene, only to return with riot gear when Ms. Yang’s husband came home and found her on the street. He called for emergency medical care, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. Police subsequently cordoned off the street, beating those seeking to get closer, including Yang’s own son. Police are still reportedly stationed in the village of Dong’anfeng, trying to find those responsible for the online posting. Several other Falun Gong practitioners have been detained, including a woman who reportedly lost consciousness and went into convulsions because of police mistreatment. Li’s wife and daughter were also taken into custody on August 2. “The dramatic and tragic events surrounding the petition to free Li illustrate how fearful the Communist Party is of international attention to Chinese people’s increasing calls to stop the persecution of their friends and neighbors who practice Falun Gong,” says Browde. “All the more reason why Mr. Li and Ms. Yang’s story should be investigated, exposed, and reported.” The Falun Dafa Information Center urges officials in Hebei Province to heed the requests made in the petition for Mr. Li and release him immediately, as well as to investigate the death of Ms. Yang Yinqiao and punish those responsible. The Center also urges foreign media to report on these developments and for government officials—including Governor Branstad—to call for Li’s release.