Prominent Prisoner of Conscience Arrested a Third Time, At High Risk of Torture

After Husband Tortured to Death, Ms. Xu Na's Case Highlighted by Amnesty International, Freedom House, United Nations

Ms. Xu Na (above, right) pictured with her late husband, Mr. Yu Zhou (above, left). Yu was arrested in Beijing shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and died in police custody several days later. Xu was imprisoned and tortured for several years following her husband's death.

Ms. Xu Na (above, right) pictured with her late husband, Mr. Yu Zhou (above, left). Yu was arrested in Beijing shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and died in police custody several days later. Xu was imprisoned and tortured for several years following her husband's death.


NEW YORK—Award-winning artist and prominent prisoner of conscience Ms. Xu Na has been arrested for the third time in China for practicing Falun Gong. The Falun Dafa Information Center calls for immediate international pressure on the Chinese government to secure her release.

Ms. Xu was detained by police on July 19, 2020 while at a friend’s home in Beijing, just one day before the 21st anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of Falun Gong began. The next day, police ransacked her home, confiscating all of her digital devices and cameras. Her elderly father is now left at home alone, without being told where Ms. Xu is being detained.


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In 2008, Ms. Xu’s husband was killed in custody after being detained ahead of the Beijing Olympics for practicing Falun Gong. The couple’s suffering at the time was documented by Amnesty InternationalFreedom House, and the United Nations Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions as well as reported by media outlets including The New York TimesThe Times of London, the Associated Press, and The Epoch Times.

“Xu lost her husband when he was tortured to death by police and has herself faced years of abuse in Chinese prisons, simply for practicing Falun Gong” says Falun Dafa Information Center executive director, Levi Browde. “We urge human rights groups and the rest of the international community to take immediate action to pressure the Chinese government to release this innocent and talented woman who has already lost so much, before she meets a similar fate as her husband.”

History of Torture and Persecution

In July 2001, Ms. Xu was arrested and subsequently sentenced to five years in prison for allowing out-of-town Falun Gong practitioners to stay at her home in Beijing. During that time, many Falun Gong practitioners around the country travelled to Beijing to appeal to the Communist regime for freedom of belief.
While in prison, Ms. Xu experienced various forms of torture and abuse, including being forced to remain in snow for long periods, extended sleep deprivation, slave labor for long hours, solitary confinement, being tied up in excruciatingly painful positions, repeated force-feedings, and brutal beatings.

Famous Musician Killed Shortly Before 2008 Olympics

Ms. Xu’s late husband, Mr. Yu Zhou, was a percussionist for the popular Chinese folk music ensemble “Xiaojuan and Residents from the Valley.” The band released two successful albums and frequently topped the charts in China, also appearing on the Beijing-friendly Phoenix television channel.

Mr. Yu Zhou (above, left) with his music group, Residents From the Valley. Ms. Xu Na (not pictured) was married to the late Mr. Yu, who died in police custody for his practice of Falun Gong.

On January 26, 2008, Mr. Yu was driving home from one of his concerts with his wife, when police stopped their car for an “Olympics search” in Tongzhou District in Beijing. Police arrested them and took them to the Tongzhou District Detention Center after discovering they practiced Falun Gong.

Mr. Yu was tortured to death in police custody and died February 6, 2008, just weeks after being detained. Ms. Xu was later sentenced to three years in prison.

Amnesty International took up the case of Ms. Xu’s arrest, mobilizing a campaign on her behalf. Freedom House and a Special Rapporteur on the United Nations Human Rights Council also highlighted Mr. Yu’s death ahead of the Olympic Games in China, as well as the regime’s attempts to cover up the reality of his abuse in custody. These reports also highlighted over a dozen other cases of Falun Gong practitioners who died from persecution in the same time period.

“The police claimed that [Mr. Yu Zhou’s death] was a result of him going on hunger strike although he had diabetes,” says the 2009 report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Execution. “However, other sources indicate that he had been healthy and had never been suffering from diabetes.”

The Times of London reported that one distraught fan said of musician Yu Zhou’s death, “Another beautiful soul has left the world.”

Olympic Tragedy

The Communist Party’s campaign against Falun Gong escalated sharply in 2008 as China’s rulers took advantage of the Olympic games to catalyze and justify the large-scale arrest, imprisonment, and monitoring of Chinese citizens known to adhere to the spiritual practice.

The Falun Dafa Information Center documented over 8,000 Falun Gong practitioners detained in 2008, mostly in the run-up to the Olympics in Beijing. The Center also recorded over 100 deaths in custody. Yu Zhou was, tragically, one of those cases. In 2009, the Center released an annual report focused mostly on the increased human rights abuses fueled by the 2008 Olympics.

Amnesty International also noted the intensified campaign and large-scale arrests in its 2009 annual report, stating, “In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, thousands [of Falun Gong practitioners] were reported to have been arrested, with hundreds imprisoned …. where they were at risk of torture and other ill-treatment, sometimes leading to death.” Another April 2008 report by Amnesty noted, “It is increasingly clear that much of the current wave of repression is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but actually because of the Olympics.”

“With another Beijing Olympics right around the corner in 2022,” says Browde, “we can expect the same uptick in human rights abuses that we saw last time.”

Ms. Xu’s Whereabouts Unknown

Ms. Xu Na circa 1998.

The current whereabouts of Ms. Xu are unknown after her third arrest for her belief in Falun Gong.

Raised in a family of artists and trained from a young age, Ms. Xu eventually became a renowned artist herself.

She took up Falun Gong before the persecution began in 1999.

According to the Minghui website, in 1997, her award-winning paintings were exhibited by the government’s Ministry of Culture at the Great Exhibition of Chinese Arts. In 1998, her paintings won a prize at the China Youth Oil Painting Exhibition.

Some say her paintings reflected the peace of mind she achieved after having practiced Falun Gong.

‘WODE JIA’ music video, by RESIDENTS IN THE VALLEY, a popular single by the famous group that Ms. Xu’s late husband was part of.

Media contact: Levi Browde. email: [email protected] cell: 845-418-4870