Prominent Prisoner of Conscience Arrested for Exposing Pandemic Severity

On April 2, 2021, Ms. Xu Na was indicted alongside ten other Beijing Falun Gong practitioners for publishing photos and articles online that exposed the severity of the pandemic in China.

For months after her arrest in July, 2020, Xu’s whereabouts were unknown as she disappeared into China’s security apparatus.

Xu Na arrested in July, 2020 and then disappears.

Xu is an award-winning artist and prominent prisoner of conscience. Her late husband, Mr. Yu Zhou, was an alumnus of the prestigious Beijing University and musician of a popular folk singing group, died in police custody in 2008 for their shared faith.

Persecution Accounts

Xu’s first arrest was in 2001, after providing shelter for out-of-town Falun Gong practitioners who came to Beijing to peacefully appeal for their faith. 

She was sentenced to five years in November 2001 and served time in Beijing Women’s Prison, where she was put in solitary confinement, deprived of sleep, not allowed to take showers, and denied family visits.

On January 26, 2008, as Xu and her husband were on their way home from a concert, they were arrested by police. Yu died in custody 11 days later, at the age of 42. His family was not allowed to see his body and his case became widely reported by Western media, including the New York Times, Associated Press, and others.

Ms. Xu Na and the late Mr. Yu Zhou

Due to the publicity of Yu’s death, authorities frequently harassed Xu’s parents and threatened them against speaking with foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, Xu continued to be incarcerated, before being sentenced to three years on November 25, 2008. She was then transferred to the Beijing City Detention Center, the notorious “7th Branch” of the Beijing City Police Department where “important prisoners” are detained.

Most Recent Arrest and Indictment

Xu was arrested alongside ten other Falun Gong practitioners on July 20, 2020, the 21st anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong.

Many of the arrested practitioners were young adults in their 20s who were artists and musicians, and graduates from several prestigious universities. They were targeted for publishing articles online to expose the severity of the pandemic in China.

The cases of the practitioners were returned twice by the prosecutor upon insufficient evidence, before a third trial by the Dongcheng District Protectorate.

At the trial, the presiding judge ruled that case documents could only be reviewed if all the lawyers representing the defendants were present at the court at the same time. Additionally, lawyers could not make copies or take photos of the documents, nor would the court provide any copies of the files.

A few lawyers filed complaints against the rulings, as Chinese law grants lawyers the right to review and make copies of case files at their convenience and prohibits procuratorates and courts from limiting the duration or number of times lawyers can review case files.

The lawyers’ complaints, however, were not addressed by the relevant agencies and the eleven practitioners were indicted on April 2, 2021, under the charge of “undermining law enforcement with a heretical organization” — a vaguely worded law often used to incarcerate Falun Gong practitioners.

The defendants now face trial by the Dongcheng City Court.

A Righteous Stance

On April 22, 2021, human rights lawyer Mr. Liang Xiaojun visited Xu at the Dongcheng District Detention Center.

According to Liang, Xu said: “I endured eleven kinds of torture and walked out of the prison alive. In the past 22 years, how many wives have been separated from their husbands and how many families have fallen apart. And how many have been tortured, injured or beaten into disability. [All of their suffering] was simply because we posses a book [the teaching of Falun Gong], a DVD, a software to break the internet censorship in China, or a name list of people who have been tortured to death for their faith. What kind of government is this? What is it afraid of?”

In addition to Xu’s husband, five of her friends who practice Falun Gong have also been tortured to death. They include Mr. Peng Min of Wuhan City, Hubei Province; Mr. Huang Xiong of Hunan Province; Ms. Shen JianliMs. Li Li; and Ms. Dong Cuifang, a 29-year-old doctor who died in prison.

Xu also shared with her lawyer, “I can’t stay silent to protect my own interest. Anyone in society should have a moral judgment of unfair things unrelated to them. This is the basic responsibility for being a decent person. If I identify with such a government (the Chinese communist regime), then I’m not a decent person.”

Also reported by Minghui in February and May 2021.