Reported in 2021: 16,000 Detained or Harassed by Police for Their Faith
In 2021, cases of 5,886 Falun Gong practitioners arrested and 10,527 harassed for their faith were documented. The Center counts cases of police pressure, such as breaking into and ransacking homes, threatening arrest at work, coercing family members, etc. as “harassment” cases.
The newly confirmed arrest cases include 841 that took place in 2020 and 5,045 in 2021. As for harassment, the 10,527 cases broke down to 7 cases in 2016, 1,275 in 2020 and 9,245 in 2021.
The new cases also brought the total arrest and harassment tally in 2020 to 8,160 and 10,973, respectively. Due to strict information censorship in China, the cases cannot always be reported in a timely manner, nor is all information readily available. Consequently, each year, a minority of cases uncovered are from prior years.
April through June in 2021 recorded the largest increases in both arrest and harassment cases. The monthly average of 1,620 harassment cases between these three months was twice the number in March and six times the number in February.
Several group arrests took place in both May and June, including the arrests of 13 practitioners in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province on May 10; 26 practitioners in Tangshan City, Hebei Province on May 12; 9 practitioners in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province on May 13; 16 practitioners in Jiaozhou City, Shandong Province on June 2; 28 practitioners in Mudanjiang City, Heilongjiang Province on June 10; and 26 practitioners in Chaoyang City, Liaoning Province on June 11.
The sudden increase in April-June 2021 was a result of the continuation of the “Zero-out” harassment campaign launched in 2020 and aimed to force every practitioner on the government’s blacklist to renounce their faith. The increase was also due to the intensified persecution around the CCP’s “sensitive dates” of April 25 and May 13 (the anniversary of Falun Gong’s introduction to the public) to prevent practitioners from speaking out about the persecution. The “stability maintenance” campaign prior to the CCP’s centennial anniversary on July 1 was another example of the Party’s intensified persecution targeting practitioners.
With the 2022 Winter Olympics set to take place in China from February 4 to 20, the CCP has begun yet another round of campaigns to “maintain social stability,” especially in the three Olympic Games zones, Beijing, Yanqing (a rural District in Beijing), and Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province.
Similar tactics were used when the Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008.
To further prevent practitioners from speaking out, the authorities installed surveillance cameras throughout China and strictly censor the Internet, filtering out information that it considers sensitive.
Practitioners in Liaoning, Chongqing, and Hebei were seized at their own homes by the police in Henan, who traveled hundreds of miles to arrest them, after finding out they sent out information about Falun Gong on a popular social media platform, WeChat. In another incident, a woman in Dalian City, Liaoning Province was arrested and later sentenced to 4.5 years for tweeting information about the persecution of Falun Gong during a trip to Japan.
Among the arrested practitioners, 687 were older than 65, with 131 in their 80s and 3 in their 90s. Another 632 harassed practitioners were also older than 65, with 219 in their 80s and 15 in their 90s.
After a 90-year-old woman in Jilin City, Jilin Province was arrested on May 14, 2021, for talking to people about Falun Gong, the police pushed her into their car, snatched her keys, and ransacked her home. She was held in a metal cage at the local police station and released on bail a few hours later.
Some of the practitioners have been repeatedly targeted in the past two decades for upholding their faith. In addition to the arrests, harassment and detention, some also face financial devastation after the authorities suspended their pension and ordered them to return the funds they received during previous prison terms.
The targeted practitioners came from all walks of life, including teachers, engineers, business managers, doctors, nurses, taxi drivers, and researchers. A former police supervisor in Shandong suffered declining health after her arrest on January 9, 2021. She is now awaiting a prison sentence following a hearing on December 16. Having been forced to move three times in 2020 after his landlords were ordered by the police to evict him, an electrical engineer in Shanghai was arrested on October 20, 2021, while traveling to his hometown in Zhejiang.