Reported in January 2022: 132 Falun Gong Practitioners Sentenced for Their Faith
Newly confirmed cases of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to prison for their faith totaled 132 in January 2022. Of these cases, 8 practitioners were sentenced in 2020, 88 in 2021 and 36 in 2022.
Since Falun Gong (a.k.a. Falun Dafa) practitioners have been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime in 1999, it is difficult to report persecution cases in a timely manner. Moreover, due to the regime’s censorship, information on confirmed cases is limited.
These 132 recently confirmed cases are scattered across 20 provinces and municipalities. Beijing, the host city of the 2022 Winter Olympics, has the highest number at 17 cases, followed by 16 in Guangdong Province, and 14 in Heilongjiang Province. Liaoning (12), Jilin (11), Hebei (10) and Shandong (10) also have double-digit cases. Other regions have between 8 and 1 cases.
As of January 2022, at least 31 of the practitioners sentenced were 60 years of age or older, including 13 in their 60s, 12 in their 70s and 6 in their 80s.
In mid-January 2022, weeks before the Winter Olympics kicked off in Beijing, the authorities sentenced 11 residents for two to eight years for sending photos of the empty city during the pandemic to overseas media.
In response to the blatant human rights violation, the U.S. Department of State urged the Chinese Communist Party to “immediately end its depraved abuse and mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners, release those imprisoned due to their beliefs, and address the whereabouts of missing practitioners.”
“Since 1999, the Communist Party of China (CCP) has sought to eradicate Falun Gong, a spiritual practice originating in China, and its peaceful practitioners and human rights defenders who have fought for their right to practice their beliefs,” the State Department official told the Epoch Times.
“Extensive evidence shows the PRC government continues to repress and abuse this community to this day,” the official wrote, citing reports of torture and draconian sentences.
David Matas, a Canadian human rights lawyer, asserts a direct connection between the increased sentences and the Winter Olympics, held February 4 to 20. It’s a predictable strategy for the CCP to intensify the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters before and during the Olympics to discourage protests or dissidents from exposing the regime’s crimes.
The sentences are politically driven, explained Matas. In China, punishment such as a prison sentence would put a damper on any behaviors or belief that differ from the CCP’s official narrative.
A few of the cases reported in January 2022 are summarized below.
Sentenced Before the Beijing Winter Olympics
On January 14, 2022, the Dongcheng District Court in Beijing sentenced 11 Falun Gong practitioners for sending photos of the empty city during the pandemic to overseas media.
Ms. Xu Na was sentenced to eight years with a 20,000-yuan fine. Mr. Li Zongze, Mr. Li Lixin, Ms. Zheng Yujie, and Ms. Zheng Yanmei were each sentenced to five years with 10,000-yuan fines. Ms. Deng Jingjing, Mr. Zhang Renfei, Mr. Liu Qiang, and Ms. Meng Qingxia were each sentenced to four years with 8,000-yuan fines. Ms. Li Jiaxuan and Ms. Jiao Mengjiao were each sentenced to two years with 4,000-yuan fines.
The eleven practitioners were arrested on July 19, 2020 by more than 100 police officers. Officers from the Ministry of State Security saw photos of Beijing published in The Epoch Times website in June 2020. The officers identified Ms. Xu and other practitioners via surveillance videos and began monitoring them.
After the practitioners were indicted on April 2, 2021, the judge for the Dongcheng District Court impeded the practitioner’s lawyers from reviewing their case documents. He ruled that only when all the lawyers representing the 11practitioners came to the court at the same time, would he allow them to see the documents. Additionally, the lawyers weren’t allowed to make copies or take photos of the documents, nor would the court provide any paper or electronic copies of the files.
The practitioners stood trial on October 15, 2021 and were sentenced on January 14, 2022.
Prior to her latest sentencing, Ms. Xu was also targeted during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and sentenced to three years in November 2008. Her husband, a well-known folk singer Mr. Yu Zhou, died in custody 11 days after their arrests in January 2008. He was 42.
Beijing Resident Sentenced Ahead of the Winter Olympics
Another Beijing resident, Mr. Lei Zhongfu, was also sentenced to prison prior to the Winter Olympics.
Mr. Lei was arrested around August 2020 and detained incommunicado for upholding his belief in Falun Gong during the “Zero-out” campaign in March 2020—a coordinated harassment operation that targeted every practitioner on the regime’s blacklist. Another practitioner arrested with him, Ms. Zhao Chunying, has also been detained incommunicado since March 2020.
Mr. Lei’s family was notified in early 2022 to pick up his verdict at the courthouse. Details about his sentencing are not yet available.
Mr. Lei is retired from the China Construction Second Bureau. Since the onset of the persecution in 1999, he has been arrested and incarcerated several times. He was arrested on March 9, 2002 and sentenced to three years. Similar to Ms. Xu, he was also arrested before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and held in the notorious Masanjia Forced Labor Camp in nearby Liaoning Province for more than three years.
During the harassment campaign in March 2020, he was forced to submit to a physical examination and have photos and blood samples taken. Before allowing him to go home, the police also forced him to sign a form alleging that he had undergone the physical exam voluntarily.
Two Beijing Residents in Their 30s Sentenced to Prison
The Haidian District Court declared guilty verdicts against Ms. Liu Zixuan and Ms. Ye Linlin on December 10, 2021. Both were sentenced to four years for practicing Falun Gong.
Ms. Liu, 30, and Ms. Ye, 32, were arrested at their shared apartment in Beijing at around 10 p.m. on August 7, 2019. Officers from the Xisanqi Police Station ransacked their apartment and confiscated their Falun Gong books, printers, laptop computers, and 40 to 50 copies of booklets about Falun Gong.
A prosecutor later revealed that the two women were recorded by surveillance cameras entering a residential area, and that they were thus suspected of distributing Falun Gong materials there. Pamphlets found by officers in the neighborhood were later used as prosecution evidence against them.
The police ordered both practitioners to write statements renouncing Falun Gong. They also showed them renunciation statements written by two other practitioners and told them they could shift the blame to the other practitioners to exonerate themselves. But both refused to betray their conscience. They have since been held at the Haidian District Detention Center.
The Haidian District Court initially scheduled a hearing in September 2020 but postponed it at least five times before finally holding a hearing on February 25, 2021.
During the practitioners’ second hearing on August 4, both Ms. Liu’s grandmother, in her 80s, and Ms. Ye’s mother attended. Judge Tan claimed that Ms. Liu’s grandmother, the only person from her family who was able to attend the hearing, wasn’t her immediate family and blocked her entry into the courtroom.
When the elderly woman tried to reason with Tan, a male officer came over and shouted at her, and with another officer, they dragged the elderly woman outside of the courtroom. Ms. Ye’s mother was allowed to attend the hearing.
Man Secretly Sentenced After Being Reported by Village Secretary for Talking to Him about Falun Gong
Mr. Wang Defu, a Dingxing County, Hebei Province resident, went to the nearby Xiaojinzhuang Village to talk to people about the persecution of Falun Gong on March 23, 2021. He ran into the village secretary Xiao Shan, who refused to listen to him and slammed his head against the wall. Mr. Wang’s head was covered with blood. Xiao called the police, who took Mr. Wang to the Liuzhuo Village Police Station. After a coronavirus test, he was taken to the Dingxing County Detention Center.
Mr. Wang’s family was neither allowed to visit him nor to send him daily necessities. A guard later revealed to them that Mr. Wang had been sentenced to three years and would be transferred to the Jidong Prison.
Shortly after, Mr. Wang’s wife received a letter from the prison, stating that he was sentenced to three years on charges of “undermining law enforcement” (the standard pretext used for criminalizing Falun Gong practitioners) and is now held at the Jidong No. 4 Prison. Dated December 20, the letter also said that the prison sentence was determined by the authorities in Baoding and had nothing to do with Dingxing County, which is under the administration of Baoding.
Mr. Wang’s sentence has left his family in deep distress. His mother had had back surgery and was only just able to begin walking on her own. His wife was saddened by his imprisonment. He also has an older brother, who is blind.
Hebei Woman Sentenced for Distributing Falun Gong Materials
Ms. Li Lianye, of Handan City, Hebei Province, was reported by the secretary of Dashe Town on June 30, 2021, for distributing Falun Gong pamphlets the night before. The authorities identified the license plate of Ms. Li’s car and located her residence by searching surveillance videos.
A group of officers arrested Ms. Li at her home on July 15, 2021. Her private vehicle and a cellphone were confiscated. After being interrogated at the Tushan Village Police Station, she was taken to the Handan City No. 3 Detention Center.
The police returned to Ms. Li’s home on July 17 and searched her basement. Finding information in her cellphone, they found her other residence and ransacked it on July 18.
The Ci County Court held a video hearing of Ms. Li’s case at the detention center on December 6, 2021. Her lawyer entered a not guilty plea for her. The judge sentenced Ms. Li to three years with a 3,000-yuan fine on January 4, 2022.
Based on an original report from Minghui.org: