Urgent Appeal: Celebrity Musicians Widow Faces Prison for Practicing Falun Gong
After husband died of torture, wife is at risk of long-term imprisonment
NEW YORK – The widow of a well-known musician and Falun Gong adherent who died from abuse in police custody has been arrested and is at serious risk of being sentenced to a long prison term.
Yu Zhou, a popular folk band member, and his wife, Xu Na, were detained in Beijing on January 26. According to reports received by the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC) from their family and friends, police stopped the couple’s car as they were coming home from a performance by Yu’s band, Xiaojuan and Residents from the Valley.
The couple was detained and taken to Tongzhou District Detention Center because they practice Falun Gong.
Eleven days later, Yu’s family was told to go to the Qinghe Emergency Center. When his family arrived, they found him dead. (news) Soon after, Yu’s death was mourned in the Chinese blogosphere and reported on by The (London) Times.(news)
His wife Xu Na, herself an award-winning artist, has remained in detention since the couple’s arrest. In April, her family was notified that she was to be charged with “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law,” a vague provision of the penal code commonly used to sentence Falun Gong adherents to prison terms of up to 12 years. (Amnesty report)
In early May, Xu was transferred to the Chongwen District Detention Center, where she awaits trial at the Chongwen District Court.
“Xu is a prisoner of conscience, detained only because of her identity as a believer of a peaceful spiritual practice and is now facing jail because the authorities fear her speaking out over her husband’s death,” said FDIC Spokesperson Erping Zhang.
“Rather than investigating Yu’s untimely death at the hands of the police, the Chinese court system is preparing to send an innocent woman to prison again. Her case is symptomatic of the lack of rule of law in China and of the broader crackdown on Falun Gong ahead of the Olympic Games.”
Xu was released in 2006 after serving a five year sentence for having lent her apartment to Falun Gong adherents traveling to Beijing to appeal to the authorities for an end to the persecution campaign. While in detention, she was reportedly subjected to torture, including beatings, sleep deprivation, forced-feeding, and being tied into uncomfortable positions for hours.
Sources familiar with Xu’s case believe that her trial is still being delayed because of the international attention to her husband’s death.
“Xu Na is in serious danger of being sentenced for a long time,” says Li Jie, who shared a prison cell with Xu in 2001. Speaking from Los Angeles, Li explained that a second imprisonment for Falun Gong practitioners is typically harsh. “Since Xu was sentenced to five years the first time, the second time might be more than ten years.”
“Life in jail is horrible, especially for Falun Gong practitioners, because they will use any method to force you to give up your beliefs. It’s awful for such a young and talented lady.”
The FDIC is calling for:
- Xu Na’s immediate and unconditional release, as she has been detained solely for the peaceful practice of personal religious beliefs. This violates her rights enshrined in Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution and China’s commitments under international law.
- The international community to pressure the Chinese authorities to release Xu Na and to properly investigate and prosecute those responsible for Yu Zhou’s death.
- Foreign media in Beijing to investigate Xu Na’s case and seek to attend her trial should it take place. Li Jie and other acquaintances of Xu Na and Yu Zhou currently living in North America are available for interview.
Timeline of Xu Na’s Case
1995: Yu Zhou and Xu Na begin to practice Falun Gong in Beijing; they are among the first in the city to do so.
July 1999: The Communist Party bans Falun Gong and launches a campaign to wipe out the practice.
November 2001: Xu Na is sentenced to five years in prison for having lent her apartment to adherents traveling to Beijing to appeal to the authorities for an end to the persecution campaign. Initially she is held at Tuanhe Juvenile Prison, where she is cell mates with Li Jie, and is later transferred to the Beijing Women’s Prison.
Fall 2006: Xu Na is released from custody after serving a five year sentence. While in custody, she was reportedly subjected to torture, including beatings, sleep deprivation, exposure to freezing temperatures, and being forcibly tied into physically uncomfortable positions. She was also force-fed by guards and held in solitary confinement.
January 26, 2008: Yu Zhou, 42, and his wife Xu Na, 40, both Falun Gong practitioners, are stopped by police at approximately 10pm in Yangzhuang Village, Beiyuan neighborhood, Tongzhou District in Beijing. The couple is on their way home from a concert of Yu’s band in Beijing. When the police discover the two practice Falun Gong, they detain them at TongzhouDistrictDetention Center.
January 27, 2008: At approximately 9am, police from Tongzhou and Haidian Districts search the homes of Xu’s parents and sister, but reportedly fail to find any incriminating evidence.
February 6, 2008: Yu Zhou’s family is notified to come to Qinghe Emergency Center. Upon arrival, the family finds Yu dead, his body covered with a white sheet. The authorities warn the family not to make Yu’s death public.
March 2008: Xu Na is transferred to the Seventh Section of the Beijing City Police Department, also known as the BeijingDetention Center. The section normally detains only serious felons, but in recent years has increasingly been used to hold Falun Gong adherents and political prisoners.
April 2008: Xu Na’s family receives notice that Xu is being charged with “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law” and will face trial in the coming weeks. She is informed by her attorney of Yu’s death and decides to file a petition with the Procuratorate demanding an investigation.
Early May 2008: Xu Na is transferred to Chongwen District Detention Center; her trial at the Chongwen District Court is postponed, presumably as a result of the international exposure surrounding the death of her husband.