Wave of Falun Gong Show Trials Ahead EU-China Summit Includes Father of Berlin Resident

Ding Lebin petitions for his father's release beside The Brandenburg Gate (Courtesy of Lebin Ding)

Ding Lebin petitions for his father's release beside The Brandenburg Gate (Courtesy of Lebin Ding)

Updated on December 26, 2023 with Ding Yuande’s trial verdict.

In the early morning on May 12, 2023, over 10 plainclothes police officers stormed the tea farm of Ding Yuande and his wife, Ma Ruimei in the rural area outside Rizhao City in Shandong Province, China. The officers restrained the couple and proceeded to ransack the property.

Amidst the ransacking, the couple’s son who lives in Germany, Ding Lebin, phoned his mother to see how his parents were doing. Lebin’s mother told him, “Bad guys came into the house. They handcuffed me. My hands are numb now.” The call ended after 33 seconds.

Lebin’s parents practice Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa), a meditation practice that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has persecuted since July 20, 1999. Upon finding Falun Gong books and leaflets, officers took the couple into custody.

It came out later that the couple’s arrest was part of a province-wide mass arrest of roughly 70 Falun Gong practitioners ahead of World Falun Dafa Day on May 13. The day is the anniversary of Falun Gong’s introduction and has become a sensitive date for the regime carrying out a campaign to eradicate the group.

A Son’s Plight for His Parents

“My parents were arrested, then silence.” Lebin said in an interview with Bitter Winter. “Nobody knew where they were detained.”

Since then, Lebin has gone to great lengths to advocate for his parents, calling on multiple human rights organizations and governmental bodies to call for his parent’s release. He has spoken to media, participated in rallies, and initiated a letter campaign to Chinese officials.

Joining in Lebin’s plea, the International Society for Human Rights, an NGO with UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) status sent letters requesting the release of Ding’s parents to the Chinese Ambassador to Germany, the former Chinese Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, CCP Provincial Secretary of Shandong Province, Lin Wu, and Rizhao City, the former CCP Municipal Secretary, Zhang Hui.

Volunteers with the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) flooded police stations in the region with phone calls, inquiring about Lebin’s parents and requesting their immediate release.

Efforts Bring Results

Lebin’s efforts seem to have been effective. His mother was released on bail on May 24, 2023, however, she is under tight surveillance and still faces prosecution.

Meanwhile, Lebin’s father remains in detention and was transferred to Rizhao Detention Center on June 13. The next day, two officers from the Donggang Police Station visited Lebin’s mother and threatened to sentence Yuande if Lebin kept up his advocacy efforts in Europe. According to Ms. Ma, they seemed fearful of the attention the case has received.

However, Lebin has charged ahead with his efforts. “They intimidated her by saying that, because of the rescue action I organized abroad, they kept my father in prison.” Lebin told Bitter Winter. “Frightening, but it shows one important thing: publicity on these cases and going international really helps. The Chinese authorities are very afraid that their illegal persecution may get huge international attention abroad.”

Over the past 7 months, he has traveled across Europe petitioning for his parent’s unconditional freedom. Members of the European Parliament, the German Federal Parliament, and the Berlin State Assembly, members of parliament in Belgium and the Czech Republic, as well as Japanese councilors have written to Wu Ken, the Chinese ambassador to Germany, and officials in China, calling for Ding Yuande’s release.

Show Trials ahead of EU-China Summit, Sanctions against Perpetrators Needed

Lebin’s father was tried on November 28 at the Wulian County People’s Court. In a statement issued the day before Yuande’s trial, Mrs. Jasna Causevic, an expert on genocide prevention at the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) in Göttingen said, “As a Falun Gong practitioner, he is following a path of meditation and cultivation that runs counter to the atheism and materialism of the dictatorial Communist Party of China. The charges against him are as arbitrary and absurd as the circumstances of his arrest. The Communist regime is aware that there is no basis for this under Chinese law. The pseudo-legal farce is part of a repressive campaign against Falun Gong practitioners, which the Chinese government has been following through with for the past 24 years.”

On December 15, 2023, Ding Yuande was sentenced to three years in prison and fined approximately $2,100 USD (or 15,000 yuan).

Meanwhile, another 22 Falun Gong practitioners, who are the victims of the mass arrest in May are scheduled to be tried at the same court as Yuande. The trials are set to take place from December 4-6, 2023, just before the European Union-China summit on December 7 and 8.

Ding Lebin, as well as the various human rights groups and others who have joined and amplified his cause are calling for decisive action. In the statement issued by the STP, which has advisory status at both the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and at the Council of Europe, this German human rights organization called for the implementation of sanctions:

On the occasion of the upcoming EU-China Summit in Beijing on December 7 and 8, the STP demands the European Union and, in particular, the German Federal Government, to bring about concrete sanctions – including measures of criminal prosecution against individuals and companies participating in the decades-long crimes against Falun Gong practitioners. The sanctions could include the denial of visas, freezing of assets, expulsion from EU territory, criminal prosecution, or international criminal charges.

Ms. Zhang Hui was the former party secretary of Rizhao City and first party secretary of the military in Rizhao City, at the time of the mass arrest. As of August, she is now the deputy party secretary of Qingdao, the former German colony city. Because forced organ harvesting has long been conducted in military hospitals, Zhang Hui’s military connection raises concern about the lives of Mr. Yuande Ding and others. This brutal crime against Falun Gong practitioners is considered as “cold genocide” and has been repeatedly condemned by the European Parliament in EU resolutions. 

The EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, established in 2020, “enables the EU to target individuals, entities and bodies – including state and non-state actors – responsible for, involved in or associated with serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide.” The EU should make full use of its sanctioning ability to target perpetrators against Falun Gong practitioners.

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