A practitioner of Falun Gong whose arrest triggered a landmark act of resistance to the Chinese communist regime was sentenced to three years in jail on Aug. 13 in a trial marked by irregularities.
Wang Xiaodong, a highly respected schoolteacher in Zhouguantun Village in Hebei Province, was arrested on Feb. 25 by the Botou City Domestic Security Team. He was accused of creating DVDs that tell about the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
The Falun Gong spiritual discipline, which Wang practices, was supported by the regime in the 1990s before former Party chief Jiang Zemin launched a nationwide campaign in 1999 to eradicate it. The practice had between 70 million and 100 million adherents—more than the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had members. The Falun Gong practitioners were attracted by the discipline’s five meditative exercises and strong moral focus, based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
Wang’s arrest left his 6-year-old child and 77-year-old mother to fend for themselves, and infuriated the village he was a part of.
A member from each of 300 families in the village to put a signature and thumbprint on a petition that demanded Wang’s release. The imprinting of a thumbprint in red wax is a traditional means of signing a document that indicates solemnity of the signature.
With their petition, the villagers showed they did not believe 13 years of Party propaganda that has demonized Falun Gong and they would no longer acquiesce in the campaign of persecution.
According to a source in Beijing, the petition was circulated among members of the Politburo Standing Committee—the group of nine men who run the Chinese Communist Party—and shocked them.
The petitioners were dubbed the “brave 300.” Scholars and democracy activists in China went on record supporting them.
And in other villages in China where Falun Gong practitioners faced persecution, the Zhougutuan petitioners were imitated.
In May in northeastern Heilongjiang Province, 15,000 people signed and put their thumbprints on a petition calling for the investigation of the wrongful death of a Falun Gong practitioner and the arrest of his wife and daughter, who had asked for an investigation into his death.
In early June in Donganfeng Village in Hebei Province, villagers first acted as a human shield preventing police from arresting a Falun Gong practitioner, and then 703 of them signed and put their thumbprints on a petition asking for his release, after he was finally arrested.
Wang’s trial occurred within this context of peaceful resistance to the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong.
Two Beijing lawyers sent by Wang’s family, Cheng Hai and Li Changmin, were turned away when they attempted to visit him at the Botou Detention Center. Their complaints to the Public Security Bureau did not receive a response.
Wang’s first trial was conducted in secret by the Botou court on July 18. Before the opening of the court session, the two lawyers hired by his family were forced to leave and were replaced by a lawyer assigned by the regime. Wang’s family was not informed of the trial.
A senior lawyer from mainland China who is familiar with Wang’s case said that Wang was stripped of legal rights in the first trial, and that the verdict is therefore unconstitutional and illegal.
The trial concluded in a session on Aug. 13 when the sentence was announced in the Cangzhou Intermediate People’s Court. Wang’s family was not informed about the verdict of the trial until Aug. 14, when the deputy director of the Botou detention center called. The caller told them that Wang had asked to appeal and to see a lawyer.
Wang’s mother and sister went to the Botou court and demanded a written verdict, but did not receive it until Aug. 20.
After much pleading, Wang’s family members were permitted to visit him on Aug. 18. The meeting was monitored by the security officers and police, and allowed to last only 15 minutes. Wang told his family that the court threatened to extend his sentence if he did not sign off on the verdict.
Wang and his family appealed the sentence in Hebei Province and are expecting a second trial.
The acts of resistance on Wang’s behalf have not been without cost. Wang’s sister, Wang Xiaomei, helped organize the petition drive. On May 29 she was sentenced to one year in a forced labor camp.
When Wang’s older brother visited him in the detention center in mid-May, Wang showed signs of having been tortured. Amnesty International issued an urgent action alert for Wang Xiaomei and her brother Wang Xiaodong on May 31.
This is a battle between good and evil—in the language of politics, the pursuit of freedom and democracy.
—Tang Jinglin, human rights lawyer in Guandong Province,
The Zhouguantun villagers have been threatened with having each sign statements denouncing Falun Gong and the village is reported to be covered with slogans denouncing the spiritual practice.
“This is a battle between good and evil—in the language of politics, the pursuit of freedom and democracy,” said Tang Jinglin, human rights lawyer in Guandong Province, “Those repressed must stand up for themselves and for justice.”
Tang said that the Chinese people are now openly resistant because they can no longer hold back their anger and contempt at the regime’s human rights’ violations. He praised the courage of the Chinese people and sees the current period, where people are much more conscious of their rights, and willing to defend them, as an “awakening” and a “new era for the people of China.”
Read the original Chinese article.
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