At a recent U.S. congressional hearing on China’s human rights record, a representative of Falun Gong—a spiritual practice currently persecuted by the Chinese regime—showed a petition signed by 700 Chinese villagers demanding the release of an arrested practitioner. An inside source told The Epoch Times that these villagers have been harassed and threatened by Chinese authorities ever since the document was revealed.
On July 25, representatives from three persecuted groups in China—Falun Gong, Uyghurs, and Tibetans—testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee. The hearing took place a day after the conclusion of the annual U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, a two-day closed-door meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Li Hai was representing Falun Gong at the hearing. Since the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999, he has been detained four times, and tortured while in prison. Li said that despite its brutality, the persecution has failed to suppress the practice. He presented a copy of the document bearing the thumbprints of 700 villagers from Donganfeng Village in Zhengding County, Hebei Province. The villagers were petitioning for the release of local Falun Gong practitioner, Li Lankui, who was abducted on June 7.
Li’s arrest came on the heels of Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s visit to Zhengding County from June 4 to 6. Branstad was invited to visit China by Chinese vice president and former Zhengding County Party chief Xi Jinping. Iowa and Hebei Province have been sister states since 1983.
Local authorities had attempted to arrest Li on June 1, but villagers intervened and succeeded in stopping the police from taking him. However he was secretly abducted on June 7, and is currently detained at the Shijiazhuang City Brainwashing Center in Hebei.
When villagers learned of Li’s arrest, they gathered their signatures and thumbprints to demand his release. His friends and relatives then drafted a joint letter addressed to Branstad, calling for his help in freeing Li. Villagers also supported this letter, but could not leave their names for fear of their safety. They urged Branstad to convey their pleas for Li’s rescue to Chinese vice president Xi Jinping. Xi is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as head of the Chinese state.
Since news of the petition has circulated abroad, Donganfeng Village has been under tight surveillance by the Hebei Province authorities, according to an inside source. Authorities have initiated an investigation into the petition, with Communist Party members in the village knocking on the doors of villagers’ homes to find out who signed their names on the petition.
The source also said that Communist Party members in the village were called into a meeting at the village’s Party unit and questioned.
Zhao Hongxiu, Li’s wife, gave an interview with The Epoch Times on July 27. “The people in the village have been threatened, and Party members are organized into two-person groups, ” she said. “They go to the homes of those villagers who signed their names and scare them, saying, ‘Whoever signed their names will be in big trouble!’”
Police asked Zhao to recall the names of those who signed the petition and submit them to the local police station, but she refused.
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