A trade mission to China by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad had disastrous, unintended consequences, with several innocent people arrested and one dead. The Chinese police followed standard procedures relating to visits from foreign dignitaries, and the victims’ neighbors are now calling upon the governor for help.
Branstad was booked on a May 29–June 5 trade mission to China, during which he spent some time with the presumed next head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Xi Jinping. Branstad’s visit included an overnight stop in Shijiazhuang City in Hebei Province.
As part of an effort to “clean up” areas close to Shijiazhuang, on June 1 more than 20 officers, including some from the local 610 Office, tracked down Mr. Li Lankui in Donganfeng Village in Zhengding County, according to the Falun Gong website Minghui.org.
The 610 Office is an extra-constitutional CCP organ created for the purpose of eliminating the spiritual practice of Falun Gong from China.
The officers tried to force Li to sign a statement promising to stop practicing Falun Gong, according to Minghui. When he refused, they began trying to stuff him into a police car.
His elderly mother, who is in her seventies, ran out yelling and grabbed her son to prevent the police from taking him. Neighbors who saw the commotion also intervened.
Some of the neighbors asked why the officers were trying to take Li away. One officer explained that Xi Jinping and the Americans were coming to the area.
In the face of the villagers’ resistance the police retreated. But they returned again early on the morning of June 7—after Gov. Branstad’s party had left the country—and arrested Li.
After his arrest, 703 villagers signed a petition calling for Li Lankui’s release. The villagers also sent a letter to Branstad, informing him of the abuse and calling on him to respond.
A Plea to Iowa
In the five-page, nearly 3,000-word letter, the villagers wrote: “Dear Mr. Governor, we are not complaining to you because people in our village are being suppressed. We understand the situation clearly. The people of Zhengding sincerely welcome you. However, we cannot allow the Communist Party to use your visit as an opportunity to suppress the people.”
Why do you harass such a good person?
— Donganfeng villagers
The Epoch Times confirmed that the letter was delivered to Branstad’s office through an intermediary, who met with one of Branstad’s staffers, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center, the press office for Falun Gong.
“No one blames Governor Branstad for what happened, and the crimes committed in Donganfeng Village are not his doing,” said Levi Browde, the executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center. “But foreign dignitaries visiting China need to be aware that the Communist Party often uses their trips to tighten restrictions on local residents—including abducting Falun Gong practitioners to brainwashing classes.”
“We are sure the governor would want to know what is happening. At the same time, we hope he understands the villagers have no way to seek justice inside China. As a governor from the country that is the world’s champion of human rights, he is their best chance to be heard,” Browde said.
After Li’s arrest, balloons and banners with statements like “Freedom of Belief; Stop the Persecution,” and “The World Needs Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance” (the core principles of Falun Gong’s spiritual teachings) appeared in the village’s public areas, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
Someone posted online pictures of the balloon, the banners—and the villagers’ petition.
Local police began raiding homes and interrogating villagers, determined to find out who had posted the images online.
On the evening of Aug. 7, several police cars were dispatched from the local 610 Office to ransack the home of Ms. Yang Yinqiao.
During the raid, Yang plunged to her death from the fifth floor of her apartment building. Whether she was pushed or fell is unclear.
Police fled the scene and then returned with riot gear, preventing anyone from approaching her body. Yang’s relatives were brought to the local police station and threatened, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
A Flood of Petitions
The villagers’ actions reflect a significant shift in how Chinese people are responding to the persecution of Falun Gong.
When the campaign against Falun Gong began in 1999, adherents of the practice faced severe persecution, and the populace was compelled to participate in it. Now, 13 years on, the Chinese people are starting to put up stiff resistance.
“Why do you harass such a good person?” villagers demanded of the police when they first came to arrest Li, according to Minghui.
After Li was arrested he was sentenced to 15 months of forced labor at the Shijiazhuang Labor Camp and is currently in the Shijiazhuang Brainwashing Center, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
On the petition that followed his arrest, the villagers used their real names, and stamped them with red wax thumbprints, a powerful symbolic gesture in China.
Peasants in ancient China would thumb stamp their pleas for justice with blood when calling on the local magistrate for redress, and the significance of this action would not have been lost on communist authorities.
After Yang’s death, another petition surfaced. Over 306 peasants put their names and thumbprints to a document calling for an investigation of Yang’s death and the repeal of Li Lankui’s sentence.
Li’s second daughter and wife were arrested on Aug. 2, and their whereabouts are unknown. Three other Falun Gong practitioners from Donganfeng Village were also recently arrested.
According to the latest reports from the village, the police are still there and are still searching for the person who posted the pictures and the petition online.
Asked several times for a comment, Gov. Branstad’s office refused.
The villagers are hoping their letter to Gov. Branstad will make a difference, and that he will speak up for them to his friend Xi Jinping. There is precedent for their hopes.
When specific cases of persecution have aroused international attention, the Communist Party has responded. Bu Dongwei, spent over two years in a labor camp before he was released, after Amnesty International ran a campaign for him.
“If they know that the outside world is taking action, and care about a certain person, then the condition of this person will be improved,” Bu Dongwei said in a video in 2010, as he wiped away tears recalling his experiences in the labor camp. “Letters can make a difference.”
With research by Annie Wu.
Read the original Chinese article.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.