Xu Na is a 40 year old reputed painter. She is now illegally detained in the Beijing Detention Center because of her belief in Falun Gong. Her husband Yu Zhou, a famous folk singer and also a practitioner, died from torture just before Chinese New Year. Although Xu remains in jail, she is attempting to overcome all difficulties to appeal for her husband's innocence.
With the Beijing Olympics around the corner, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has intensified the persecution of domestic dissident and Falun Gong practitioners. Xu and her husband are merely one of the numerous families being persecuted.
A Scholarly Family
Xu was born in Northeast China's Changchun City in Jilin Province. All her family members are artists. Xu's father is a painter of the Chinese Cultural Federation, and her mother is a teacher at the Jinlin College of Arts.
Xu graduated from the Department of Literary and Arts at the Communication University of China (formerly the Beijing Broadcasting University). She chose to be an artist because of her family's nurturing. Her works attained fame very quickly.
In 1997, Xu's award winning work was displayed in the Ministry of Culture's grand exhibition of Chinese art. In 1998, she won an award at the China Youth Oil Painting Exhibition.
Xu's paintings are well known in China and Hong Kong, an oil painting of hers could be sold for tens of thousands yuan (Chinese currency). Fine arts experts said that the calligraphy of her painting was very skillful, although the colors were very plain and simple. From the elegant and quiet wild flower, the green wilderness, and the desk under the tranquil light, one can feel the wonder and peace in the painter's heart.
The painting reveals the painter's personality. Xu had practiced Falun Gong for two to three years at the time, the auspiciousness and tranquility in the painting manifested her simple and serene mood from cultivation.
Xu's husband Yu Zhou is a fellow Northeasterner, and also a Falun Gong practitioner. Yu is a solid man with 180 cm height, which makes his wife Xu, a 162 cm tall lady, extra petite. Yu is also very artistic, He graduated with a degree in French language from Beijing University and could speak a variety of languages. He was familiar with traditional Chinese arts, and very knowledgeable in poems and poetic song. He was also famous among the young artists at the time. Later on Yu became the drummer of the famous folk music team “Xiaojuan & Co-Residents in the Valley.”
The harmonious life made Yu and Xu a felicitous couple.
The Challenges of a Righteous Path
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) started the suppression of Falun Gong in 1999.
Under the CCP's long term brainwashing, many Chinese have twisted minds, in order to protect one's own interests, many of them developed the notion that they should “do whatever the party asks me to do.” As a result, some people gave up the practice of Falun Gong that they had benefited from, while others were cheated by the CCP's propaganda of hatred so they stopped practicing Falun Gong blindly.
Despite these circumstances, Xu and her husband Yu persisted in the cultivation like many other Falun Gong adherents. They devoted themselves to clarifying the truth of the CCP's persecution to other Chinese people.
At the beginning of the persecution, many Falun Gong practitioners lived on tight budgets to save money to travel to Beijing and appeal for Falun Gong. Despite Yu and Xu's, difficulties making ends meet in Beijing, they often provided food and shelter for their fellow practitioners coming from other places. In 2001, Xu was sentenced to five years in prison for sheltering fellow practitioners.
The prison situation is very brutal in China, especially for Falun Gong practitioners. In order to brainwash Falun Gong adherents, the prison would often deprive practitioners' right to sleep, only allowing them four hours of sleep while making them doing heavy physical work during the day. To make matters even worse for Xu, on the first day, Xu was assigned to do work that often required one year's training—to make 600 pairs of shoe parts daily.
In November 2002, Xu was transferred to a special prison section for forced brainwashing. In order to brainwash her, the prison used many torture methods, complete sleep deprivation, tied and forced to sit in a cross-legged position for a long hours, physical punishment, forced into using her finger print on self incriminating statements that were written by others; forced to stay outside during cold weather wearing little clothing, not allowed to shower for more than a month, etc.
Xu is nice to everyone, even to the police and prisoners who were sent to persecute or monitor her. Between the tiring and busy work hours, she drew portraits for the criminals assigned to monitor her, told them the wonders of Falun Dafa and her own experiences of practicing Falun Gong. Gradually, many police and prisoners were moved by Xu's kindness, they all tried to help her and other Falun Gong practitioners privately, some even became practitioners themselves.
Xu came to know many people in prison because she was often transferred to different sections in the Beijing Female Prison. The head of the prison police was very surprised and bothered to find that Xu had the ability to change others' hearts, to make all those who had been around her into better people. To him, the prison is the party's “violent institute.” If the prison police and prisoners became friendly; there would be no “violence.” Therefore, he transferred Xu between teams frequently, but wherever she went, the convicts would wave goodbye to her in tears.
At the end of 2002, being unable to brainwash Xu Na, and seeing many people influenced by her instead, the warden of the prison decided to lock her in solitary confinement so as to reduce her contact with others. There, Xu witnessed the most horrific and tragic scene in the world.
All of the “solitary confinement cells” housed faithful Falun Gong practitioners.
Dong Cuifang, one of Xu's fellow practitioners, was imprisoned next to her. Dong was a 29 year old former doctor from the Women's and Children's Health Care Hospital in Shunyi District in Beijing. She was transferred to the Third Section of the Beijing Women's Prison on the morning of March 11, 2003. One day, Xu heard Dong groaning and being beaten in the neighboring cell. She rushed into Dong's cell when the criminal inmate who monitored her wasn't paying attention. She shouted to the thug: “Stop it”! However, the criminal inmate monitoring her immediately came up and forcibly pulled her back.
On March 18, the head of the Division of the Prison, Tian Fengqing asked police officer Xi Xuehui, to torture Dong. Xi and another police officer Dong Xiaoqing led five other prisoners who used to be practitioners but were brainwashed and gave up their belief, to torture Dong Cuifang. They brought Dong to a bathroom next to the boiler house downstairs. Afterwards, the tragedy happened. Xu witnessed through the window that Dong's body was carried away several hours later.
The prison feared that Dong's death would be exposed, so the team leader and several thugs, including the killers Li Xiaobing and Li Xiaomei, were in a panic to prepare fake evidence. However, they could not disguise the scars and bruises on Dong's body. After the incident, the prison suddenly increased the security level to guard Falun Gong practitioners. Other practitioners also sensed serious things had happened.
One day, when Xu ate lunch with the other prisoners, she saw that everyone was there, so she shouted to the killer Li Xiaomei, “You are a murderer! You killed Dong Cuifang!” Everyone was shocked. And Li was so scared that she turned over the table and pulled Xu in to see the prison police. Li's desperate response proved that Xu's words were true.
She wrote to the warden of the prison to appeal for Dong's death. In her letter, she talked about Dong's death and the principle of retribution, in the hope that the warden would stop the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners within his charge.
The letter severely scared the warden. He was afraid of people knowing what he had done. He immediately isolated Xu and transferred her to solitary confinement again. To protect her rights, Xu began a hunger strike. Afraid of one more death, the prison put her on forced feeding for a long period of time. In prison, forced feeding is not merely a medical procedure to prevent people from starving to death, but another kind of cruel torture. Several months later, Xu was sent back to the prison, but was guarded more strictly.
No long before her release, Xu told the police in public that she would appeal. She would sue the prison section head Tian for instigating criminals to torture her and other Falun Gong practitioners, and even beating Dong Cuifang to death. Her courage deterred the wicked people in the prison. The prisoners all showed their respect to Xu.
In 2006, Xu went home after five years of illegal imprisonment. However, the police often harassed the couple and monitored their daily lives. Xu warned the police many times of their illegal conduct.
The reunion of Xu and Yu gave a boost to both of their careers. In 2007, Yu's band “Xiaojuan & Co-Residents in the Valley” signed a contract with the famous music program Channel V. His band was listed in the “must listen folk group” in 2007 and their style was named the warmest voice of the year. Xu also became a graduate student at the Oil Painting Department of the Central Institute of Fine Arts. Her work was chosen to be displayed at the First Top 100 Young Chinese Oil Painting Exhibition in Shanghai.
The CCP used the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an excuse to intensify its persecution of dissidents and religious beliefs. At 10 p.m. on January 26, 2008, while Yu and Xu were driving home from Yu's recording studio, police stopped their car to perform an “Olympic safety” inspection. The police found Falun Gong lectures in their car and took them to the Tongzhou District Detention Center.
At 9 a.m. on January 27, 2008, officers from the Beiyuan Police Station, Tongzhou Police Station, Xiangshan Police Station, and Haidian Police Station, searched Xu Na's parents' home. They found nothing and continued the search Xu Na's younger sister's home.
On February 6, 2008, the last day of the year according to the Chinese calendar, when all families have their reunions and have dinner together, Yu died in the Qinghe Emergency Center at the age of 42. He didn't get a chance to see Xu before he died. The detention center did not even allow Xu to attend her husband's funeral.
Xu has been transferred to the Beijing Detention Center, (also known as the Seventh Section of the City Bureau, a place reserved for political prisoners)
Losing Her Loved One
Through her lawyer, hired by her parents, Xu learned of the death of her husband. Xu has filed a case requesting an investigation of Yu's death. She also demanded the right to take care of his personal matters after his death.
The world looks at China in scrutiny as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approaches. Falun Gong practitioner Yu Zhou's death is finally receiving the world's attention after the CCP's nine years of brutal persecution. After Yu's death was exposed on overseas Chinese media, London based The Times has also reported on this case, and many other media reprinted the story. Pressured by international opinion, the Beijing Court postponed Xu's trial.
We appeal to the international community and all Chinese people of conscience to help Xu and stop the persecution of Falun Gong.
*Secret China is an uncensored Chinese news website reporting on issues within China.