After receiving rare monetary compensation in a legal settlement in China, the family of a prisoner of conscience who was killed in police custody in 2012 said that justice has not yet been fully served.
The family of Xu Chensheng, who died under mysterious circumstances in police custody in 2012, said that the case was settled out of court for an amount one-third of what they felt was appropriate, and that they had to agree not to take the complaint to higher authorities.
Xu died 12 hours after being arrested by police on May 16, 2012. Her family received $47,500 at the end of 2016, following years of seeking justice. In an interview on Aug. 9, New Tang Dynasty Television confirmed that the family had received the full amount.
Xu was arrested simply for distributing materials about Falun Gong, a spiritual practice, which has been brutally persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1999. Hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been arrested over the years. In most cases, if they get a day in court at all, it is usually a show trial before a conviction.
The settlement is the first publicly reported case of state compensation for a Falun Gong death at the hands of police.
Falun Gong is a peaceful meditation practice, which includes slow-moving exercises and a way of life guided by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
In an exclusive interview with New Tang Dynasty Television Xu’s son, Yang Xujun, revealed additional details surrounding his mother’s death. Closed circuit television footage shows Xu handcuffed to a chair at the Beihu District Police Station without food, water, or the ability to use a bathroom for over 12 hours from 10 a.m. till 11 p.m. One of the officers threatened to “send her to heaven.”
At about 11 p.m. his mother can be seen walking to a police car unassisted, yet 15 minutes later she was sent to a hospital with no heartbeat, not breathing, and declared dead.
Although the case has come to an end, the cause of Xu’s death is still unknown. The police said Xu died of a “sudden illness.”
The police did not inform the family of the death until two days later.
“How did such a healthy person die suddenly?” Wang Fuhua, who had been helping Xu’s family to seek compensation, asked.
“We told them we refused to accept that. We would definitely demand compensation,” said Wang.
The process of seeking legal justice in China has not been easy. The family filed a lawsuit in three different courts, went to 11 coordination meetings with local police, and pitched the story to local media.
None of the courts replied and none of the media dared cover the story.
When the family finally reached a court mediation agreement, the language in the document steered the responsibility for Xu’s death away from the police by calling the payment to the family a “reimbursement” rather than “compensation.”
“They meant they were reimbursing me for humanitarian reasons, but they were not compensating me because they were responsible for my mother’s death,” Yang said.
Yang revealed that he was threatened by the court not to open a trial, but settle out of court.
According to Yang’s lawyer, the estimated amount for compensation would be about $165,000 if they took the case to court—around triple the amount of what they had received as reimbursement.
“They said they fought for the largest amount possible. If you did not accept this amount, then they will open a court trial,” Yang said.
“The deputy chief justice told me, that the court would most likely not hold the police station accountable. So we were half-threatened,” he said.
The compensation came with two additional conditions.
“The first condition is that Yang is responsible for cremation costs. He must cremate his mother’s body within five days. Another condition is that he cannot appeal this matter to any higher court or organizations,” Wang said.
Althought Xu’s family met with great tribulations during the legal battle, they were touched by the support of local residents in Chenzhou City.
“The citizens in Chenzhou City had overwhelming sympathy for the victim. When her photo was posted, many people saw it and offered many ideas,” Wang said.
“Many people posted the victim’s story on their Weibo accounts and QQ accounts. Many people were discussing this matter.”
NTD China News’ Chang Chun contributed to this article.