Chinese Citizens Punished for Seeking to Bring Former Dictator to Justice

June 4, 2015 Updated: June 5, 2015

In May, over 20 people filed lawsuits against former Chinese regime leader Jiang Zemin and walked free, seemingly a reversal of a trend where potential plaintiffs would get lengthy jail terms and even lose their lives for seeking justice.

As the month drew to a close, however, five people in China’s northwestern Gansu Province, were arrested and detained by local police after attempting to do the same thing.

At around 10:00 a.m. on May 30, Fan Yongcheng, Wang Zefang, and Wang Yongfang went to a post office in Jincheng City to send out a legal complaint against Jiang for the persecution of Falun Gong—and walked straight into the arms of the city’s public security police officers. Family members of the three were arrested, and their documents were seized, according to Minghui, a Falun Gong website that carries primary information about the persecution in China.

Three hours later, Wang Lifeng and Wang Yukang, a father and son duo, visited the post office to mail their criminal complaints, and were likewise detained.

All five are practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that incorporates gentle meditative exercises and adherence to moral principles.

Many of the individuals have previously been persecuted. Police raided Wang Zefang’s house eight times, placed her in administrative detention six times, and criminal detention once, and sentenced her to eight years in prison for practicing Falun Gong. Wang’s mother-in-law, who is in her 70s and also practices Falun Gong, was detained three times. Wang’s husband, Zhang Yanrong, was given a 12-year jail sentence for practicing Falun Gong in 2002, brutally tortured, and passed away in 2006, according to Minghui.

Wang Lifeng suffered similar persecution, and was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2006, Minghui reports.

While the Chinese regime was initially receptive to Falun Gong as it brought health benefits to tens of millions millions, then Party leader Jiang Zemin, spooked by its popularity, mobilized the security and propaganda apparatus to carry out a nationwide suppression in 1999. The death toll is estimated to reach past 100,000, including those tortured or beaten to death in custody, or killed so their organs could be harvested and sold.

While attempts to sue Jiang Zemin in China early on in the persecution ended in swift retaliation, Falun Gong practitioners worldwide have filed successful indictments against Jiang in several countries.

It is unclear if the detention of the five signifies a hardening of the Chinese regime against the wave of citizens seeking legal recourse against Jiang, or was merely carried out on the initiative of local officials in Gansu, unsure which way the political winds are now blowing. Recently, a number of top officials of the 610 Office, the secret Party agency set up to persecute Falun Gong, have been investigated on charges of corruption, and the agency’s leadership is in disarray, the former leader having recently been taken off the portfolio, with no replacement announced.