WASHINGTON―As President Obama and his entourage prepare for their trip to China, Washington, D.C., resident Jin Pang has a request for the president when he speaks with Communist officials in November.
Pang is hoping most of all that Mr. Obama will bring her mother to the U.S. in the same way that former President Clinton brought back journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, from another Communist country, North Korea. Short of that goal, the daughter wants something to be done to reverse the sentencing of her mother, who is being persecuted for her beliefs. She would also like to be able to see her mother, who has not been allowed to see any family members since her arrest more than a year ago.
Ms. Pang, 25, has been denied contact with her mother Cao Junping, 52, since the latter was detained last year on July 29 in Weifang, a city about 270 miles south-east of Beijing. After 15 months, on Oct. 18, her mother was sentenced to 10-years in a rushed, closed door ‘trial,’ in which the court did not inform the family, their attorney was not welcome at the sentencing hearing, and where the prosecutor lacked evidence, according to Pang.
“My mom was arrested because she is a practitioner of Falun Gong, a peaceful meditation discipline that was banned in China in 1999,” said Pang, who is a Missouri State University graduate. Her aunt, Cao Junfeng, also a practitioner and her mother’s elder sister, was arrested July 9, a few weeks earlier. According to the official explanation, the two sisters and over 100 other practitioners were held in Weifang’s detention center because the regime wanted the Olympics to go smoothly without disruptions, which they say Falun Gong practitioners will cause.
But the court’s actions of delaying the trial of her mother 15 months belie their explanation of the so-called “Peaceful Olympics.” After the Summer Olympics of 2008 were completed in Aug. 2008, logically Cao, her sister and others would have been released at that time.
“Because there was no evidence of wrongdoing, local officials delayed my mother’s case for a year's time. Due to a lack of evidence, the [Kuiwen District] Court has not been able to hear the case, and it was sent back to the prosecutors’ office (‘Jiancha Yuan’),” said Pang.
Lack of evidence means that Pang’s mother wasn’t seen talking to people about the persecution of Falun Gong, or telling people about the practice, or distributing the Nine Commentaries. The latter document is a historical account of the Communist Party that reveals its deceitful and violent past. The regime makes it their number one priority to block access to any reference to it.
All of the above actions are really not wrong, according to Ms. Pang, who also practices Falun Gong freely in the United States. “But the court has to follow its own laws and procedures and didn’t do so in my mother’s case,” said Pang.
After delaying for 15 months, suddenly on Oct. 16, the Weifang City District Court posted an announcement at the courthouse, which Pang’s father periodically checks. It said her mother’s sentencing hearing was set on Oct. 18. Members of the family were barred from attending, and it was not possible for their attorney to attend on such short notice.
On the same day Pang’s mother was sentenced, her sister Cao Junfeng, and two other Falun Gong practitioners were sentenced at the Hanting District Court to nine years, and another practitioner was sentenced to four years.
Pang is especially worried about the torture and deaths of practitioners residing at Weifang City.
“For such a small provincial-level city of Weifang, the number of Falun Gong practitioners persecuted to death in Weifang is one fortieth of all practitioners persecuted to death in China,” said Pang who learned this from practitioners in China who are able to report to outsiders of conditions and deaths.
“Perhaps you remember a case reported by the Wall Street Journal that saw a strong reaction in the U.S. of Falun Gong practitioner Chen Zi-xiu being persecuted to death. This case also took place in my hometown of Weifang,” said Pang. An eye-witness account of the brutality of the detention center in Weifang can be found at: http://www.clearwisdom.net/eng/china/china030600.html
Life has been especially hard on the family. After Cao Junping’s arrest in July 2008, their house was raided twice and valuable items stolen by the police. The family’s personal car was taken and still has not been returned. Altogether, the private property of the household that was stolen from them is worth around $80,000, according to Pang.
At the detention center in Weifang, and also in Qingzhou, her mother was interrogated, starting on Aug. 8, 2008. “…for five days and four nights straight; six people took turns interrogating her for 24-hours. They did not permit her to sleep and if she closed her eyes, they would splash cold or hot water on her. They also forced her to sit a long time in an iron chair and tortured her so long she lost control of her bowels; only then did they stop for one day,” said Pang. “Then they tortured her in the same way for four consecutive days and three nights, after which she had a high fever.”
Pang worries about her mother’s health too. Cao Junping's feet were injured in a car accident and there are still iron plates there for support, making walking very difficult.
“As the only daughter in our family, not only can I not comfort my mother, she now faces a 10-year prison sentence. What dark days lie ahead! My father is currently home alone bearing all this unfair treatment. Afraid that his elderly mother and father-in-law will be unable to bear the news, he has not informed them of my mother’s situation.”
The message Pang has for President Obama:
“Dear President Obama: Now that you are going to visit China, please help free my innocent, good mother and bring her back here. Although everyday my heart is in pain, I remain hopeful. When I see the freedom in America, I know that no one should be persecuted and tortured because of their beliefs.”