US Sanctions Chinese Official for Persecuting Falun Gong

May 12, 2021 Updated: June 3, 2021

The State Department announced sanctions against a Chinese Communist Party official for persecuting Falun Gong, as the Beijing regime’s brutal suppression of the spiritual practice approaches its 22nd anniversary.

The sanctions will bar Yu Hui, former director of the agency specifically tasked with persecuting Falun Gong in the city of Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, from entering the United States. The penalty also extends to his immediate family.

“We will continue to consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in China and elsewhere,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a press briefing as he announced the release of the department’s annual report on international religious freedom, which cited arbitrary arrests, house raids, societal discrimination, and forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners.

Blinken said the designation was applied to Yu for his involvement in “gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners for their spiritual beliefs.”

The organization that Yu presided over is known as the 610 Office, an extralegal agency established shortly before the onset of the persecution with the express goal of carrying out the brutal campaign. The organization wields enormous power within the Party and enjoys uncontested power to persecute religious minorities. Yu headed the Chengdu branch beginning in 2016 and through February 2018.

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The U.S. Department of State in Washington, on July 22, 2019. (Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images)

The spiritual discipline Falun Gong involves three core tenets—truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance—along with a set of meditative exercises. After its founder, Li Hongzhi, first introduced the practice in China’s northeastern city of Changchun in 1992, Falun Gong gained 70 million to 100 million adherents through word of mouth. The Chinese regime, threatened by the practice’s popularity, began an eradication campaign in July 1999 aiming to wipe out the faith in China.

The State Department sanctions came a day before World Falun Dafa Day, which marks the anniversary of the practice’s introduction to the public 29 years ago, as well as Li’s 70th birthday.

The Office of International Religious Freedom within the State Department also recognized the regime’s abuse of Falun Gong practitioners.

“On World Falun Dafa Day, we recognize the countless Falun Gong practitioners the PRC harasses & abuses simply for their beliefs. Yesterday, @SecBlinken designated a PRC official under Section 7031(c) for his involvement in the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong adherents,” wrote the office on Twitter on May 13.

The sanctions made Yu the second Chinese official punished by Washington for persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. In December 2020, the Trump administration sanctioned Huang Yuanxiong, a police chief in Fujian Province, for “particularly severe violations of religious freedom of Falun Gong practitioners.” That designation was made on International Human Rights Day.

The U.S. decision “will surely send a potent message across China that the world is watching and there will be real-world consequences for persecuting Falun Gong practitioners,” according to Erping Zhang, spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York.

“As the news spreads among the [Chinese Communist Party’s] security apparatus, it will very likely make some think twice about perpetrating further abuses,” he said in a statement.

Sam Brownback, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, similarly applauded the move.

“I think it sends a very strong signal to China,” he told Epoch Times affiliate NTD. “It sends the signal that we’re not going to let them get away with this war on faith.”

The World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to the rights of the faith group, named Yu as a perpetrator of the campaign and highlighted two instances of persecution that took place under his watch.

Liu Guiying, a senior engineer at a major state-owned telecommunications company called China Electronics Technology Group, was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2017 for her beliefs, after spending two years in detention without trial.

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Reenactment of one of the torture methods employed by Chinese officials to coerce Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their faith. (Courtesy of Minghui.org)

The judge told her lawyer privately, “This has been pre-arranged by superiors and I have no way around it.”

Later in prison, Liu wasn’t allowed to bathe, wash her hair, brush her teeth, or use toilet paper, the organization said.

Pan Xiaojiang, a judicial assistant with Sichuan Province’s Nanchong Intermediate People’s Court, was arrested in February 2017 for hanging a banner in public, according to Minghui, a website established by Falun Gong practitioners in the United States to collect first-hand accounts of the persecution. She was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading not guilty in June 2018.

Wu Chunlan, an adherent from Jintang County in southwest China’s Chengdu City, was interrogated 21 times after her arrest in September 2016. In three months, half of her body became paralyzed, Minghui reported. Her husband, who in hospital at the time for serious medical conditions, passed away without seeing her one last time.

The Falun Dafa Information Center said Yu was one of 9,000 officials of the 610 Office who was flagged by the State Department earlier this year by advocates for Falun Gong.

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Practitioners of Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) meditate in Central Park in Manhattan, on May 10, 2014. (Dai Bing/Epoch Times)

Minghui has verified and documented thousands who died at the hands of the regime. It notes that the true number of deaths is likely much higher but can’t be verified due to the regime’s tight-fisted control over any relevant details. Researchers have described forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners as a “cold genocide.”

In 2020, more than 15,000 adherents experienced arrests or harassment, with more than 600 people sentenced to jail, according to Minghui. The oldest person among those who were sentenced was 88.

Brownback, in a phone interview, described what the Chinese regime has done to Falun Gong practitioners as “hateful and belligerent.”

“They seem to just absolutely want to destroy Falun Gong,” he told The Epoch Times. He cited mounting evidence of systemic organ harvesting, which targeted primarily Falun Gong practitioners, but also Christians and Uyghur Muslims. “The world can no longer ignore this.”

Eva Fu
Eva Fu
China Reporter
Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S.-China, religious freedom, and human rights.