The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued amid the pandemic.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice composed of meditative exercises and teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The practice grew to between 70 million and 100 million adherents by 1999, according to China’s official estimates at the time.
The communist regime, fearing that the growing movement would threaten its rule, launched a systematic elimination campaign against adherents of the practice in July 1999.
Millions of Falun Gong practitioners have since been detained, with hundreds of thousands tortured during incarceration, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center. The center also estimated that thousands have died as a result of persecution.
The blatant violations of religious freedom and human rights continue to this day.
On Jan. 12, Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that tracks the persecution of Falun Gong in China, published the latest statistics based on its investigations.
According to the report, at least 6,659 practitioners across China were arrested and detained in 2020. At least 88 died as a result of the persecution.
The report also states that 622 practitioners were sentenced for their faith, 537 were forced to attend political “education” classes, and 3,588 had their homes searched by authorities.
More than 8,000 others received some form of harassment by police, such as officers visiting their homes, confiscating Falun Gong books and materials, or monitoring their activities.
In 2020, multiple provinces and cities posted awards of up to 100,000 yuan (US$15,460.25) for citizens who report Falun Gong adherents’ activities to the police, The Epoch Times previously reported.
Of those persecuted, 1,188 were seniors over the age of 65, including 17 over the age of 90.
In addition to physical and mental abuse, the communist regime has also seized assets from Falun Gong practitioners. In 2020, the state seized a total of 9,849,097.56 yuan (about $1.5 million), according to Minghui.org’s records. Most of the funds were seized during police confiscations or fines issued by courts.
Jilin Teacher Sentenced for Writing Letter to CCP Premier
Song Yanqun, a teacher from Shulan, Jilin Province, started practicing Falun Gong in August 1996.
On the morning of March 26, 2020, police captain Dong Qiming and seven others from Shulan’s police bureau went to Song’s home under the pretense that they were there to conduct a census, according to a report by Minghui.org.
After Song opened the door, Dong questioned Song about a letter she wrote to the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, and told her she was being arrested. Song was taken into custody that evening.
Song’s father went to the police station to seek her release and spoke of the physical ailments and mental trauma that her daughter still suffered as a result of her previous decade-long imprisonment.
Following her first arrest on Nov. 24, 2003, Song was sentenced to 12 years in prison. During her incarceration, beatings, force-feeding, and injection of unknown drugs put her on the verge of death, according to Minghui.org. She weighed only about 66 pounds when she was released on medical parole on Jan. 20, 2014.
Song’s sister, Song Bing, who was arrested on the same day and sentenced to 14 years, contracted tuberculosis in prison and was denied proper treatment for months until she was in critical condition. She never recovered from her health problems and died on July 30, 2009.
Song’s father told police that his daughter wrote appeal letters every day to alleviate the mental trauma. The police expressed sympathy but could do nothing about the situation. They said the order to arrest came from above, Song’s father told Minghui.org.
Song Yanqun stood trial on Nov. 10, 2020. In late December 2020, her family was informed that Song was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison.
Orthopedic Surgeon Arrested Again After Years of Torture and Imprisonment
Li Lizhuang, a Falun Gong adherent and former orthopedic surgeon at the First Hospital of Harbin Medical University in northeastern China, was re-arrested on April 8, 2020. He was detained at the Zhaozhou Detention Center in nearby Daqing.
Li was first arrested in May 2001 and sentenced to two years at the Changlinzi Forced Labor Camp, where he was often beaten and shocked with electric batons. Before the labor camp term was up, he was sentenced to four years in prison, where inmates tortured and sexually assaulted him, according to a report by Minghui.org.
The hospital fired Li during his incarceration. After being released from prison, he couldn’t find another job as a doctor and resorted to selling clothes on the street.
He was arrested again in March 2008 and sentenced to one more year at the labor camp. Combining the two labor camp terms and one prison sentence, Li endured a total of 6 1/2 years of torture.
Li was tried via a virtual court session by the Ranghu Road Court on Dec. 29, 2020, according to the most recent report on Minghui.org.
Practitioners Beaten and Threatened
On April 10, 2020, six Falun Gong practitioners went to the Xinglong township police station in Wuchang, northeastern China, to request the release of a fellow practitioner taken into custody the night before.
Two of the practitioners, Yu Shufan and Li Yan, spoke with the police chief, Yang Chunlai, in an attempt to explain the background about Falun Gong and why the CCP decided to launch its persecution. The police chief became infuriated upon learning that the two were Falun Gong adherents, swore at them, and pushed them out of the police station.
After the six left, police followed and stopped their car, searched the vehicle, and took them back to the police station, according to Minghui.org.
At the police station, officers repeatedly slapped Sun Tienong, another Falun Gong adherent in the group, until he couldn’t move. Also, several cops dragged Li into an unmonitored room and brutally beat him, according to Minghui.org.
Police then told the practitioners not to discuss the persecution with others, or expose the information to the international community.
On Dec. 10, 2020, Human Rights Day, the U.S. State Department sanctioned 17 foreign officials for their human rights violations, including Huang Yuanxiong, head of the Wucun police station in Xiamen located on the eastern coast of China.
This designation, which bars Huang from entering the United States, also applies to Huang’s wife. It marked the first time the United States has penalized a Chinese official for persecuting Falun Gong practitioners.
In a press statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Huang was found in “gross violations of human rights” for his role in detaining and interrogating Falun Gong adherents.
“The world cannot stand idly by as the [People’s Republic of China] government perpetrates horrific and systematic abuses against people in China, including violating the internationally recognized right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief,” Pompeo said.