UK resident Lei Chen is campaigning for the release of her sister Honghua Ling after she was arrested and held in a detention centre in China. She has been denied food and water for long periods of time and beaten, resulting in injuries to her neck and fingers, according to her family.
Ling was detained at the beginning of March by police in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, after meeting practitioners of the spiritual practice Falun Gong. It wasn’t until nearly six weeks later, on April 21st, that she was officially arrested, according to reports from family members.
Initially Ling was taken to the No. 1 detention centre of Shenzhen’s Nanshan district, where she was at first refused entry due to a history of tuberculosis being discovered on her physical check-up. After three failed attempts by the police to admit Ling into the detention centre they were then forced to send her to the attached hospital, where after two days the police were successful in their fourth attempt at admitting her to the detention centre. According to her sister Chen, she remains shackled and handcuffed, awaiting trial.
Lei Chen moved to the UK in 2007 to look after her son and to escape persecution. She describes her time in China under the persecution as very difficult. She says she was monitored constantly by neighbours and a local security guard on her estate.
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice of mind and body, combining meditative exercises with adherence to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. In 1999 the Chinese Communist Party cracked down on the practice and practitioners have subsequently been put into forced labour camps, with many reporting torture. To date more than 3,858 people are confirmed to have been tortured to death, according to Falun Gong website minghui.org.
This year alone there have been at least 867 cases of Falun Gong practitioners being detained by the Chinese authorities. Of these, 405 were formally arrested, 123 were put on trial and 81 were given prison sentences, with 14 deaths.
Chen is determined to free her sister, running a petition addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron. “It is an example for the international society to see the brutal persecution of Falun Gong,” she says.
On April 25th, a date commemorating a 1999 protest against the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Falun Gong in China, Chen handed in a collection of letters and petitions with signatures to 10 Downing Street.
Chen urges British people to show their support. “You are living in a free country, raise your voice to stop the human rights abuse in other countries,” she says. “If the Western international society can’t stand by their common values the result could be devastating for the whole world. What’s happening in China is a severe crime and an evil deed and we should stop it immediately.”