YouTube Celebrity’s Relative Detained for Suing Ex-Chinese Dictator

October 23, 2015 Updated: October 23, 2015

Chinese authorities have abducted and detained the mother-in-law of Ben Hedges, a television journalist based in New York with celebrity status in Taiwan, in direct retaliation for her having filed a criminal complaint against former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin.

Public security officers from the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang seized Sheng Xiaoyun, the mother of Hedges’ wife, from the school where she worked in Daqing City at about 3:00 p.m. Beijing Time (3:oo a.m. Eastern Time) on Oct. 21.

The home of Shen Xiaoyun and Dai Yi after it was ransacked on Oct. 21, 2015. (Courtesy of Ben Hedges.)
The home of Sheng Xiaoyun and Dai Yi after it was ransacked on Oct. 21, 2015. (Courtesy of Ben Hedges)

An hour later, police broke into Sheng’s home, ransacked it, and confiscated two computers and a typewriter. Sheng is being held in Daqing’s Dulitun Detention Center.

The sudden arrest of Sheng Xiaoyun is the latest incident in which local police and security forces have retaliated against practitioners of Falun Gong who have lodged criminal complaints calling for the indictment of Jiang Zemin for crimes against humanity and genocide.

Falun Gong teaches a set of five slow exercises, and the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. In July 1999, Jiang sought to “eliminate” the discipline, which was practiced by over 70 million Chinese, according to an official survey.

Nearly 4,000 practitioners have since been killed, and hundreds of thousands languish in detention, according to Minghui, a website run by Falun Gong practitioners and the main source of first hand information about the persecution. Those numbers likely severely underestimate the toll of the campaign, however. Researchers estimate that between 45,000 to 65,000 practitioners have been killed for their organs, which are sold for a profit.

Following Orders

Ben Hedges, who is British, is a host of a popular Chinese language program, “A Laowai’s View of China & Taiwan,” and is often recognized in streets and bookstores in Taiwan when he visits. Prominent Taiwanese newspapers like Liberty Times, Apple Daily, and China Times carried news of his mother-in-law’s arrest.

Both Hedges and his wife Crescent Dai work at the New York headquarters of Chinese-language broadcaster New Tang Dynasty Television, which is, along with this newspaper, a subsidiary of the Epoch Media Group.

You will not silence Ben Hedges for messing with him for no reason.
— Lawrence Kao, Netizen

Crescent Dai first learned about her mother’s arrest from her father Dai Yi. Hedges then telephoned the Heilongjiang police to ascertain her fate.

Deng Hui, a deputy team leader with the Heilongjiang police, told Hedges that Sheng was arrested for submitting a criminal complaint against Jiang Zemin, and would be released after 10 days. When further probed, Deng said “I’m just a police officer” and was simply following orders from superiors, whom he didn’t name, according to Dai, who listened to the phone call. Whether they will actually release Sheng after 10 days is unclear; Hedges said that in many cases this has not happened.

Epoch Times’ attempts to reach the police station were unsuccessful.

The policeman then began cursing at Hedges and hung up. Minghui identifies the man as an active persecutor of Falun Gong practitioners.

Sheng Xiaoyun and Dai Yi have been incarcerated several times for practicing Falun Gong and petitioning the Chinese regime to end the persecution. Chinese authorities also forced the couple to attend brainwashing sessions in an attempt to force them to renounce the practice and declare allegiance to the Party.

Shen Xiaoyun, Youtube celebrity Ben Hedges's mother-in-law. (Courtesy of Ben Hedges.)
Sheng Xiaoyun, Youtube celebrity Ben Hedges’s mother-in-law. (Courtesy of Ben Hedges)

Minghui published a chilling account of abuse inflicted on Sheng while she was detained in 2002: prison guards at the Harbin Drug Rehabilitation Center ordered prisoners to pinch Sheng’s legs until wounds appeared, then rub salt into the wounds before covering her legs with tape.

The husband and wife have also had their careers stunted as part of the persecution. Sheng Xiaoyun was demoted from a teacher to an admin worker at her school, while Dai Yi, who had a promising career in the oil industry, was never promoted again after the persecution began.


Fans of Ben Hedges’s show, “A Laowai’s View of China & Taiwan,” offered words of encouragement and support after Hedges broke the news on the show’s Facebook page.

“I hope she is safe and sound. There is only power, but no human rights, in China,” wrote Jiang Yidou from Taiwan.

Alicia Chu, also from Taiwan, wrote: “Help your mother-in-law to emigrate or get residence in the United States… A country without human rights and the rule of law is just barbaric.”

“You will not silence Ben Hedges for messing with him for no reason,” wrote Lawrence Kao from San Jose, California. Targeting the family members of rights activists and dissidents to hush them is a tactic favored by the Communist Party. Hedges told Epoch Times that he intends to release a video clip about his mother-in-law’s arrest.

Ben Hedges plans to get his congressman to write to the head of the public security bureau, the Heilongjiang provincial government, and to current Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer