Perseverance: Couple Seeks Release of Their Son, Imprisoned for 20 Years
(Minghui.org) For over ten years, Mr. Zhao Hongli's parents, now 83 and 76, have sought justice for their wrongfully-sentenced son.
Despite their age and risks to their own safety, the elderly couple frequented local police departments, procuratorate, and courts, only to be threatened, rejected and even arrested themselves.
“As long as my son is detained, I will continue to seek justice for him. I will never give up!” declared the 76-year-old mother, Ms. Lu Fengzhen.
Mr. Zhao Hongli, 48, has spent almost half of his life in prison in the past two decades. He was sentenced three times, with the terms adding up to 24 years. He is now serving his third six-year term at Jinzhou Prison. Although his daughter is now 16, the days she has spent with him can be counted on one hand.
First Sentence: Framed by Business Partners
In his early 20s, Mr. Zhao was doing business with some friends. He soon discovered that his business partners were involved in the reselling of cultural relics. He decided to stop working with them, but was instead framed by his friend, who claimed that Mr. Zhao stole his money. In the end, Mr. Zhao got six years in prison in 1994. When his parents appealed the sentence, the higher court increased the sentence to ten years.
Mr. Zhao had congenital heart disease. While his parents worried about his lack of proper medical care in the prison, Mr. Zhao started to learn Falun Gong and his heart disease went away.
The principles of Falun Gong, Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance, also changed his character. He gave up the thought to retaliate against the people who framed him. During an accident in the prison, he saved another person at the risk of his own safety. As a result, he was given an early release in 1999.
Second Sentence: Persecuted for His Belief
Shortly after Mr. Zhao was released from prison, before he could start a new life, the Chinese Communist Party launched the nationwide persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, leaving his life in peril again.
In 2004, Mr. Zhao was arrested for the second time for printing informational materials about Falun Gong. He got eight years this time. The police and court staff didn't inform his family about his arrest and sentence until he was sent to the prison.
Tortured in the Prison
Mr. Zhao prepared some documents to appeal his case, but a prison guard confiscated his paperwork and denied his rights to appeal. To protest, Mr. Zhao started a hunger strike for several months. The prison doctor force-fed him.
He was emaciated and unable to stand or even talk. When the doctors put him on an IV, it was difficult to find a blood vessel and insert the needle.
On the brink of death, Mr. Zhao was transferred to Shenyang Prison, where the torture continued; he was tied to a bed in a spread eagle position.
Third Sentence: Abuse Continues
Having survived unimaginable physical and mental torture in prison, Mr. Zhao went back home in 2012. Only one year later, he was arrested again on September 7, 2013 for disseminating information about the persecution of Falun Gong with his cellphone. The head of the Domestic Security Division threatened his family that Mr. Zhao would get a heavy sentence and have a miserable life if they filed any complaint against the police.
Mr. Zhao was brutalized by the police at the police station. When he was transferred to the detention center, even the staff there were shocked by the injuries on his body.
During his trial, the presiding judge threatened his lawyer that he would suspend the lawyer's right to defend if she mentioned the police's beating Mr. Zhao.
On the verdict statement, the amount of text messages that Mr. Zhao sent about Falun Gong was changed from 10 to 77, and the amount of other materials found at his home was also exaggerated. With the police, procuratorate and the court working hand in glove to fabricate the charges against him, Mr. Zhao was sentenced for the third time to six years in prison.
He was denied family visits for a long time. When his family finally managed to see him after many trips to the prison, they could hardly recognize him. His face was badly swollen and deformed. When his mother asked what had happened to him, Mr. Zhao only said to her, “Mom, don't ask. This is no place for human beings.” His mother fell to the floor and wept.
Parents' Search for Justice
After the sentence, the court and prison refused to provide a copy of the verdict to Mr. Zhao's family, making it impossible for them to appeal for him. Mr. Zhao's mom went to Beijing's Central Appeals Office four times, but was stopped by the local police and taken back to her city. She wrote hundreds of letters to the related departments, which went unanswered.
When she finally obtained a copy of the verdict in 2015, she was shocked to see that the court had actually charged Mr. Zhao with larceny, an obviously false charge.
The elderly couple appealed the case to the High Court in Liaoning Province. The court accepted the case, but soon rejected the couple’s appeal and upheld the original charge of larceny.
“What they did was simply unacceptable! It was so obvious that this case was false and fabricated, but the high court was covering up for them and rejected our appeal,” said a family member.
Holding on to Hope
Despite all that he and his family have endured, Mr. Zhao remains positive and hopes for a brighter future.
In a letter that he wrote to other detained Falun Gong practitioners, he said, “I can feel the strength from the practice each day. No matter how they torture me, I will never give up the practice. I have just one thought in my mind: 'perseverance.' My fellow practitioners, I believe we will witness the day when all the darkness goes away.”
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