My Experience of Negating the Social Security Administration's Financial Persecution of Falun Gong Practitioners
(Minghui.org) Countless Falun Gong practitioners in China, myself included, have been targeted for upholding our faith, also known as Falun Dafa, a mind-body practice based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Many of us have been subjected to arrests, imprisonment, torture, and other forms of human rights violations, including restriction of personal freedom, social discrimination, and financial persecution.
One newer form of financial persecution of Falun Gong practitioners is to demand that practitioners return pension payments dispersed to them during their imprisonment for their faith. I, too, was ordered to pay back such pension benefits after I was released from prison. I refused to comply and my local Social Security Administration (SSA) withheld my current pension to pay back what I had received during my imprisonment.
I filed a lawsuit against the SSA, and the local court ordered the SSA to reverse the decision demanding that I return my pension payments received during my imprisonment.
The SSA refused to comply the court order. I filed a second lawsuit against the agency. Days before the scheduled hearing, the SSA reversed its decision requiring me to pay back the pension benefits I was paid while imprisoned. I then dropped my lawsuit.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s persecution of Falun Gong has never had any legal basis, and I think as practitioners we should not hesitate to safeguard our legal rights and seek justice for ourselves.
Several months after I was released from prison, I received a notice from the local SSA, demanding the return of the pension benefits paid to me while I was imprisoned. Since it didn't amount to much, I did not think too much of it. Moreover, the cost of hiring a lawyer would be more than my pension.
Later on, I thought about this again and felt my understanding earlier was not right. I realized that I had the attachment of worrying about spending too much on filing a lawsuit and upsetting my family. I came to see that this issue concerned not just me but many practitioners who had been imprisoned for their faith. The SSA's unlawful demand was an example of the CCP's financial persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. I enlightened to the fact that we cannot allow the CCP to continue to persecute us like this.
With help from another practitioner, I submitted a request to the SSA to reconsider its decision demanding that I repay my pension benefits for the time I was imprisoned. In my request, I included a copy of my appeal to the local appeals court, seeking to have the local court's decision to sentence me to prison overturned. Even though my appeal was rejected and I was still jailed, my appeal letter explained in detail why the persecution and the imprisonment of practitioners is illegal. Two months later, the SSA notified me that it had decided to sustain the original decision.
With this new development, I filed an administrative lawsuit against the SSA with a local court. Other practitioners also supported me in this. In fact, nearly all of the elderly practitioners jailed in my region have faced the same issue with their pensions. We all felt it was critical to help those decision-makers understand that it was illegal to deprive pensioners of their lawfully-earned benefits. As such, we compiled several articles found on Minghui.org on this topicand mailed them to the SSA, the court, the 610 Office, and the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC). The latter two entities are extrajudicial agencies tasked with persecuting Falun Gong.
Hiring an Attorney
I contacted four lawyers in the local area. Due to the ongoing persecution in China, they did not seem to have the courage to defend a Falun Gong practitioner. They also were not very familiar with the legal details of the pension issue.
A local practitioner recommended a lawyer from the provincial capital city, but I doubted the lawyer's uprightness and legal expertise after attending a trial in which he represented a farmer whose land had been seized by government officials.
With encouragement and financial support from another practitioner, I was able to hire a lawyer from Beijing, who demanded double the fee as the one from the provincial capital city. Growing up in a poor family, I was a saver, not a spender. But in this case, I was not just fighting for my own justice, so I knew the money spent hiring the lawyer was well worth it.
The court date was approaching, but I had difficulty reaching the presiding judge and his assistant judges since they were always busy. Nonetheless, I still considered it important to explain what Falun Gong really is, so that they would not simply follow the CCP's hate propaganda and rule against practitioners like me. I spent three days trying to write a truth-clarification letter, but I wasn't satisfied with any version of the letter I drafted.
I spent three additional days after the court hearing and finally finished writing the letter. I became unsure though afterward and debated whether or how to submit the letter.
I sat down to study the Fa and read the following,
“I’ll tell you, for years I have been continually saying that Dafa disciples’ abilities are tremendous, yet many people don’t believe this since those abilities were not allowed to be seen. Under the effect of righteous thoughts, everything around you, as well as you yourself, will undergo changes. Yet you have never thought to give it a try. (“20th Anniversary Fa Teaching”)
I told myself that I must give it a try, as clarifying the truth to the judges was the right thing to do. After all, cultivation means letting go of selfishness and I must let go of my attachment of fearing being persecuted again for clarifying the truth. My letter was meant to help those judges involved make the right decision on this pension issue. So I dropped off the letter to the judges the following day. Local practitioners have also mailed the judges truth-clarification letters, which in turn helped me win the case.
Telling People the Facts
Jiang Zemin, the former CCP leader who launched the persecution of Falun Gong, once gave an order to “defame their [Falun Gong practitioners'] reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.” During my efforts to safeguard my right to my lawfully earned pension, I deeply felt the financial persecution of practitioners.
In late 2019, the court ruled to revoke the SSA decision to require me to pay back the pension benefits I had received during my imprisonment. But the SSA refused to follow the court order and also kept withholding my current benefits. I questioned the agency on why they defied the court order, and they ignored me.
I was not deterred and decided to talk to the SSA director again. I had met him twice before the court ruling. The first time he looked very arrogant. “Since you’ve already started the lawsuit, let’s wait for the decision,” he said. I wanted to talk with him, but he just waved me away.
When I went there the second time, he still refused to listen to me clarify the truth. By the third time I went, the court had already announced its ruling. But the director did not want to talk with me and told me to work with his staffers. I said the staffers did not dare to make the decision without his approval. “You know we Falun Gong practitioners just want to be good citizens,” I explained, but the director was silent.
Two days later, I went there again. The director was not in, and a section chief received me. He asked me to sign the SSA notice requiring me to pay back the pension benefits I received during my imprisonment, even though the court had ruled to void the notice. I refused to sign, and he later approved my request to reinstate my current pension benefits that had been deducted to pay back the pension benefits dispensed during my imprisonment.
Since the section chief didn't approve my request to revoke the initial SSA notice, I visited the SSA a few days later. I showed the director some legal documents including Announcement 50 in 2011 from China Administration of Press and Publication that lifted the ban on the publication of Falun Gong books. He refused to accept the documents and summoned the section chief, who came with the SSA notice. I again refused to sign since the court had invalidated it. The director then asked a staffer to take my picture, and the staffer deleted the picture after I said I'd sue them for violating my legal rights. I came to the understanding that Dafa practitioners' righteous thoughts and behaviors would rectify the unrighteous.
I returned to the SSA again, and the director referred me to a deputy director, who was not around. A staffer in the deputy director's office listened to me talk about Falun Gong and the CCP's persecution during the past two decades.
I tried to talk to the director in February 2020, but was unable to find him or the deputy director. I then clarified the truth to whoever was around. In May 2020, I was finally able to get hold of the deputy director. I urged him to revoke the SSA notice as ordered by the court. He rejected my request, saying that he was following SSA policy.
I then filed a new lawsuit against the SSA.
I received a notice of the court trial a few months later. I did not think too much about it this time around. I no longer worried about spending thousands of yuan on legal fees. I was more concerned with the possibility of losing the lawsuit. I knew I had to do this in order to help stop the persecution and to prevent those SSA officials from committing wrong deeds against innocent practitioners.
Several days prior to the court trial, a staffer from the neighborhood committee visited me and said a person (whose name wasn't disclosed to me) asked him to pass the following message to me: this person offered to cover half of the pension benefits I received during my imprisonment in exchange for my withdrawal of the lawsuit. I said no and the staffer put me on the phone with that person, who then offered to pay the SSA the entire amount on my behalf.
I said I'd think about the offer. I thought for about 20 minutes and came to see that I still had attachments to money and personal interest. That person's offer would ensure I wouldn't have to pay anything myself, but the validity of the SSA notice would go unchallenged. I called the person back to say that accepting his offer would amount to acknowledging the SSA's financial persecution of me and that the only way for me to drop my lawsuit was for the SSA to follow the court order to revoke its notice. He said he'd call the court to let them know my position.
That afternoon, the SSA told me that it had revoked its notice that I had to pay back the pension benefits in question. I then notified the court to withdraw my lawsuit and received a confirmation of the withdrawal soon afterward.
I am a farmer and only finished middle school. It was Master that gave me the wisdom to effectively clarify the truth to the lawyer, the SSA, and the court effectively. I successfully negated the financial persecution of Falun Gong practitioners like me.
I also owe thanks to my local practitioners and practitioners outside of China who have helped me along the way with their persistent truth-clarification to the relevant agencies.