Henan Woman Becomes First Known Falun Gong Practitioner Sentenced to Prison in the “Zero-Out” Campaign
(Minghui.org) Ms. Yan Weibin, a 54-year-old from Zhumadian City, Henan Province, became the first Falun Gong practitioner known to have been sentenced in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s latest “zero-out” campaign, a coordinated effort to force every Falun Gong practitioner on the government’s blacklist to renounce their faith.
This campaign is orchestrated by the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, a Communist Party agency given the power to override the judicial system and tasked with persecuting Falun Gong. Many practitioners and their family members across China have been harassed, threatened, and coerced in the past few months in the campaign. While most practitioners were released days after their arrests, Ms. Yan was the first practitioner to be given a seven-year term for it.
Taking Up Falun Gong
Ms. Yan, a hotel manager, was diagnosed with Hepatitis B in 1996. Worried about her health, her mother, Ms. Yang Xiuxia, introduced Falun Gong to her.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient spiritual discipline with the tenets of “Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance” and supplemented by five sets of gentle, slow-moving exercises. Its tremendous health benefits quickly drew nearly 100 million practitioners in China seven years after its public introduction in May 1992. Due to its immense popularity, the CCP ordered a nationwide persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999. The persecution continues today.
Soon after Ms. Yan took up Falun Gong, she regained her health. She spent more time taking care of her elderly mother-in-law and bedridden father. She said she did so to fulfill her family obligation and also to allow her siblings to focus more on developing their careers.
In her own work, Ms. Yan also did a great job. She won many awards and was frequently invited to other hotels to provide trainings to their employees. She donated all of her speaking fees to her workplace and said it was her workplace that gave her the opportunities.
When she was released in 2001 after serving one year in a forced labor camp for practicing Falun Gong, her manager hired her back despite the enormous pressure he faced.
He said to her, “You Falun Gong practitioners are truly amazing! Do you know why I insisted on having you come back despite all the pressure? Because I saw with my own eyes how well you did in your job after learning Falun Gong. You are selfless. You never complain about working overtime or compete with others for personal gain. It’s just so hard to find anyone like you in society now!”
Four Arrests, a Labor Camp Term, and a Seven-Year Prison Term
After the Chinese communist regime began its persecution of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999, Ms. Yan went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice her faith. She was arrested as a result.
She was arrested again on March 5, 2000, when she returned to Beijing and unfurled a banner bearing a Falun Gong message at Tiananmen Square. For the six months she was held at Beijing Detention Center, the guards cut off all of her communications with her family. Her husband and her colleagues repeatedly went to Beijing to look for her, only to return disappointed each time.
Six months later, they finally found out that she had been given one year at the Tuanhe Forced Labor Camp in Beijing.
Ms. Yan was arrested once more in 2019 for talking to people about Falun Gong. Although she was released after spending 15 days at the Zhumadian City Detention Center, the 610 Office, an extralegal agency created specifically to persecute Falun Gong, strictly monitored her daily life afterwards.
Ms. Yan’s latest arrest was on July 16, 2020, after she was reported for talking to people about Falun Gong. The police ransacked her home in the afternoon and found a criminal complaint she filed in 2015 against Jiang Zemin, the former head of the CCP who ordered the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999. After the police took Ms. Yan to the Laojie Police Station, they returned to her home and ransacked her place again. This time, they found 1,000 copies of Falun Gong flyers.
Ms. Yan was later taken to the Zhumadian City Detention Center. Her arrest was approved on July 31. While inquiring about her case, the police said their higher-ups were paying special attention to her case due to the ongoing “zero-out” campaign. They warned that she would be sentenced to a heavy term.
The prosecutor quickly indicted Ms. Yan in September and moved her case to the Yicheng District Court. While going through a physical examination, Ms. Yan found that her Hepatitis B that was cured after she began practicing Falun Gong recurred after two months of detention.
During her court hearing on October 14, the judge grumbled that he kept getting calls from Falun Gong practitioners who urged him not to sentence Ms. Yan. “What’s going on?” he questioned Ms. Yan.
The judge held another hearing of Ms. Yan in November before sentencing her to seven years on December 9.
Ms. Yan is still held at the Zhumadian City Detention Center at the time of writing. Her family is appealing the verdict for her.
Ms. Yan’s sentence left her family in deep despair. Her daughter-in-law is approaching labor, and her 89-year-old mother-in-law is also in dire need of her care. When her friend went to visit her family, they often burst into tears talking about their plight.
Persecution of Her Family
While Ms. Yan was targeted for her faith, her mother and two sisters, all practitioners of Falun Gong, weren’t spared in the persecution either.
Her mother, Ms. Yang Xiuxia, was arrested three times and extorted multiple times. She was once detained for three months. When Ms. Yang’s second daughter was forced to live away from home to avoid the persecution, the police harassed Ms. Yang several times. She succumbed to fear and mental pressure and passed away in February 2015.
Ms. Yan’s oldest sister was arrested four times and lost her job as an engineer. The police often harassed her during major holidays or anniversaries related to Falun Gong.
Ms. Yan’s second sister was arrested seven times and incarcerated in labor camps for a total of five years and three months. She was also held in detention centers twice, once for four months and once for one month. Her father-in-law gave up Falun Gong due to the pressure and passed away soon afterward. Her husband divorced her in 2000 while she was still serving a labor camp term.
With no place to live, Ms. Yan’s second sister was forced into displacement following her release. In 2004, while she was staying at her mother’s place, the police suddenly came and arrested her. She was arrested once more at her mother’s place in 2006 and given two years of forced labor. She was arrested again in 2014 after being reported for passing out Falun Gong materials.
When her mother applied for government-funded affordable housing for her, the police demanded that she write a statement to renounce Falun Gong or they wouldn’t approve the application.