(Minghui.org) Four Huili City, Sichuan Province residents appeared in court between January 10-18, 2022, for their lawsuits against the local social security bureau in suspending their pension benefits for practicing Falun Gong.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

The amounts of pension suspended are: Ms. Zheng Qiong, 204,800 yuan; Ms. Ma Lingxian, 188,600 yuan; Mr. Xu Shikai, 140,900 yuan; and Ms. Luo Jiping, 135,100 yuan. Among the four Falun Gong practitioners, Ms. Ma has had her pension suspended for the longest time, since 2008.

Parties Attending the Hearings

For Ms. Luo’s hearing on January 10, 2022, Zhang Banghui, the deputy director of the Huili City Human Resource and Social Security Bureau, and lawyer Ruan Yuhong attended on behalf of the agency. Zhang Jianrong and another woman came on behalf of Huili City People’s Hospital, where Ms. Luo retired from. Gan Xiaolan was the presiding judge, teaming up with two more judges Peng Jixia and Huang Zhengjiang. This is the second hearing of Ms. Luo’s case by the Huili City Court, following a previous session on November 29, 2021.

During Ms. Zheng’s hearing on January 17, Zhang and Ruan were also present. A male attended on behalf of the Huili City No.1 Middle School, where Ms. Zheng worked at. Zhang Yu, the presiding judge, also worked with judges Peng and Huang on the case. The court clerk was Fan Xiaofei.

Ms. Ma and Mr. Xu’s cases were heard together on January 18, as both of them worked for the Shaba Middle School. Zhang and Ruan again attended on behalf of the social security bureau. Ye Anjun, the principal of Shaba Middle School, and staff member Li Chaoyuan were present. The judges in charge of their cases were the same as Ms. Zheng’s.

Focus of Defense

The lawyers representing the four practitioners focused their defense arguments on the three documents used by the social security bureau in suspending the practitioners’ pensions.

The three documents included:

1) “Notice on Issues Relating to the Treatment of Wages and Benefits of Public Institution Workers When They Face Coercive Measures and Administrative Punishment,” issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in 2012; and

2) “Implementation Measures on Sichuan Province Public Institution Workers’ Pension System Reform,” issued by the Sichuan Human Resources and Social Security Bureau in 2015; and

3) “Letter on the Livelihood Issue of Retired Public Institution Workers After Finishing Serving Prison Terms,” issued by the Sichuan Human Resources and Social Security Bureau in 2003.

The lawyers held that none of the three documents had the legal binding power on administrative litigation and can’t be used as a legal reference in withholding their clients’ pensions.

It’s ruled by the Chinese labor law that it’s the basic right for the laborers to receive monthly pension payments as long as they live. No law permits any entities to arbitrarily suspend anyone’s pension or even withhold a portion of it.

The lawyers believed that the social security bureau violated the law and infringed upon the legitimate rights and interests of the plaintiffs.

They pointed out that, according to Article 44 and 45 of the Chinese Constitution, Article 73 of the Chinese Labor Law and Article 16 of the Social Insurance Law, the conditions and standards for laborers to enjoy social insurance benefits can only be regulated by enacted laws and regulations. Other administrative notices or policies bear no authority to limit or deprive laborers of social insurance benefits. The plaintiffs should receive their social insurance benefits, “paid in full monthly,” without any exception.

During Ms. Luo’s hearing on January 10, the social security bureau accused her of having served a labor camp term, which disqualified her from the pension payments. Ms. Luo’s lawyer refuted that no Chinese labor law ruled that one is suspended of their pension just because they were given labor camp terms or prison terms. He also said that the hospital began to withhold Ms. Luo’s pension in 2003, five years before she was given the labor camp term.

During Mr. Xu’s hearing on January 18, when his lawyer questioned the school’s staff member Li Chaoyuan why they suspended his pension and whether they had any legal basis for doing so, Li replied, “No, we don’t have any [legal] basis. It’s an order from my supervisor.”

Ms. Ma’s lawyer also asked the social security bureau why her pension was suspended. The agency’s deputy director Zhang said that they were distributing retirement funds based on the roster given by the school, which didn’t have Ms. Ma’s information. When the lawyer asked the school principal the same question, he replied, “Because we’ve stopped her pension, there was no need for us to report her information.”

It’s not clear whether the judges have issued rulings regarding the practitioners’ cases at the time of writing.

Additional Information about Ms. Luo

Ms. Luo, around 76, retired from the Huili City People’s Hospital in December 1992 and began to receive a pension from the hospital the year after. After the pension reform took place in China in October 2016, the hospital transferred the retirement accounts to the social security bureau to manage and distribute the fund.

According to information collected by Minghui.org, Wang Wenzhen, the hospital’s secretary, attempted to force Ms. Luo to renounce Falun Gong in August 2003. After Ms. Luo was rejected, Wang said to her, “If you insist on practicing Falun Gong, we will withhold your pension for three years.”

Ms. Luo replied, “The pension is my own asset from my years of hard work. No one has the right to withhold it.”

Despite the lack of legal basis, the hospital withheld Ms. Luo’s pension between September 2003 and December 2004. With Ms. Luo’s persistent effort to seek justice, the hospital reinstated her pension in January 2005 but reduced the amount from 900 to 300 yuan.

Altogether, between September 2003 and December 2010, the hospital withheld a total of 81,509 yuan pension from Ms. Luo. Since October 2018, the social security bureau also suspended Ms. Luo’s pension, which added up to 135,100 yuan by January 2022.

On November 28, 2021, Qi Gang, the director of the hospital’s security department, called Ms. Luo’s son and asked him to tell her to go to the hospital to discuss issues related to her pension. She went there on January 29, three weeks after her hearing, only to be ordered by Deng Bin, the vice president of the hospital, to return the over 100,000 yuan pension she had received between 2016 and 2018 (she was arrested in 2016 and has been seeking justice against the wrongful one-year term). Deng cited an order from the social security bureau. Ms. Luo said that it’s illegal for them to withhold her pension and she is still in the process of appealing the case.

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