(Minghui.org) A retired nurse in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province was ordered by the local social security bureau to return the retirement fund she had received while serving a prison term for her faith in Falun Gong. She filed an administrative motion with the local government to seek justice. A ruling was issued on November 15, 2021 to invalidate the order.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.
Prison Sentence and Suspended Pension
Ms. Xiong Meiying, 73, was arrested on September 24, 2016, for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong. She was sentenced to 3.5 years in Jiangxi Women’s Prison on June 27, 2017.
In October 2019, while she was still serving time, the Shengmi Town Health Center she retired from stopped issuing her pension payments.
When Ms. Xiong was released in March 2020 with poor vision from the torture in custody, her house had collapsed and valuable items were stolen. She was even more devastated to find that her pension had been suspended.
The local Honggutan District Social Security Bureau told Ms. Xiong that after a recent pension reform, her workplace failed to make contributions to her pension account, which disqualified her from receiving any pension in the future.
On August 20, 2021, two staff members from the social security bureau further demanded that Ms. Xiong return the 131,946.14 yuan she had received between September 2016 and October 2019, citing a policy from Jiangxi provincial government that bars retirees from receiving retirement benefits while serving time. They threatened to take legal action against her if she didn’t turn in the money in time.
To seek justice, Ms. Xiong filed an administrative motion to reconsider her case with the Honggutan District government in August 2021. She said that she began to work in 1965 and retired in December 1998. Prior to her latest prison term, she had received pension benefits for over 20 years. She said pension benefits are the legal assets of retirees, and the suspension of pensions from those who have been imprisoned is unconstitutional and an illegal action. She demanded the social security bureau withdraw the notice for her to return the funds.
The Honggutan District government responded to her in mid-September that they would make a decision about her case by the statutory deadline.
Hearing of the Motion Case
Ms. Xiong hired a lawyer in mid-October 2021 to represent her, days before the district government held a hearing of her case on October 22.
Ms. Xiong, her lawyer, a representative of Honggutan District Social Security Bureau and its lawyer, as well as an accountant from Ms. Xiong’s workplace, Shengmi Town Health Center, attended the hearing held at the Honggutan District Justice Bureau.
Ms. Xiong’s lawyer argued that pension is a retiree’s personal assets and they earned it through their own hard work. He said that it’s unconstitutional for the provincial government to arbitrarily suspend pension from a retiree and the policy also violates the labor law in China, which protects a retiree’s basic rights to receive the full amount of their pension.
The lawyer also said that Ms. Xiong’s prison term started from her arrest date on September 24, 2016. When the social security bureau issued the order in August 2021 for her to return the 131,946.14 yuan pension she received during her prison term, it has long passed the two-year window to seek the return of already issued pension funds.
The lawyer pointed out that if the provincial government’s policy regarding imprisoned retirees’ pension benefits holds true, then the social security bureau must have made a mistake in issuing pension payments during Ms. Xiong’s prison term. In other words, the agency had committed dereliction of duty.
The lawyer concluded that the social security bureau had no grounds to infringe upon Ms. Xiong’s legal right to her pension benefits.
Ms. Xiong received a letter from the Honggutan District government on November 15, 2021. The letter stated that the social security bureau’s request for her to return the pension was invalid and that the agency was ordered to withdraw the notice.
The letter explained that the provincial government’s policy the social security bureau referred to was a temporary version and it had already expired on June 26, 2018. When the social security demanded Ms. Xiong return her pension on August 20, 2021, there was no updated policy in place, thus rendering their demand invalid.
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