Chinese Name: 张成花Gender: FemaleAge: 81City: MishanProvince: HeilongjiangOccupation: Retired employee of a grain and oil production companyDate of Death: October 2021Date of Most Recent Arrest: March 27, 2018Most Recent Place of Detention: Heilongjiang Province Women’s Prison
Ms. Zhang Chenghua, 81, was surrounded by a few plainclothes officers emerging from a black sedan, as soon as she stepped out of her home in Mishan City, Heilongjiang Province on March 27, 2018. They took her to the Mishan Court and the judge sentenced her to one year in prison with 10,000 yuan in a ten-minute trial.
The judge accused Ms. Zhang of having Falun Gong materials at home and charged her with “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” the standard pretext used by the Chinese courts to frame Falun Gong practitioners.
Since the Chinese communist regime ordered the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, countless practitioners have been sentenced with the same charge, though the prosecutors and judges were never able to explain what “law enforcement” was allegedly undermined by the practitioners and how.
One year after Ms. Zhang was released, she was dealt another heavy blow when the authorities ordered her to return her pension received during her prison term. Despite her weak physical condition, she frequented local authorities to seek justice, but to no avail. Her health continued to decline and she passed away in early October 2021.
Repeated Arrests Since Onset of Persecution
Ms. Zhang worked for a local farm affiliated with a grain and oil production company in Mishan City. Due to years of hard labor, she developed severe ailments, including diabetes and inflammation of her lungs and kidneys. She spent a fortune on medical treatments, with minimal improvement. In deep despair, she took up Falun Gong in July 1999. While her health soon recovered, she was also devastated to see the communist regime ordering a nationwide persecution in the same month.
In September 1999, Li Li, the Party secretary of the farm Ms. Zhang worked at gathered all farm employees who practiced Falun Gong and ordered them to renounce the practice.
As Ms. Zhang refused to comply, Li and Xiao Zhizhong of the local police department extorted 5,000 yuan from her son. They also dispatched two police officers to stay outside her home to monitor her.
Li found Ms. Zhang again a few days later and tried to force her to sign a renouncement statement. She still refused to sign it. Li didn’t leave until her son-in-law was forced to sign the statement on her behalf.
Ms. Zhang went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong in December 1999 and was arrested by Li and police officer Zhao Zhou. She was taken back to Mishan and held in the Beishan Detention Center for two weeks.
Li and police officer Xiao, who also headed the 610 Office in the police department, harassed Ms. Zhang again on April 25, 2000 and ordered her to renounce Falun Gong. She said that she had freedom of belief to practice Falun Gong and follow it to be a good person. Li arrested her again and detained her for over two months.
Ms. Zhang was arrested one more time in December 2000 for distributing informational materials about Falun Gong. She was given one year at the Wanjia Forced Labor Camp in early 2001.
Li arranged two police officers to stay outside of Ms. Zhang’s home and monitor her life after she was released.
Li also suspended her pension, with the excuse that she had served time. Ms. Zhang persistently requested that the authorities reinstate her pension. Xiao agreed to resume her pension, but withheld 5,618 yuan from her, saying that she wasn’t entitled to any retirement payments during her one-year labor camp term. He also forced her to cover the police travel expenses for taking her to the labor camp.
Ms. Zhang was arrested again with three other practitioners, while talking to people about Falun Gong on March 13, 2016. She was released on the same evening, but the other three practitioners were detained for 15 days.
Deceived by Police
Ms. Zhang was walking on the street when Yu Haiying, the deputy director of Mishan City Domestic Security Office, suddenly grabbed her from behind. Yu searched her bag and took away her Falun Gong materials and 50 yuan banknotes printed with information about Falun Gong.
Due to strict information censorship in China, many Falun Gong practitioners use creative ways to raise awareness about the persecution, including printing short messages on banknotes.
As Ms. Zhang refused to take Yu to her home, Yu called for help. A group of officers arrived and carried Ms. Zhang to a police car and took her home. They searched every corner of her home and took photos of all the Falun Gong materials she had.
The police interrogated Ms. Zhang at Mishan City No. 1 Police Station but she refused to reveal where she got the Falun Gong materials.
When Ms. Zhang’s grandchildren went to the police station in the afternoon to seek her release, the police forced them to sign the house arrest notice on Ms. Zhang’s behalf.
Although the police promised that they would not harass Ms. Zhang again when asking her grandchildren to sign the documents, they still submitted her case to the Procuratorate.
The prosecutor deceived Ms. Zhang into signing her case documents, by promising her that her case would be cleared if she complied.
Three plainclothes officers pretended to be coming to inspect Ms. Zhang’s natural gas pipes on January 22, 2018 and deceived her into opening the door. While taking her to the Mishan Court, Ms. Zhang accused the police of deceiving her. One officer responded that they had to do so, or she wouldn’t open the door for them.
Upon arrival at the court, Ms. Zhang refused to cooperate with the judge and was taken back home by the police.
Wrongful Prison Sentence
Ms. Zhang was seized by the police on March 27, 2018 as soon she left home. As she hadn’t returned home by lunch time, her family began to worry about her.
Ms. Zhang’s family received a call at 4 p.m. from the Jixi Detention Center and was told that she had been sentenced to one year in prison and fined 10,000 yuan.
Her family later learned that the trial only lasted ten minutes. The judge claimed that the police found 834 copies of Falun Gong materials in her home and charged her with “undermining law enforcement.”
Ms. Zhang’s family hired a lawyer to appeal the verdict, only to have the lawyer work hand in glove with the higher court to deceive them.
When Ms. Zhang’s family finally talked to a person from the Jixi City Intermediate Court on April 19, 2018, after many of their calls went unanswered, the person said the higher court hadn’t received Ms. Zhang’s appeal case.
But when the family visited Ms. Zhang at the detention center on the next day, she told them that the judge of the higher court had already interviewed her at the detention center.
The family went to the higher court after the visit and submitted a request to represent Ms. Zhang themselves in her appeal case. While judge Yang Zongyuan accepted their request and asked for their defense statement, he ruled to uphold Ms. Zhang’s original verdict on April 28, without having a hearing.
Ms. Zhang served time at Heilongjiang Province Women’s Prison and was released on March 26, 2019. The local social security office suspended her pension as of September 2020 and ordered her to return the funds she received during her one-year imprisonment. The 5% annual bonus from her workplace was also suspended.
Ms. Zhang went to various government agencies to appeal the case, but to no avail. Her health kept declining. She passed away in October 2021.
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