(Minghui.org) Ms. Zhang Shuzhi and her daughter, Ms. Hou Xiaoyan, of Daqing City, Heilongjiang Province, were sentenced to 5.5 years and 5 years respectively after appearing in court on April 18, 2018, for practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999.

The mother-daughter duo, who were arrested on October 10, 2017, are currently serving time in Heilongjiang Women's Prison and have been denied family visits since 2018.

The persecution caused Ms. Zhang to have blurred vision in both eyes, and her family had to fork out money for her to undergo surgery. Currently, she still has blurred vision in one eye.

Ms. Hou has been worried about her elderly father and teenage daughter, who has hyperthyroidism. She was allowed to call her husband in July 2020 and learned that her daughter's illness sometimes recurred.

As Ms. Hou's husband works out of town, her daughter lives in her school dorm from Monday to Friday. When she returns home on the weekends, she often curls up in her bed and dares not turn on the light at night for fear of others finding out she's home alone. To help her feel less lonely, Ms. Hou’s father, who is in his 70s, came over to care for his granddaughter. However, the elderly man is in poor health himself after witnessing the persecution against his wife and daughter. The anxiety has caused him to suffer a relapsing heart condition and difficulty falling asleep at night.

Family Members Arrested

On October 6, 2017, Ms. Zhang, her sister Ms. Zhang Shulan (who lives in the nearby Harbin City), Ms. Hou, and Ms. Hou’s brother Mr. Hou Jibin, drove to their hometown in Shangzhi City, to retrieve some cabbage. Ms. Zhang Shuzhi and her children returned to Daqing City the next day.

On the morning of October 10, 2017, officers from the Daqing Police Department went to the respective workplaces of Ms. Hou, Mr. Hou, and Mr. Hou's wife, and arrested them. In the afternoon, several plainclothes police officers went to Ms. Zhang's home and stalked her 70-year-old husband.

Once he returned home and was about to open his door, the officers, who were following him, rushed in. He tried chasing them out and asked for their identity. One officer flashed his police ID card before ransacking his home.

As Ms. Zhang was not at home, the officers sat down and waited for her. They also took away some Falun Gong books and related materials. Despite the fact that Ms. Zhang's husband was experiencing chest tightness, the police forced him to take them to his daughter’s home and snatched his keys.

When they went to Ms. Hou's home, a group of officers had already broken in. Ms. Hou's laptop, printer, laminating machine, five tape recorders, satellite dishes, her husband's video camera, and camera were confiscated. The police didn’t include the camera on the confiscation list.

Ms. Zhang, Ms. Hou, and Ms. Zhang’s sister Ms. Zhang Shulan (who doesn’t practice Falun Gong) were held at Harbin No. 2 Detention Center. Mr. Hou, who doesn’t practice Falun Gong either, was detained at Shangzhi Detention Center, while his wife was released home that day. He and Ms. Zhang's sister were released several days later.

Sentenced to Prison

The police said that Ms. Zhang Shuzhi and her family were arrested for going to Shangzhi City. The family happened to be there by coincidence when someone was distributing Falun Gong materials in the area. The police suspected that Ms. Zhang and her family had distributed the materials, so they arrested them. Ms. Zhang's daughter-in-law, who didn't go with them, was also arrested for interrogation.

Ms. Zhang and Ms. Hou were put on trial on April 18, 2018. The authorities allowed six family members to attend the trial.

During the trial, the mother and daughter denied all prosecution evidence and charges against them. Ms. Hou described how she had benefited from practicing Falun Gong—her experience touched the court staff and one of them was moved to tears. Ms. Zhang said that she didn't commit any crime.

Their lawyers also pleaded not guilty on their behalf and cited the notice from the China Administration of Press and Publication that repealed its ban on publication of Falun Gong books in China, saying that it is legal to publish or own Falun Gong books. The judge was surprised and asked to see the notice. The lawyers demanded acquittal for Ms. Zhang and Ms. Hou.

The judge did not announce the verdict after the trial.

Ms. Zhang and Ms. Hou were later sentenced to 5.5 and 5 years respectively and were taken to Heilongjiang Women's Prison.

Upholding Falun Gong Principles While Imprisoned

Falun Gong practitioners sent to the Heilongjiang Women's Prison are held in either No. 8 or No. 9 (also known as training division) and continued to stay there until their terms are up.

Ms. Hou was imprisoned at the training division while Ms. Zhang was held at the No. 8 Division. After Ms. Hou was imprisoned, her workplace terminated her labor contract.

While imprisoned, Ms. Hou continued to uphold Falun Gong's principles—Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance—to be a good person. She often gives her limited water to others to use and tried her best to help others, even though they did not ask her for help. She gave out her things to inmates who had just entered prison and are lacking daily necessities. She also stepped forward to help other Falun Gong practitioners who were persecuted.

Currently, there are 18 teams in the training division, with practitioners being held in teams 1 to 8. After the pandemic broke out, team 8 was changed into a quarantine team, which was used for those who were about to leave the prison. Team 9 to 18 hold practitioners who refused to be transformed or cooperate, and Ms. Hou is currently in team 18. The cell is about 40 square meters and has 14 bunk beds. However, the cell sometimes holds up to 35 to 50 people. Many inmates have various diseases such as scabies, hepatitis, and AIDS.

As Ms. Hou did not renounce Falun Gong, she was restricted from spending more than 90 yuan a month. In the prison, a roll of toilet paper costs 25 yuan, a package of sanitary napkin 11 yuan, laundry soap 5.5 yuan, body soap 7 yuan, toothpaste 9.5 to 22 yuan. She wasn’t allowed to write to or call her family either.

Even though Ms. Hou is held in the same prison as her mother, they aren’t allowed to see each other or know each other’s situation.

Previous Arrests and Detention

This is not the first time that Ms. Hou and Ms. Zhang have been targeted for their faith.

Ms. Hou, born in 1977, was a worker at the Daqing Petroleum Administration Bureau Second Oil Production Plant. After practicing Falun Gong, she treated everyone with kindness and worked hard in the company. Ms. Zhang, in her 70s, had many illnesses cured after practicing Falun Gong, and she is well-known for being a good person.

On October 15, 1999, Ms. Zhang and Ms. Hou went to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong and were arrested. They were taken back to Daqing City. The police tried to get their family to pay 10,000 to 20,000 yuan as bail, but the family refused. After being detained at Daqing Detention Center for a month, they were transferred to Datong District Detention Center to be detained for 15 days before being released home.

Ms. Zhang was arrested again in February 2000 and held at Datong District Detention Center for several days.

Ms. Zhang and Ms. Hou were doing the Falun Gong exercises outdoors in April 2000 when they were arrested. They were taken to Daqing Detention Center. The police chief forced the family to move their household registration away, so they were no longer in his district according to the government’s list.

On June 1, 2001, Ms. Zhang was arrested when she was putting up Falun Gong materials. She was later detained at Heilongjiang Drug Rehabilitation Labor Camp.

Ms. Zhang went back to her hometown in 2005 for Chinese New Year. She took a tricycle home and told the driver about Falun Gong and gifted him an amulet. She also gave him a 10-yuan tip, as she wanted the driver to return home earlier for the new year. The driver took the amulet to the police station and reported Ms. Zhang. She was then arrested and sentenced to 4 years in Heilongjiang Women's Prison.

Ms. Hou was working on October 21, 2015, when the police went to her workplace. She was taken to the police department and interrogated about her criminal complaint against Jiang Zemin, the former head of the Chinese Communist Party who ordered the persecution of Falun Gong.

The police asked her who had printed the materials, but she refused to answer. At about 7 p.m., Ms. Hou was taken to a detention center and detained for seven days. She returned home on October 28 after going on a hunger strike for six days. Her workplace was afraid that her arrest would impact the company and moved her to a different position.

Chinese version available

Category: Accounts of Persecution