(Minghui.org) An interior designer in Anshan City, Liaoning Province, has been denied family visits since he was admitted to prison in August 2023 to serve a three-year term for his faith in Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted by the Chinese communist regime since 1999. The prison authorities cited an internal policy that Falun Gong practitioners wouldn’t be granted family visits, unless they renounce their faith.

Mr. Zhao Yubo

Sentenced to Three Years

Mr. Zhao Yubo, 40, was working on a new design at home on September 21, 2022, when the police suddenly broke in and arrested him. His work computer, a broken printer, Falun Gong books, his ID, cellphone, $6,400 USD, 18,000 yuan, and other personal belongings were confiscated. The police also forced Mr. Zhao to hold some of the cash in his hands and then took photos of him. They held him at the police station for two days, without giving him any food or water, before transferring him to the Xiuyan Detention Center.

Mr. Zhao was tried by the Lishan District Court on March 28, 2023 and sentenced to a three-year prison term on April 25, 2023. Judges Wang Liya, Cai Jing, and Ma Haisheng signed his verdict.

After Mr. Zhao filed an appeal with the Anshan City Intermediate Court, the judge assigned to the case initially asked his family to submit supporting materials, but declined to accept the materials when they complied with his request. The judge also canceled the hearing scheduled for July 17, before announcing to uphold his original verdict.

Denied Family Visits in the Prison

Mr. Zhao was taken to the Nanguanling Prison in August 2023, and later transferred to the Dalian City Prison around October 2023. His family went to the latter prison twice to visit him, but were turned away both times, as the guards claimed that Mr. Zhao had refused to renounce Falun Gong.

According to Mr. Zhao’s family, he had only spent 300 yuan on daily necessities during the four-month period at the Dalian City Prison. They worried whether he was being tortured or restricted from making purchases.

When Mr. Zhao’s father went to visit him the first time, he talked to Tong Lei, the head of the fourth ward, where Mr. Zhao was detained. Tong claimed that Mr. Zhao’s mood was not stable. But when his father questioned Tong as to what caused his mood to be unstable, Tong didn’t answer. He asked for the family’s contact information and said he would inform them when they approved Mr. Zhao’s family visitation.

Forced to Drop Out of School and Self-taught to be an Interior Designer

Mr. Zhao began to practice Falun Gong in July 1997 when he was 14 years old. He said that the profound teachings and universal principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance deeply moved him. He went from being an introverted, passive, and rebellious person, to one who was outgoing, warm, and ready to help. During a PE class, many students took off their clothes. Mr. Zhao put his clothes on the ground and let the other students put their clothes on his. His academic performance also improved quickly and he was well-regarded by his classmates.

Just as people around him were impressed with his amazing changes, the persecution started in 1999. With a simple wish to speak up for Falun Gong, Mr. Zhao went to the local government in 2000 to appeal, only to be arrested and forced to write a letter promising not to go to Beijing to seek justice for Falun Gong.

The 17-year-old subsequently faced constant harassment at home and at school. His teacher and school leaders threatened to expel him if he didn’t renounce Falun Gong. With no other choice, he quit school and studied on his own. Yet the police still regularly harassed him.

Despite the hardship and pressure from the persecution, Mr. Zhao grew into a resilient and strong person with a big heart, who is positive and optimistic. He eventually became an interior designer by teaching himself, and his designs were widely acclaimed.

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Forced to Drop Out of School at 17, Self-taught Interior Designer Arrested for His Faith