State Department Condemns Beijing for Imprisoning 11 Falun Gong Practitioners Weeks Before Olympics

The U.S. State Department on Jan. 21 condemned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for sentencing 11 Falun Gong practitioners to prison terms as long as eight years for exercising their religious beliefs.

The Jan. 14 sentences were handed down just weeks ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The State Department is calling on Beijing to “immediately end its depraved abuse and mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners, release those imprisoned due to their beliefs, and address the whereabouts of missing practitioners,” a department official told The Epoch Times in an email.

“Since 1999, the Communist Party of China (CCP) has sought to eradicate Falun Gong, a spiritual practice originating in China, and its peaceful practitioners and human rights defenders who have fought for their right to practice their beliefs.”

NTD Photo
Falun Gong practitioner Xu Na in China in this undated photo. Xu was sentenced to eight years in prison for her religious beliefs. (The Epoch Times)

At the beginning of the regime’s persecution in 1999, an estimated 70 to 100 million Chinese people were practicing Falun Gong—based on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance—and the Communist Party deemed its popularity a threat.

“Extensive evidence shows the PRC government continues to repress and abuse this community to this day,” the official said, citing reports of torture and heavy-handed sentencing.

“Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners face detention, harassment, and reported torture and abuse each year for simply … peacefully practic[ing] their beliefs.”

Practitioners who are arrested are often held in detention without trial for extended periods of time, denied proper legal representation, and punished on spurious and fabricated charges.

NTD Photo
Yu Zhou and his wife Xu Na (R). Xu was sentenced to eight years in prison for her belief in Falun Gong on Jan. 14, 2022. (Courtesy of Minghui.org)

In the case of the 11 practitioners, 15 months of detention passed before they got a hearing last October, and at least one lawyer lost his license for taking their case.

A Beijing court claimed that their crime was “sabotaging law and order” both for exercising their spiritual beliefs and for sharing photos and information with The Epoch Times.

The 11 were detained in July 2020, after the regime discovered that, as citizen journalists, they had photographed evidence of the regime’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic during the early stages and then shared the images with The Epoch Times.

“The Chinese Communist Party is relentless in its campaign against religious minorities,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told The Epoch Times.

“This latest attack on Falun Gong members who were trying to provide information about the pandemic is only the latest evidence of their gross attacks and even more reason to cut ties and stop supporting this evil regime.”

‘Most Visible Time Possible’

The sentencing, weeks before the Feb. 4 opening of the Winter Games, is “a moment that calls for moral clarity,” said Rev. Johnnie Moore, former Commissioner for the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom.

”Let’s be crystal clear what’s happening here: the CCP is rounding up people right before the Olympic Games,” he told The Epoch Times. “Democrats and Republicans, and allies of the United States, need to draw their line in the sand. This also applies to all those businesses who’ve been waving their social justice flags: they now face a test.”

NTD Photo
A woman holds a photo of a man killed by the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong, during a parade in Washington on July 17, 2014. (Larry Dye/The Epoch Times)

The practitioner facing the heftiest prison term is 53-year-old Xu Na, a still-life painter from Beijing. She has survived two prior imprisonments for her beliefs and suffered various forms of torture inflicted by police—including one method in which her legs were pulled apart to 180 degrees. Three inmates then sat on her legs and back and continually applied pressure to create excruciating pain.

Xu’s husband, folk musician Yu Zhou, died at the hands of the police in the run-up to the Beijing Summer Olympics 14 years ago.

Arrested during an “Olympic check” in January 2008, he died of torture two weeks after being taken into custody.

NTD Photo
Chinese security guards walk by a billboard for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, on Jan. 20, 2022. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Levi Browde, executive director at Falun Dafa Information Center, criticized how the “CCP has completely decimated this family.”

“[T]his brazen sentence is handed down as a message to the world,” Browde told The Epoch Times. “Think about it: the CCP chose to sentence Xu at the most visible time possible—three weeks before the Olympics start as all eyes are trained on Beijing.”

“It’s as if the CCP is intentionally flaunting to the world that it will imprison Falun Gong practitioners at will, and there’s no one to stop them. We can’t let that be true.”

From The Epoch Times