Yang Feng | Bitter Winter
The converted gang leader was tortured and disabled. Reportedly, he is still in prison, from where he may be released later this month.
In 2013, Falun Gong practitioners all over the world protested and collected signatures on behalf of Zheng Xiangxing, a co-religionist who had been disabled by the severe tortures he had to suffer in jail and subjected to two craniotomies. Their petitions were never answered, and since then Zheng’s friends have wondered whether he is alive or dead.
According to information that has transpired on social media, and Bitter Winter regards as reliable, as of January 2022 Zheng was still alive, and still detained in the Baoding jail in Hebei province.
The story of Zheng is somewhat exceptional. His life can be divided in three parts. In the first, Zheng was a rough character. He was born in 1968 in what was then Tanghai county and is now the Caofeidian district of Tangshan, a prefecture-level city in Hebei province. He became the leader of a motorcycle-riding gang and ended up being arrested. In 2001, when he was in jail, he shared a prison cell with a Falun Gong practitioner, who had been arrested because of his faith.
The two became friends, and Zheng started practicing Falun Gong. He also decided he should put an end to his criminal activities. Thus started the second part of his life, during which Zheng was a shop owner. He opened a home appliances store in Tangshan city and was quietly active in Falun Gong, trying not to get noticed as a practitioner by the police.
He successfully kept a low profile for a decade, but on February 25, 2012, the police knocked at his door, and arrested him as a Falun Gong practitioner. On July 26, 2012, the County Court of Tangshan city sentenced him to ten years under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, which punishes those active in a religious group banned as a xie jiao.
From 2012, the third and saddest part of Zheng’s life started. It is the life as a prisoner of conscience, who had been tortured and disabled for his refusal to renounce his Falun Gong belief. Between October 26 and 27, 2012, because of the tortures he had suffered, his conditions deteriorated. He was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a cerebral hemorrhage. His relatives believe it was caused by the heavy blows on his head inflicted to him in jail.
Zheng was subjected to a craniotomy, which probably saved his life but let him half-paralyzed and nearly blind in both eyes. However, when he became able to say a few words, he was taken to his jail cell again. Protests by his wife Sun Suyun, who sat outside the gates of the Baoding jail asking that he was transferred to a specialized hospital in Beijing were not heard, and she was ordered by the police to go home.
On July 25, 2013, Zheng had to be taken again to the hospital, where he was subjected to a second craniotomy. In August, he was sent to jail again. Meanwhile, his case had become known internationally.
According to the information mentioned above, Zheng is alive and still in Baoding jail. In theory, he should be released on February 25, 2022. However, it is not uncommon that devotees of xie jiao who refuse to sign statements renouncing their faith are kept in prison for additional periods.