Yang Feng | Bitter Winter
The 63-year-old woman from Guangzhou has been arrested and detained four times, for no other crime than practicing Falun Gong
On July 13, 2022, the District Court of Haizhu District, one of the urban districts of the prefecture-level city of Guangzhou, Guangdong province, sentenced a woman called Zhang Chunhe to four years of detention for “using a xie jiao to undermine the implementation of the law.” This is a standard formula derived from Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code indicating that a defendant is active, in any capacity, in one of the banned religious movements listed as “xie jiao,” or groups spreading “heterodox teachings.”
Zhang is a practitioner of Falun Gong and these decisions are part of a regular routine. What is less common about Zhang is her resilience, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s symmetric persistence in persecuting her.
Zhang was born in 1959 in Guangzhou. She became an accountant and worked at Zengcheng Plastic Bag Factory before becoming Chief Financial Officer of Zengcheng Wuxie Company. She was a model employee, as attested by her rapid career, but in the eyes of the CCP, she had a problem. In 1994, she had become a practitioner of Falun Gong.
In 1999, when the persecution of Falun Gong started in China, the authorities falsely claimed that she was a drug addict. She was taken to a drug rehabilitation center, where she was indoctrinated with the aim of persuading her to abandon Falun Gong.
After her release, she continued practicing Falun Gong, and in 2002 was arrested again and sentenced to one year of “reeducation through labor” in a labor camp in Guangzhou. She was not re-educated, however. She returned to her work and quietly practiced Falun Gong.
In 2008, she was arrested in the purge prior to the Beijing Olympics, and in 2009 was sentenced to three years of prison by the Zengcheng District Court and to “legal education,” despite the fact that she suffered from a large fibroid tumor. After her release, she reported that she had been tortured, systematically deprived of sleep for 150 days, and kept handcuffed and shackled in a dark room during the days. Her husband was also persuaded by the CCP to divorce her.
She returned home and started again practicing Falun Gong. Although she kept a low profile, on April 10, 2021, she was arrested again. On May 17, 2021, her arrest was formalized, and on August 1 she was committed to trial. Now, she has been sentenced to another four years.
While her resilience is admirable, it should be noted that Zhang has never been accused of any crime other than believing in and practicing Falun Gong. This proves, once again, that all kind of active involvement in a group labeled as “xie jiao” is enough for Chinese courts to conclude that the defendant “used a xie jiao to undermine the implementation of the law.”