Urgent Appeal: Retired Professor Arrested in Pre-Olympic Purge for Printing Underground Newsletters

New Yorker’s elderly father faces long sentencing and torture

New York—As Olympic sailing competitions continue in Qingdao, a retired professor and his wife face imminent sentencing in nearby Jinan for practicing Falun Gong and printing underground leaflets. Official documents obtained by the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC) corroborate the detention of the elderly couple, who remain at risk of severe abuse in custody.

Mr. Zhang Xingwu, a 67-year-old retired physics professor at Jinan Normal University, and his wife, Ms. Pinjie Liu were arrested from their home on July 16, 2008.

“More than twenty policemen broke into my parents’ home in Shandong province, ransacked the house, [took] computer equipment and large amounts of money, and abducted my parents,” says Zhang Shuangying, a nurse residing in New York.

“My mother had a stroke in custody that night, which paralyzed the left side of her body, so they released her the next day. But she was abducted again on August 6. Now she and my father both face prison sentences because they practice Falun Gong and had printed underground newsletters about it.”

Official Documentation and Risk of Torture

According to Zhang, Ms. Liu was released only after her son paid the police 10,000 yuan (approximately $1,500). The Falun Dafa Information Center has obtained a copy of the release notice he received at the time, which mentions the payment (document 1).

Two other documents obtained by the Center, complete with the official stamp of the local security agency, further confirm the couple’s arrest (document 2 / document 3). According to one document, Mr. Zhang faces charges of “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law,” a vague provision of the criminal code commonly used to sentence Falun Gong adherents to prison terms of up to 12 years. (see Amnesty International report)

The elderly couple has practiced Falun Gong since 1995 and have been repeatedly detained since the discipline was banned in 1999. From 2001 to 2004, Mr. Zhang spent three years at Jinan Liuchangshan “re-education through labor” (RTL) camp, while Ms. Liu was at Jinan Women’s RTL camp for the same period.

During these previous periods in police custody, the two elderly adherents suffered sleep deprivation, beatings, electric baton shocks, and other forms of torture. Since their most recent detention, family members have been denied access to see them, raising serious concerns that they are again being abused.

Underground Print Shop

Taking advantage of his technological savvy and as part of a nationwide grassroots movement, in recent years, Mr. Zhang operated a site for printing underground newsletters and VCDs from his home. The newsletters included the Minghui Weekly, a collection of articles on Falun Gong and rights abuses committed against its adherents. Also printed were copies of The Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, an editorial series published by the overseas Chinese-language Epoch Times newspaper. The series is a critical analysis of the Communist Party’s history ruling China with detailed information on Falun Gong, as well as previous political campaigns, from the 1957 anti-rightist movement to the 1989 massacre. According to a 2005 study by Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, websites featuring The Nine Commentaries are one of the most pervasively blocked in China (see "In-state testing results" section of report).

As a result of Zhang’s efforts to disseminate such sensitive information, the local police—who often face punishment or demotion when underground materials are distributed in their area—reportedly viewed him as a key target for arrest in the pre-Olympic purge. According to his daughter, six other local Falun Gong adherents who had distributed materials he prepared were also arrested recently, increasing Zhang’s risk of receiving a long sentence.

According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, since December 2007, over 8,000 Falun Gong adherents have been detained across China. In Beijing alone, at least 200 have been arrested and over 30 sentenced without trial to “re-education through labor” camps for up to 2.5 years (news), marking the worst escalation of the campaign against the group in years.

The FDIC is calling for:

  • Zhang Xingwu and Liu Pingjie’s immediate and unconditional release, as they have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their fundamental rights to freedom of belief and expression. These rights are enshrined in Articles 35 and 36 of the Chinese Constitution and China’s commitments under international law.
  • The international community to pressure the Chinese authorities to release Zhang and Liu.
  • Foreign media in China to investigate Zhang and Liu’s case and seek to attend their trial should it take place. Their daughter Zhang Shuangying, currently living in New York, is available for interview.

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