NEW YORK – Five new petitions for individual Falun Gong practitioners – some with over 10,000 signatures – have been reported over the past two months, continuing a growing trend across China. While some of the petitions are new initiatives – including ones in Hubei and Hebei Provinces – others are ongoing efforts to rescue local residents who practise Falun Gong, despite official repression.
Notably, in Hebei Province, residents of Zhengding County near Shijiazhuang have been undeterred by a crackdown that followed a petition for Mr Li Lankui. In June 2012, Li was abducted by the local 6-10 Office and secretly sentenced to fifteen months of forced labour, amidst a city-wide “cleanup” ahead of Iowa governor Terry Branstad’s trade visit to the region.
Li's abduction raised the ire of friends and neighbours, who, in a matter of weeks, recorded hundreds of signatures on a petition for his release. Local authorities responded to the petition with dozens of physical assaults and at least 16 arrests. One police raid killed another Falun Gong practitioner, Ms Yang Yinqiao, who allegedly “fell” from a five-story window.
Undeterred by the violence and obvious risk of reprisals for their activism, local residents recently added to the petition the name of another elderly Falun Gong practitioner who has been detained and tortured for allegedly helping circulate the petition for Li. They have continued to collect more signatures and as of mid-March, nearly 11,000 had been recorded, a significant increase from the 700 signatures collected on the initial petition.
Such petition drives for individual Falun Gong practitioners are on the rise across the country. The Falun Dafa Information Centre has learned of nearly three-dozen since 2008, with the majority having occurred in the last two years.
Four additional petitions from three provinces surfaced in the month of March, including one that recorded over 5,000 signatures. In almost all cases, the signatures are marked with a red thumbprint, a practice historically used for legal documents.
“The growing number of petitions demonstrates that the regime's endless stream of propaganda vilifying Falun Gong is not having the effect it once had,” said Levi Browde, director of the Falun Dafa Information Centre. “People are seeing through it.”
Husband urges release of wife who rescued him
Catalysing another petition – Mr Zhou Xiangyang – wrote an open letter about his young wife, Ms Li Shanshan from Hebei Province. An Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Li is currently being held in a labour camp after advocating for her husband’s release.
“Only when I walked out of the prison did I find out that my wife was again arrested for appealing for my case,” wrote Zhou, who was released in April 2012 thanks to international advocacy and a petition circulated by local residents. “I didn't expect to have to appeal for my wife after I was released.”
“I hope that this letter will make more people understand our sacrifice and perseverance in defending the universal values of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and understand why [Falun Gong practitioners] are going through such hardship and suffering in this country,” he wrote. “I hope that such suffering will never have to be repeated...”
Another petition was for Ms Cui Aijun, abducted from her home in Shuangshanzi County in Hebei Province on December 11th, 2012. It was widely known that Ms Cui was the sole caretaker for her in-laws, who are 81 and 91 years old respectively. Her mother-in-law is blind.
One signatory wrote, “I am signing for Falun Gong. The Communist Party is just so bad …What’s wrong with being a good person? Release her immediately.”