NEW YORK – 300 villagers have signed their real names and thumbprints to a petition calling for the immediate release of a respected school teacher from their village who was abducted by authorities because of his Falun Gong practice.
A well-placed source has told Epoch Times newspaper that top-level Communist Party officials, including Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang (who are expected to replace Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao later this year) are debating the petition. Officials at the highest levels of the Party are "talking about this event and most of them are urging for a peaceful resolution," this source said.
However, the faction within the Party loyal to former-head Jiang Zemin, who personally launched the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, is fiercely trying to suppress the petitioners. According to Minghui.org (an overseas Falun Gong website with a wide network of sources in China), Jiang's faction has issued orders to officials in Botou City to coerce the villagers into rescinding the petition, and furthermore, to sign a statement adopting the Party line on Falun Gong.
"This is the latest in a string of cases where townspeople and villagers are stepping out from under the 13 years of persecution against Falun Gong, and saying they won't toe the line anymore…Falun Gong practitioners should be free," says Falun Dafa Information Centre executive director Levi Browde. "But this is the first time we have seen this number of people putting their real names to the petition, and they need our help."
"The great virtue of the free press we have in the West," continues Browde, "is that it can speak truth to power. For all Western media stationed in China who have seen how their presence can have a positive impact on the Chinese people and the world, now is your time. Tell this story. Don't leave these 300 brave villagers unprotected."
According to Minghui.org, Mr Wang Xiaodong (王晓东) was a well-known and widely-respected school teacher. On the morning of February 25th, 2012, approximately 40 officers dispatched from the Botou Police Department ransacked Wang's home and took him into custody. A broad array of valuables, including computer and electronic equipment, as well as over 20,000 Yuan (£2,300) in cash, were confiscated by the police from Wang's home.
Wang was later charged with producing and distributing compact discs containing information exposing the persecution of Falun Gong, and explaining the actual beliefs of the Falun Gong practice.
It is common throughout China for Falun Gong practitioners and supporters to distribute such material to reveal the lies from a pervasive propaganda campaign carried out by the Party to vilify Falun Gong.
"There's nothing at all illegal about distributing these leaflets and DVDs," adds Browde. "It's just another excuse to abduct and illegally imprison Falun Gong practitioners."
In early May, angered by the treatment of Wang, 300 villagers from Zhouguantun Village, Botou City, Hebei Province signed a petition with their full names and thumbprints, calling for Wang's release.
Sources say the villagers are now under pressure from authorities. Wang's sister has been forced to leave her home to avoid being abducted herself.
The Zhouguantun Village petition follows several similar petitions submitted in the last year by communities calling for the release of Falun Gong practitioners who had been abducted.
On August 12th, 2011, over 1,500 people from Qinhuangdao in Hebei Province signed a petition titled “How Will You Treat This Public Opinion.” It calls on the authorities to release Mr Zhou Xiangyang (周向阳), 38, a Falun Gong practitioner being held at Binhai Prison in Tianjin (formerly Gangbei Prison). On February 8th, 2012, Amnesty International issued an urgent action for Zhou's release. (news)
On June 17th, 2011, dozens of villagers from Fengman Village in Jilin city signed a petition to the city government urging the release of a fellow villager, 59-year-old Mr. Liu Zhichen (刘志臣), who had been detained for practising Falun Gong. (news)