Toronto resident Paul Li is calling for the release of his father, Li Xiaobo, who is being held by Chinese authorities in violation of his right to freedom of belief and free expression. The two were arrested together in Chengdu, China last month. Paul was released because of his Canadian citizenship, but his father remains imprisoned and is expected to face trial in the coming weeks.
“If the trial goes forward, my father will almost certainly face a long prison sentence. I am urgently calling for the international community’s support to help get my father released and reunited with me in Canada,” says Paul.
Li Xiaobo is a successful property developer who previously spent eight years in prison for his practice of Falun Gong. From 2005 to 2012 he was detained at Deyang Prison, where he suffered severe physical and mental abuse at the hands of authorities.
Paul recounts his father’s stories of beatings, brainwashing sessions, and prolonged inhumane confinement. He was repeatedly made to stand for extended periods, sometimes multiple days, without food or sleep. He lost most of his teeth and vision in his left eye. By the time of his release in 2012, his health had deteriorated dangerously.
On April 12th, 2014, Paul, his father, and another Falun Gong practitioner went to a rural area in Chengdu to distribute pamphlets with information on Falun Gong and the persecution. They were abducted by police and taken to a detention centre. Paul was released, but his father was not.
Li Xiaobo is currently being held at Longquanyi Detention Centre and his health is declining. Chengdu authorities and the Longquan Prosecutor's Office intend to hold a trial as early as June.
“We have found a lawyer willing to represent him, but even so, there is no possibility of a fair hearing. If the trial goes forward, my father will be sentenced to prison again, and his life will be in danger,” says Paul.
Contact details are available upon request.
Statement by Paul Li on the arrest and detention of his father Li Xiaobo, who is currently facing imprisonment in China
My father, Li Xiaobo, is a Falun Gong practitioner from Chengdu city, China. On April 12th, he and I were abducted by Chinese security agents because we were distributing literature about Falun Gong and the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution. After several days I was released and deported on account of my being a Canadian citizen, but my father is still being held in pre-trial detention.
Chinese authorities will likely put him on trial in mid-June. His only “crime” is that he is a Falun Gong practitioner who was peacefully exercising his rights to free expression. If the trial goes forward, my father will almost certainly face a long prison sentence. I am urgently calling for the international community’s support to help get my father released and reunited with me in Canada.
My father has already spent over eight years in prison for practising Falun Gong. From 2005 to 2012 he was held at Deyang Prison, where he suffered severe physical abuse and mental torment. Even after he was released, he persisted in trying to expose human rights abuses against Falun Gong practitioners. Now he is facing prison again.
In the 1990s my father was a county magistrate working for the government. He eventually became disillusioned by the corruption he witnessed, and left his post to work in real estate. He later became the president of a property development company.
In 1996, he started to practise Falun Gong. Guided by its teachings of truth, compassion, and tolerance, my father’s temper and overall health improved, and he gave up smoking and other bad habits. In his work he endeavoured to put the interests of others first, thereby earning the respect of his employees. One of his colleagues once told me, “Your father is the most virtuous man I have ever met.”
In 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched a campaign to eradicate Falun Gong, imprisoning thousands of practitioners and denouncing it in the official media. My father could not sit idly by, and he began writing articles exposing the lies and hypocrisy of Chinese authorities.
In spring 2004, he was abducted by security agents. He was held without due process in a detention centre, and no family members were permitted to visit him. In 2005, my father was sentenced in a secret trial to eight years in prison for practising Falun Gong. The trial lasted less than half an hour, and no lawyer or family members were informed of the proceedings.
Over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been sentenced to prison in this manner since 1999. According to central directives from the Communist Party, judges are not allowed make decisions based on the law or the evidence; they must follow the political direction of the party, which means there is no chance of a fair trial. “Not guilty” verdicts are unheard of. Lawyers who try to defend Falun Gong practitioners risk being disbarred, imprisoned, or tortured themselves.
In the eight years that my father was imprisoned I flew back to China many times, but was only allowed to speak with him for 20-30 minutes each time. He never told me of the abuse he suffered.
After he was released in 2012, I learned that my father had been severely tortured in prison. The guards regularly beat Falun Gong practitioners for the slightest perceived offences. Sometimes they would enlist the regular criminals to participate in the beatings, offering them reduced prison sentences for their cooperation in monitoring and abusing the Falun Gong practitioners.
The guards do not allow practitioners to cry out while been beaten, so they brutally hit practitioners’ throat, stomach or belly. Many times the walls were spattered with blood, and the guards would force the Falun Gong practitioner to lick their own blood off the walls.
Falun Gong prisoners were made to stand for extended periods – even several days at a time – without food or sleep. They were not allowed to go to the toilet. In the end their legs became unbearably painful and swollen. This abuse was intended to break them psychologically so that they would agree to denounce Falun Gong.
The physical abuse was compounded by mental torture. Practitioners spent several hours a day in brainwashing sessions, where they had to listen to slander and defamation against Falun Gong.
In the winter my father was forced to stand naked with his bare feet in cold water. In the summer, the guards made him stand still in a dark and damp space full of insects, flies and mosquitoes. If he scratched a mosquito bite, he would be beaten.
In 2008, my father spent three months caged in a tiny, dark space with only ping-pong-sized hole for air. He was also made to run several kilometres each day, but given only a little rice and a few vegetables as food. In these harsh conditions he lost most of his teeth, and by the time he was released from prison had nearly lost vision in his left eye.
In spring 2012, my father was released from prison. I had moved back to China under a work visa to help support my father. For the next two years we lived in peace. I was fortunate enough to start practising Falun Gong. My father often told me how much he cherished the time we were spending together.
Everything changed on April 12th this year.
Along with another Falun Gong practitioner, my father and I went to a rural area and were distributing news and information related to Falun Gong and the persecution. We were caught and taken to a detention centre. Police then ransacked our homes, confiscating all our Falun Gong books, as well as laptops and electronic equipment.
Because I am a Canadian citizen, I was released a week later on April 18th and sent back to Canada.
My father is still being held at the Longquanyi Detention Centre and his health is declining. Chengdu authorities and the Longquan Prosecutor's Office are planning to put him on trial within the next several weeks. We have found a lawyer willing to represent him, but even so, there is no possibility of a fair hearing. If the trial goes forward, my father will be sentenced to prison again, and his life will be in danger.
I am therefore seeking help from the Canadian government and international community to demand that my father is released immediately.