Xu Chensheng before she was persecuted by the Chinese regime for practicing the spiritual discipline Falun Gong. (Minghui.org)
In an unprecedented decision, a Chinese court ordered that significant compensation be paid to the family of a woman who was persecuted to death while held as a prisoner of conscience.
Xu Chensheng was killed after a 12-hour interrogation at a local police station in Chenzhou City, Hunan Province, on May 16, 2012. She was arrested for distributing materials about Falun Gong, a meditation discipline she practiced.
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice with teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The Chinese communist regime has persecuted Falun Gong practitioners since 1999, when the practice had as many as 100 million adherents, according to government and Falun Gong sources.
Xu’s case is the first since 1999 in which a Chinese court has handed a compensation order to a victim’s family. They received 319,000 yuan ($47,500) at the end of 2016.
The news of the compensation was first reported on July 31 by Minghui.org, a website that monitors the persecution in China.
Xu’s son, Yang Xujun, had petitioned the courts and police since Xu’s murder in 2012. Beihu District Police Station refused to admit to wrongdoing, so Yang appealed to a district court. On Dec. 19, 2016, the court issued the decision to compensate the family.
“Since the persecution of Falun Gong began, the Chinese communist regime has been undermining the legal system. Many Falun Gong practitioners had been persecuted to death or became disabled due to the persecution. But they had nowhere to appeal,” said Heng He, a China analyst with NTD Television.
“The report clearly stated that the victim’s family has applied through legal procedure, mediated by the court, and compensated by the state. As far as I know, this is the first case,” he added.
Former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin launched the nationwide persecution of Falun Gong in China in 1999. He ordered that authorities can “count it as suicide if a practitioner is beaten to death.”
Heng believes that the state’s compensation in Xu’s case is a signal that the persecution of Falun Gong is becoming difficult to maintain in China.
“The persecution of Falun Gong is led by the 610 Office, executed by the police, the procuratorate, and the court system. This means the long-term persecution mechanism and the persecution policy are starting to fail,” Heng said.
“The judges and even the local Communist Party officials who are involved in this case also don’t want to be held responsible for the persecution. It is undoubtedly a warning to the CCP officials who are still persecuting Falun Gong practitioners.”
At least 4,114 Falun Gong practitioners have been persecuted to death, according to cases documented by Minghui. Due to the regime’s tight grip on information, the true scale of the killings likely far surpasses the documented numbers.
Lawyers recommend that more victims and families pursue legal justice. Lawyer Teresa Chu says that families should demand compensation from all levels of government.
“In terms of the levels of compensation, firstly, Jiang Zemin used the national machine to launch the persecution. The victims should sue Jiang Zemin and demand state compensation,” said Chu.
“Secondly, the perpetrators who directly exert violence, should be held accountable for criminal and civil liability. Thirdly, as in this case, due to the illegal acts of the police department, victims should demand to receive state compensation.”
Xu’s family doubted the official autopsy findings and requested an independent autopsy after they learned of her death, but police, prosecutors, and court officials interfered.
The family then started a grassroots campaign in town, with the help of other Falun Gong practitioners, to blanket the area with brochures and posters exposing the circumstances behind Xu’s murder.
Local residents who read the brochures publicly criticized the officials involved in the case. Police were sent to maintain security in the area, but ended up leaving after incessant questioning from the locals.
Lawyers believe that the grassroots support from the community, in addition to the persistence of the victim’s family, ultimately led to the court’s decision to award compensation. The case has now set a precedent for future lawsuits.
“It’s not only on the issue of persecution of Falun Gong that people should come to support practitioners to pursue justice,” Chu said. “People from all parts of China that have been persecuted by the CCP should not feel desperate or give up. With help from each other, they should also continue to fight for their rights, whether it’s administrative compensation or legal civil compensation, or sue the perpetrators.”
“If this trend can be spread to all over China, the dictatorship mechanism cannot be maintained,” she said.