Liang Xin and Yao Guofu
Detained Since: December 5, 2015.
Charges: Using a heterodox religion to undermine implementation of law.
Sentence: Each sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison and fined 10,000 yuan.
Biographies: Liang Xin (L) and her husband Yao Guofu (R) are an elderly couple who began practicing Falun Gong, a meditative spiritual practice, in 1996. The two were passionate about cultivating their beliefs and exposing human rights abuses committed against fellow believers and distributed educational Falun Gong materials to the public.
On December 5, 2015, approximately 30 plainclothes police officers raided their home and found several people practicing Falun Gong with an array of Falun Gong pamphlets and media files. The police promptly arrested the two, and a year later, on December 16, 2016, the couple was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison and fined 10,000 RMB ($1,470) for “using a heterodox religion to undermine implementation of law,” a provision of the criminal code often used to imprison Falun Gong practitioners and other religious believers engaged in peacefully exercising internationally recognized human rights. The specific allegations cited in the verdict are that Liang and Yao had used a VPN on their home computer to search Falun Gong–related websites and disseminated printed and electronic materials related to Falun Gong to the public, including: a collection of 162 books, 47 CDs, 3200 flyers, and 214 desk calendars. The verdict also notes 380 audio files, 235 videos, and 817 documents related to Falun Gong found on their computer.
Liang Xin is now imprisoned at the Henan Province Xinxiang Women’s Prison and Yao Guofu is in the Henan Province Zhengzhou Prison. For the past several years their daughter, Yolanda Yao (C), who now resides in Sunnyvale, California has ardently worked to petition President Xi Jinping to release her parents from their illegal imprisonment. Ms. Yao herself received asylum in the United States after fleeing persecution for practicing Falun Gong in China, including a stint in a labor camp where she suffered torture.
Liang and Yao's quality of life is poor. According to their daughter, Liang has experienced heart disease, high blood pressure, and a hernia in the prison, and Yao has been tortured and forced into manual labor in the middle of the night in frigid temperatures. As a result, he may now have a hand injury and his level of treatment is unknown. There have been no updates on the conditions of their detention.
Advocacy Partner: Freedom House