The veteran dissident, poet, and artist should remain in jail until 2028.
by Yang Feng
On May 18, 2023, Falun Gong poet and artist Xu Na had her sentence to eight years in jail confirmed by Beijing Second Intermediate Court. Bitter Winter had reported about the first-degree decision of January 16, 2022. Xu Na got eight years for posting on social media pictures of the COVID epidemic showing that the authorities were not in control of the situation as they claimed. She got a heavier sentence for being known as a Falun Gong practitioner.
Born on November 8, 1968, Xu Na is one of the historical Falun Gong dissidents. As a student at Beijing Broadcasting Institute (now the Communication University of China), she participated in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.
Witnessing the brutal repression of June 1989 persuaded Xu Na that her work as a poet and artist should not be controlled by the Party’s official organizations. She became a freelance painter and poet and married a likeminded musician, Yu Zhou. They were also in search of a spiritual meaning for their lives, and in the mid-1990s joined Falun Gong.
They were part of the famous Falun Gong protest against media slander that took place on April 25, 1999, near the Zhongnanhai residences of CCP leaders in Beijing. It was this incident that mightily scared the Party leaders and converted Falun Gong from a movement tolerated by the regime into one mercilessly persecuted.
The 1999 protest also set in motion a series of events that led to the first arrest of Xu Na and her husband in the same year, and a second arrest in 2001. Xu Na was sentenced to five years and remained in jail until 2006.
Since they continued to practice Falun Gong, at one of the concerts of Yu Zhou he and his wife Xu Na were arrested again in 2008. Eleven days after the arrest of January 26, Yu Zhou died at the Tongzhou District Detention Centre. Xu Na was told he had started a hunger strike that was fatal to him because of his diabetes. She believes he was killed in jail. Xu Na was sentenced to another three years in jail, and was released in 2011.
She kept a lower profile since, until the COVID-19 epidemic. She could not stand the lies of the authorities, and started being active and critical on social media. She was arrested on July 19, 2020, together with 12 other Falun Gong practitioners, which confirmed that the police operation was a crackdown on the banned religious movement as well as a warning to those who posted “non-official” information on the pandemic on social media.
Her first-degree sentence having been confirmed, she should remain in jail until 2028, the year when she will turn 60.
She reported that she was repeatedly tortured, and common criminals in her jail were incited to kick her and spit on her, but this did not break her spirit.
In one of her poems, she wrote: “When all that I have, including my husband, has been taken from me, am I still happy? I have my happiness too, even extreme happiness. With my hands and feet tied up, I felt freedom. The freedom of the soul. Thirty centimeters above the ground, or below the knees of other people, I felt dignity. With my hair covered with other people’s sticky, thick saliva, I felt cleanliness… Happiness. Because there is power rising from within. All that I have is what no one can ever take away from me.”
She also wrote words relevant for all those who will read them: “Every case of injustice happening in this world is highly relevant to you, even if it is far away from you, because it always tortures your conscience.”