The sanction will bar Yu Hui, former director of the Central Leading Group on Preventing and Dealing with Heretical Religions in Chengdu city of southwestern China’s Sichuan Province, from entering the United States. The penalty also extends to his immediate family members.
“We will continue to consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in China and elsewhere,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a press briefing as he announced the release of the department’s annual report on international religious freedom.
Blinken said the designation was applied to Yu for his involvement in “gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners for their spiritual beliefs.”
The spiritual discipline Falun Gong involves three core tenets, truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, along with a set of meditative exercises. After its founder Li Hongzhi first introduced the practice to China’s northeastern city of Changchun in 1992, Falun Gong gained 70-100 million adherents through word of mouth. Threatened by its popularity, the Chinese regime began an all-out eradication campaign in July 1999 aiming to wipe out the faith in China.
The State Department sanction came just a day before World Falun Dafa Day, which marks the anniversary of the practice’s introduction to the public 29 years ago and Li’s 70th birthday.
The sanction also made Yu the second Chinese official that Washington has punished for persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. In December 2020 the Trump administration sanctioned Huang Yuanxiong, a police chief in Fujian Province, for “particularly severe violations of religious freedom of Falun Gong practitioners.” That designation was made on International Human Rights Day.
Today, the United States designated a Chinese Communist Party official for his involvement in the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners. We will continue to promote accountability for those responsible for religious freedom violators around the world.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 12, 2021
The organization that Yu presided over between 2016 through February 2018 is also known as the 610 Office, an extralegal agency established shortly before the onset of the persecution with the express goal of carrying out the campaign. The organization wields enormous power within the Party and enjoys uncontested power to persecute religious minorities.
The World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a U.S.-based organization dedicated to the rights of the faith group, named Yu as a perpetrator of the campaign and listed two instances of persecution that took place under Yu’s watch.
Liu Guiying, a senior engineer at a major state-owned telecommunications company called China Electronics Technology Group, was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2017 for her belief, after spending two years in detention without trial.
The judge told her lawyer privately that “this has been pre-arranged by superiors and I have no way around it.”
Later in prison, Liu was not allowed to take baths, wash her hair, brush her teeth, or use toilet paper, the organization reports.
Pan Xiaojiang, a judicial assistant with Sichuan Province’s Nanchong Intermediate People’s Court, was arrested in February 2017 for hanging a banner in public, according to Minghui, a website established by Falun Gong practitioners in the United States to collect first-hand accounts of the persecution.
She was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading not guilty in June 2018.