(Minghui.org) Ms. Wei Xiuying is a Falun Gong practitioner in Linghai City of Liaoning Province. She served five years between 2009 and 2014 for upholding her faith. Her local social security bureau (SSB) has been withholding her pension since December 2016. They demanded that she return the more than 100,000 yuan of pension issued to her during her imprisonment before they could reinstate her pension.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a meditation system based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance that has been persecuted in China since July 1999.
Ms. Wei won a lawsuit against the SSB in August 2018. The SSB filed an appeal but dropped it in March 2019. Nonetheless, they still refused to reinstate the pension as ordered by the court. Rather, they repeatedly harassed her and demanded that she pay the money “owed” to them.
Ms. Wei later appealed to the trial court and requested that they enforce their ruling – to have the SSB return her pension illegally withheld. The court rejected her appeal on October 12, 2019. Two months later, she received another notice from the SSB, again demanding that she pay her “debt” and threatening to sue her if she didn’t pay off the amount in six months.
On June 29, 2020, a group of 11 people, including police officers, residential committee and SSB staffers, broke into Ms. Wei’s home and demanded that she pay the funds. While Ms. Wei wasn’t home, they threatened her husband with a lawsuit against her if their demand was not met within ten days.
The SSB indeed filed a case against Ms. Wei. At its request, the court in October 2020 froze her bank account and promised to unfreeze it as soon as she “paid off her debt.”
Her case is still unresolved at the time of writing.
Ms. Wei’s case is not an isolated incident. Many elderly Falun Gong practitioners like her have found themselves in a similar dire situation after being released from prison. They are physically and mentally vulnerable due to abuse in prison. Their family members may have also been discriminated against for their faith in Falun Gong.
In addition, many of the elderly practitioners have been ordered by their local SSB to return the pension funds issued to them during their imprisonment. When they refuse to comply, the SSB often suspends their pension altogether or only issues half of the pension they are entitled to. Occasionally, the SSB also reduces a practitioner’s years of service in pension calculation, sometimes to zero, rendering them with reduced or no pension funds. There are also times when the SSB freezes or directly withdraws money from a practitioner’s bank account to recoup the pension benefits distributed during the practitioner’s jail time.
An Illegal and Ruthless Measure
Pension deprivation is part of the financial persecution that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imposed on Falun Gong practitioners since it launched a nationwide campaign against the mind-body practice in July 1999. Under the directive of the extrajudicial agency named 610 Office, numerous practitioners have been subjected to arrest, detention, torture, and various other forms of persecution, including pension deprivation.
Who Owns Pension Benefits?
In China, both employers and employees make contributions to the latter’s pension funds, which are invested, managed, and distributed by local social security bureaus. As part of a retiree’s total compensation package, pension is the retiree’s legal asset, and no individual, organisation, or government agency has the right to withhold it. In other words, Social Insurance Administration and other government agencies only serve as fiduciary that manages pension funds. They are by no means owners of such funds.
“Legal Basis” Has No Legal Grounds at All
One policy often cited to justify deprivation of pension during a practitioner’s imprisonment is the one issued by General Office of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in 2001 (No. 2001 – 44), which states that, “basic pension is not distributed to those who serve their prison terms” and “they do not participate in the annual pension adjustment.”
Other government-issued documents have also been cited as legal basis. One is “Opinions on Further Promoting Employment and Social Security for Persons Released and Discharged from Reeducation through Labor” issued on February 6, 2004, by several government agencies, including Central Committee for Comprehensive Management of Public Security, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS), Ministry of Civil Affairs, Ministry of Finance, and National General Administration for Industry and Commerce.
Another is “Notice on Issues Related to the Compulsory Measures Taken by Institutional Workers and the Handling of Administrative Criminal Penalties” jointly issued by MOHRSS, the Organisation Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and Ministry of Supervision in 2012 (No. 2012 – 69). The notice states that, “Stop pension during imprisonment and issue 50% of regular pension benefits after prison release.”
Other policies cited are “Notice of procedures for handling basic endowment insurance for urban and rural residents” issued by MOHRSS in 2014 (No. 2014 – 23) and “Regulations for handling basic endowment insurance for urban and rural residents” issued by MOHRSS in 2019 (No. 2019 – 84).
While above documents allow denial of pension during a retiree’s jail time and reduction of pension after prison release, none of them is enacted law as the concerned agencies are not law-making bodies. As such, those documents can never be used as legal basis to deprive a retiree of their right to their pension benefits.
As a matter of fact, the only condition that calls for stopping pension distribution is the death of a retiree.
Violation of Numerous Laws
The abovementioned government-issued policies or documents have also violated the Constitution and numerous other laws, including Labor Law, Administrative Penalty Law, Social Insurance Law, Social Security Fund Law, Legislation Law, Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, and Marriage Law. In fact, the denial of pension during a retiree’s jail time has no legal basis in civil litigation, administrative litigation, or criminal litigation cases either.
Therefore, the social security bureaus that deny practitioners their pension should be held accountable. According to Civil Servant Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, and Supervision Law, the SSB officials have committed various crimes, including abuse of power, malfeasance, malpractice, corruption, and embezzlement of public funds.
A Top-Down Persecution Network
While there is no legal basis for SSB to deny practitioners their pension during prison terms, the fact that such things exist is a manifestation of the top-down persecution, which had no legal basis to begin with.
Former CCP leader Jiang Zemin launched the persecution while no law in China criminalises Falun Gong. He set up the extrajudicial organisation of 610 Office to implement his persecution policy to physically destroy practitioners, ruin their reputation and bankrupt them financially. Excessive measures were implemented to ensure the persecution to penetrate all levels of government.
One example is a leaked document that was issued on November 30, 2000 by five agencies, including the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of State Security, and Ministry of Justice. The document emphasized that “political and legal departments at all levels must resolutely implement” Jiang Zemin’s “important instructions to eradicate Falun Gong.” It was “political, legal, and policy-oriented” and “political and legal departments at all levels cooperate closely under the unified leadership of the Party Central Committee.”
With key CCP perpetrators involved in the persecution of Falun Gong sued in numerous countries for genocide, these SSB officials could also be accomplices of this crime. For example, Article 60 of Civil Servant Law, which went into effect in June 2019, states, “If a civil servant implements a decision or order that is clearly illegal, he shall bear corresponding responsibilities in accordance with the law.”
We hope officials will act according to their conscience instead of blindly following the CCP’s persecution policy. Otherwise, they may face both legal and moral obligations.
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