(Minghui.org) In recent years, in addition to being sentenced for upholding their faith, many elderly Falun Gong practitioners have also faced another predicament–having their pension suspended during their imprisonment or being ordered to return the pension benefits issued to them while they were in prison.
The Social Security Bureau frequently cited a notice from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, which barred retirees from receiving retirement benefits while serving time, although no official labor law has such a stipulation.
For practitioners who refused to return the pension issued during their imprisonment, the social security bureau often stopped their future pension payments and used those amounts to pay back the “owed” funds.
In Fushun City, Liaoning Province, Ms. Xu Yuzhi, a 71-year-old retired teacher, was sued by the social security bureau when she refused to return the pension she received during her imprisonment. While the local lower court ruled in favor of the social security bureau, the higher court overturned the lower court’s ruling in her appeal.
Even though Ms. Xu won the appeal, the social security bureau still ordered her in late September 2022 to return the funds she had previously received before they would reinstate her suspended pension. An officer said to her that although they knew what they did was illegal, they still had to do it.
Pension Suspension Case
Ms. Xu, an award-winning elementary school teacher, was arrested on November 7, 2019 for talking to people about Falun Gong. She was later sentenced to one year and fined 4,000 yuan. In June 2021, seven months after she was released, the Fushun City Social Security Bureau suspended her pension.
The Social Security Bureau argued that while reviewing the retirement accounts, they noticed that Ms. Xu had received a total of 74,630.06 yuan in pension payments between her arrest date and May 2021.
They claimed that according to the No. 69 notice from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in 2012, no retirees shall be entitled to any pension payments while imprisoned. As such, the pension she received during and after her prison sentence was gained through “fraud” and it was “illegal income” for her.
When Ms. Xu refused to return the funds, the social security bureau sued her in Shuncheng District Court.
Ms. Xu hired a lawyer to represent her. The lawyer argued that the notice cited by the social security bureau was only an administrative document, without any legal binding power.
He said that as a retired teacher, Ms. Xu was entitled to receive a pension in accordance with the law. At present, no law mandates the cancellation of pension benefits of retirees, except under the circumstance of their deaths. He emphasized that there is no clear provision prohibiting retirees sentenced to prison from continuing to receive pension while serving time.
The lawyer further pointed out that the social security bureau had no legal basis or evidence to accuse Ms. Xu of committing fraud and fabricating evidence to get her pension. She retired legally and is meeting every condition to receive her hard-earned benefits.
Despite the lawyer’s argument, the Shuncheng District Court ruled in favor of the social security bureau on April 7, 2022 and ordered Ms. Xu to return the specified pension payments.
Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Ms. Xu
Ms. Xu appealed with the Fushun City Intermediate Court which issued a ruling on June 16 to say that they carefully reviewed the documents both parties submitted and that they agreed with Ms. Xu that the No. 69 notice was illegal. As the document itself was only effective for two years, when no updated version was provided, the existing version would automatically become invalid.
The higher court also said that it’s an administrative action for the social security bureau to issue pension payments to Ms. Xu as a government agency. The social security bureau and Ms. Xu were not equal civil entities, and the case should not be resolved through civil litigation or be accepted as a civil case.
As such, the higher court decided to reverse the lower court’s verdict and dismissed the lawsuit filed by the social security bureau. The court also ordered the 1,666 yuan litigation fee Ms. Xu had paid be returned to her.
After the higher court’s ruling, Ms. Xu visited the school she worked at, the Education Bureau and Social Security Bureau to provide an update about her case. Most of the supervisors supported her and said they would try to help her start receiving her pension soon.
In late September, however, Ms. Xu received a letter from the Xinbin Labor Inspection Brigade, a unit under the Social Security Bureau, which still ordered her to return her pension. When she argued with them, they replied, “We don’t have any other choice. We know that this request is illegal, but we still have to do it.”
Ms. Xu replied to the Xinbin Labor Inspection Brigade on October 2. She emphasized that her pension is hers, and that no government bodies or individuals have the right to deprive it. She added that as an administrative organization, the Xinbin Labor Inspection Brigade didn’t have any legally binding power to demand her to return the pension. She said she would continue to seek justice through legal channels.
Chinese version available