(Minghui.org) A Falun Gong practitioner in Shandong Province, China was handed down a three-year prison sentence because she refused to renounce her faith, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted in China since July 1999.

Elisabetta Zamparutti, former member of the Italian Parliament, spoke up about the case and published an article in the newspaper l’Unità on October 22, 2023. Titled “Meditation is banned in China and you risk up to 10 years in prison,” she gave details about the ongoing persecution in China and demanded that the communist authorities respond to the human rights violations in China.

In her article, Zamparutti wrote that, for almost a quarter of a century, the Chinese Communist Party has pursued mass persecution aimed at the annihilation of those who practice Falun Gong, an ancient Buddhist spiritual movement that teaches the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. The persecution continues to constitute one of the major systematic violations of human rights in contemporary China. The regime also attributes a symbolic value to it, so much so that the persecution intensifies on certain anniversaries, such as last March on the occasion of annual political meetings or special events such as the visit of Xi Jinping to Shaanxi last May.

She added that, since January 2022, over 900 Falun Gong practitioners have been sentenced to more than ten years in prison, often after show trials. Tens of thousands of practitioners are detained in police stations, prisons, and extralegal detention centres. At least 182 died between 2022 and the first half of 2023, a painful addition to the over 5,000 victims of this persecution. Many of their organs have been taken to supply the state-sanctioned transplant trade. The police now have an app for identifying Falun Gong practitioners. “But what harm do they do? They meditate and do spiritual exercises outdoors.”

Screenshot of Elisabetta Zamparutti’s article published on October 22, 2023, in l’Unità
Elisabetta Zamparutti, former Member of the Italian Parliament

Zamparutti met several Falun Gong practitioners years back. One of them was Ms. Zhao Lili, who came to Italy in October 2000. For years she worked as a part-time professor at the University of Bologna. Zamparutti spoke about her: “On September 20 this year, her brother called her from China to give her bad news: their older sister, Ms. Zhao Lihong, was arrested for practicing Falun Gong. A police officer, Wang Bing, informed the family.

“[Ms. Zhao] Lihong lives in an economic and technological development zone in Yantai City, Shandong Province. On April 17, 2022, she went to Fulaishan Park with another practitioner, Ms. Chen Yawen. Informers (there is never a shortage of them in totalitarian regimes) reported them to the police, who promptly took them to Fulai Police Station. She was released on bail for one year. Two months later the police station forwarded her case to the prosecutor, and in August her case was transferred to the court. The judge handed down the three-year sentence on February 6, 2023.

“[Ms. Zhao Lihong’s sister] Lili wrote me a letter. It said: ‘My family, like many others in China, has experienced great suffering [because of the persecution of Falun Gong]. Before my sister was sentenced, my older brother spent five years in a Chinese prison because he refused to give up the practice. When he was released he had lost his eyesight and nearly all his teeth due to torture and mistreatment. My husband was detained in a forced labor camp for nearly two years and almost died. I myself was arrested three times and subjected to force-feeding because I protested the unjust detention with a hunger strike. My family members in China face the danger of being imprisoned and tortured every day.’

“Thinking about [Ms. Zhao] Lihong, perhaps finding out what happened to her and asking the Chinese authorities to explain the reasons for such brutality against her could make us better people. It could help us, in the firmness of our convictions, to deal with the regime without indulging in policies of appeasement.

“Paying attention to [Ms. Zhao] Lihong and the fate of Falun Gong practitioners can affirm the value of human beings instead of reducing them to a mechanical force to produce. It can mean putting a brake on materialism, which severs the connection between man and nature and hinders spiritual development. Spiritual development contributes so much to the construction of a better society and sustainable development.”

Giulio Terzi, President of the Italian Senate’s Commission for European Union Policies, former Foreign Minister of Italy, and Italian Ambassador to the United States, retweeted Zamparutti’s article the same day it was published. In Terizi’s tweet, he mentioned that the Chinese Communist Party’s history, from Mao Zedong’s revolutions to Xi’s reign, is a litany of shocking crimes against humanity and violent suppressions.