Incarcerated Beijing Artist Facing Third Round of Imprisonment for Her Belief


June 2, 2021 Updated: June 3, 2021

Xu Na, a poet, freelance painter, and Falun Gong practitioner in Beijing, was arrested from her home again on July 19, 2020, for taking and posting photos online about the severe pandemic situation in Beijing.

The official allegation against her was “undermining law enforcement with a cult organization,” which is “a standard pretext used by the Chinese courts to criminalize Falun Gong practitioners,” according to a Minghui report. She was not tried and has been detained for over a year.

A photo of Xu Na and her husband Yu Zhou. (

Her talent in the arts is revealed through her paintings. Two of her paintings won awards from the China Oil Painting Society and are still in its archives. More of her paintings are posted on the China Political Prisoner Concern website, which claims that it “strives for the freedom of all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, dissidents and human rights activists who are in custody in China.”

Xu survived various types of torture in Beijing Women’s Prison and managed to come out of the prison alive after being imprisoned twice, in 2001 and 2008, for her faith.

Now Xu is behind bars again, for over a year, without any legal proceedings, and is facing her third imprisonment for her faith.

“I can’t stay silent to protect my own interest. Anyone in society should have a moral judgment of unfair things unrelated to them. This is the basic responsibility of being a person. If I identify with such a government (the Chinese communist regime), then I’m not a decent person,” Xu told her lawyer, Liang Xiaojun, who visited her at Beijing Dongcheng District Detention Center on April 22, 2021.

There were 10 other Falun Gong adherents who were arrested on the same day with her, most of whom were university graduates in their 20s.

Recently, both the United States and Europe voiced their opposition to and boycotting of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in 2022 because of the Chinese communist regime’s poor human rights situation.

Beijing has a long history of suppressing human rights activists, dissents, and religious groups in China and abroad.

On Jan. 26, 2008, Xu Na’s husband, Yu Zhou, a talented musician and member of the three-person band “Xiao Juan and Residents in the Valley” that was popular among audiences for their folk songs, was stopped by police who were conducting an “Olympics check” while he was driving home with his wife Xu Na after a performance.

The police arrested and detained them in the Tongzhou District Detention Center when they found out that the couple are practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline, which promotes the values of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance for self-improvement. Yu was separated from his wife, who never saw him again.

Yu Zhou and Xu Na. (

On Feb. 6, 2008, the eve of Chinese New Year, only after 11 days in police custody, Yu died. He was 42.

The police claimed that his death was the result of complications caused by diabetes although they rejected his family’s demand for an autopsy. The family said he was healthy and had never suffered from diabetes.

His wife, Xu Na, was locked in the detention center and not allowed to attend his funeral. She was sentenced to three years imprisonment in November 2008.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, has been a target of the Chinese Communist Party since July 20, 1999. Many believe the persecution and ensuing negative propaganda campaign was in response to the popularity of Falun Gong.

Beijing Women’s Prison

Xu once wrote in her notes about her personal experience of being tortured in Beijing Women’s Prison when she was first imprisoned from 2001 to 2006, subjected to forced labor, sleep deprivation, being tied up with legs crossed for long hours, and frozen in the winter snow.

“In Beijing Women’s Prison, it was worse to be alive than dead,” she wrote in her notes which were recently published in The Epoch Times Chinese edition, “Repeatedly, you go through long sessions of torture in which they have inmates with medical knowledge to check your physical conditions at all times. I was found to have an irregular heartbeat after I was not allowed to sleep for many days. So the police ordered [the inmates torturing her], ‘Let her sleep for an hour and rest [before continuing with the torture]’.”

She wrote that “various covert and elaborate tortures were invented” by Beijing Women’s Prison. One particular “invention” that “the police are proud of” was called “the splits” ̶ the legs of the person being tortured were pulled apart to 180 degrees and three inmates were ordered to sit on the legs and the back of the tortured person and kept pressing him or her repeatedly. The police were happy with this torture “because the pain is unbearable, but it doesn’t break the bones.”

Even amidst such severe tortures, she refused to give up her belief. A policeman said to her, as quoted from her notes, “[we] should apply for a craniotomy and have your brain removed.”

Xu Na. (

Party-Controlled Media

“The most profound education I had received in media and communications was not in a university classroom but in a prison,” she wrote in her notes.

She said that was in 2003, when Xu Tao, one of her former schoolmates at the Communication University of China, came to the prison for an interview. Xu Tao’s full name is used here to distinguish them.

Xu Tao was a hostess at Beijing TV at that time and she set up a program called “Legal Governance in Progress” in 1999, according to Baidu, a popular Chinese search engine similar to Google. The news program and posts on its website were under strict censorship by the CCP. She later became a deputy chief editor of Beijing TV and a delegate of the CCP’s rubber-stamp legislature.

When Xu Tao was doing the interview at the prison, Xu was isolated in an office of the prison police, not far from the interview venue. She could clearly hear the police and inmates who had tortured her “preaching about how civilized they were in enforcing the law,” but could not make a sound, because “my mouth was gagged with a towel, and four inmates, serving the function of handcuffs, were holding me tightly,” Xu wrote in her notes.

Shortly after the interview, a Falun Gong practitioner, Dong Cui, also known as Dong Cuifang, was tortured to death in Beijing Women’s Prison. Her death was claimed to be a result of illness by the prison authorities. Xu Na was punished and isolated in a small cell for reporting the fact that Dong was abused and tortured to death.

‘If in the Future Either of Us Dies for Our Belief, the Other Person Should Not Feel Sorrowful’

In April 2001 Peng Min, a practitioner of Falun Gong who had stayed at Yu’s home, was persecuted to death after being tortured by police. Twenty-two days later, Peng’s mother Li Yingxiu died in the same hospital.

“When Min’s (Peng Min’s) elder brother Peng Liang and father Peng Weisheng went to pay their last respects to her remains, they found that Li Yingxiu’s hair had been shaved, her head had been drilled into, her nose and mouth were filled with blood, and her clothes were bloodstained as well,” according to Minghui.

Upon reading the news, Yu said to his wife: “If in the future either of us dies for our belief, the other person should not feel sorrowful.”

He didn’t want to die, but he was prepared to prove his innocence “at the cost of his life,” The Epoch Times Chinese edition reported on Feb. 6, 2018.

Yu Zhou (L) and his band. (The Epoch Times)

Xu wrote in her notes that the detention center authorities claimed Yu died of “illness,” but an anonymous former inmate told her that he didn’t dare to tell her everything about Yu’s death, because he was “afraid of being silenced by the police.”

The anonymous witness said a policeman who practiced martial arts tortured Yu to death, the Epoch Times report wrote.

“He (Yu) is a true man!” the witness said, “He has suffered what a human being is not able to stand.” According to the witness, the policeman involved in the death of Yu is called Dong Yasheng and is a martial arts champion in the public security system.

Dong Yasheng, born in Beijing in 1961, is a member of the Chinese Wushu (martial arts) Association and was awarded the title “National Extraordinary Excellent People’s Police,” among many other titles, according to an article published in May 2020 on, a popular Chinese news outlet.

Yu’s sister asked to see the CCTV footage of the detention center during the period of time. The police agreed and said, “[we can] let you watch part of it.” Later they told her, “the recorded video has been deleted,” The Epoch Times’ Chinese edition reported on Feb. 6, 2018.

Yu was the pride of his family—in 1985, he was enrolled by Peking University to study French as the top scorer in arts in the national entrance examinations that year in his hometown in Changchun, the capital city of Jilin Province in northeastern China. His talent in languages enabled him to sing songs in French, English, and Japanese. He’s still loved and mourned by his friends.

A concert ticket of Xiao Juan and Residents in the Valley. Yu Zhou (L) and his band. (The Epoch Times)

Liang Xiaojun, a Chinese human rights lawyer, began to represent Xu in August last year. He told The Epoch Times Chinese edition on April 25 that the cases of the Xu and 10 other Falun Gong practitioners arrested on July 19, 2020, have been transferred to the court, but “the time of the trial is yet to be scheduled” and that “it is not possible to judge” what would happen in the next stage.

Lyrics from a song Yu used to sing during his performances—“A Motto of Love,” composed by a Taiwan musician Luo Dayou, might give us some idea of why they all stood up for their faith amidst the cruel persecution of the CCP:

“I give you my sincerity and keep sorrow to myself
I give you my youth and keep the aging years to myself
I give you my life and keep loneliness to myself
I give you spring and keep winter to myself.”

As Xu wrote in her blog: “Those who think they are free in China do not know that they have been removed of their spirits and are living in a big invisible prison.” She said that “every screw that is tightened in this evil persecution machine is guilty of reinforcing the evil operation of this machine, including those who want to get fame, fortune, and all kinds of benefits from it.” She quoted Confucius as saying: “When a country is ill governed, riches and honor are things to be ashamed of.”

The Chinese communist regime’s persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Christians, and other groups of religious believers has been happening for decades.

The U.S. State Department announced sanctions against a Chinese Communist Party official for persecuting Falun Gong on May 12. The sanctions will bar Yu Hui, former director of the agency specifically tasked with persecuting Falun Gong in the city of Chengdu, in Sichuan Province, from entering the United States. The penalty also extends to his immediate family.

Eva Fu contributed to this report.