For Millions in China, Persecution Casts a Shadow on New Year Celebration

NEW YORK—Around this time every year, what Gao Hongmei looks forward to the most is a phone call. In a conversation that would sometimes stretch for hours, she would exchange Lunar New Year greetings with her mother in China—whom she last saw face-to-face 12 years ago before she left the country—and chat about other random things in life. But this year, distance was not the only factor keeping them apart. Gao, originally from China’s northeastern Jilin Province, and her mother Hu Yulan practice Falun Gong, a spiritual practice brutally suppressed by the Chinese regime. Last May, Hu was arrested for distributing Falun Gong-related materials to her neighbors. The authorities formally charged Hu in July and later punished her with a five-year prison sentence. At the time, she had a three year suspended sentence from a similar “offense” in 2018. Citing the ongoing pandemic, guards have barred family visits and refused …

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