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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Olympic-Size Violations


Beijing Tells Press of Intent to Bar Millions of Falun Gong, Violate Olympic Charter

NEW YORK — Beijing Olympic organizers have openly expressed a policy banning Falun Gong adherents from attending the 2008 summer Olympics, the Falun Dafa Information Center reported Wednesday. Beijing’s decision stands in stark violation to Articles 35 and 36 of China’s own Constitution, which promise freedom of association and religious belief, as well as the International Olympic Committee’s bylaws, which prohibit any form of discrimination—including that religious or political.

The Falun Dafa Information Center condemns Beijing’s decision, and calls upon the international community to pressure China’s communist officials to reverse the unlawful policy.

“The Olympics must not be turned into a theatre of intolerance, a celebration of communist machinations,” said Information Center spokesperson Mr. Erping Zhang. “We’re talking about tens of millions being barred from the Games simply for who they are. This amounts to a violation of the Olympic Charter on a scale nobody could have imagined.”

News of Beijing’s discriminatory plans was made public in a November 8 report from the Associated Press. The report indicates that Beijing’s new, allegedly-more-tolerant religious policies “do not apply to Falun Gong,” and instead only reassert “China’s determination to marginalize, persecute and eradicate the spiritual movement.”

Li Zhanjun, director of the Beijing Olympics media center, told AP that, “Falun Gong texts, Falun Gong activities in China are forbidden,” and that, “Foreigners who come to China must respect and abide by the laws of China.”

Beijing’s explanation is not satisfactory, however, in that the branding of Falun Gong as “illegal” was in contravention to the constitution of the People’s Republic of China, as well as numerous international rights accords and covenants of which the PRC is a signatory. Article 35 of China’s own constitution, for instance, claims that citizens “enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”

Article 36 of likewise declares that citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief,” and that, “No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.”

The Olympics should hardly occasion an exception to such policies, even if PRC authorities have flaunted them for decades. To the contrary, the IOC had indicated that the Games would compel China’s rulers to improve the nation’s abysmal human rights record. The Olympic Charter states clearly: “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

The IOC’s regulations thus protect against the marginalization of groups such as the Falun Gong, even if such discrimination is internally legislated; the branding of Falun Gong as “illegal” does not change the religious character, or rights, of the group, and only bespeaks of the willingness and disposition of China’s communist authorities to subordinate rule of law to political caprice.

“Beijing’s calling Falun Gong ‘illegal’ is a clumsy attempt to justify what is a program of institutionally-sanctioned violence and persecution. The fact remains: millions of peaceful, law-abiding citizens who aspire merely to better health and moral living are being brutalized and deprived of their rights by an authoritarian communist regime,” says the Information Center’s Zhang. “In all of the other 75, non-communist states around the world where Falun Gong is found it is freely, legally, and openly practiced. Only in communist China does it face relentless suppression.”

According to a 2005 report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, 66% percent of reported victims of torture in China were Falun Gong adherents. In a 2006 report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture expressed concern over increasing reports of systemic repression against the Falun Gong saying, “reports of arrest, detention, ill treatment, torture, sexual violence, deaths, and unfair trial of members of so-called ‘heretical organizations,’ in particular Falun Gong practitioners, may reflect a deliberate and institutionalized policy of the authorities to target specific groups such as the Falun Gong.”

The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified details of over 63,000 instances of torture, with over 3,000 deaths in custody. The actual death toll is believed to be as high as 10,000 or more.

Beijing’s latest statement follows a series of warnings sounded by the Information Center. The Center anticipated such policies, and has sought international support in preventing their enactment.

In 2005, for instance, the Center received credible reports that PRC authorities were, in preparation for the Olympic Games and in contrast to their promise to improve human rights, stepping up measures to “stamp out” Falun Gong prior to summer 2008.

In May 2007, the Center reported on a secret directive from the Ministry of Public Security, provided to the Center by sources in China, that lists 43 categories of unwanteds who are to be investigated and barred from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (news / document)

The Information Center is currently seeking statement from IOC officials on Beijing’s announcement, and seeks clarification of what measures will be used to ensure that policies of discrimination are not carried out, be it openly or covertly, by PRC authorities.

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NEWS - Nov. 14, 2007
Falun Dafa Information Center, www.faluninfo.net


Background
Founded in 1999, the Falun Dafa Information Center is a New York-based organization that documents the rights violations of adherents of Falun Gong (or “Falun Dafa”) taking place in the People’s Republic of China. In July of 1999 China’s autocratic Communist Party launched an unlawful campaign of arrests, violence, and propaganda with the intent of “eradicating” the apolitical practice; it is believed certain leaders feared the influence of the practice’s 100 million adherents. The campaign has since grown in violence and scope, with millions having been detained or sent to forced labor camps. The Center has verified details of over 3,000 deaths and over 63,000 cases of torture in custody (reports / sources). Falun Gong is a traditional-style Buddhist “qigong” practice, with roots in the Chinese heritage of cultivating the mind/body for health and spiritual growth.

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