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Friday, April 01, 2011

Falun Gong crackdown, day three: Wikileaks


Peaceful Protest: Falun Gong practitioners near Zhongnanhai on April 25, 1999

Aftenposten (Norway) 3/30/11
CONFIDENTIAL SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIJING 007008
NSC FOR LIEBERTHAL/KEITH
Dokumentene
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2009 TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, CH

SUBJECT: FALUN GONG CRACKDOWN, DAY THREE

REFS: A) BEIJING 6941, B) FBIS OW2207035699,
(U) CLASSIFIED BY JAMES F. MORIARTY, ACTING DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION. REASON: 1.5(D).
SUMMARY
1. (C) IMPLEMENTING A DECISION OF THE POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE, THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT ON JULY 22 OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED A BAN ON THE FALUN GONG SECT, DECLARING IT AN "ILLEGAL" ORGANIZATION. THOUSANDS OF SECT MEMBERS TOOK TO BEIJING´S STREETS IN DEMONSTRATIONS THAT WERE NOTEWORTHY FOR THE GENERAL RESTRAINT AMONG PROTESTERS AND POLICE ALIKE. FEW PRACTITIONERS OFFERED RESISTANCE AS POLICE CORRALLED AND LOADED THEM ONTO BUSES. MANY REPORTEDLY ARE BEING HELD IN STADIUMS IN WESTERN BEIJING, ALTHOUGH FOR NOW WE BELIEVE THESE ARE TEMPORARY HOLDING SITES, FROM WHICH PROTESTERS WILL SOON BE SENT HOME. THE REGIME´S STRATEGY APPEARS TO BE TO SEEK TO NEUTRALIZE THE FALUN GONG BY DECAPITATING ITS CORE LEADERSHIP, WHILE REFRAINING FROM REPRESSION OF ORDINARY MEMBERS. ALTHOUGH BEIJING CLEARLY HOPES THAT THE CULT WILL DISAPPEAR WITHOUT RESISTANCE, IT MAY HAVE TO RECONSIDER THIS STRATEGY IF PRACTITIONERS CONTINUE TO TAKE TO THE STREETS AND GATHER IN PARKS FOR DAILY EXERCISES. END SUMMARY.
FALUN GONG OFFICIALLY ILLEGAL
2. (C) DURING A NATIONAL BROADCAST AT 3:00 P.M. ON JULY 22, CHINA CENTRAL TELEVISION (CCTV) ANNOUNCED AN OFFICIAL BAN ON THE FALUN GONG MOVEMENT. CCTV READ A CIRCULAR ISSUED BY THE MINISTRIES OF CIVIL AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC SECURITY WHICH DECLARED THAT FALUN GONG WAS AN "ILLEGAL" ORGANIZATION AND BANNED FURTHER PUBLIC GATHERINGS. CHINESE MEDIA REPORTEDLY PLAN TO REPEAT THE ANNOUNCEMENT REGULARLY OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS. AN MFA SPOKESWOMAN ALSO ANNOUNCED THE BAN DURING THE MINISTRY´S REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING THIS AFTERNOON.
POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE DECISION
3. (C) ACCORDING TO A WELL-CONNECTED SOURCE, THE POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE APPROVED THE SUPPRESSION OF FALUN GONG DURING A JULY 19 MEETING. AS REPORTED REF A, SECURITY FORCES ARRESTED DOZENS OF SECT LEADERS NATIONWIDE THE NEXT DAY. AS OF JULY 21, GOVERNMENT AND PARTY OFFICIALS HAD BEGUN TO ATTEND MANDATORY SESSIONS TO STUDY AN AUTHORITATIVE STATEMENT ON THE FALUN GONG DELIVERED BY STANDING COMMITTEE MEMBER HU JINTAO ON JULY 19. HU REPORTEDLY ASSERTED THAT THERE WERE 2.1 MILLION FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS, OF WHOM ONE-THIRD WERE PARTY MEMBERS. THE OFFICIAL GUIDANCE INSTRUCTED PARTY MEMBERS WHO PRACTICED FALUN GONG EITHER TO HALT THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN THE SECT OR RESIGN FROM THE PARTY. THOSE WHO FAILED TO COMPLY WOULD BE EXPELLED FROM THE PARTY.
JIANG "PREOCUPPIED" BY FALUN GONG
4 (C) IN HIS STATEMENT, HU JINTAO REPORTEDLY CITED KEY REMARKS ON THE FALUN GONG BY PARTY GENERAL SECRETARY JIANG ZEMIN. ACCORDING TO OUR SOURCE, JIANG ASSERTED THAT HE HAD RECENTLY BEEN "PREOCCUPIED" WITH THE PROBLEM OF FALUN GONG BECAUSE ITS FOUNDER, LI HONGZHI, WAS A "SWINDLER OF THE HIGHEST ORDER." THE PARTY GENERAL SECRETARY REPORTEDLY ACCUSED LI HONGZHI OF EXPLOITING "DECEITFUL TRICKS AND HERESY TO CONFUSE PEOPLE AND TALK NONSENSE." "SOME" PRACTITIONERS, JIANG CLAIMED, "OBSTINATELY STUCK TO THE WRONG COURSE," AND FALUN GONG WAS AN "IMMENSELY HARMFUL" (WEIHAI JIDA) GROUP.
FOCUSING ON THE LEADERSHIP
5. (C) MEDIA REPORTS SUGGESTED THAT THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT HAD DETAINED THOUSANDS ACROSS CHINA ON JULY 21 AND 22, AS PRACTITIONERS TOOK TO THE STREETS TO PROTEST THEIR LEADERS´ ARRESTS. AFP ANNOUNCED THAT LARGE DETENTION CENTERS HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED IN STADIUMS IN WESTERN AND SOUTHWESTERN BEIJING (REF B). OUR WELL- CONNECTED CONTACT PREDICTED THAT THE AUTHORITIES WOULD RELEASE THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THESE PERSONS. CITING A TRADITIONAL CHINESE SAYING THAT A MASS OF DRAGONS WAS EASILY COWED WHEN IT HAD NO LEADERS (QUN LONG WU SHOU), HE ASSERTED THAT BEIJING BELIEVED THE SECT COULD EASILY BE CONTROLLED ONCE ITS CORE LEADERSHIP WAS NEUTRALIZED. HU JINTAO, HE NOTED, HAD DECLARED THAT THE PARTY INTENDED TO STRIKE HARD AGAINST "A VERY SMALL NUMBER" OF PRACTITIONERS.
FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS: BUSINESS AS USUAL
6. (C) DESPITE THE CRACKDOWN, HUNDREDS OF FALUN GONG MEMBERS AGAIN GATHERED IN MAJOR CITY PARKS THIS MORNING TO CONDUCT THEIR DAILY PROGRAM. POLOFFS OBSERVED GROUPS NUMBERING AS MANY AS THREE HUNDRED IN THE TEMPLE OF EARTH, TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, AND PURPLE BAMBOO GARDEN PARKS (IN NORTHERN, WESTERN, AND SOUTHERN BEIJING, RESPECTIVELY). AS USUAL, PRACTITIONERS OF OTHER SCHOOLS OF QIGONG REMAINED DISTINCTLY SEPARATE FROM THE FALUN GONG AND EACH OTHER. IN THE TEMPLE OF EARTH PARK, POLOFF WATCHED AS PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY PERSONNEL OBSERVED AND VIDEOTAPED FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS. APPARENTLY UNCONCERNED ABOUT THIS OFFICIAL ATTENTION, THE SECT MEMBERS WORKED THROUGH TO THE CONCLUSION OF THEIR PROGRAM AND SOCIALIZED BRIEFLY BEFORE QUIETLY BREAKING UP.
PROTESTS NEAR ZHONGNANHAI CONTINUED
7. (C) THE AUTHORITIES WERE, NONETHELESS, WELL-PREPARED TO DEAL WITH CONTINUED PROTESTS. AT ABOUT 8:00 A.M., POLOFF OBSERVED A CROWD OF APPROXIMATELY 500 PRACTITIONERS GATHERED ON XI´ANMEN STREET NEAR THE NORTHWESTERN CORNER OF THE ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP COMPOUND. ITS MEMBERS WERE PACKED SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER ABOUT FOUR TO FIVE DEEP ON THE SIDEWALK, WITH THEIR BACKS TO THE SHOPS ALONG THE STREET. ABOUT 200 UNIFORMED POLICE OFFICERS SURROUNDED THEM ON THE OTHER THREE SIDES. OBSERVING THIS STAND-OFF FOR ABOUT AN HOUR, POLOFF WITNESSED NO VIOLENCE FROM EITHER SIDE. THE PRACTITIONERS REMAINED LARGELY SILENT, WHILE THE POLICE OFFICERS MOSTLY CHATTED AMONG THEMSELVES. THE POLICE PERMITTED REGULAR PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE TRAFFIC TO PASS THE AREA UNHINDERED.
FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS ALLOWED TO COME AND GO
8. (C) THE ATMOSPHERE AT THIS SITE WAS COMPARATIVELY RELAXED. IN FACT, POLICE OFFICERS PERMITTED ABOUT A DOZEN PRACTITIONERS TO CROSS THE SECURITY PERIMETER AND LEAVE THE SCENE AND ANOTHER DOZEN OR SO TO JOIN THE CROWD. POLOFF OBSERVED PRACTITIONERS ENGAGING IN BANTER AND EVEN EXTENDED CONVERSATIONS WITH POLICE OFFICERS.
FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS CHEERED AS BUSED AWAY
9. (C) TWO LARGE ARTICULATED BUSES ARRIVED AT THE SCENE AT ABOUT 8:15 A.M., AND POLICE OFFICERS PROMPTLY BEGAN LOADING THE CROWD ONTO THEM. FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS APPARENTLY BOARDED VOLUNTARILY. WHEN THE FULLY-LOADED BUSES PULLED OUT, THEIR PASSENGERS AND SECT MEMBERS REMAINING ON THE STREET CHEERED AND APPLAUDED. THIS SCENE REPEATED ITSELF APPROXIMATELY EVERY 15 MINUTES, UNTIL BUSES HAD CARRIED AWAY THE REMAINDER OF THE CROWD.
PROTESTERS FROM THE NORTHEAST, GOING BACK
10. (C) DURING A BRIEF CONVERSATION WITH POLOFF, A POLICE OFFICER ON BREAK SAID HE HAD BEEN AT THE SCENE SINCE ABOUT 6:00 A.M. AT ITS PEAK, THE OFFICER STATED, THE CROWD HAD TOTALED APPROXIMATELY ONE THOUSAND PRACTITIONERS. MOST, HE STATED, WERE FROM OUTSIDE OF THE BEIJING MUNICIPAL REGION. (AN ELDERLY RESTAURANT WORKER SEPARATELY TOLD POLOFF THAT THE PROTESTERS WERE FROM NORTHEASTERN CHINA). ASKED WHERE THE BUSES WERE CARRYING THE PRACTITIONERS, THE PSB OFFICER SAID MERELY THAT THE PROTESTERS WOULD BE SENT BACK TO WHERE THEY HAD COME FROM.
ONE INCIDENT OF STRONG-ARM TACTICS
11. (C) POLOFFS OBSERVED ONLY ONE ACT OF POLICE VIOLENCE IN THE COURSE OF THE DAY. AT A POLICE STATION NEAR ZHONGNANHAI, OFFICERS REPEATEDLY STRUCK A 60-YEAR OLD MAN ON HIS BACK WITH A NIGHT STICK WHEN HE REFUSED TO BOARD A BUS. THE MAN QUICKLY GAVE IN AND JOINED HIS FELLOW PROTESTERS ON THE VEHICLE.
SCENE REPEATED THROUGHOUT THE DAY
12. (C) WE BELIEVE THAT PROTESTS OCCURRED THROUGHOUT BEIJING DURING THE COURSE OF JULY 22. A WESTERN NEWS MAGAZINE´S BUREAU CHIEF TOLD US THAT SHE HAD OBSERVED POLICE DETAIN AND BUS AWAY A CROWD THAT INITIALLY NUMBERED ABOUT TWO THOUSAND PEOPLE. DRIVING THROUGH DOWNTOWN BEIJING IN THE EARLY AFTERNOON, POLOFF COUNTED DOZENS OF EMPTY BUSES PARKED ALONG CHANG´AN BOULEVARD -- THE MAIN EAST-WEST ARTERY -- IN DOWNTOWN BEIJING. THE POLICE HAD SET UP TEMPORARY POSTS AT INTERSECTIONS, AND POLOFF OBSERVED OFFICERS STOPPING PEDESTRIANS AND INSPECTING THEIR IDENTIFICATION CARDS. ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE MAIN ENTRANCE TO ZHONGNANHAI, POLOFF WATCHED AS POLICE LOADED APPROXIMATELY EIGHT CITIZENS INTO A POLICE VAN. TWO OF THE EIGHT BRIEFLY ARGUED WITH THE POLICE, BUT NONE OFFERED ANY PHYSICAL RESISTANCE AND ALL QUICKLY BOARDED THE VEHICLE.
COMMENT
13. (C) THE CRACKDOWN ON FALUN GONG IN BEIJING TODAY APPEARED TO BE REACTIVE, AS AUTHORITIES DETAINED PRACTITIONERS WHO TOOK TO THE STREETS TO PROTEST THE JULY 20 ARRESTS. ALTHOUGH WE DOUBT THAT THE INCIDENT CITED IN PARA 11 WAS THE SOLE OCCASION WHEN POLICE EMPLOYED VIOLENCE, BOTH THE FALUN GONG AND THE POLICE DISPLAYED NOTEWORTHY RESTRAINT IN WHAT WAS CLEARLY A POTENTIALLY UNSTABLE SITUATION. FOR NOW, WE ARE INCLINED TO ACCEPT OUR CONTACT´S ASSERTION THAT THE AUTHORITIES WILL SOON RELEASE THE MANY RANK-AND-FILE FALUN GONG MEMBERS DETAINED SO FAR DURING THE PROTESTS. THE SITUATION NONETHELESS WILL REMAIN FLUID FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT FEW DAYS. WHAT WILL HAPPEN, FOR INSTANCE, IF FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS -- HOWEVER ORDERLY -- REFUSE TO RETURN HOME AND ABANDON THEIR PROTESTS? NOW THAT FALUN GONG ACTIVITIES ARE BANNED, HOW WILL THE REGIME DEAL WITH CULT MEMBERS WHO OPENLY GATHER IN PARKS TO CONDUCT DAILY EXERCISES? BEIJING SURELY HOPES THAT THE SECT WILL GO QUIETLY INTO THE NIGHT, BUT THIS ALMOST CERTAINLY IS WISHFUL THINKING. ZHONGNANHAI MAY SOON DECIDE IT HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO ABANDON ITS COMPARATIVE RESTRAINT IN FAVOR OF A TOUGHER APPROACH.

MCCAHILL

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