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Monday, April 27, 2009

After 10 Years and 2,000 Deaths, China Still Presses Its Crusade Against Falun Gong

Published: April 27, 2009

NY Times: BEIJING — In the decade since the Chinese government began repressing Falun Gong, a crusade that human rights groups say has led to the imprisonment of tens of thousands of practitioners and claimed at least 2,000 lives, the world’s attention has long since shifted elsewhere.

The drive against the spiritual group has eliminated its leadership, decimated the ranks of faithful and convinced many Chinese that the group is an “evil cult,” as the government contends. But 10 years on, the war on Falun Gong remains unfinished.

In the past year, as many as 8,000 practitioners have been detained, according to experts on human rights, and at least 100 have died in custody. Among them were Yu Zhou, 42, a popular Beijing musician, and Cao Changling, the 77-year-old vice director of a paper plant in Wuhan, whose bruised body was returned to his family by the police last summer just as China was reveling in the glory of the Olympic Games.

In recent months, scores of practitioners have been given long prison terms, including Zhang Xingwu, a retired physics professor from Shandong Province who last week was sentenced to seven years after the police found Falun Gong literature in his apartment, according to family members.

The continued crackdown highlights the difficulty of eradicating a movement whose adherents stubbornly cling to their beliefs, but it also provides a window into the psyche of an authoritarian government that, despite its far-reaching power, remains deeply insecure.

From the outset, the group, which at its peak claimed to have millions of followers around China, insisted that it wanted only legal recognition, not political power. But the country’s top leaders were alarmed by the group’s ability to attract a devoted following from so many citizens — from retired functionaries to pimple-faced college students.

The decision to ban the group entirely was made after 10,000 Falun Gong adherents staged a silent protest outside the gates of Zhongnanhai, the Communist Party’s leadership compound in Beijing, to complain about reports in the state-run media that the group said were defamatory. Security forces apparently had no advance knowledge of the demonstration, which took place on April 25, 1999, and they began treating the group as a threat to national security.

“Even a soccer team with an organization like Falun Gong might have produced the same reaction,” said T. Kumar, the Asia advocacy director for Amnesty International.

Although the propaganda juggernaut has eased in recent years, Falun Gong remains a toxic subject in China. Few academics will speak about it on the record, and the Internet is scoured clean of information that might be construed as sympathetic to Falun Gong, an amalgam of Buddhism, mysticism and qigong, the traditional exercise regimen that remains broadly popular here.

For the Falun Gong devotees who practice in secret, the only glimmer of hope has come from a small but growing number of lawyers who have dared to take on their cases. Even if the legal efforts have mostly come to naught, until recently Falun Gong detainees were denied even the right to a lawyer.

Last week, Jiang Yu, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, reiterated the government’s long-held stance that Falun Gong warrants suppression because it emphasizes meditation and the paranormal over modern medicine. “The Falun Gong cult violates human rights by controlling people’s minds,” he said in response to a reporter’s query.

Among experts based outside the country, there is broad consensus that the government’s efforts have not done much to advance its own interests, at least internationally, where it has been dogged by allegations that it uses torture to crush believers into submission.

‘The excesses and the savagery have really lowered the quality of the government and harmed its reputation abroad,” said Jerome Cohen, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on Chinese law. “They’re paying a high price for the cruelty to these people.”

According to Falun Gong followers and Chinese lawyers who take on their cases, that cruelty continues unabated.

Among those swept up in the purge were Yu Zhou, the musician, and his wife, Xu Na. They were stopped for speeding in January 2008, according to their lawyer. After the police found Falun Gong materials in their car, both were detained. Ten days later, Mr. Yu’s sister was told that her brother was gravely ill, the result, she was told, of a hunger strike complicated by diabetes. His sister, Yu Qun, says her brother did not have diabetes. She contends that he died at the hands of his captors.

The family’s efforts to probe Mr. Yu’s death have been thwarted by the police and prosecutors, who refuse to allow an autopsy or even issue a death certificate.

Ms. Xu, who is a well-known poet and painter, was given a three-year term.

“I don’t understand why this happened to them because they didn’t do anything to break the law and they weren’t promoting the group,” Ms. Yu said.

According to former detainees and human rights organizations, Falun Gong detainees are frequently subjected to harrowing abuse, particularly those who refuse to swear off their faith. Bu Dongwei, 41, a longtime adherent who spent three years in a labor camp, said he was forced to share a room with about 30 people, most of them petty thieves and drug addicts who were encouraged to abuse the Falun Gong detainees.

Mr. Bu, a trained geneticist, was given asylum in December and now lives in Los Angeles.

While the group’s initial goals were official legitimacy and an end to persecution, the ceaseless campaign against them has radicalized many adherents, especially those living outside China. In cities around the world, Falun Gong devotees — and their offbeat re-enactments of torture and gory visual aids — have become a common sight.

Falun Dafa, the organization that oversees the movement from its headquarters in New York, is led by Li Hongzhi, a former grain clerk who began spreading his mystical brand of qigong in 1992 but fled China before the crackdown began. Once known for charismatic preaching, he has spent much of the past decade living a reclusive life in Queens.

David Ownby, the author of “Falun Gong and the Future of China,” said that Mr. Li and his followers may have made a tactical mistake by massing in Beijing, but that the Communist Party erred by interpreting their actions as a threat to its rule.

“If either side had played their cards more intelligently, Falun Gong could have been co-opted by the government,” said Mr. Ownby, who is a professor of East Asian studies at the University of Montreal. He added, “This horrific loss of life could have been avoided.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The great protest that changed the face of China forever

By Editor Thursday, April 23, 2009

CFP: It was on April 25, 1999, that Falun Gong first gained worldwide attention when some 10,000 adherents petitioned the central government in Beijing. Those gathering asked officials to release 40 practitioners who had recently been subjected to police abuse and unlawfully detained, and called for protection of their right to practice their beliefs in peace.

Falun Gong is a peaceful meditative practice called “qigong” that offers its adherents improved health and well-being through gentle exercises and teachings that espouse the values of truth, compassion, and tolerance. First introduced in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi, the practice quickly grew and even had the support of many Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials in China.

However, a small circle of politicians in China grew leery of Falun Gong as the practice grew increasingly popular. False accusations against the practice began appearing in state-run media in 1996, with Falun Gong books being banned from publication the same year. By 1998 the Chinese government estimated there were over 70 million practitioners in China. Individuals within the Public Security Bureau (PSB) continued escalating infringements upon the group by dispersing members at exercise sessions, searching homes, and confiscating property. Practitioners reported these abuses to the government 18 times between 1998 and 1999 using the form of lawful, nonviolent public appeals.

After a Tianjin-based magazine wrongly accused Falun Gong, some 40 practitioners were violently seized and detained by police when they peacefully voiced their concerns. Tianjin city officials afterward advised practitioners to go to Beijing to express their grievances, since the PSB was involved. Acting in accordance with their constitutional right to assemble and appeal, on April 25, 1999, over 10,000 gathered outside Beijing’s Office of Appeals, located beside Zhongnanhai, home to the Communist Party’s top leadership.

The gathering was peaceful, silent, lawful, and did not obstruct traffic. Practitioners requested the release of those detained in Tianjin, a lifting of the publishing ban, and freedom from police harassment when exercising. Initial talks with then-Premier Zhu Rongji led to a resolution and the release of those detained. However, Zhu’s handling of the situation was later overturned by then-Party head Jiang Zemin, who misrepresented April 25 as “the day that Falun Gong lay siege to the Government.”

In July 1999, Jiang outlawed the practice and began a violent campaign to “eradicate” Falun Gong, leading to large-scale imprisonment, torture, and the deaths of adherents. According to a 2006 report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, 66 percent of reported victims of torture in previous years were Falun Gong practitioners. To date, the deaths of 3,253 practitioners as a result of persecution by the Chinese authorities have been confirmed by the Falun Dafa Information Center.

April 25 was a principled response to police brutality and months of illegal activity by security personnel. What’s tragic is that the lawful, nonviolent gathering was seized upon by the Chinese regime’s head, Jiang Zemin, as an excuse to launch a campaign bent on ‘eradicating’ Falun Gong.

Saturday’s vigils will continue the tradition of peaceful demonstration begun by the Falun Gong on April 25, 1999 renewing calls for the Beijing regime to end a ten-year campaign of suppression. Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters will participate in candlelight vigils and rallies mostly outside Chinese embassies and consulates in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and other cities around the world. Victims of the persecution who have escaped from China and individuals who were present at the original April 25th appeal will be participating in these activities.

Marie Beaulieu,
Victoria, BC

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Confidential Documents Portray Persecution of Falun Gong

'Not guilty' verdicts banned

By Zhang Haishan
Epoch Times Staff
Apr 2, 2009

Some lawyers who’ve defended Falun Gong adherents (L-R): Lee Subin, Mo Shaoping, Guo Guoting, Jiang Tian-Yong, Li Heping (The Epoch Times)

“Not guilty”is not allowed. That is the directive in one of two top-secret Chinese documents recently obtained by The Epoch Times that reveal some of the inner workings of the Chinese regime’s continuing persecution of Falun Gong. These documents provide a mixed picture of a crackdown made more severe even while officials worry that a court might choose not to go along with it and defense lawyers seek to prove the persecution is illegal.

The persecution of Falun Gong officially began on July 20, 1999, almost ten years ago. When the persecution began, it received very prominent media coverage in the state-run media and featured show trials of Falun Gong adherents.

In recent years, the regime’s strategy has changed. Media do not report on cases brought against Falun Gong adherents, and the courts, the legislature, and the police have enforced the persecution largely out of sight of the public.

Orchestrating the persecution behind the scences hs been the 610 Office, an extra-constitutional office with power over all levels of the state’s bureaucracy established for the purpose of persecuting Falun Gong. The regime has denied that the 610 Office exists.

The two documents confirm the existence of the 610 Office and show that office seeking to manage the persecution.

A document issued by the Qingdao Municipal Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Feb. 27 is said to be on the authority of a “unified directive from the Central, Provincial, and Municipal Party Committees.”

According to the document, Qingdao City is required to “strictly eliminate, investigate, guard against, and control the Falun Gong adherents; prevent Falun Gong adherents from watching and disseminating the New Tang Dynasty TV program; coordinate relevant departments to strengthen measures to control the Internet, radio, television, telephone, and fax; prioritize online publicity and strengthen foreign propaganda,” and so on.

According to Mr. Erping Zhang of the Association for Asian Research, “The detailed list of actions the Qingdao City officials are required by this document to take, including making sure that Falun Gong adherents not disseminate TV programs, suggests that the Falun Gong they are enjoined to ‘control’ are in fact very active.”

Prohibiting ‘Not Guilty’ Verdicts

A 610 office in Shenyang City issued this secret document on Feb 10, 2009. It provides a few pieces of detailed information about how the 610 office controls the legal processes in cases dealing with Falun Gong. Double click on the photo to see a larger image.(Photo provided by a CCP official)
A document issued on Feb. 10 by the 610 Office of the Tiexie District in Shenyang City describes various judicial processes used in persecuting Falun Gong.

The document requires that, “City courts implement internal audit systems, check guidelines, and strictly carry out orders to ensure ‘not guilty' verdicts are denied to Falun Gong adherents. Otherwise, the first case of a ‘not guilty' verdict will be a national political joke.

“Those charged can be, according to the individual's transformation [‘transformation' refers to coercing a Falun Gong adherent to denounce Falun Gong, inform on other Falun Gong adherents, and apologize for practicing Falun Gong], performance, and evidence, given a sentence reduction, deferred, or freed. However, the not-guilty verdict is absolutely not allowed.”

Zhang commented, "The ban on 'not-guilty' verdicts for Falun Gong adherents is not new—for ten years persecuted Falun Gong adherents have in most cases not even been allowed a trial. What is new is the need the 610 Office now feels to try to enforce 'not guilty' verdicts. The 610 Office clearly fears that a court might return such a verdict, and so they issued this document. This document is a testimony to how the Falun Gong adherents have been changing the situation in China so that the failure of the persecution is now anticipated by those charged with enforcing it."

Emerging Defense Lawyers

According to the analysis of a lawyer in Mainland China, the persecution of Falun Gong has no legal standing. According to this lawyer, the documents obtained by The Epoch Times are in fact encouraging and instigating regime officials at all levels to commit crimes.

Many more lawyers are coming out to defend Falun Gong adherents. In court, these lawyers base their defense on the claim that the Chinese law does not prohibit practicing Falun Gong or telling others the facts about Falun Gong and its persecution.

Recently, there have been reports of nine attorneys representing 13 Falun Gong adherents in Qingdao, seven lawyers pleading not guilty for Zhong Fanqing and 10 other Falun Gong adherents, and ten lawyers pleading not guilty for 6 Shenyang Falun Gong adherents.

The 2008 Shenbei Case

Around the time of the Olympic Games, four Falun Gong adherents in Shenbei, in the New District of Shenyang City, were arrested. They were Xi Changhai, Wang Sumei, Sun Yusu, and Huo Fefu. Xi Changhai is a retired 60-year-old elementary school teacher, and Sun Yusu and Huo Defu are both from the same village.

According to insiders, there was serious disagreement in the handling of the case. A public-security-bureau-level official of the Shenbei New District, suggested going through the formalities and releasing the accused.

However, the head of the local 610 Office, Sun Yong-Gang, insisted on complying with the regime’s policy and dealing with the Falun Gong adherents quickly and severely.

As a result, at the end of 2008, the Shenbei case concluded with heavy sentences. Wang Sumei was sentenced to 10 years in prison, Xi Changhai, 11 years, Sun Yusu, 8 years, and Huo Fefu, 6 years.

The sentences given the four in Shenbei appear to be part of a pattern. The Falun Dafa Information Center reports in a recent article since the end of the Beijing Olympics "a significant increase in the number of Falun Gong adherents being sentenced via criminal trials to lengthy prison terms."

The harshness of the verdicts in Shenbei pushed for by the 610 Office, occurring in the context of at least one official's ambivalence in enforcing the persecution, perhaps mirrors the essence of the confidential documents recently obtained by The Epoch Times.

Read the original Chinese article here.

Trade Minister Urged to Raise Human Rights Issue on China Trip

Falun Gong practitioners seek release of family members, supporters

By Cindy Chan
Epoch Times Staff
Apr 6, 2009

Falun Gong practitioners
Falun Gong practitioners Chen Guizhi and Yao Lian with David Kilgour, former Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), on Canada’s Parliament Hill April 6, calling on Trade Minister Stockwell Day to urge China to stop the persecution of Falun Gong. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

OTTAWA—On the eve of International Trade Minister Stockwell Day’s trip to Japan and China on Tuesday, Canadian Falun Gong practitioners are calling on him to urge China to stop the persecution against their practice and release all prisoners.

Among the jailed practitioners are ten who have close Canadian family ties.

At a press conference on Parliament Hill on Monday, Yao Lian said she worries about her husband every minute. Ma Jian was sentenced to labour camp for two and a half years in April 2007.

It has been 767 days and Ms. Yao has not been able to get any information about her husband. “You cannot imagine how long these 767 days [have been] for me,” she said.

Yao herself had been arrested and tortured more than once in China for practising Falun Gong.

“My personal experience tells me my husband might face brutal beatings and corporal punishment, sleep deprivation, brainwashing classes aimed at crushing his spirit, and even organ harvesting.”

David Kilgour, former Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific), knows a great deal about this subject. He and Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer David Matas launched an investigation in 2006 and have released a report confirming allegations that the Chinese regime is using Falun Gong prisoners of conscience as a live organ bank to supply an illicit trade in human organs.

“From eventually 52 kinds of proof, we concluded beyond any doubt that the government of China since 2001 has killed without any form of prior trial thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in order to sell their vital organs for high prices to ‘organ tourists,’” Mr. Kilgour said at the press conference.

Mr. Day will be travelling to China to open six new trade offices. Mr. Kilgour wants to encourage him to raise the issue of unfair trade, in particular the export of products made by forced labour.

Falun Gong practitioner Chen Guizhi, 62, told of her experience. She served more than four years in a labour camp in China.

Under appalling conditions, the prisoners were forced to work without pay from about 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., sometimes until midnight, to fill high quotas, Ms. Chen said. She sewed purses, knit sweaters, packed tea, and made toys, among other tasks, and some of these products were for export.

“If we couldn’t finish our quota, the punishment could be extending our terms,” Ms. Chen said in her statement translated into English.

Forced labour product export is unfair trade “in one of its worst abuses,” and Mr. Kilgour hopes Mr. Day will raise this issue when he is in China.

“Cheap goods” from China have been dominating most world markets in recent years and can be linked to the loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and elsewhere, and “slave labour is certainly one reason for this phenomenon,” Mr. Kilgour said.

Following Mr. Day’s speech at the Montreal Chamber of Commerce last Friday, an audience member asked him to raise the issue of human rights to the Chinese government during his trip.

Mr. Day noted that “the issue of human rights and the promotion of trade are not mutually exclusive. This has been a part of our policy.”

Canada was the second largest donor to the earthquake-devastated region of China, and Mr. Day will be visiting the reconstruction taking place there, with “significant parts” being done with Canadian wood products and housing products, Mr. Day said.

In October 2002, prior to then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s meeting with then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin at the APEC summit, Mr. Day co-sponsored a House of Commons motion that eventually led to the release of several Falun Gong practitioners in China. Conservative MP Scott Reid had introduced the motion to ask Mr. Chrétien to raise the issue of 13 jailed practitioners who had close Canadian family ties. The motion passed unanimously.

Falun Dafa Association of Canada (FDAC) is also seeking the release of all supporters and defenders of Falun Gong, in particular renowned lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng, who has been severely tortured and whose cause was recently championed by Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

In 2006, en route to the APEC conference in Vietnam, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government will uphold “important Canadian values” in the context of human rights and “not sell that out to the almighty dollar.”

These words were “very encouraging for all the people suffering in China. We are hoping our government will stay true to the words,” said FDAC spokesperson Lucy Zhou.

Falun Gong Reports Persecution to the U.N.

By Arleen Freeman
Epoch Times Staff
Mar 31, 2009

L–R: FLGHR European delegate, Mr Yang Liu; torture victim Haiyan Wang; U.N. Arbitrary Detention group Chairwoman-Rapporteur Ms. Manuela Carmena Castrillo (Spain); witness Yu Wang, U.N. Special Rapporteur Mr. Philip Alston (Australia); FLGHR Chairman, Dr (Courtesy of Falun Gong Human Rights)

Brainwashing, beatings, torture, and death in custody are what Falun Gong practitioners reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council at its March session.

The United Nations held the 10th U.N. Human Rights Council session in Geneva March 2-27. An organization called Falun Gong Human Rights (FLGHR) arranged for a number of Falun Gong practitioners who the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had persecuted to attend the meeting. They told their stories, thus helping the listeners to understand the brutality the CCP committed against them.

Delegates from numerous governments and human rights organizations developed a deeper understanding and many were moved to tears as they listened attentively to the practitioners’ personal stories of torture and abuse.

As the CCP continually denies its severe human rights violations, many do not fully realize the severity and the scale of its persecution of Falun Gong and other groups. When the victims showed the scars from being tortured and discussed their suffering, it helped the U.N. delegates understand the reality taking place in China under the CCP.

One example is Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Haiyan Wang from Guangdong Province. She was a fashion designer, living with her family before the persecution started in 1999. After the persecution started, the CCP detained her six times, put her into a labor camp twice, searched her home twice, and extorted money from her family members twice. In one incident on June 13, 2002, when she distributed materials about Falun Gong in a shopping center, 610 officers beat her and threw her to the ground, causing damage to her right eye and her brain. The 610 office was created by the CCP to oversee the wide scale effort to persecute Falun Gong.

She lost consciousness, but the police did not send her to the hospital. Instead, they took her back to the detention center to continue persecuting her. When they finally hospitalized her the next morning, the doctor found her eye tissue had been bruised, she had lost hearing in her left ear, and she suffered pain and partial paralysis in her legs. The doctor recommended immediate hospitalization, but the CCP, afraid that she would expose their torture of her, pulled out the IV and oxygen tube and brought her back to the Guangzhou Dongshan Detention Center.

Ms. Wang’s ordeal continued until 2005, when she managed to escape on foot to Thailand and eventually to the United States. Due to the lack of medical attention, she became permanently blind in her right eye.

Ms. Wang nearly died four times; the CCP forced her husband to divorce her and extorted 17,000 yuan from her family; yet even in Thailand, she spent 408 days in the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok.

When Haiyan Wang told the delegates about her and her fellow practitioners’ experiences, many of them were moved to tears.

Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Hongchang Liu was detained seven times. On Feb. 9, 2001, the police beat him so severely that they broke his ribs. He managed to escape from prison, and remained homeless to avoid arrest. After being homeless for 97 days, they found and arrested him, sentencing him to five years in prison.

During those five years, Mr. Hongchang suffered beatings, brainwashing, and torture. He was also a witness when five Falun Gong practitioners, who had been detained with him, were tortured to death.

New Zealand practitioner Ms. Yu Wang appealed for her mother Ms. Lijin Zhu, who was arrested on Feb. 1, 2009. She is being held in the Banqiao woman’s labor camp in Tianjin.

Dr. Shizhong Chen, Chairman and spokesperson for FLGHR, introduced the victims to many U.N. delegates. Dr. Chen pointed out that very few manage to escape from China as Ms. Haiyan Wang and Mr. Hongchang Liu did. Out of a population of 1.4 billion, nearly one thousand practitioners who the CCP has persecuted have escaped. Every one of them witnessed their fellow Falun Gong practitioners being persecuted or even tortured to death.

Likewise, there are several thousand overseas Falun Gong practitioners like Yu Wang, whose family members have been persecuted in China. As this suggests how extensive the persecution really is, Dr. Chen appealed to the U.N. that society should help Falun Gong practitioners, because they are the defenders of human conscience.