Tags: CCP, China, Gao Zhisheng, human rights, human rights lawyers, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Matthew Robertson
Once dubbed the “conscience of China,” Gao Zhisheng spoke out powerfully for the persecuted and dispossessed. Now, after five years of abuse, the voice that challenged injustice is, for the moment at least, almost silenced.
Since Gao, a celebrated Chinese human rights lawyer, was released from custody last week, news about his condition has trickled out through his wife, Geng He, who lives in California with their two children.
Geng He has only been able to have a few brief conversations with her husband, but she has spoken extensively to her sister, who is with Gao in Urumqi. Chinese security officials live in their home and monitor them, while others are stationed outside.
Geng He described her conversations with Gao both on Twitter and in discussions with a family friend, Sherry Zhang, who visits and spends time with the family in the Bay Area, where they live. Geng He has declined interviews with the media, but publishes updates about Gao’s condition on Twitter.
A note from Aug. 12 is chilling in its depiction of Gao’s degraded faculties: “When I was speaking with Gao the phone cut off, so I called him back and asked: ‘What were we talking about?’ Gao said: ‘I don’t know.’ I asked: ‘How did the call get cut off?’ Gao said: ‘I don’t know.’ I said: ‘Look, do you understand what I’m saying or not? Can you not hear, or do you not understand?’”
At that point the phone passed to Geng He’s sister, who said: “He’s been locked in a dark cell by himself for five years, fed a steamed bun and a bowl of cabbage every day. You have to patiently help him learn to speak again,” according to Geng He’s account on Twitter.
Tianyu, Gao Zhisheng’s young son, was disappointed and confused after attempting to speak with his father on the telephone. He had been practicing Chinese in order to speak with his dad, but after getting off the phone simply said: “Dad can’t speak Chinese!” according to Sherry Zhang, who visited the family.
“He can barely talk—and only in very short sentences—most of the time he is unintelligible,” Zhang said in an email viewed by the Epoch Times. “Gao’s son was incredibly excited to speak to him on the phone, and was completely shocked that he barely understood his father, that his voice was monotone, and that he was only giving 2 or 3 word answers to questions and wasn’t initiating any of the discussion,” the email continued.
“Gao has been utterly destroyed,” said a recent statement from Freedom Now, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which has followed Gao’s case for several years. “Guards were strictly instructed not to speak with him. He was not allowed any reading materials, television, or access to anyone or anything. … He has lost many teeth from malnutrition. It is believed he was also repeatedly physically tortured.”
Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now and a pro bono attorney for the Gao family, said in a telephone interview, “We hope the U.S. impresses on China the need to allow him to leave for medical treatment in the U.S. Without that help and support, Gao’s future physical and mental health is very much in question.”
Genser continued: “The only thing worse than Gao being killed was for him to be horrifically mentally and physically tortured. He’s a shell of his former self, and it’s devastating for Geng He and her family. She just wants to take care of him, and that’s what we’re hoping will happen. But the Chinese government doesn’t make anything easy there.”
Additional reporting by Ma Youzhi
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Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, Kilgour and Matas, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Larry Getlen
Enver Tohti was a surgeon in a hospital in Xinjiang, in the northwestern part of China, when, in June 1995, he was instructed by his superior to prepare for an adventure — surgery in the field.
In the morning, when the doctor and his team arrived at their destination, he realized they were at “the Western Mountain Execution Grounds, which specialized in killing political dissidents.”
“When you hear a gunshot, drive around the hill,” he was told.
He asked why they were there.
“You don’t want to know.”
After the shot rang out, he drove where he was told, and saw “10, maybe 20, bodies lying at the base of the hill.” The police led him to one in particular, a man of “about 30 dressed in navy blue overalls,” and told him that this is the man Tohti would be operating on.
“‘Why are we operating?’ Tohti protested. ‘Come on. This man is dead.’ ”
But Tohti felt a faint pulse, stiffened and corrected himself. “No. He’s not dead.”
“Operate, then. Remove the liver and kidneys. Now! Quick! Be quick!’ ”
A stunned Tohti did as he was told, trying to pretend this was normal procedure. He “glanced questioningly at the chief surgeon. ‘No anesthesia,’ said the chief surgeon. ‘No life support.’ ” The anesthesiologist “just stood there, arms folded. ‘He’s already unconscious,’ the man reasoned.”
The anesthesiologist was wrong.
“As Enver’s scalpel went in, the man’s chest heaved spasmodically and then curled back again.” After Tohti removed the organs and stitched him up — “not internally,” as there was “no point to that anymore” — he noticed that blood was still pulsing. He was sure the man was still alive.”
Enemies of the state
Reports of organ harvesting in China are nothing new, as the government has admitted that the organs of death-row prisoners have been used for transplants, and BBC investigations have found that “British women apply the collagen of executed prisoners to their faces every night.”
But according to longtime China analyst and human-rights investigator Ethan Gutmann in his disturbing new book, “The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to its Dissident Problem” (Prometheus Books), the realities of the practice are far more awful.
Organs coming out of China — which sometimes wind up in American bodies — are taken not just from the worst Chinese criminals, as China claims, but also from prisoners of conscience, especially practitioners of the banned and derided practice Falun Gong, who never committed, or were even accused of, capital crimes.
Making this far worse, though, are the revelations that authorities aren’t waiting for death to claim their bounty. In an effort to increase the chances of successful transplant, Gutmann writes, the organs are often taken from prisoners while they are still alive.
Gutmann estimates that to date, more than 64,000 Falun Gong practitioners have suffered this fate, with more being added to the count every day.
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, Gao Zhisheng, human rights, human rights lawyers, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Matthew Robertson
After close to five and a half years in detention, some of it in mountain torture chambers, anonymous apartment buildings cut off from his family, and most recently in a remote prison, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Gao Zhisheng, has been released.
The news trickled out on Twitter soon after his brother, Gao Zhiyi, collected him from the Shaya Prison in Xinjiang Province on Aug. 7. Both the men appear to be accompanied by security agents who continue to surveil and limit their movements.
When a reporter with Voice of America attempted to speak to Gao Zhisheng on the phone, he only had the chance to say a few words before his sister said “someone’s coming,” and quickly took the telephone away from him.
After years of mistreatment in prison, Gao Zhisheng’s lower teeth are loose and his upper teeth hurt to eat food, his family said. Gao Zhiyi will first accompany his brother to a dentist to repair the teeth.
Gao’s wife and two children live in California and have not seen their husband and father since they hastily fled China in January 2009.
“I spoke to my husband for the first time in four years. While the conversation was brief, I could tell that he wasn’t the same. I am deeply concerned that he has been seriously tortured in custody,” said Geng He, his wife, according to Freedom Now, a human rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. She held a press conference for local media in the Bay Area, California, in the morning and took interviews throughout the afternoon.
Veneer of Due Process
Gao is being released after completing a three-year prison term that was widely seen to be imposed arbitrarily.
The sentence was the authorities’ first attempt to add a veneer of due process to its punishment of Gao, which they had carried out in secret and with extreme brutality since 2006, following advocacy on what the Chinese regime has regarded as the most sensitive issue.
In 2004, Gao began representing Falun Gong practitioners, and then in 2004 and 2005 he published three open letters to the Communist Party’s leadership demanding an end to the persecution of Falun Gong. In late 2005 Gao published an open letter withdrawing from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The prison sentence was widely seen as no more than a continuation of the same, long-running violent farce. It earned this reputation because it was couched as a punishment for the crime he had originally been charged with in 2006, “inciting subversion of state power.”
He was originally given a three-year prison sentence that was suspended for two years, meaning he did not actually go to prison in 2006. Even though he was not held in prison, from 2006 onwards he was primarily in the captivity of the authorities. When the time for the suspension of the sentence was set to expire in 2011, security authorities hastily threw him in jail, claiming Gao had violated the terms of his parole.
In his periods in and out of detention in China, accounts by Gao describe in detail terrible torture and physical and psychological abuse. One noted letter, written in 2007, titled “Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia,” says that he was tortured for 50 days, including with an electric batons, cigarettes held to his eyes, and toothpicks inserted into his genitals.
‘Not yet free’
The news of Gao’s release has met with both wariness and relief by observers. His family lives abroad, but observers think it is unlikely that Gao will be allowed free passage to the United States in order to reunite with them.
“While Gao has been released from prison, it is abundantly clear he is not yet free,” said Jared Genser, Gao’s pro bono legal counsel with the group Freedom Now. “Until he is reunited with his wife and children, our work will continue. I call on the Chinese government to remove the security cordon around Gao, to let him speak freely and meet with anyone he chooses, to allow him to travel freely, both in China and abroad.”
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a longtime supporter of Gao Zhisheng, who took on his cause as part of a human rights project, said he was “relieved to hear that Gao has been granted his freedom from torture and seclusion, though I fear that he may not be truly free outside prison.” Rep. Wolf added, in the statement: “I hope that, if he chooses to apply, he will be granted asylum in the United States.”
After years of running a successful legal practice in Beijing, defending minority groups, abused workers, and house Christians, Gao’s law firm was suspended in November 2005, after he began taking on the cases of persecuted Falun Gong practitioners and writing two open letters urging an end to that persecution.
After Gao’s law firm was closed, he penned an open letter to the head of the CCP and China’s premier in which he described in detail the torture suffered by Falun Gong practitioners. Then, a few days later, he released his letter withdrawing from the CCP.
“Over a dozen days’ close touch with Falun Gong believers was a shocking experience to my soul,” he wrote in the letter, based on his time living with and interviewing Falun Gong practitioners in China about their persecution.
“I had lost my hope for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) completely. This CCP has employed the most barbarous and most immoral and illegal means to torture our mothers, our wives, our children, and our brothers and sisters. It has made this kind of torture part of the Party member’s job and raised the political standing of torture,” he wrote in the letter.
Gao continued: “From now on, Gao Zhisheng, a Party ‘member’ who hasn’t paid the membership fee for a long time and has been absent from the “Party activities” for many years, declares that he quits the cruel, untrustworthy, inhumane, and evil party.”
“This is the proudest day of my life.”
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, human rights lawyers, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Lu Chen
“Improper speech” by lawyers on the Internet is no longer allowed, according to the All China Lawyers Association, the state-controlled equivalent of the country’s bar association.
A draft version of new rules and penalties prepared by ACLA was leaked to social media platforms by disgruntled lawyers on June 12.
They found the prohibitions galling, including a ban on the publication of open letters “to provoke protests or incite public opinion,” or the making of “extreme or improper comments to attack or deframe China’s judicial system, political system, and the Party’s principles and policies” on the Internet.
The muzzling will probably have the most impact on lawyers that take on sensitive political cases associated with the persecution of religious followers, Falun Gong practitioners, and advocates of democracy and the rule of law in China.
If the revised draft is passed, violators will face public censure and potential expulsion from the Association—the equivalent to no longer being allowed to practice law in China.
The All China Lawyers Association is in charge of all licensed lawyers and law firms in China, and acts under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The People’s Republic of China’s laws on the legal profession says that attorneys and legal firms in China are required to join the ACLA.
While not publishing their views on the Internet, lawyers may also be prevented by their firms from “founding, participating in, or supporting any organizations or activities that damage the image of the ACLA or do not align with the duty of lawyers.”
Law firms are no longer to “indulge” their employees by allowing them to engage in these unspecified subversive behaviors, the notice says.
The move by the ACLA, which is controlled by the government, is the latest move by the Chinese regime to punish advocates of a freer political system in China.
Several well-known rights lawyers have been arrested for “causing trouble” before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 massacre, including Pu Zhiqiang and Tang Jingling.
Predictably, attorneys in China have expressed their outrage at the proposed new rules.
“I was frightened after reading that draft,” said Zhou Ze, a well-known lawyer who also advocates for democracy and human rights in China. “The new rules are obviously for cracking down on dissident lawyers,” he said on Weibo.
He remarked that part of the reason for the proposed rules may be to prevent lawyers from speaking out against the Ministry of Justice, whose own questionable, and sometimes allegedly illegal operations many lawyers in China suffer under.
“If the draft is adopted, there may not be any more dissident lawyers,” Zhou wrote. “The judiciary will be more domineering and less just, and corruption in the judiciary will be more severe!”
Others formed a petition on Tuesday to protest against the proposed rules, and called for the ACLA president, Wang Junfeng, to step down. Over 50 lawyers signed the petition the day it was launched, according to Zhang Lei, a lawyer in Beijing.
“The All-China Lawyers Association is not protecting the rights of lawyers any more, but has become an accomplice in repressing lawyers’ rights,” the petition says. It added that the rules violate China’s own constitution.
“The Lawyers Association shouldn’t listen to the ruling Party’s orders to restrict us, said Xie Yang, an attorney in Hunan Province, in an interview with Sound of Hope Radio. “It’s doing everything to show its loyalty to the authorities. We just can’t accept that.”
Tags: CCP, censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Lu Chen
Journalists in China have been banned from writing articles deemed “critical” about the government or even about companies without permission, according to a recent announcement from China’s propaganda authorities.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television—shortened to SAPPRFT—ian amalgam of the former State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) and the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP)—published a notice last week laying down the new rule, while going over eight cases of journalists and news companies that have strayed.
“Journalists and news stations are prohibited from doing critical reporting without permission from their work units, and they are prohibited from creating websites, channels, special editions, and print editions to publish critical reporting without authorization,” the notice said.
Violators could have their licenses to practice journalism, or in the case of a publisher, its publishing license, revoked, the notice said.
Six of the eight cases highlighted by propaganda authorities allegedly involved journalists who had attempted to extort the targets of their stories.
Such activities indeed take place in the recesses of China’s repressed news industry—though analysts are more apt to blame the communist authorities for their overbearing restrictions on reporters, rather than the moral turpitude of journalists themselves.
In one of the cases, Zhou Xiang, a reporter at the state-run Maoming Evening News in Guangdong Province, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison in March.
Zhou was accused of bribery after he took 26,000 yuan ($4,173) from 13 companies and individuals, whom he apparently threatened to run negative reports about if they didn’t pay up.
Such reports would have included claims that they polluted the environment, neglected industrial accidents, or were involved in illegal housing projects. The truth status of the charges was not clear from the reports. Apart from Zhou’s jail time, he has been barred from practicing journalism for the rest of his life.
But whatever the abuses of journalists—real or fabricated—Chinese public opinion has not taken kindly to a blanket prohibition on “negative” coverage.
“Extortion is extortion, and critical reporting is critical reporting! How could extortion lead to a ban over the other?” said Chinese lawyer Chang Xiaokun, based in Shandong Province, on Weibo, a popular social media website in China.
“The constitution says citizens have the freedom of speech, which includes freedom to criticize. Aren’t journalists also citizens? If criticism is not allowed, the nation is finished!” wrote an outraged Song Zude, a well-known commentator of the entertainment industry, on his Weibo page.
Yang Bo, a regular Internet user, wrote: “Journalists often use Weibo to expose corruption without the permission of their companies. Now they don’t dare do that any more, and corrupt officials will sleep well.”
Chinese of a more pessimistic bent were not surprised by the announcement, because suppression of the media has never changed under Party rule. The notification simply announces the status quo, these commentators said.
Even before the new prohibition, many Chinese journalists have been punished for reporting negative news on a variety of social issues. Xiang Nanfu, for instance, who was based in Beijing and wrote for the overseas media Boxun, was arrested last month on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
Party media agencies said that Xiang published “fake” news that “defamed China” and “deceived Chinese people,” while Boxun was labeled a “reactionary website.”
But much of what Boxun reported about included the violation of human rights of petitioners and other disenfranchised groups in China.
Other reporters have been punished for simply doing their jobs. Before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre, Xin Jian, with the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and Vivian Wu, a former Beijing-based reporter for the South China Morning Post, were detained after interviewing Pu Zhiqiang, a well-known human rights lawyer who is now also in custody and faces a potentially lengthy imprisonment.
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights lawyers, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
The Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp was supposed to be closed down, but now it simply has two names
By Carol Wickenkamp
For years the tales of torture that came out of Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp in China’s northeast were a potent demonstration of the abuses of the country’s forced labor system. In turn, Masanjia’s apparent closure last year was seen as a hopeful sign that the system was, in fact, being closed down, as authorities had promised.
But recent reports from China tell a different story: the Masanjia Forced Labor Camp is alive and well, except for the fact that it’s no longer called the Masanjia Forced Labor Camp. Instead, the same sprawling set of buildings and facilities appears to be now put to use as both a “drug rehabilitation center” and as part of the Liaoning Province’s prison system. These bureaucratic modifications disguise the fact that the same guards, in the same buildings, abuse and exploit the same or similar prisoners—just as before.
Masanjia made world headlines in 2013 when an Oregon woman, Julie Keith, discovered a letter from the labor camp in a plastic Halloween kit shipped from China. Shocked, she contacted the media, which set about exploring the background of the camp.
It was exposure of that kind that the Chinese Communist Party found deeply embarrassing, and was part of the reason for its high-profile move to—on paper at least—close the system of re-education through forced labor, which has been part of the Party’s coercive toolkit since the 1950s.
When a CNN film crew visited Masanjia last year, it had every impression of being empty. No guards were in the watchtowers, and no one came to trouble CNN correspondent David McKenzie as he strolled within feet of the chain-link fence. Minghui.org, a website that carries firsthand reports from the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, also reported last year that the remaining practitioners detained in Masanjia were being released. Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that has been persecuted in China since 1999.
The Same Camp
Shang Liping, a female Falun Gong practitioner, was recently transferred from Shenyang Women’s Prison to the Masanjia Addiction Treatment Center, according to a March report in Minghui. The report continued that staff and police were the same people that had worked at Masanjia when it was a labor camp.
Yu Shuxian and Chi Xiuhua, two other female Falun Gong practitioners, were put into the same drug rehab center in Masanjia this January, according to Minghui. When family visited Chi, they found that “she had completely changed; her face was pallid and listless, she neither lifted her head nor opened her eyes, and she had no energy to speak,” according to Minghui. “Her family was distraught, extremely scared, and could not guess what torment she had been put through.”
Other sections of the large labor facility have been transferred to the provincial prison system, and operate as the Masanjia Prison District of Liaoning Province’s Shenyang Women’s Prison, according to Minghui.
The Shenyang provincial prison for women is extremely violent, with Minghui reporting 20 Falun Gong deaths since 1999. At present at least 84 Falun Gong practitioners are incarcerated in Liaoning Province’s women’s prison in Shenyang, many of them serving sentences of up to 13 years.
A group of Falun Gong practitioners who were held in the women’s prison in Shenyang were transferred to the Masanjia Prison District, most of them this year. Multiple telephone calls made by Epoch Times to phone numbers identified as belonging to Masanjia were not answered.
Niu Guifang, a female practitioner, in a trial thick with illegalities, was sentenced to the women’s prison in March 2013, and was transferred to Masanjia Prison District at the end of last year. Although her hands were injured by the prison police, and she couldn’t hold heavy things, she has still been forced to work every day in the workhouse at Masanjia, Minghui reported in April.
When the Communist Party announced the death of the re-education through labor system in early 2013, seasoned observers of the regime’s security system began expecting what has now transpired.
“Cosmetic changes” won’t stop the abuses, said Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch. Instead, they “might only further entrench the system,” she said.
A detailed report by Amnesty International nearly one year later observed: “Abolishing the RTL [re-education through labor] system is a step in the right direction. However, it now appears that it may only be a cosmetic change just to avert the public outcry over the abusive RTL system where torture was rife,” said Corinna-Barbara Francis, China researcher, in a December 2013 paper.
“It’s clear that the underlying policies of punishing people for their political activities or religious beliefs haven’t changed. The abuses and torture are continuing, just in a different way,” she said.
That same month the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy noted, in its own report in the matter, that re-education through labor has simply been replaced with other forms of detention, like forced drug rehab and “legal education classes.” The group said, “These systems are already used in Tibet and merely continue the abuses associated with RTL under a different name.”
The Same Work
While the new division at Masanjia appears to be between a prison and a drug rehabilitation center, the latter, as far as prisoners of conscience go seems to be used in the same way that the old labor camp was used: Falun Gong practitioners are sent there by police, without a trial, regardless of their drug-free lives.
The mixing of prisoner types has taken place for years in China. “People from the Liaoning Provincial Labor Education Bureau came to audit us in 2011, and ordered that every Falun Gong practitioner needed to take a test. Our medical examination document listed us as drug addicts, but in fact, out of the nearly 400 inmates, only four were drug users,” former Masanjia inmate Qiu Tieyan wrote in October 2013 about her incarceration.
“We had to work six hours every day making military coats, forest coats, and firefighter jackets for the Jihua 3504 Limited Corporation in Changchun City. Outside of the workshop, we had to load and unload things, clean, and do other chores. Guard Wang Guangyun brought in her dirty laundry from home, and we had to wash it. We had to keep this a secret and do it quickly,” she said.
The same Minghui report said there are about 300 prisoners in the Masanjia Prison District, but did not give a total for Falun Gong practitioners held there.
Drug offenders are treated in the same way in detention as when the facilities were called re-education camps. They are forced to do factory work, light manufacturing, and repetitive labor.
Once locked up, there is little rehabilitation either—only brutality and hard labor, said Human Rights Watch in a 2012 paper.
“If people weren’t working hard enough we would beat them with a one-meter board, or we would just kick them or beat them with our hands,” a former re-education through labor guard from Guangxi Province told Human Rights Watch. “Sometimes people got beaten to death. About 10 percent of people who come into re-education through labor centers die inside.”
Additional research and reporting by Lu Chen
By Associated Press
BEIJING—Australia said Tuesday it is trying to confirm reports that a Chinese-born Australian artist had been detained in Beijing ahead of the 25th anniversary of the military clampdown on the student protest centered around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, adding it would try to persuade China to release him if he is being held.
Guo Jian, a former protester in China’s 1989 pro-democracy movement, was taken away by Chinese authorities shortly after a profile of him appeared in the Financial Times newspaper in commemoration of the anniversary of the crackdown.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Australian embassy in Beijing was attempting to confirm with Chinese authorities that the 52-year-old former soldier had been detained.
“As an Australian citizen, we’ll do what we can to release him if the case is he’s been detained,” she told Sky News television in the Australian capital, Canberra.
An Associated Press reporter talked to Guo as he was taken away from his home in suburban Beijing on Sunday night. Guo said he would be held by police until June 15.
It is the latest in a string of detentions of artists, lawyers, scholars and journalists ahead of the Tiananmen anniversary amid intense government efforts to deter coverage by foreign media of its remembrance.
Tags: Falun Dafa Art
The Art of Zhen Shan Ren (truthfulness, compassion, tolerance) International Exhibition is the main feature of the 2014 Art Nordic, the largest art fair in Scandinavia, this weekend.
It is a powerful depiction of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, the qigong practice that has been growing around the world by the million since 1992, shown in 36 artworks at Øksnehallen in downtown Copenhagen from May 9-11.
Since 1999, the Chinese Communist Party has persecuted Falun Gong practitioners—also called cultivators—with misinformation, arrests, imprisonment, and torture. The artist collective of seventeen artists, all but one of whom is of Chinese descent, communicates the universal view of Falun Gong, as well as the persecution, which they have all personally experienced.
“Cultivators look at issues from a deep perspective,” Zhang Kunlun, a sculpture and painter who co-founded the Exhibition in 2003, has said, “and inspiration springs forth like a fountain.
“As artists we have a duty to present this magnificent period of human history for the future.”
While the whole world has its eyes on Denmark during the Eurovision festivities in the same weekend, Art Nordic’s Boi Wynsch said, “In the art world, you often experience a reluctance to deal with the direct connection between art and the real world.
“This is in no way a reluctance that these seventeen artists possess. Treading a path that very few artists are able to follow, they use their art to communicate a stirring, frightening, and convincing portrayal of the reality that they themselves have experienced—one that many Falun Gong practitioners still experience in China today.”
He said, “This makes their art very different from the art that is typically produced in Scandinavia, and that makes me even more excited to present it at Art Nordic.”
The individual backgrounds of the seventeen artists are very different, but they all share the ambition to express—in spite of the recurring tragic theme of all their artworks—the truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance that are essential to the practice of Falun Gong.
All the artworks except for a sculpture of a Buddha, are realist oil paintings, a style chosen by the artists, because its simplicity and accessibility allow them to communicate the stories they wish to relay to their audience. The exhibition is centered on seven themes, including The Joy of Cultivation, Persecution in China, and Peaceful Resistance.
The first exhibition took place at The National Art Club in New York in 2004. Among the artists are names such as Xiaoping Chen, Dr. Xiqiang Dong, Kathy Gillis, Yuan Li, Daci Shen, Weixing Wang, and Dr. Kunlun Zhang.
The exhibition is a close collaboration with Foreningen Konst och Kultur Zhen Shan Ren in Gothenburg, Sweden. Typically, the exhibition is only displayed in museums, but as an exception, in Denmark it can be experienced as part of an art fair. NTD Nordic is a sponsor of the exhibition.
Art Nordic offers 5,000 square meters of art from 200 different artists, including more than 60 from Sweden, who have all pre-qualified for the art fair within the categories of visual arts, ceramics, sculptures, photography, glass and ornamental art. The fair is expected to draw an audience of 12-15,000 people.
Link to video interview: Art Nordic presents: The Art of Zhen Shan Ren
By Lu Chen
Gao Yu, a well-known veteran Chinese journalist, who has been missing for half a month, was recently paraded onto China’s national state broadcaster and filmed sitting in a police station pleading guilt to crimes and asking for punishment from the state.
Gao is being accused of leaking state secrets to overseas media channels. The May 8 broadcast has concerned many observers, inside and outside China, with the methods taken by the authorities to stifle dissent.
Beijing police arrested the 70-year-old Gao on April 24, under the orders of a special task force established in Beijing after a “central confidential document” was published on an overseas website last August, according to the Party mouthpiece Xinhua.
Gao pleaded guilty to obtaining and passing on that secret document, an action she said she “deeply regrets” and for which she is “willing to accept legal punishment.” She was said to have obtained the document last June, typed it into her computer, and then emailed it overseas, the report said.
Gao was shown being led into a small, enclosed police room, wearing an orange prisoner vest where she made her confession. Her face was blurred out for some reason.
“I think what I did touched upon the law, and harmed the interests of the state,” she said, while nervously rubbing her hands together. “It was very wrong.” The police nod their heads sternly. “I sincerely accept the lesson and plead guilty,” she said.
No official reports have clarified what the leaked document was, but it bears a very close resemblance to the infamous “Document No. 9,” reported widely last year.
“Document No. 9,” published by the Hong Kong-based Ming Jing media group in August of last year, transmitted new ideological directives from the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department. It required Chinese universities to stay away from seven topics including universal values, press freedom, citizen rights, civil society, the Communist Party’s historical mistakes, judicial independence, and “the bourgeois elite.”
Observers of the Chinese political system saw the document, and the campaign that accompanied it, as historical regression.
No official reports have fully explained “Document No. 9,” but some local government websites appeared to discuss it in May of last year. Though the news items were later purged, a screenshot of a circular announcing that officials at the Rural Construction Committee of Chongqing City studied the document was preserved on the Internet.
Aside from the secretive nature of the document, political analysts see the arrest and punishment of Gao Yu as an open attack on the press in China. Bao Tong, a former policy adviser to the reformist Party leader Zhao Ziyang, ousted during the Tiananmen turmoil of 1989, said that there were a number of “bizarre things” about the accusations against Gao.
“If collecting and delivering information is guilty, why does journalism exist?” Bao Tong asked.
Gao has worked in the media industry in China since 1979, and has twice been sentenced to prison for her work. The first instance was on June 3, 1989, when she was arrested and detained for more than a year for her reporting on the student movement leading up to the massacre of June 3 and 4.
Then in October 1993, Gao was arrested again and sentenced six years in prison for “publishing state secrets.” In February 1999, she was given parole due to poor health. She has won a number of international journalism awards, including the Golden Pen of Freedom, Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, and others.
Some of Gao’s work has brought intense controversy outside China. In a column for Deutsche Welle’s online Chinese edition in January of this year, Gao wrote that a secretive security task force inside the Communist Party in 2012 “sent materials to Bloomberg News about every standing committee member” except two. Bloomberg later that year published revelations, purporting to be based on publicly available documents, about the wealth of the Xi Jinping family.
The use of forced confessions aired on television was widely used during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and many Chinese intellectuals have compared the treatment of Gao Yu and others to those days. The method is used by the Party both to humiliate the individual in question, and also to warn others from committing the same acts.
Others targeted in a similar manner include Charles Xue, a Chinese-American entrepreneur and angel investor, known by the screen name of Xue Manzi. While in detention last September he was forced to confess to visiting prostitutes. Xue had gained a reputation for his sharp speech criticizing the Communist Party, and for the millions of online followers he had amassed. He called for free speech and democracy in China.
Chen Yongzhou, a reporter at a newspaper in Guangzhou, was also hauled onto China Central Television to admit to taking bribes for reporting “fake news” about alleged corruption at the state-owned construction equipment manufacturing enterprise Zoomlion. Before Chen had gone to trial he had been made to confess to his crimes on national television, an ordering of events that lawyers in China took exception to.
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A Chinese human rights advocacy group has established a database of political prisoners in Mainland China.
China Political Prisoner Concern (CPPC), run by volunteers, set up a Chinese-language website recently to collect, verify, and publish the status of political prisoners in China.
Since its inception on Feb. 1, the group, consisting mainly of human rights activists in mainland China, has already published a list of 100 political prisoners. They include democracy activists, dissidents, human rights activists, as well as Tibetan, Uyghur, Christian, and Falun Gong prisoners of conscience, and others. Among them are Xu Zhiyong (No. 54), founder of the “New Citizens Campaign,” and Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti (No. 59).
Some of CPPC’s volunteers are past political prisoners. During the past three months, they have collected and categorized large amounts of data and thousands of photos and have produced the first 100 prisoners’ profiles. More profiles and updates will be added on a continuous basis, according to New Tang Dynasty Television, based in New York.
The aim of the project is to effect the release of every one of the prisoners. By highlighting their cases, the group hopes to draw greater international attention to the issue. Another goal is to boost China’s social progress.
Chinese human rights lawyer Tang Jingling has already been collecting data on prisoners of conscience since 2008. He also called on Chinese Internet users to send postcards to the prisoners.
Tang told NTD that there are many Chinese prisoners of conscience. If since the June 4, 1989 massacre someone had collected information on these prisoners and systematically launched rescue actions, including sending postcards, it would have put huge pressure on the Chinese communist regime. At the same time, it would have also encouraged those imprisoned for reasons of conscience.
The prisoner list is likely to become very long, should the CPPC volunteer staff be able to collect all of the prisoners’ identities.
The World Uyghur Congress website lists dozens of Uyghur political prisoners, many of them writers, journalists and webmasters who are imprisoned on lengthy terms on charges related to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and religious charges.
The real number is likely much higher, but due to the restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities to reveal details on imprisoned Uyghurs, it is impossible to determine the exact number.
The number of Falun Gong practitioners who have been unlawfully detained is likely in the hundreds of thousands according to incomplete records kept by Falun Gong groups, such as Minghui.org and the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong.
If those who died in detention during the past 15 years are added to the list, as was human rights activist, Cao Shunli (No. 63), the list may number in the many millions.
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By Lu Chen
An extralegal detention center in China was shut down on April 28 after it drew national and international attention for detaining practitioners of Falun Gong and, then, a number of human rights lawyers who traveled there in an attempt to rescue those practitioners.
“The Qinglongshan brainwashing center was dissolved today! All the illegally detained people there have gone home!” said a note that was shared by Chinese lawyer Liu Jinbin, and posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China.
“We’ve sacrificed a lot, especially the just lawyers and family members from different places. This will become part of the annals of history!” the post, written by an Internet user @mianma, who was informed of the closure by released prisoners, was spread widely online, including by a number of human rights lawyers involved in the struggle.
The apparent closure of the facility follows months of effort by activists and civil rights lawyers from around China, who wrote letters and traveled there, in some cases camping out overnight and hunger striking in protest.
Liu Jinbin added, however, that while the facility was shut down, seven people were still detained elsewhere. The identity of those seven was not immediately clear.
What Liu called the Qinglongshan brainwashing center was formally called a “Legal Education Base,” operated by the Jiansanjiang Land Cultivation General Office and local public security officials, in the province of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia.
In general, extralegal facilities of this sort are called black jails. This facility was specifically established for detaining practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual practice, and forcing them to give up their faith, often times through physical and mental torture. The Chinese Communist Party began a brutal persecution of Falun Gong in 1999 that involved mass arbitrary incarceration and widespread torture.
As a result of their efforts to secure the release of three Falun Gong practitioners detained at the Jiansanjiang facility, seven more practitioners and family members, plus the four human rights lawyers were detained and beaten, they said in later interviews.
Internet users calculated that they had 24 broken bones in total after being beaten and tortured by police there: Tang Jitian reported 10 rib fractures, Jiang Tianyong 8 rib fractures, Wang Cheng 3, and Zhang Junjie 3 spine fractures.
The lawyers were sentenced to between 5 and 15 days of administrative detention by the Jiansanjiang Public Security Bureau on March 22 for “using heretical religions to harm society,” after they staged protests outside the black jail.
Their detention, in turn, resulted in dozens of other activists flocking to the center and camping out the front for up to 10 days agitating for their release. Police arrested at least 15 protesters.
The shutdown of the center, though not announced on any official websites, has excited many Internet users and activists.
“24 ribs were not broken in vain,” was one widely forwarded remark.
More in China Human Rights
By Carol Wickenkamp
One of the most memorable scenes in Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice in Wonderland” is the Queen of Hearts shrieking “Off with their heads!” whenever she is displeased.
Xia Baolong, the Communist Party secretary of Zhejiang Province, seems to have taken a leaf from the Queen’s playbook, when he conducted an inspection tour of the province earlier this year. Pointing at a cross on a church in the small town of Baiquan, he is reported to have announced that it was “too conspicuous and splashy.” It was therefore to be “rectified,” he said. The cross was ripped down and a smaller one placed on the wall.
Xia’s peremptory remarks, which continued during the inspection tour, seem to have cascaded into a wave of church demolitions across the province recently, under vague provisions of economic development and urban renewal.
On April 28, the target was the state-approved Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou City. Wrecking crews moved in on that church, ripping down its facade even as congregants attempted to stop them through protests. The Telegraph reported a witness saying: “I saw three or four excavators out front, demolishing the church, and three or four out back, demolishing the annex building. I also saw a small excavator going inside the church doing demolition work inside.”
A photograph, unverified, later appeared online appearing to show that the whole structure had collapsed.
The assault on the Sanjiang Church is just one part of a campaign that crosses Zhejiang Province and beyond.
By Lu Chen
The first public trial in China that would use a unique interpretation of the law to criminalize “rumors” began Friday in Beijing. Microblogger Qin Zhihui was accused of using the Internet to spread rumors, and was indicted by the state prosecutor for “defamation” and “harming society.”
The case of 30-year-old Qin, known by the online moniker “Qin Huohuo,” came to public attention last August when he was put in criminal detention by Beijing police for posting what the authorities said was “untruthful information” on social media.
Plain old truthfulness may not be the ultimate priority of Chinese communist authorities in the matter, though: Observers said that the trial is primarily another sign of the authorities’ determination to rid the Internet of speech about official corruption and other social ills.
Though the Communist Party is currently waging a high-profile campaign against corruption, the focus of propaganda is always on individual officials. Allowing ordinary citizens to freely voice their opinions about the corruption of the entire system could quickly become problematic and inconvenient for the authorities.
“The authorities are actually abusing their power to reach the goal of purging and rectifying the Internet,” said Wen Yunchao, a Chinese media researcher based in the United States, and formerly a visiting scholar at Columbia University.
The arrest of Qin last year took place as the regime announced plans to “fundamentally eradicate Internet rumors,” signaling a crackdown on social media and a tightening of the space online in which Chinese can speak freely about society.
A rule announced then said that someone who posts “fake information” that is viewed over 5,000 times or reposted over 500 times could face criminal charges, depending on the social impact.
The public prosecutor in Qin’s case said that Qin had posted more than 3,000 online rumors that had attracted a lot of attention and negative remarks against the government, “which seriously harmed society.”
An example given was Qin’s comments on the Ministry of Railways (which was later disbanded because of corruption) on the topic of compensation to victims of a severe rear-end train collision that took place on July 23, 2011.
Qin wrote that the Chinese regime gave a large compensation of 200 million yuan ($32 million) to foreign passengers in the accident, which the authorities said is not true. More than 12,000 netizens reposted this information within an hour, many tacking on a few words of their own resentment toward authorities.
A number of Qin’s other posts alleged corruption of well-known public figures. He charged, for example, that Yang Lan, a wealthy media entrepreneur, faked donations, and that Guo Meimei, a young lady who became famous for posting photographs as she posed alongside expensive sports cars, had used money embezzled from the Chinese Red Cross. Qin was in both cases said to have used “fake information” to damage the reputations of the two women.
But neither Yang Lan nor Guo Meimei joined a lawsuit against Qin. Instead, the procuratorate directly indicted him for “defamation” and “harming society.”
Whether what he wrote is true or false, the regime’s manner of handling it gave the unmistakable impression that a campaign to squelch free speech was afoot.
Chinese law says that “harming society” must consist of acts that are directly, rather than indirectly damaging, and that victims of defamation can only be natural persons, not governments.
“If Qin Huohuo lived in a democratic country, it’s obvious that he might face civil lawsuits, at the most, to give compensations and apologize,” Wen said. “But it would be impossible for a state judicial organization to prosecute someone like him.”
As in previous cases of prosecuting Internet users, Qin confessed his guilt. His apparent remorse and guilt was made a central focus on China Central Television and Xinhua, the state mouthpiece.
“It’s all my fault that I’m standing here today,” he said. “I hope my case can give others a warning not to do such stupid things as I’ve done,” he said in his court statement.
Qin also gave profuse thanks to society, the court, the police, lawyers, the media, his parents, and more. The compliant demeanor will likely serve to reduce his punishment. The sentence has not been handed down yet.
“Qin had no choice but to confess under such high pressure,” said Wen Yunchao. “The authorities also need Qin to have an attitude like that, to show the achievements of their Internet purge.”
Observers found it difficult not to draw an unwelcome contrast between Qin’s prosecution and the demonstrably false statements regularly made by the Chinese authorities themselves, none of which have yet been punished.
Internet user Yuyue Yunqi wrote: “Who’s going to put the Lanzhou government on trial for making rumors?” A recent news report showed that 20 times the regulated limit of Benzene, which causes cancer, has been found in the water in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, after the local government announced that “the water meets state standards of safe drinking.”
Chinese authorities are known to conceal disease epidemics like bird flu, and play down the death tolls of natural or man-made disasters. No legal actions have been taken in those cases, netizens said.
Two widely forwarded complaints on the QQ microblog said: “The law only serves people with power,” and “The government can make rumors, but the people can’t.”
By Gisela Sommer
The U.S. State Department joined international human rights groups in their support of four Chinese lawyers who are being held captive and tortured at a detention center in Heilongjiang Province for trying to represent a group of detained Falun Gong practitioners.
The lawyers, Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were arrested on March 21 when trying to provide legal counsel to family members of Falun Gong practitioners who are held at the Qinglongshan Detention Center, officially titled the “Jiansanjiang Land Cultivation General Office Legal Education Base.”
The four lawyers were brutally beaten by police, according to Zhang Junjie, one of the lawyers who was released on March 27 and diagnosed with three fractures in his spine. The other three lawyers are still held at the Qixing Detention Center.
On March 25, another group of lawyers and citizens went to the detention center and held a hunger strike outside, demanding to meet with the detained lawyers. On the morning of March 29, the entire group of 17 people was arrested, many of them also subject to violence.
Three of the first group of detained Falun Gong practitioners are said to be in critical condition.
“This appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of arrests and detentions of public interest lawyers, Internet activists, journalists, religious leaders and others who peacefully challenge official Chinese policies and actions,” the U.S. State Department said in an April 3 email statement to the Epoch Times.
“We call on Chinese authorities to guarantee all Chinese citizens the protections and freedoms to which they are entitled under China’s international human rights commitments, including the freedom of expression,” the statement continued.
Chinese Lawyers Demand Investigation
Earlier, the Chinese Bar Association had issued a directive, telling lawyers not to participate in protests at Jiansanjiang, and not to post any online comments.
“It’s not an authentic Bar Association,” Tang Jingling, a lawyer from Guangzhou, told New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television. “The Communist Party manipulates the organization, which is playing a very disgraceful role.”
Tang said lawyers have posted an open online letter, condemning the Lawyers Association and calling for an investigation of its head.
U.S.-based human rights lawyer Ye Ning told NTD, “Lawyers across the country should stand up for their persecuted colleagues.”
On the morning of April 2, lawyers Tsai Ying, Hu Guiyun, and Dong Qianyong delivered an appeals letter to the All China Lawyers Association in Beijing. They demanded that the Association defend the rights of lawyers to practice law and initiate an investigation team on the arrest, beating, and humiliation of the lawyers, NTD reported.
Amnesty International issued a public statement on March 28, expressing concern about “the safety of the three lawyers who remain in detention and that they too may have been tortured.”
Amnesty also expressed concern that the Chinese authorities are using other forms of arbitrary detention, such as the so called Legal Education Centers, to hold people previously detained in labor camps, which were shut down last year.
In Hong Kong, China Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, and the Justice Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese protested outside the Mainland Chinese Liaison Office on April 2. They called for closing the Jiansanjiang brainwashing center and for the immediate release of the three rights lawyers still in detention, the Minghui report said.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that became popular in China over the 1990s. By 1999, when former leader Jiang Zemin ordered the persecution, approximately 70 to 100 million Chinese were practicing Falun Gong, including many high-level Party members.
To date 3,750 Falun Gong deaths from torture and other abuse in detention have been documented, as well as over 63,000 accounts of torture. An estimate of the real figure puts the actual death toll in the tens of thousands, according to Minghui.
In a statement issued on April 3, the New York based Falun Dafa Information Center called for the release of all detained Falun Gong practitioners and their lawyers in China.
The statement said the detentions and subsequent mistreatment of the four lawyers illustrate two important trends: First, that many Chinese people are challenging the persecution of Falun Gong, by signing petitions, calling for the release of practitioners from labor camps, and more. Second, that the persecution continues despite the closure of the reeducation through forced labor camps, which had become a symbol internationally of the Party’s human rights abuses.
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Last year was the worst for human rights since at least 2008, says an annual report from Chinese Human Rights Defenders. The signature “Chinese Dream” of the new leadership has instead become a “nightmare,” they say.
“The Chinese government’s assault on activists last year indicates just how far authorities under the rule of President Xi Jinping are willing to go to suppress an increasingly active and emboldened civil society,” said Renee Xia, the international director of CHRD.
Defining new developments in 2013, when Xi Jinping’s regime took office, as well as ongoing rights concerns, CHRD points to a major crackdown on civil and human rights across the board.
The assault on the New Citizens Movement and asset disclosure advocates targeted peaceful assemblies; new laws concerning “rumors” targeted bloggers and signaled increased criminalization of speech in the media and online; the widespread physical violence against human rights lawyers served to deny legal counsel to rights advocates, the report charges.
Dozens of human rights activists interviewed for the report pointed out that 2013 was the worst year for human rights since the crackdowns around the Olympics in 2008. Specifically, the report states:
The number of activists detained last year was greater than any since crackdowns in 1999; the number of criminal detentions of human rights defenders trebled that of 2012; over 220 activists were detained, with dozens formally arrested and tried or awaiting trial; there were over three times more enforced “disappearances” than in 2012.
Despite the highly publicized abolishment of Re-education Through Labor, CHRD identifies notes that other extrajudicial detention methods have sprung up, including increased use of “black jails.”
Although Xi Jinping, the Party leader, pledged to purge corruption from the Communist Party at all levels, activists who requested that high-ranking officials declare their personal wealth were hastily detained. Activists considered to be leaders of the asset disclosure movement were charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place” and other terms that disguise the political nature of the arrests.
Rights defenders involved in the New Citizens’ Movement, a loose-knit group seeking political, legal, and social reforms, were detained, tried and issued harsh sentences. Most notably, the respected law professor Xu Zhiyong was tried on those charges and sentenced to four years of imprisonment.
The regime made it clear in a 2013 internal memo, Document No. 9, that discussion of “Western ideals,” including universal values, democracy, and human rights would not be tolerated. An assault was launched on activists advocating rule of law, constitutional democracy, and freedom of the press.
Political persecution and suppression in ethnic minority regions increased, as did harsher security measures and intensified violence in Tibet and Xinjiang, the report said.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders also pointed out that the leadership failed to ratify the international standard for human rights, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), despite repeated promises to do so. The group urged the Chinese regime to honor its promise to the international community to “promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
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