By Carol Wickenkamp
Late in November of 2013, following a high Chinese Communist Party official’s address asserting the CCP’s tolerance for religions, the regime clamped down even harder on Tibetans, Uyghurs, and practitioners of Falun Gong. Now Christian churches—even state-registered ones—are being tormented across China.
State Bureau of Religious Affairs director Wang Zuoan’s speech, printed in People’s Daily, acknowledged the value of religious people to Chinese society and asked for their support in achieving the Chinese Dream, the current leadership’s goal of a revitalized China. While Wang’s remarks suggested even something more than toleration for religion, the reality has proven different.
A popular Tibetan religious teacher was beaten to death while in custody in Lhasa and others monks detained less than three weeks after Wang’s address. Concurrently, 14 Uyghurs were killed in an incident in Xinjiang, triggered by a policeman lifting a woman’s veil.
As of Jan. 21, Minghui (a site run by Falun Gong that serves as a clearinghouse for reports on the persecution of the spiritual practice) has received reports of 228 January arrests, 33 “trials” resulting in 16 illegal prison sentences, 16 detentions at brainwashing centers, and three death cases reported in January so far.
In mid-November, Zhang Shaojie, the popular pastor of a state-sanctioned Christian church in Hunan Province was detained by officials along with church members, but no charges were announced.
In December a group of Chinese rights lawyers and a British news crew attempting to meet with Zhang were assaulted by a crowd of unidentified people, said to be hired by local officials.
The pastor, who defended his church’s land rights, will be put on trial on Jan. 28 for “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” and “fraud” charges, his lawyer told China Aid. Parishioners say that the local officials want the church’s land for development.
Christmas and the New Year
In Sichuan Province, an employee of an unregistered house church was detained on Dec. 24 for organizing a Christmas gathering for church members, though he had informed the Domestic Security Protection Squad prior to the celebration. His request for reconsideration of the detention has been denied several times, said China Aid.
China Aid has received reports of persecution from local churches across China. Local police raided a house church in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on Jan. 1, while believers were celebrating the New Year, detaining nine members. Authorities are evicting a small house church in Xincheng, Shandong Province. A Christmas celebration in Anhui Province was disrupted by police and some members were put under administrative detention, a church member reported.
In Beijing a house church member was taken from his home and placed under house arrest in a different location. When friends attempted to take food and medicine to him on Friday, fifteen of them were detained.
A house church in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province reported to China Aid that police have disrupted their church gathering twice a week since the beginning of January, while Christians in central Henan Province say they are afraid to attend their church meetings because several local government departments have been harassing them.
“The director of the Religion Affairs Bureau is “running” the Church ever more ostentatiously, not even taking care to save the appearances. The only purpose of their work seems to be ‘enslaving’ our Church (unfortunately with much success) by forcing our bishops and priests to betray their conscience, their faith,” said Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, voicing his concern at the situation of the Catholic faithful in China to AsiaNews, a Vatican publication.
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By Stephen Gregory
The end of 2013 saw a wave of efforts by individuals and governments to condemn the practice of forced organ harvesting in China, suggesting 2014 will see more being done to stop this crime against humanity.
The most visible sign of this new momentum was a petition circulated by the human rights group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting.
Addressed to the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, the petition asks the high commissioner: to call for “an immediate end of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China,” to initiate investigations that will lead to the prosecution of those responsible, and to call upon the Chinese government to end the persecution of Falun Gong.
Nearly 1.5 million (1.48) people in 53 countries on 5 continents signed the petition, which was delivered to the high commissioner’s office in Geneva on Dec. 9.
On Dec. 6, a bill was introduced into the Canadian Parliament that will sanction those who take part in forced organ harvesting.
On Dec. 12, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning forced organ harvesting in China. The United States House of Representatives is expected to vote on a similar resolution early in 2014.
In Australia, a petition with 170,000 signatures was delivered on Nov. 27 to Member of the New South Wales Parliament David Shoebridge. The petition called for the passage of a law he had introduced meant to prevent citizens from obtaining organs from unwilling victims.
In France, MPs have called for the passage of a law to prohibit trafficking in human organs. In Sweden, Taiwan, and Hong Kong there have been recent discussions among legislators about what legislation might help prevent their citizens from taking part in or colluding with China’s regime of forced organ harvesting.
Nations around the world are beginning the work of building an ethical global organ transplantation system.
By Lu Chen
When shopping for groceries in a supermarket in Wuhan the other day, Mrs. Wu received for her change four one yuan notes, each with symbols on them that she had never seen before.
Underneath a black and white square of pixellated dots—which had evidently been stamped onto the note—were the words: “Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall.”
Wu took the bank notes to the Wuhan Evening News, and the story then went national. Even the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, reposted the article on its website.
In comments responding to the news articles, and in remarks made on Sina Weibo, a popular microblogging platform in China, users wrote about how they had themselves encountered notes with the symbols, called QR codes, on them.
QR codes can be scanned, like a barcode scanner in a supermarket, by mobile devices. They then automatically take the user to a website. In this case, it goes to a Google short link that redirects to an Amazon cloud link, where a software file may be downloaded.
QR codes are not unusual, nor are efforts to circumvent the Internet blockade, but Chinese Internet users were fascinated by the way the matter was appearing in media across China: it was an admission that there is an Internet firewall in China and that there are established ways to get around it.
Most curious of all, perhaps, was the identity of the individuals who likely stamped the QR codes onto the money. Though there is no way of definitively proving who is responsible in this case, putting messages on money is a tactic long used by practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional spiritual practice that has been persecuted in mainland China since 1999.
Meeting a Need
Anyone, in fact, can download the QR codes from the website dongtaiwang.com, which belongs to Dynamic Internet Technology, a company that produces the Freegate circumvention software.
Typically, a website that hosted anti-censorship software would itself be censored. But Bill Xia, the president of Dynamic Internet Technology, said in a telephone interview that there are ways to disguise the URL at the time that its scanned, so that users can still access a page from which they can download the software to their smartphones. If the Chinese authorities wanted to block these links, they would probably have to cut off access to Amazon Web Services, where the files are stored. Blocking Amazon in China could have serious business ramifications.
He said that it only works on Android and PC operating systems at this stage.
“We found this usage of the QR codes interesting,” Xia said. “We did get input from China, user feedback that we should provide QR codes so they can distribute them in China,” he said. “It’s interesting to see that it’s actually happening and see the news get publicized.”
The reports in China did not indicate that practitioners of Falun Gong may have been behind the effort to stamp the notes. The report identified the code as an “advertisement,” and warned readers “never to try scan it.”
But netizens seemed unswayed. Many left their sentiments in the comments sections of popular websites. “I often see Falun Dafa words [printed on money],” said netizen yubos1. Another remarked: “Whoever has seen one yuan bills with words stamped on it will understand what the code is about.”
Another user, woaixuneng520, wrote: “I tried to scan it. Oh my! I can finally watch YouTube.”
Some were disappointed with the blurry photographs that the newspapers published of the bank notes with the codes on them. “Can’t the reporter take a clearer picture? I scanned my screen for so long,” one user said.
“It’s so useful,” wrote Qingwenwoding. “Only when you break through the firewall can you see China clearly.”
Those Who Stamp
Soon after the persecution of Falun Gong started in 1999, practitioners of the discipline began using a variety of nonviolent ways to inform the Chinese people about it. The regime has attempted to shut down independent information about both the practice and the persecution, while also spreading anti-Falun Gong propaganda to justify their actions. The use of QR codes on banknotes—or posted onto telephone poles on the street—is the latest development in this strategy.
Hu Ping, the chief editor of Beijing Spring, a pro-democracy magazine, said in a telephone interview: “We all know that Falun Gong has contributed a lot in developing circumvention software, which has helped break the Internet blockade. The recent reports, especially in official media, will obviously expand the profile of Falun Gong in China.”
Hu added that, given that the persecution of the practice was highly contentious even inside the Communist Party, and was one of the pet projects of the political foes of current leader Xi Jinping, the appearance of these news articles may be a kind of warning to that faction—which includes the recently troubled security czar Zhou Yongkang and former regime leader Jiang Zemin—not to attempt a political comeback.
Tags: Kilgour and Matas
The European Parliament has put the People’s Republic of China on notice that its practice of forced organ harvesting is unacceptable.
A resolution passed Thursday afternoon in Strasbourg, France, expresses “deep concern over persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from nonconsenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned for their religious beliefs, and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”
China is called on by the resolution to: “immediately end the practice of organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience”; respond to requests from the UN special rapporteurs on torture and on freedom of religion or belief as to the source of the organs used in transplantation and allow the rapporteurs to conduct an investigation; and immediately release “all prisoners of conscience in China, including the Falun Gong practitioners.”
The EU and its member states are recommended by the resolution to publicly condemn the transplantation abuses in China and to raise awareness among their citizens travelling to the PRC. The resolution calls for the EU to conduct a “full and transparent investigation” into the PRC’s organ transplant practices and “for the prosecution of those found to have engaged in such unethical practices.”
The resolution also identifies the main victims of forced organ harvesting in China: “In July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched an intensive, nationwide persecution designed to eradicate the spiritual practice of Falun Gong leading to the arrest and detention of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners … there are reports that Uyghur and Tibetan prisoners have also been subject to forced organ transplantations.”
“The position of the European Parliament is really very important,” wrote Dr. Rafael Matesanz, the director of the National Transplant Organization in Spain, in an email.
“That the representation of the citizens of 28 EU countries express a common position in front of the Chinese government and ask them to stop immediately all these unethical practices … should be certainly welcome,” wrote Matesanz.
He noted that on this occasion “other considerations” that have “modulated the positions of many governments or international bodies” were forgotten. The PRC regularly uses access to trade and diplomatic browbeating to try to suppress criticism of its human rights record.
Erping Zhang, the spokesman for the Falun Dafa Information Center, said the EU resolution “has sent a loud message to the CCP regime that such crimes against humanity are unacceptable by members of civilized societies.”
Kirk Allison, Ph.D., the director of the program in Human Rights and Health at the University of Minnesota, hailed the resolution as a “significant step forward.”
“By formally recognizing as credible the evidence of … ongoing abuses,” Allison wrote in an email. “It advances the issue from discussion to action.”
“International pressure should follow in the same direction [as the EU resolution] not just in Europe but all over the world, with international bodies like the WHO, the UN, or the Council of Europe,” wrote Matesanz.
Dr. Torsten Trey, executive director of the human rights organization Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, sees the resolution as helping to galvanize international condemnation of the PRC’s forced organ harvesting.
The resolution “will serve as a beacon for many other sovereign countries and regions to demand from China to immediately live up to the basic rights of the 21st century,” wrote Dr. Trey in an email.
Matesanz said the resolution gives “A clear definition about what should not be done for patients: going abroad to buy an organ of unethical origin.” It also gives guidance to “some European doctors, which ‘understand’ or even facilitate such practices for the theoretical benefit of their patients.”
Matesanz worked in his native Spain to see that a law was passed that criminalized a Spanish citizen receiving an organ taken from an unwilling victim, whether the transplantation took place in Spain, China, or elsewhere.
Trey wrote, “This resolution will contribute to sensitize nations around the world to adopt regulations that put an end to unethical organ trade and procurement.”
The EU resolution builds on work done investigating and condemning the PRC’s regime of forced organ transplantation and its human rights record.
The resolution refers to U.N. conventions, previous EU resolutions, hearings at which “former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas” testified, and reports by U.N. special rapporteurs.
The work that has previously been done on the issue of the PRC’s forced organ harvesting has borne fruit not only in the EU resolution, but also in several other recent initiatives.
On Dec. 9, a delegation from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting delivered a petition to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights that had been signed by 1.48 million people from 53 countries.
The petition asks the high commissioner to call for “an immediate end of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China,” to initiate investigations that will lead to the prosecution of those responsible for this crime against humanity and to call upon the Chinese government to end the persecution of Falun Gong.
On Dec. 6, Canadian M.P. Irving Cotler introduced a law that seeks to prevent Canadians from getting a transplant of organs that were not willingly donated.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on a resolution with 165 co-sponsors that condemns the forced harvesting of organs from prisoners of conscience.
In Australia, when the Parliament of the state of New South Wales comes back in session in early 2014, it will consider a bill that will prohibit obtaining organs harvested from unwilling victims.
Tunne Kelam, a European Parliament MP from Estonia, believes the fundamental cause of the forced organ harvesting in China is the system.
He told a New Tang Dynasty reporter that, being from Estonia, “I’m more familiar with that totalitarian system, they can do anything, being a dictatorship.”
At a forum held at the European Parliament on Dec. 11, the day before the vote on the resolution, Edward McMillan-Scott, the vice president of the EU Parliament responsible for human rights and democracy, described China as “probably the most terror-based country on earth.” He said, “The repressive, brutal, and arbitrary tactics used by the Chinese regime… [are] the result of totalitarianism.”
Zhang of FDI wrote that the practice of forced organ harvesting in China “is essentially the expression of the CCP’s system of eradicating all dissenting voices.”
“The ultimate solution to ending injustice in today’s China is a change in the system, namely a China free of the Communist Party,” Zhang wrote, “where the citizens of China can freely practice their personal beliefs and follow their cultural traditions.”
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Tags: Kilgour and Matas
By Stephen Gregory
A grass-roots movement that has spanned 5 continents and 53 countries reached a climax Monday morning in Geneva when a delegation from the organization Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting formally presented to the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights a petition that has garnered almost 1.5 million signatures. The presentation was timed to coincide with International Human Rights Day, which falls on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The petition calls for “an immediate end of forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China,” and asks the high commissioner to initiate investigations that will lead to the prosecution of those responsible for this crime against humanity and to call upon the Chinese government to end the persecution of Falun Gong.
In a one and one-half hour meeting in a conference room in the U.N.’s Motta Building, Torsten Trey, M.D., executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), along with three doctors and three lawyers from six countries and three continents, presented a letter for the high commissioner and briefed the high commissioner’s staff on the forced organ harvesting taking place in China.
In a phone conversation, Torsten Trey explained how the petition got started. The members of DAFOH were frustrated, Trey said. They knew an atrocity was taking place in China, but governments and professional and human rights organizations had often been slow to react.
The DAFOH members thought that if people were asked directly, they would respond. In June DAFOH reached out to a few supporters to start collecting signatures for a petition. The signature collection started in earnest in July.
The petition took off. The more people heard about the organ harvesting taking place in China, the more volunteers and organizations wanted to help gather signatures, in more places around the world. Like the proverbial snowball rolling downhill, the petition rapidly started getting bigger.
By the end of September it had 400,000 signatures. By the end of October, the signature count doubled to approximately 800,000. By the end of November, when the petition was closed, it had almost doubled again, to 1.48 million.
The work of gathering signatures was done by volunteers, with Falun Gong practitioners taking the lead in most areas, but then often finding non-practitioners jumping in to assist. Getting signatures was not a hard sell.
Zek Halu, a real estate developer in his mid-60s, would show up in London’s Chinatown with two clipboards under each arm, one in his hands, and pens sticking out of his pockets.
On the weekends, the streets of Chinatown are thronged with people, mostly European tourists. Halu would plunge into a group and find one person who wanted to sign. “Soon, everyone wants to sign, and then the clipboards with the petitions start getting tossed around in the crowd from one to the other. One can’t keep up.”
Also collecting signatures in London’s Chinatown was a couple in their sixties from mainland China each of whom had been tortured in mainland China for their belief in Falun Gong. Without speaking any more English than “please sign” and “petition,” they would collect signatures every day.
“Their faces are so kind,” Halu said, “People want to do whatever they ask.”
In fact, formidable, elderly Chinese practitioners of Falun Gong with limited English skills collected signatures in major cities all over the world. In Toronto, the 75-year-old Ms. Li Jiayu collected 8,000 signatures from July through November.
In Switzerland, the Swiss chapter of the human rights organization International Society for Human Rights organized the signature collection.
Silvan Fedier, a 40-year-old educator, headed up the project for the society. “Individuals from churches would simply pick up a petition somewhere without our knowing and take it to their church,” Fedier said in an email, “And then they would send us the filled-out signature sheets.”
In Korea, tables at which doctors could sign the organ harvesting petition were set up at 18 different meetings of medical societies; 7,000 doctors signed.
While people were willing, most had not heard of the forced organ harvesting before and were not prepared for what the volunteers had to tell them.
“80 to 90 percent were disgusted,” said Thanh Le a retired manager for Los Angeles County in California. “They couldn’t believe it. ‘This is the most inhumane thing,’ they would say.”
Toronto’s Ms. Zhou Chuanying said through an interpreter, “What impressed me the most was how many people’s faces were shocked after they read the petition letter. With some, their eyes reddened. With others, there were tears on their cheeks.”
The information in the petition letter first came to the world’s attention in March 2006, after an investigative reporter for a Japanese TV station and the wife of an eye surgeon fled the country for the United States, where they told a gruesome story.
They provided credible details about a camp near a hospital in northeastern China in which Falun Gong practitioners were held as a kind of live organ bank. When the hospital needed an organ for transplantation, they would check the records of individuals in that camp, and if one matched, pluck that person out and harvest all of his or her salable organs, killing the practitioner in the process.
After this story broke, international human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour began investigating the allegations that forced organ harvesting was taking place on a mass scale in China.
In the report Bloody Harvest (released in July 2006 and since published as a revised report and then a book), they concluded the allegations were true. They estimated that in the years 2000–2005, Falun Gong practitioners had provided organs for 41,500 transplantations.
Among other pieces of evidence, Kilgour and Matas pointed to the following: unexplained blood tests and medical exams given to detained Falun Gong practitioners, but not to other prisoners; phone admissions by doctors in China in 2006 that they had or could get access to “fresh organs” from Falun Gong practitioners; the way in which the number of transplants done in China shot upward after the persecution of Falun Gong began in China; and the absence of any other source other than Falun Gong practitioners that could provide the organs for this rapid increase.
Bloody Harvest understands the forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners to be part of the persecution of Falun Gong launched by then-paramount leader Jiang Zemin in 1999.
Falun Gong involves practicing meditative exercises and seeking to become a better person by living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. After first being publicly taught in 1992, it rapidly became very popular. According to official Chinese state reports at the time, at least 70 million people had taken up the practice. Practitioners say the true number was over 100 million.
Jiang feared how popular Falun Gong had become—more were practicing it than were members of the Chinese Communist Party. He also feared that the traditional moral teachings of Falun Gong would erode the authority of the Communist Party’s atheist ideology.
David Matas is well-positioned to gauge how the public is responding to the forced organ harvesting taking place in China. In an email, Matas wrote that he had traveled “almost continuously” for more than seven years—since completing Bloody Harvest in July 2006—meeting with groups and politicians to tell them about these crimes against humanity.
He wrote that when he returns to a location after time has lapsed, he can see that awareness of organ harvesting, and activism opposing it, has increased, with more concern at higher levels of society. “The story of organ transplant abuse in China has, over the years, spread wider, higher, and deeper,” Matas wrote.
“There is a gathering global momentum finally to set in place the mechanisms to prevent the transplant abuse we have seen and continue to see in China.” Matas wrote. “The petition both reflects and adds to the momentum.”
That momentum has recently broken through in several legislatures. On Dec. 7 legislation was introduced in the Canadian Parliament that would sanction those involved in organ trafficking. On Dec. 12, the European Parliament is scheduled to vote on a resolution condemning organ harvesting. On Dec. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives is also expected to vote on a resolution condemning organ harvesting.
A state in Australia is considering legislation that would prohibit individuals from receiving organs harvested from unwilling victims. New legislation has been discussed in France. In Sweden recently, 20 MPs took part in a brainstorming session that discussed possible new legislation.
“Out of the Chinese Communist Party’s killing of Falun Gong for their organs will arise a global legacy, an ethical global organ transplantation system,” Matas wrote. “That legacy will survive long after the Communist Party of China is a bitter, distant memory.”
Additional reporting by Allen Zhou
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Petition to the UN Human Rights High Commissioner .
Calling for an Immediate End of Forced Organ.
Harvesting From Falun Gong Practitioners.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) performs the second-highest number of organ transplants per country per year, yet there exist no sufficient public organ donation program or organ distribution system in China, and the Chinese population has a cultural aversion to donation.
It is understood that medical professionals in the People’s Republic of China began conducting organ transplants with the use of organs that were harvested from executed prisoners in the 1980s. In June 2001, Chinese Dr. Wang Guoqi testified before the House International Affairs Subcommittee that hospitals worked in collusion with state security agencies to extract organs from executed prisoners without written consent of the donors. These transplants became a lucrative source of income for Chinese hospitals.
The practice of sourcing organs from nonconsenting prisoners is a violation of medical ethics and has been condemned by international medical organizations, such as the WMA, TTS and the transplant community.
In order to protect their families and associates, while in detention, many Falun Gong prisoners refuse to provide their real names or other identifying information. This makes them more of a target for transplant abuse.
In 2006, Canadian researchers human-rights attorney David Matas and former Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David Kilgour conducted an investigation into allegations of organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners. Based on extensive circumstantial evidence, their report concluded that the allegations were true, and that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners may have been killed for their organs.
In their book Bloody Harvest, Messrs. Matas and Kilgour quote a 2006 phone recording of a doctor from a Chinese hospital:
Caller: I want to know how long [the patients] have to wait [for a liver transplant].
Dr. Dai: The supply of organs we have, we have every day. We do them every day.
Caller: We want fresh, live ones.
Dr. Dai: They are all live, all live…
Caller: I heard some come from those who practice Falun Gong, those who are very healthy.
Dr. Dai: Yes, we have. I can’t talk openly to you over the phone.
Caller: If you can find me this type, I am coming very soon.
Dr. Dai: It’s OK. Please come.
After 1999, an exponential increase of transplantations in China coincided with the onset of the unlawful and brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. In the absence of a public organ-donation program and a decrease in the number of executions, detained Falun Gong practitioners became part of a living pool of donors, ready to be organ harvested on demand. They have been contributing to the more than 10,000 transplants per year in China.
Falun Gong practitioners are subject to medical examinations while in detention, such as blood tests, urine tests, X‑rays, and physical exams. These examinations are unlikely to be motivated by health care concerns since detained Falun Gong practitioners are subject to persecution and torture. It is implausible that the detention centers would go to the extra expense for the exams unless there were financial returns.
There is a significant discrepancy between the number of organ transplants performed in China and the number of identifiable sources of organs, including death row prisoners. The PRC government has failed to adequately account for the sources of these organs.
Senior Chinese Communist Party officials are complicit in the forced organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners. In 2012, David Matas said at the annual conference of the International Association of Genocide Scholars in San Francisco:
“On Nov. 30, 1999, the ‘610 Office’ [in China] called more than 3,000 officials to the Great Hall of the People in the capital to discuss the campaign against Falun Gong, which was then not going well. Demonstrations were continuing to occur at Tiananmen Square. The head of the ‘610 Office’, Li Lanqing, announced the government’s new policy on the movement:‘Defame their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.’
A call to destroy Falun Gong physically is a call to genocide. It is not admittedly a call to genocide through sourcing their organs. Nonetheless, when that sourcing occurs, in the context of a call for physical destruction, the two should be linked. Organ sourcing is the means. Physical destruction is the intent.”
Under the format of “executing prisoners”, killing people to harvest their organs for transplantation is a crime against humanity and a breach of medical ethics. The demand for transplant organs must not justify the means.
Falun Gong practitioners, the largest group of prisoners of conscience in China, are the main targets of this crime against humanity.
By Matthew Robertson
From the frigid northern plains of Heilongjiang, to the far-flung west of Tibet, and all across China’s heartland, the Chinese Communist Party is reinvigorating a campaign to forcibly transform the thoughts of millions of practitioners of a traditional spiritual discipline.
Every corner of society is to be folded into the movement, according to dozens of Party directives posted on government and Party websites. Even places of education and healing, like the Jiangmen Middle School and the Beijing Friendship Hospital, are expected to take part.
“Enter villages. Enter households. Enter schools. Enter government organs. Enter businesses. Enter the Party cells in the migrant population,” says one notice on the website of a township in the city of Chongqing. “Carrying out the ‘2013 to 2015 Final Battle on Education and Transformation’ is the scientific decision made by the Party Central based on the current struggle,” explains another notice.
Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), the Chinese spiritual practice being targeted, has been persecuted in China since 1999. Jiang Zemin, the Party leader at the time, launched the campaign, and until late 2012 he or his protégés ensured its continuation. Now, this “Final Battle” from 2013 to 2015, is the first time that a nationwide mobilization against Falun Gong has been launched under the rule of Party chief Xi Jinping.
Key members of the security services, who had served the political wishes of former Party leader Jiang Zemin, have been removed this year. Given that the persecution of Falun Gong was personally pushed forward and led by Jiang, it was thought that after his protégés no longer held power, the persecution would by-and-by subside.
Incomplete statistics produced by Minghui.org, a Falun Gong website, do indicate a diminishment in instances of arrests, imprisonment, and torture. And the labor camp system, which had for over a decade handled large numbers of Falun Gong detainees, has in some areas of China quietly been retired this year.
But the new campaign indicates that short of an explicit decision to stop the persecution by the Politburo Standing Committee, the Party’s top leadership organ, it will simply continue being given energy, according to Yiyang Xia, the senior director of Research and Policy on China, with the Human Rights Law Foundation based in Washington, D.C.
“Apart from the Cultural Revolution, which almost destroyed the Party, basically no political movement like this has been overturned,” he said.
The Communist Party’s budget for domestic security was over $120 billion this year, according to official figures.
The officials carrying out the campaign against Falun Gong tap into this budget. “There are several hundred thousand security officials whose livelihoods and benefits come from this persecution, so they are eager to have new campaigns,” said Yiyang Xia.
He added that with 14 years having passed since the beginning of the persecution, a large group of beneficiaries in the Party has formed, which actively push it forward, because they gain power and wealth by doing so.
Liang Xiaojun, a human rights lawyer in China who has taken Falun Gong cases, said there are three reasons the campaign is continuing: The first is momentum: “There has been an ongoing persecution, and no one said anything to stop it. Second, as a totalitarian state, the Party needs to create enemies. The third is profit: People who work on persecuting Falun Gong gain financial profit from it.”
Falun Gong is a spiritual practiced based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It has five slow-motion exercises. At its peak in the late 1990s, there were, according to official figures, over 70 million people practicing it, more than were members of the Communist Party. Practitioners say more than 100 million had taken up the practice.
The chief method that Chinese police and security forces will use to carry out the campaign is called “legal education,” or in the vernacular, brainwashing.
It involves detaining and isolating Falun Gong adherents, and then forcing them to read or watch Communist Party propaganda against the practice. This supplements sleep deprivation and physical torture, sometimes of an extreme kind—shocks with electric batons, stress positions, and burning are often reported.
Corinna-Barbara Francis, a China researcher at Amnesty International, noted that labor camps were the chief instruments for carrying out the last transformation campaign against Falun Gong, running from 2010 to 2012. With the decommissioning of some labor camps, “my assumption is that they’re going to send them to these study classes,” she said, referring to the brainwashing facilities set up on a largely ad hoc basis by local Party authorities.
Duihua, a human rights group based in San Francisco that researches China, said that these facilities are even less legally codified than labor camps, and operate outside any set of official laws.
The Final Battle is an official campaign ordered by the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party, likely based on a document prepared by the 610 Office, an extralegal Party organ tasked with stamping out Falun Gong, according to Yiyang Xia, who has studied the operations of the Party’s security campaigns.
But despite it being an official campaign, the entire operation is in fact illegal according to Chinese law, say lawyers.
“Such a document is evidence of suppressing human rights,” said Liang Xiaojun, the lawyer. “Government officials who have learnt a little law should know that it’s illegal to give such orders. People have freedom of religion and freedom of speech” according to the constitution, he said.
Tang Jitian, a rights lawyer, said, “There is absolutely no question that this has no legal basis.” Properly understood, the activities of the security forces should be classed as “forced disappearances, kidnapping,” Tang said.
Analysts familiar with the operations of the Communist Party say that the directives found all over the Internet on local government websites should not have been there in the first place.
“I’m not involved in the operations. I just take care of Web information,” said a website administrator in Jinhe Town, Shaanxi Province, reached by telephone. “The document is ordered level after level from the central authorities. The State Council promotes open information, so, any government information that’s not marked secret is all published on the website.”
Yiyang Xia notes that no provincial level governments put the information on their websites—only very low-level government offices, who don’t understand the rules properly, do so, he said.
Nevertheless, those implementing the campaign are told they have to do a good job. “There are strict evaluations of the … [anti-Falun Gong] campaign every year,” says a notice in Yunyang County, Chongqing. “If any community doesn’t actively organize … [anti-Falun Gong] activities and can’t finish the education and transformation of students, the authorities will seriously seek out the persons in charge.”
Tao Decai, the leader of the anti-Falun Gong activities at the Zhongshan Middle School, in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, was reached by telephone and asked how the campaign was going.
“We’ve sent out surveys to students to take home,” he said, meaning that students had to check whether anyone in their families practiced Falun Gong. Tao was not willing to answer further questions, and ended the call.
Like any nationwide mobilization embarked upon by a communist government, this one has a lot of quotas.
A notice from the Dunren Street neighborhood Communist Party office, in Chongqing, says: “Every year, over 20 percent of the stubborn targets must undergo education-study classes one time. Their recidivism rate must be less than 3 percent.”
Yunyang County said that over 90 percent of the neighborhoods there must have a 90 percent conversion rate.
Xintunzi Town in Jilin Province, in China’s north, sets a far more ambitious goal. “To convert all the unconverted Falun Gong adherents by the end of 2015. Continue propaganda that exposes and criticizes Falun Gong.”
The earnestness of the Party’s attempt to psychologically transform a large group of peaceful individuals, coupled with the ongoing failure of the campaign to actually achieve its objective, has been a subject of puzzlement and sometimes amusement by observers.
Liang Xiaojun, the Chinese lawyer, said he thought the campaign was “very ridiculous.” “It’s impossible for the Party to achieve its goal to transform all Falun Gong practitioners,” he said.
“They’ve been trying so hard to make this group disappear, but after so much effort, the effect isn’t what they wanted, and now it’s become an international issue,” said Tang Jitian, another rights lawyer in China. “They tried it and failed, and now they have a sense of crisis.”
He added: “Their requirements are high, and they want the work to be done enthusiastically and energetically, so there are some comical aspects to it. But using violence to change people’s thoughts and ideas, in reality it doesn’t really work.”
Lu Chen contributed reporting. Ariel Tian and Frank Fang contributed research.
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Tags: books, CCP, censorship, China, Culture, Falun Gong, human rights, IT and Media, Society
By Zhou Xing
Jason Q. Ng, a Google Policy Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, introduced his new book “Blocked on Weibo” on Aug. 29. The book reveals a large number of keywords censored by Chinese authorities on the Chinese microblog service Weibo.
Since 2011, Ng has spent nearly two years studying blocked keywords. He told the Epoch Times that among the 1,500 blacklisted words, 500 are unique, 150 of which are listed in his book. He believes he can help readers understand how Chinese netizens use the Internet by using various approaches to collect data from Weibo.
Ng said it’s sometimes difficult to predict which words will be blocked or why they are blocked, but those critical of the authorities are usually chosen.
For example, “tank” is associated with the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989, and so it is not surprising it should be blocked. But once the phrase “rich woman” was blocked. “Rich woman” was associated with Guo Meimei, a young woman who flaunted wealth and claimed she was an officer with the Chinese Red Cross. This combination of words rapidly circulated on the Internet, then it was blocked.
‘Canadian French’ Becomes a Forbidden Phrase
Ng’s research shows that Chinese authorities included proper names, place names, and some unlikely phrases in its censorship. The name Jiang Yanyong was blocked because he disclosed the fact that the Communist Party was concealing the SARS epidemic in 2003. Kashi, a place in Xinjiang where riots and conflicts often occur, is also blocked.
An unlikely phrase, “Canadian French,” is taboo on China’s Weibo because the Chinese pronunciation of “Canadian French” is “Jia Na Da Fa Yu” which contains two characters “Da Fa,” a term used in “Falun Dafa,” a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline.
Since 1999, the Chinese authorities have brutally persecuted practitioners of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong). The Communist Party has used the entire mainland Chinese media network to paint an image of Falun Dafa as mad and evil, while censoring Falun Dafa books and any materials that give an accurate description of Falun Dafa. Because the phrase “Canadian French” contains the two characters “Da Fa,” it has been deemed worthy of censorship.
Coincidentally, Ng’s study also found that “Renmin University of China Law School,” a Communist Party institution, also contains the characters “Da Fa,” so it was censored for the same reason that Canadian French was censored.
Ng notes that Western countries meet their citizens’ needs with fewer restrictions on the free flow of information, but China maintains strict control.
“I believe that Chinese citizens want more freedom of speech, but they still have no chance to participate in the discussion on network control.” Ng said.
Ng was very interested in how much the Communist Party invested in network control. He said that there must be at least 100,000 people censoring words on Weibo, because some blocking occurs within seconds after the nearly 600 million Weibo users have circulated the word(s).
Even the title of Ng’s book was deleted within a few minutes of being posted by a Weibo user. Ng said that even if the posted text were converted into a picture, it would still be censored.
Written in English by Arleen Richards.
Read the original Chinese article.
Tags: Body & Mind, CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Matthew Robertson
It is the latest attempt by the Chinese authorities to give a veneer of credibility to their organ transplant industry: new regulations. But the long anticipated rules about how organs should be procured and allocated, made public on Sept. 1, still don’t answer a few basic questions.
They do not explain, for example, whether the organs of executed prisoners will be included in the registry of organs that the authorities say they are establishing.
It was not until 2008 that Huang Jiefu, the then-Chinese vice-minister of health, acknowledged publicly and in writing that the Chinese transplant system relied heavily (to the tune of 90 percent) on organs from executed prisoners.
That was two years after reports emerged that prisoners of conscience, overwhelmingly practitioners of Falun Gong, a persecuted spiritual group, were the targets of widespread organ harvesting.
It was also nearly a decade after credible testimony was given that the Chinese system widely used death row prisoners. For many years, the Chinese authorities simply said that all organs from China came from voluntary donations, and attacked those who suggested otherwise.
Now, the authorities have admitted that they did in fact take organs from prisoners, and without consent—though they have never admitted to the harvesting of Falun Gong.
Chinese medical officials this year said that they intend to “phase out the dependency on organs from executed prisoners,” rather than promise to immediately cease the practice, as would be in line with international medical ethics.
Will executed prisoners be part of the organ registration system? It is unclear. Article II of the regulations says that it applies to all “citizens.” Do prisoners count?
The South China Morning Post quotes an unnamed surgeon saying that organs harvested from prisoners would enter the electronic allocation system. But China Daily, a state mouthpiece, says that only organs from the “general public” will be registered.
If the new system, called China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS), did include executed prisoners, it would make it a very simple matter to launder the organs of Falun Gong detainees by representing them as death row prisoners.
Organ donation registration fraud in hospitals has been reported in the Chinese media, and official institutions in China are widely seen to lack probity and credibility. The security apparatus, and the military-medical complex, in particular, which have been heavily involved in organ harvesting, are notoriously secretive.
The regulations, moreover, do not provide any real transparency to the allocation process. The idea that the source of organs can be verified is bedrock for the trust that, for example, the United States organ donation system is based on.
Verification of the source is also a condition that the World Health Organization and The Transplantation Society, both international health groups that are attempting to work with the Chinese regime on its organ transplantation system, require from countries. They have shown little appetite for challenging Chinese authorities on their practices, however.
If organs were still “harvested and allocated in secrecy,” as Arne Schwarz, an independent researcher, put it, it would mean that none of the promises made by the authorities could be tested or trusted.
Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH), a medical advocacy group that typically attempts to strike a reserved tone, published a press release showing exasperation at what has become an exercise in avoidance by the Chinese regime.
China’s announcement of phasing out the harvesting of organs from prisoners is deceptive and insufficient, they titled the statement.
DAFOH’s primary problem with the regulations was similar to the issues articulated by Schwarz: no external safeguards or monitoring, and a miasma of ambiguity about whether unethically procured organs would be allowed into the new computerized system.
Failing to obtain these two items, DAFOH said, “We might need to ask ourselves, if China were successful in using a computerized organ-allocation system, whether the announcement of a phaseout is like a Trojan Horse that undermines and dilutes our ethical standards.”
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, IT and Media, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Li Zhen, Epoch Times, Cheryl Ng, Epoch Times and Karen Tsang
HONG KONG—A campaign of anonymous phone calls made on Sept. 11 and 12 sought to discredit Epoch Times and drive off its advertisers. This phone campaign follows upon earlier, similar efforts using letters and text messages.
According to the Epoch Times sales manager, Ms. Lu Jie, on Sept. 11 and 12, clients of the Chinese-language Epoch Times received anonymous, harassing calls several times a day. Some of the calls took place at midnight or in the early morning.
The Epoch Times offices also received the same calls on the evening of Sept. 11, and calls were also made to the personal phones of Epoch Times staff. Some missed calls showed the number the call was from. When called back, the other end of the line played the tape that had been heard when similar calls had been picked up.
The tape starts by saying the call is from Epoch Times, and thanks clients for advertising with the paper. The tone then changes and, Lu said, what follows is identical to a tape that has been played for months in Hong Kong over loudspeakers by the Hong Kong Youth Care Association.
According to Hong Kong’s Next magazine, the Hong Kong Youth Care Association is a Chinese Communist Party front group that shares office space and staff with the 610 Office in Shenzhen, just across the border in mainland China. The 610 Office is an extra-legal Party organization created for the purpose of eradicating the Falun Gong spiritual practice.
Since June 2012, the Youth Care Association has besieged Falun Gong practitioners on the streets of Hong Kong, attempting to cover the Falun Gong booths with giant banners that slander the practice, while shouting at, cursing, and, at times, physically abusing the practitioners.
The tape played in this recent round of phone calls and by the Youth Care Association over their loudspeakers repeats the propaganda used by the CCP in its attempts to demonize Falun Gong.
Before this phone campaign, some clients have also received threatening letters and text messages with similar content aimed at stopping clients from buying ads from Epoch Times. The letters were signed “Hong Kong Anti-cult Alliance,” but no such organization is registered in Hong Kong.
Lu said the Youth Care Association has also hired people to steal Epoch Times newspapers from racks. She believes the phone calls, text messages, and letters are simply another tactic by the same group.
“This new move only highlights the CCP’s fear of truthful reporting and exposes its malice,” said Lu.
She said that the effect of the harassing phone calls was the opposite of what the CCP intended. “Readers, clients, and the general public have gotten in touch with Epoch Times and offered support,” Lu said. “They praise our paper for having a conscience and truthfully reporting the facts.”
“On Sept. 12 we reported these incidents to the police, and we are demanding a full investigation,” Lu said.
Interference With the Free Market
One of Epoch Times’ clients, the executive director of Goldentime Property Agency, Wong Sau-yim, is very angry with the CCP’s tactics. He said he first received text messages, then letters, then long-distance harassing calls. And he has reported these to the police.
“First of all, I am a businessman and a Buddhist.” Wong said angrily. “Epoch Times is a legal, local newspaper, and, after advertising on Epoch Times, I received calls from mainland clients, some of whom are from elite society.
“I have more business now and really enjoy the benefit from it. If you ask me not to advertise on Epoch Times, isn’t it cutting my business? Isn’t it a violent interference in the free market?”
Wong stressed that advertising is a business decision, and this kind of harassment is a violation of a person’s freedom.
When Wong reported these incidents to the police, they did not do any further investigation. They said the matter only involved a letter and should be processed as a civil case.
But Wong said this is a criminal case, because it has violated his personal freedom and the freedom of Hong Kongers. “This is not a civil matter,” Wong said. “The government should sue them!”
He urged all the merchants who have been harassed to report to the police.
Concern For Hong Kong
Woo Lai Wan, chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, expressed great concern.
“As a journalist or news organization, if someone counterfeits messages in someone or some company’s name, despite the content, this conduct is deceit,” Wu Lai Wan said. “If such a message has caused recipients nuisance and fear, then I believe this is likely to be a criminal intimidation. Therefore we urge the police to investigate this case right away.”
Freedom of the press is protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law, Woo Lai Wan said. Speaking directly to those responsible, she said, “Do not let yourself be involved in such illegal and dangerous actions.”
Legislative Council member Mr. Leung Yiu-chung denounced the harassment and slander in the messages directed at Epoch Times and urged police to do a thorough investigation. He also looked to Hong Kong’s leadership for the underlying causes of the incident.
He said that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (no relation to Leung Yiu-chung) has been trying to govern Hong Kong like the CCP, creating all sorts of conflicts and triggering public resentment.
“I hope such a thing will not happen again, because Hong Kong has become worse,” Leung Yiu-chung said. “Such things make people jittery and undermine their normal life which is most unfortunate and most unwanted.”
Leung Yiu Chung sees the phone calls and other messages aimed Epoch Times as raising fundamental issues for all of Hong Kong.
We must respect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press…If we lose it, Hong Kong will have only one voice and one view from autocracy. – Legislative Councilor Leung Yiu-chung
“We must respect the freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Leung Yiu-chung said. “This is the core value of Hong Kong.
“Besides, different voices and different points of views are what the people want to hear. If we lose it, Hong Kong will have only one voice and one view from autocracy.”
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Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, Kilgour and Matas, labor camps, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
China’s 5000-year-old civilization deserves the respect of the entire world. This talk is about governance and violence committed by its current party-state since 1949 on those deemed its opponents, which has most recently resulted in large scale pillaging of organs from Falun Gong practitioners for commercial transplantation purposes. No Falun Gong “donors” survive transplantation operations anywhere in China because both kidneys and all other vital organs are invariably seized and their bodies are then cremated.
David Matas and I located 52 kinds of direct and circumstantial proof about this commerce occurring since 2001. For the period 2000-2005 alone, we concluded that for 41,500 transplants the only plausible explanation for sourcing was Falun Gong. We arrived at this figure by deducting from the government figure of 60,000 transplantations over the six-year period, which appears accurate, the best estimate available about executed convicts (18,550) for the same years.
In the 2012 book, State Organs, researcher/writer Ethan Gutmann’s best estimate is that about 65,000 Falun Gong were killed for their organs during the years 2000-2008, selected from about 1.2 million practitioners he considers were interned in China’s forced labour system (Laogai). A police signature is sufficient to send anyone to the camps for up to three years. As Mark Mackinnon of Canada’s Globe and Mail put it recently, “No charges, no lawyers, no appeals.” In 2007, a U.S. government report estimated that at least half of the inmates in 340 camps were Falun Gong. Leninist governance and “anything is permitted” economics created the conditions for organ trafficking to occur and persist today.
Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) is a spiritual discipline, which seeks to improve health and ethics. It contains features of traditional systems, like Chinese Qigong, Buddhism and Daoism, combined with a set of gentle exercises. Because it grew astonishingly rapidly in popularity from its inception in 1992, former Party head Jiang Zemin saw it as a threat, labeled it a cult, and commenced persecution against its practitioners from mid-1999 on.
After 1980, the post-Mao Party began withdrawing funds from the health system across China, requiring it to make up the shortfall from service charges to mostly uninsured patients. Selling the organs of executed convicts became a source of income for surgeons, the military and other participants. After 1999, Falun Gong prisoners of conscience became a vast live organ bank for wealthy Chinese patients and “organ tourists” from abroad, the former often preferring that the “donors” were Falun Gong, being normally healthy persons.
Matas and I visited about a dozen countries to interview Falun Gong practitioners sent to China’s forced labour camps, who later managed to leave the camps and the country. Practitioners told us of working in appalling conditions in camps for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay and little food, crowded sleeping conditions and torture. They made a range of export products as subcontractors to multinational companies. This is both gross corporate irresponsibility and a violation of WTO rules; it shrieks for an effective response by all trading partners of China. Each government should ban forced labour exports by enacting legislation which places an onus on importers in each country to prove their goods are not made by slaves.
The responsible international community should nonetheless engage as constructively as feasible with the new government in Beijing, while pressing it to end organ pillaging.
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Science
By Matthew Robertson
Originally he’d only planned to speak for five minutes, about the recently-concluded Boao economic forum. But as he began recalling the details of torture recently revealed in a Chinese magazine article, well-known television host Cao Baoyin went on for over 20.
“Curse the Boao forum!” Cao said at the beginning of the video, using an actual Chinese curse word. He had just read the article after coming home from his day job on April 9, and needed to speak out. Cao is a television personality and a columnist for Beijing News, a major newspaper in the capital.
At a number of points in his talk he visibly struggled to hold back tears. At one point he held up a board that he’d written a number of the main torture methods on.
“Hell on earth,” he had titled it. He announced the techniques one by one: “Small room,” “inmate-monitors,” “electric shocks,” “death bed,” “tiger bench,” while rapping on each with his Chinese fan.
“Behind every word there’s blood, inhumanity, lawlessness, immorality, and naked barbarism,” he said, before elaborating on specifically how Chinese communist prison guards use the “hanging an airplane” torture against inmates in the Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp.
Cao was one of the hundreds of thousands of Chinese to read and react to a recent article about that labor camp, published in the Chinese magazine Lens, which is known for its photography.
The article detailed the brutal torture methods applied against inmates, most of whom are practitioners of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual discipline that has been persecuted since 1999. The article did not mention Falun Gong—the persecution of the spiritual practice is off limits for China’s media.
The fact that the piece was published at all was stunning to many. Masanjia is known to have devised many of the extreme torture methods used to break the wills of Falun Gong practitioners, and then taught them to other labor camps.
Cao Baoyin spoke about how prisoners who go on hunger strikes are treated. “They tie them to a ‘death bed’ and use metal pliers to force open their mouths. Some of the victims have their teeth knocked out because of that. Even some of the workers ask for the day shift, so they don’t have to witness it when it happens at night.”
He became agitated and focused on the camera: “The ‘death bed,’ that’s really going to kill people. But in this women’s labor camp, if you die they don’t even care. They think the prisoners’ lives are worth less than flies. Women do this to other women, except that because some of them wear a uniform they can act like beasts, doing this crazy torture. Are these still people? Even beasts don’t do this to one another. When you hear all this, can you say it’s not hell on earth?!”
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Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Matthew Robertson
When a long news article is published in China explaining in detail how torture implements with names like the “Tiger Bench” and the “Death Bed” are used against prisoners in a labor camp, you can bet that it wasn’t by accident.
But whatever the thoughts were of those in the Chinese Communist Party who authorized an April 6 article in Lens Magazine, known for its photography, about the Masanjia Labor Camp, it’s unlikely they could have predicted the reaction: an online outpouring by hundreds of thousands, furious at the authorities for what the article depicted. The piece was quickly deleted from web portals.
The roughly 20,000 word article landed amidst discussion about reform or abolishment of the labor camp system in China, and relates the personal experiences of a number of former Masanjia detainees, describing some of the extraordinary torture they were subjected to.
These include how prisoners were shocked with electric batons, starved, hung up by handcuffs, forced to squat in small spaces, clubbed by guards, and tied onto tiger benches and death beds for further torture.
The publication of the piece is surprising because of the clutch of significant and sensitive issues it touches on: most prominently, the persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been targeted since 1999, and which constitutes the primary population at the Masanjia camp, in northeastern China. It also highlights the ongoing struggle between the old guard of Jiang Zemin, the former Party head responsible for the persecution, and the new leadership of Xi Jinping. And it appears to give powerful ammunition to those in China who would argue for the abolishment of all labor camps.
The details of the torture depicted in the article make clear why.
A number of the vivid and gruesome depictions in the article came from diaries that were written by the female captives while at Masanjia, and smuggled out through bodily cavities.
Liu Hua was one of the women who wrote a “Diary of Re-Education Through Labor,” and got it out.
She describes one incident when she was stripped naked and shocked on the tongue with electric batons. According to a translation by Minghui, a Falun Gong website, she said: “It was one shock after another. The electricity ran through me. My heart pounded so hard, so unsteady. Electricity was applied to the tip of the tongue, like needles piercing into it. I could not stand steadily, and I couldn’t even try to.”
She was also made to work, matching nearly thousands of collars and cuffs every day.
Other accounts in the article described inmates being hung up on bunk beds by their arms and legs, and being left for sometimes a week.
Food for the prisoners was abysmal, consisting of only a meager serving of vegetables and rice.
The Unnamed Victims
The article made one oblique mention of the identity of the victims: it says that a victim “confirmed with a Lens reporter that the ‘Tiger Bench’ and the ‘Death Bed’ are both implements used in the labor camp. The former was originally used for a special group, and later was used on regular inmates. The latter is equipment used on inmates that hunger strike.”
It’s an open secret that Masanjia is most well known for its persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong, who are specifically targeted by the camp, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center. The “special group” referred to is almost certainly Falun Gong, analysts say.
Minghui, one of the main Falun Gong websites, noted the publication of the article. “This is quite a remarkable occurrence because none of these horrific stories of torture, brainwashing and forced labor have ever before been admitted, much less reported, in mainland Chinese media.”
Minghui has registered thousands of cases of torture in Masanjia alone.
Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center, noted that the treatment described in the Lens report “is stuff we’ve been talking about for more than 12 years.”
He added that, given that the Lens article validates the Information Center’s work, “we hope that people will pay attention to the things they didn’t cover, like the show tours, throwing women into male jail cells, and Masanjia being a groundbreaking entity for training and leading the way for torture.”
In interviews with victims from Masanjia, the Information Center found that the facility was unusual for a number of reasons: It is one of the few camps where guards and Party agents do most of the hands-on torture themselves, rather than coercing or incentivizing other prisoners to do so.
It is also “literally a training ground,” Browde said. “They fly other labor camp officials to Masanjia to learn ways to break Falun Gong practitioners.”
The treatment of the article by Chinese Internet censors has been sometimes contradictory. Searches for “Masanjia” on Sina Weibo, a major Twitter-like microblogging service, were at first allowed, and then restricted, and then free.
A hash-tag topic about the article was created — but later it disappeared. As of 1 a.m. Beijing time on April 10, it was available, aggregating the thousands of comments and forwards the news has received. Previously, a search for Masanjia only yielded a few hundred hits, indicating that censorship was loosened.
After publication, the article was immediately posted on a number of Chinese web portals — but soon after disappeared. The 70,000 comments on Sohu were still active, however, even though the article had been deleted.
Even People’s Daily Online, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, included the story in its “hot topics” news list on April 8. The news was ranked first, with a total of over 500,000 comments. That too later disappeared.
Lens continued to carry its chilling double-page spread, a photograph of the monolithic labor camp, on its website, on April 10 local time.
“It seems as though the Propaganda Department only reacted after the fact, but the news was already out,” said Wen Zhao, an analyst of contemporary Chinese affairs with NTD Television, an independent broadcaster.
He noted the fact that under the immense pressure of the news, Liaoning Province authorities gave a terse announcement that they would launch an investigation. “This kind of internal investigation will no doubt gather a lot of evidence, but whether or not it’ll be published, or how far they will take it — we can only watch and wait.”
Wen Zhao added: “There are hundreds of labor camps in China, all doing things along the same lines as Masanjia.”
“This is a blow to those in the Party trying to stop labor camp reform,” said independent political analyst Tang Jingyuan, in an interview with Epoch Times.
He said that the appearance of the article on People’s Daily Online “to a certain degree” reflects the thinking of top Party leaders.
But the fact that it was soon deleted “also shows that the Party has not reached a consensus, and that the resistance to abolishing the labor camp system is still terribly ferocious.”
Browde said that now is the time for the West to start publicly discussing the persecution of Falun Gong. “There are clearly people in China that want to get the truth out about Masanjia, and perhaps the persecution more broadly,” he said. “Now it’s critically important that journalists and others take that momentum they’ve created, at great risk to themselves, and don’t let their efforts sputter out.”
Tags: CCP, China, Culture, documentary, film, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
The documentary “Free China: The Courage to Believe,” co-produced by NTD, screened at the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on Tuesday. The film is about a man and a woman who practice Falun Gong. They are imprisoned and tortured for standing up for their beliefs in China.
The film exposes some of the abuses behind China’s economic success—like slave labour—showing the cruel conditions in China’s forced labour camps.
The woman in the film, Jennifer Zeng was thrown into a Chinese labour camp because she practices Falun Gong. It’s a meditation practice the Chinese regime has been persecuting since 1999. In the labour camp she was forced to make handmade toy bunnies, shoes, Christmas lights and other products that are sold in the West.
[Jennifer Zeng, Main Character in Free China]:
“I hope that international companies must become aware. What kind of business partner and the whole environment inside there is? This is a state sanction system to use innocent people as free slavery that makes profit for the [Chinese Communist] Party. And the international companies and consumers overseas I think unknowingly become part of this. I don’t think they want to become part of this.”
China has the world’s second largest economy and is becoming increasingly more important in the world.
The producer of the film, Kean Wong and Jennifer pointed out that a better economy in China does not automatically grant freedom of speech for the Chinese people.
[Kean Wong, Producer]
“You are dealing with a mafia that is willing to kill their own people. They don’t really care about your company. They want to do business with you, make as much money as they can and eventually steal your market share.”
Kean Wong says that companies today that are doing business with China can no longer put all the responsibility on politicians to work for human rights in China.
[Kean Wong, Producer]
“If you don’t create an environment that is open, that is human, that allows freedom of speech as we are given here in Sweden and around the world, you can not have a proper trading partner.”
Several members of the Swedish Parliament, across party lines, support the film.
[Boriana Åberg, Member of Swedish Parliament]:
“While there is one single person who is denied human rights, the rest of us have to fight and stand up for those values of freedom, to say what you think, express yourselves, write without fear of being thrown into prison or in labour camps like Jennifer here.”
The award-winning documentary “Free China: The Courage to Believe” is directed by Michael Pearlman. Free China has also been screened at the European Parliament and the at the United States’ Congress.
The film team is planning to release “Free China” for threatrical release this summer.
NTD News Stockholm, Sweden