Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Carol Wickenkamp
Electric shock weapons, dart guns, stun shields, thumb cuffs, restraint chairs, and spiked batons are just some of the specialty weapons designed to inflict pain being exported by Chinese companies closely aligned with, or owned by the state, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
Some of the equipment discussed in the report, such as ordinary handcuffs and restraints, a limited number of controlled stun weapons, and certain blunt striking instruments, all have legitimate law enforcement purposes, the report says.
But many of the weapons are “intrinsically cruel, inhuman and degrading, and therefore should be prohibited” from manufacture in the first place, the report says.
There are currently no comprehensive international covenants governing the manufacture and export of police weapons, and part of Amnesty’s advocacy work following the report will be to begin establishing such a mechanism—with China perhaps serving as a negative example.
Read more: China Markets Tools of Torture
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, 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
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
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 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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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.
More in China Human Rights
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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This song wins 2013 “Best Song for Indie/Documentary Film” at Hollywood Music in Media Awards.
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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