Amnesty International: 2001 Annual Report (excerpts)

Repression of spiritual and religious groups

Followers of the Falun Gong spiritual group faced detention, unfair trials, torture and imprisonment as part of the government's continuing crack-down on groups it considered to be ''heretical organizations''. Legislation was used retroactively to convict alleged leaders of the Falun Gong on politically driven charges and new regulations were introduced to further restrict fundamental freedoms. Since the Falun Gong was banned in July 1999, at least 93 adherents were believed to have died in police custody. Some of the deaths were a result of suicide or injuries inflicted during forcible feeding, but most were reported to have died as a result of torture. New arrests and detentions were reported daily throughout 2000. Thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of practitioners were believed to remain in detention at the end of the year. Many were assigned without trial to ''re-education through labour'' and some were detained in psychiatric hospitals.

The clamp-down on ''heretical organizations'' increasingly encompassed other Qi Gong and religious groups.

Torture/ill-treatment

Torture and ill-treatment of detainees remained widespread. Victims included both political detainees and criminal suspects. Incidents were reported in police stations, detention centres, prisons, labour camps, repatriation centres and drug rehabilitation centres. There were also frequent reports of the use of torture during non-custodial control measures such as ''residential supervision'' and during the ''special isolation'' of officials being investigated for alleged corruption.

Torture during interrogation was perpetrated against all types of detainees and was a component part of some high-profile anti-crime or political campaigns such as the crack-down on the Falun Gong.

The extent of deaths in custody as a result of torture remained largely unacknowledged by the authorities. In many cases, particularly those involving political prisoners or perceived enemies of the government, officials simply denied responsibility and no proper investigation was undertaken.

  • Chen Zixiu, a 60-year-old Falun Gong practitioner, reportedly died under torture in February while held by police in Weifang, Shandong province. Fellow detainees testified in detail about how she was tortured. According to her daughter, when the family came to fetch Chen Zixiu's body, it was covered in bruises, her teeth were broken and blood was coming out of her ears. Local police reportedly later claimed that she had ''died of a heart attack''.

Denial of due process and unfair trials

The authorities continued to flout the Criminal Procedure Law in many cases. Political defendants were routinely denied their right to due process and their lawyers were often subjected to pressure by the authorities.

  • Li Xiaobing and Li Xiaomei, two sisters from Beijing, were tried in secret in Beijing in January and sentenced to seven and six years' imprisonment respectively. The sisters were convicted of ''illegal trading'' in connection with the sale of Falun Gong publications. However, they were arrested on 20 July 1999 - two days before the Falun Gong, and therefore its literature, were banned. The two women were held for more than three months without charge, in violation of Chinese law, and denied access to their family. In August 1999, before formal charges had been laid, the official Xinhua news agency published accusations against them, showing clearly that they were already considered guilty. According to unofficial sources, their lawyer was put under pressure not to present a plea of ''not guilty'' at their trial.

Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR)

In December, on the eve of President Jiang Zemin's visit to celebrate the first anniversary of the MSAR, police occupied the home of Falun Gong organizer Lam Yatming, claiming they were searching for banned items, and detained democracy activist Lee Kinyuen. Peaceful Falun Gong gatherings were forcibly dispersed, and many local and foreign practitioners were detained. The Chief Executive promised to investigate allegations that police had beaten practitioners while removing them from the MSAR. President Jiang Zemin urged Macao to take concrete measures to defend Beijing's authority and prohibit activities against the central government.

For the full text of the report, see: http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=A70B94BE54959DDE80256A16004BE816&c=CHN