1999 saw the most serious and wide-ranging crack-down on peaceful dissent in China for a decade. Thousands of people were arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or religion. Some were sentenced to long prison terms under draconian national security legislation and after unfair trials; others were assigned without trial to up to three years' detention in "re-education through labour" camps. Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners were widespread.
Repression of religious and spiritual groups
Thousands of members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were arbitrarily detained and put under pressure to renounce their beliefs. Some were reportedly tortured or ill-treated, resulting in at least one death. In July, the day after the Ministry of Civil Affairs announced that the Falun Gong movement would be banned for alleged "illegal activities", "promoting superstition" and "jeopardizing public security", at least 97 Falun Gong leaders and thousands of practitioners, many of them elderly women gathering for morning exercises, were detained in several cities. Many were released after being taken to stadiums for "education" sessions; some were beaten with electric batons.
Protests against the ban and arrests of practitioners continued over the following months. The crack-down intensified in October when changes to the law were introduced to outlaw cults. According to official sources, by 4 November at least 111 Falun Gong followers had been charged with crimes, but dozens more were charged subsequently. Hundreds of other practitioners were reported to have been sent without charge or trial to "re-education through labour" camps. In November, the first publicly reported trial of Falun Gong members took place in Hainan province. The four defendants, described as "key members" of the group, were accused of organizing "illegal" gatherings after the ban on the group and sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to 12 years.
For the full text of the report, see: http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=793C2872D57AA0B2802568E400729EE2&c=CHN