Secretary Clinton Urged to Call for Release of Falun Gong Prisoners of Conscience During China Visit

NEW YORK – The Falun Dafa Information Center is calling upon U.S. Secretary of State Clinton to press Chinese officials to end the 10-year campaign against Falun Gong and release all Falun Gong prisoners of conscience during her visit to China this weekend.

“We urge Secretary Clinton to restate, in unequivocal terms, the U.S. position that the government of China must immediately end the persecution, arbitrary detention, and torture of ordinary Chinese citizens who practice Falun Gong,” says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Gail Rachlin. “Falun Gong adherents remain the largest population of prisoners of conscience in China today, all are at risk of severe torture and even death in custody. As a world leader in promoting human rights, it is imperative that the U.S. make clear to the Chinese regime that such treatment of its own citizens is unacceptable.”

Since 1999, when the Chinese regime launched its campaign to “eradicate” Falun Gong, the Department of State’s annual human rights report has regularly detailed large-scale arbitrary detention, sexual abuse, torture, and death of Falun Gong practitioners at the hands of Chinese security agencies (see DOS report excerpts). The U.S. Congress has passed multiple resolutions condemning the persecution of Falun Gong. More recently, the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC) issued the following finding and recommendation in its 2008 annual report:

“The central government intensified its nine-year campaign of persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games...[The U.S. government should] call for the release of Chinese citizens confined, detained, or imprisoned in retaliation for pursuing their right to freedom of religion (including the right to hold and exercise spiritual beliefs)." (CECC report excerpts)

Three recent cases of adherents being released early following international campaigns on their behalf have reaffirmed the impact diplomatic and public pressure can have in ending the suffering of innocent individuals imprisoned for their faith.

In July, Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Bu Dongwei was released several months early from a Beijing labor camp; In October, Qin Shizhen was released from a special "re-education" class in Gansu after U.S. elected representatives wrote to the Chinese authorities; earlier this year, Wenjian Liang, sister of a British citizen, returned home two months early from a labor camp after pressure from British officials and Amnesty International urgent actions.

"When someone of Secretary Clinton's stature voices U.S. concern over the fate of Falun Gong practitioners, it creates an important layer of protection for them," says Rachlin. "But the opposite is also true - when mass rights abuses are met with silence and the perpetrators find they can act with impunity and without fear of international condemnation, the human costs are enormous. This is why we urge Secretary Clinton to use this important opportunity to call for Falun Gong practitioners' release."

Last week, the Falun Dafa Information Center released its Annual Report (online / download PDF), documenting a wide variety of rights violations against Falun Gong adherents that occurred in 2008.