Ms. Zhu Lijin (left), a 61-year-old mother of New Zealand citizen Salina Wang (right), was sentenced without trial in Tianjin and is at risk of torture.
New York – An elderly resident of the city of Tianjin was sentenced earlier this month to over one year in a labor camp after police found her distributing leaflets about Falun Gong. She is one of 15 local adherents sentenced in recent months to this particular camp and is at grave risk of torture, the Falun Dafa Information Center reported.
Ms. Zhu Lijin, a 61-year-old retired government worker and mother of a New Zealand citizen, was arrested from the streets of Tianjin on February 1, 2009 while distributing information about Falun Gong to passers by. Security agents then searched her home without a warrant, confiscating computer equipment and Falun Gong literature. Within less than two weeks, on February 16, her family was notified that she had been sentenced for one year and three months without a trial. She is currently being held at Banqiao Women’s “Re-education through labor” camp.
“How can a lady over 60 years old handing out leaflets be considered such a threat to the Chinese Community Party? My mother is not a criminal and she has done nothing wrong,” says Zhu’s daughter Salina (Yu) Wang, a New Zealand citizen currently residing in New York. “She has the right to follow her belief and she has the right to tell people the truth about Falun Gong. These are basic human rights guaranteed under China’s constitution and international law.”
This is the first time that Zhu, who took up Falun Gong in 2005, has been imprisoned for practicing. After her arrest, her family was initially denied access to her, but has been allowed to visit her very briefly since her sentencing. She reportedly remains in fair physical health, but is already being subjected to efforts to force her to disavow her beliefs and has complained of insufficient nutrition at the camp. Should she remain committed to her faith, such efforts at “re-education” could quickly escalate into severe torture. As one Chinese government adviser told the Washington Post,"practitioners who are not beaten generally do not abandon the group" (link).
In particular, former prisoners from Banqiao RTL camp have reported a range of torture methods used to force adherents to renounce their beliefs, including shocking with electric batons, solitary confinement, forced-feeding, sexual abuse, and injection with unidentified psychiatric drugs. The labor camp authorities are also known to force detainees to work extremely long hours on tasks such as producing raincoats for export to Korea or sorting dried beans. As a result of such abuse, several adherents imprisoned there have suffered permanent mental or physical disability. At least two have been tortured to death (link).
Most recently, in November 2008, family members of an adherent named Gong Hui detained at the camp reported that she had been tortured to the verge of death after long periods of abuse and solitary confinement. She had become emaciated within just three months of detention there. Gong was arrested on August 13, during the period of the Olympic games, and arrived at the labor camp in September after being given a 15-month sentence.
"This is the time to urgently intervene on Zhu Lijin’s behalf," says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman Erping Zhang. "The international community must not wait until news of her being tortured – or worse – makes its way out of China in order to take action."
Zhu’s detention and sentencing would appear not to be an isolated case, but rather part of a larger crackdown on Falun Gong adherents in the city of Tianjin and nationwide that began in the run-up to the Olympics and has continued as the 10-year anniversary of the persecution approaches.
According to reports received by the Falun Dafa Information Center, at least 15 other female adherents in the city have been sentenced to Banqiao labor camp since April 2008, most for between 12 and 18 months. The actual number may be higher and this total does not include Tianjin residents sentenced to other camps and prisons in the city.
“If 15 adherents have been sentenced to one camp in one city alone, multiply that by the nearly 300 camps in the country and we’re looking at a minimum of 4,000 Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to labor camps in the past year,” says Zhang. “No wonder recent interviews with former detainees by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group indicate that Falun Gong practitioners make up a huge percentage of the population in these camps.”
According to the CHRD study released in early February, "More than half of our 13 interviewees [mostly petitioners] remarked on the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in RTL camps. They said Falun Gong practitioners make up one of the largest groups of detainees in the camp." (Full report)
The Falun Dafa Information Center is calling for:
- International media and human rights groups to investigate the case of Zhu Lijin and the broader trend of multi-year prison and labor camp sentences being handed down to Falun Gong adherents before and after the Olympic games.
- Foreign government representatives, particularly those from Tianjin’s sister cities - such as Philadelphia, Dallas, Melbourne, Milan, and Lodz - to write to their counterparts in Tianjin, urging the immediate and uncondition release of Zhu Lijin.