Amnesty International: 2009 Annual Report (excerpts)

The Olympic Games in Beijing brought heightened repression throughout the country as authorities tightened control over human rights defenders, religious practitioners, ethnic minorities, lawyers and journalists.

Human rights defenders

Lawyers who took on sensitive cases were also at risk; several had their licences suspended, and others lost their jobs. Some lawyers were specifically warned by the authorities not to take on sensitive cases, including cases of [...] Falun Gong practitioners. 

Torture and other ill-treatment

Despite legal reforms, torture and other ill-treatment continued in prisons, police stations, Re-education through Labour camps, and other unofficial detention facilities. [...] Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and others practising their religion in officially unsanctioned ways were at particular risk of torture and other ill-treatment by the authorities and unidentified individuals.

Freedom of religion

Individuals who practised their religion outside officially sanctioned channels [...] faced harassment and persecution. [...] Falun Gong practitioners were among those most harshly persecuted by the government. In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, thousands were reported to have been arrested, with hundreds imprisoned or assigned to Re-education through Labour camps and other forms of administrative detention where they were at risk of torture and other ill-treatment sometimes leading to death.

  • On 25 January, Yu Zhou, a well-known folk singer, graduate of Beijing University, and reportedly a Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested in Tongzhou District, Beijing, along with his wife, Xu Na, a poet and painter. On 6 February, the authorities from the Qinghe District Emergency Centre told his family that Yu Zhou had died from either diabetes or from a hunger strike, although the family maintains he was healthy at the time of his arrest. The staff at the Emergency Centre refused the family’s request to view the body and for an autopsy. On 25 November, Xu Na was sentenced to three years in prison for “using a heretical organization to undermine the implementation of the law”. She appealed against the sentence and is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment in detention.

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Freedom of expression and assembly

Dozens of activists, Tibetan Buddhist monks, and Falun Gong practitioners were denied entry to Hong Kong before the Olympic torch relay in May and before and during the Olympics.