Eight years after the Beijing Olympics and as the world prepares to watch the 2016 Games open today in Brazil, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners and their families in China are living with the aftermath of a Communist Party crackdown ahead of the 2008 sporting event. At least 150 people detained at the time are believed to still be imprisoned, according to a list compiled by the Falun Dafa Information Center.
In the run-up to the World Expo opening in Shanghai this week, the Chinese authorities have engaged in a sweeping crackdown against local residents known to practice Falun Gong.
A Falun Gong practitioner detained on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics died in a prison camp in northeastern China on January 14, 2010, the Falun Dafa Information Center learned this week. Mr. Yu Zhongzhu (于忠柱) from Heilongjiang is already the second Olympic prisoner whose death the Center has reported in 2010. In the run-up to and during the Games, over 8,000 Falun Gong practitioners were detained by the authorities, many of whom have since been sentenced to RTL or prison camps. Yu was 39 years old when he died.
On August 8, 2008, the day the Beijing Olympics opened, over a dozen officers arrested Mr. Yu, his wife, and several other practitioners. In December 2008, Mr. Yu was "sentenced" to six years in a prison camp following a sham trial. On January 14, 2010, Mr. Yu's family received a call from Tailai Prison, asking them to go to the prison hospital because he was in critical condition. He died at 10 p.m. the same day.
On June 5, 2008, prior to the Olympics, police abducted Mr. Tian, his wife and daughter (who both practice Falun Gong) from their home. In November 2008, he was "sentenced" to three years in a prison camp. On the morning of Dec 14, 2009, the prison authorities called his family to inform them that Mr. Tian was dying. They rushed to the prison and found him in a deep coma; he was taken to the hospital. He died at 10:45pm that evening and his body was immediately cremated.
Local police and security bureau officers detained Ms. Gong without a warrant on August 13, 2008, during the period of the Beijing Olympics. On September 17, 2008, she was "sentenced" to 15-months to "re-education through labor" taken to Banqiao forced labor camp. On November 9, 2008, Ms. Gong was reportedly subjected to a particularly harsh session of torture, lasting from 9:00am until 11:00pm and resulting in her near physical collapse. Unable to recover from the torture she suffered in custody, Ms. Gong died on December 4, 2009, slightly more than three weeks after her release.
Mr. Liu had previously been taken into custody on several occasions, including being "sentenced" to a forced labor camp for three years in 2000. In a pre-Olympic sweep of Shijiazhuang, police abducted Mr. Liu from his home on July 7, 2008. He went on hunger strike and appeared weak, the camp refused to accept him, so he was released. Mr. Liu never recovered from the abuse he had suffered, and died on Oct 27, 2009.
The suppression of Falun Gong in mainland China escalated sharply in 2008. A significant body of evidence—including first-hand accounts of adherents, official Chinese government statements and, reliable third party sources—indicate that the escalation was largely made possible by the Beijing Olympics. Chinese officials, under the auspices of “ensuring a smooth Olympics,” utilized the environment of heightened security to arbitrarily detain, torture, and sentence Falun Gong adherents throughout China to re-education through labor camps for up to 2 ½ years or to prison for up to 13 years.