2023 Congressional-Executive Commission on China Report Details Persecution of Falun Gong

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released its 2023 Annual Report on May 10, offering an exhaustive examination of the human rights environment in China and highlighting the of Falun Gong practitioners.

Large-scale Detention and Abuse in Custody

Falun Gong practitioners make up 460 of the 2,615 actively detained prisoners in the CECC’s Political Prisoner Database. Thousands of practitioners are detained each year for their faith or efforts to raise awareness of abuses practitioners face in the country. The report notes that hundreds of these practitioners were sentenced to prison terms and dozens died due to abuses in 2023.

Among those mentioned in the report is Mr. Pang Xun, a 30-year-old radio host from Sichuan. Pang was sentenced to five years in prison in July 2020 for distributing Falun Gong flyers. Prison officials at Leshan Jiazhou Prison tortured Pang to death on December 2. His story went viral after a friend posted video footage of his bruised and bloodied body on Twitter.

Another individual listed is Mr. Zhou Deyong, the husband and father two Florida residents. Dongying city, Shandong Province police detained Zhou at his home and seized Falun Gong materials belonging to his wife. A Dongying court sentenced him in April 2023 to eight years in prison. U.S. officials, including Florida Representative Gus Bilirakis and Senator Marco Rubio have advocated on his behalf and called for his release.

Black Jails Remain Prevalent

Informal detention centers or “black jails” have been a prominent feature of the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners for decades. The report notes the continued use of such facilities to detain practitioners in 2023:

These extralegal detention facilities operate under different names, including ‘‘assistance and service centers’’ or ‘‘legal education centers.’’ Their existence and use have no legal basis, and people detained in such sites—many of whom are petitioners and Falun Gong practitioners—do not know when they will be released and do not have any procedural protection.

Inside medical facilities, hotels, and other buildings, Falun Gong practitioners are tortured and subject to what can only be described as “brainwashing” to coerce them to renounce Falun Gong.

Violence Against Women

The CECC references several reports by NGOs, such as the Dui Hua Foundation, which have documented severe violence against women by Chinese security officials. This violence includes denial of adequate food and medical treatment, sexual abuse, and prolonged arbitrary detention.

One illustrative case is that of Niu Xiaona, who was detained on April 19, 2021, in Harbin Municipality, Heilongjiang Province, along with her elderly mother, Tuo Wenxia, due to their practice of Falun Gong. Though initially released on bail, Niu was taken back into custody in March 2022. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, which causes severe mobility issues. In September 2022, a railway court in Harbin sentenced her to 15 years, referencing a previous 14-year sentence from 2004 that she had served outside prison due to her disability. The court claimed Niu failed to provide official records confirming she had served the sentence. The Dui Hua Foundation has highlighted that Niu’s sentence is among the longest given to Falun Gong practitioners convicted solely under Article 300 of the PRC Criminal Law.

Recommendations for U.S. Policymakers

The report highlights several recommendations aimed at addressing the CCP’s human rights abuses. The report urges U.S. Congress members and administration officials to call on the Chinese government to guarantee freedom of religion for all citizens, stressing that religious freedom includes the right to adopt and practice beliefs without interference. This call to action is especially pertinent given the extensive documentation of severe measures against Falun Gong practitioners and other religious believers.

Among the broader recommendations, the CECC urges the U.S. to advocate for the release of detained religious prisoners including Falun Gong believers Zhou Deyong and Peng Shuming. The report suggests using existing laws like the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to hold Chinese officials accountable for religious freedom violations. Such measures are intended to apply pressure on China to improve its human rights record and protect religious freedoms more effectively. The report also encouraged the passing of the Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act to combat the practice of forcibly removing organs from prisoners of conscience, such as Falun Gong practitioners.

Additionally, the report calls for the repeal of Article 300 of the PRC Criminal Law, which has been used to prosecute many Falun Gong practitioners under the charge of “organizing and using a [banned organization] to undermine implementation of the law.” This legal provision has been a tool for broad repression, affecting various religious groups.