Over 300 at Campus Where Bush to Speak Jailed for Falun Gong; Institution now a "bastion of persecution" NEW YORK, February 21, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) - In a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush that was shared with the Falun Dafa Information Center, 15 distinguished alumni scientists of Tsinghua University urged President Bush to demand that China's leadership release all Tsinghua students and faculty who have been imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong. The scientists, who live in the U.S., described the situation as "urgent" and "desperate." Tsinghua, where President Bush will speak on Friday, has seen more than 300 students and faculty unlawfully detained, thrown into forced labor camps, and imprisoned in the government campaign against Falun Gong, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. One Tsinghua alumnus, Yuan Jiang, of Gansu Province, was tortured to death in custody last November. The letter named in particular six Falun Gong practitioners who were recently arrested in Zhuhai City, and charged with spreading information on Falun Gong. Their sentencing was temporarily postponed, according to the Hong Kong Center, due to the president's visit. Last December four others from Tsinghua were sentenced on similar charges, receiving prison terms ranging from 3 to 12 years. Tsinghua, known as the "MIT of China," is a willing and aggressive participant in the State-run campaign to "eradicate" Falun Gong. Dr. Shiyu Zhou, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and alumnus of Tsinghua, wrote in the alumni letter that Jiang Zemin's regime has turned Tsinghua into "a bastion of intolerance, injustice, and persecution" over the past two and a half years. "One-by-one have disappeared there, some to gulags, some to jails… All who have not renounced their beliefs have now been expelled from the university, with many being tortured and beaten in custody." Sources close to the Falun Dafa Information Center have suggested that the decision to invite Bush to speak at Tsinghua might in part reflect a hope to gloss over abuses by the campus, and to paint a misleading picture of academic freedom and human rights in China's university system. Having the leader of the free world speak there could act symbolically to legitimize the institution and its practices. CNN.com reported last February (2/15) that Chinese authorities had "declared an all-out war on the spiritual movement" Falun Gong, including making all heads of primary and secondary schools, as well as college presidents, responsible for "combating the Falun Gong." They have been made personally responsible for ensuring that their campuses are free of Falun Gong members, and they must even organize "ideological campaigns" to educate students on the "evil nature" of Falun Gong and certain other groups. In April of 2000 the Sydney Morning Herald said that China has officially banned Falun Gong practitioners from sitting for university entrance exams. Other reports document enrolled college students being forced to choose between their education and their practice of Falun Gong. Tens of thousands are said to have been expelled for their beliefs. "What's happening at Tsinghua is a small, small window into the campaign against Falun Gong. The unlawful arrests, the beatings, and torture of students and faculty for peaceful beliefs is a matter of state-terrorism, which is exactly what Jiang Zemin is doing-he's taking his own citizens hostage, as in the case of these six students. He then uses the people as a sort of bargaining chip with the West, it's a kind of concession; he'll release them to dull criticism of China's human rights record," explains Feng Yuan, Falun Gong spokesperson and graduate of Tsinghua University. "But this is completely against everything the U.S. stands for, President Bush cannot overlook this situation. He must use his speech at Tsinghua and his interactions with high-level officials to express just how deeply wrong and unacceptable this persecution is." Beyond the walls of the university system, the persecution of Falun Gong continues unabated, with 28 known deaths reported last month alone. To date 366 deaths have been documented, stemming largely from torture and abuse in police custody. The Falun Dafa Information Center is calling on President Bush to demand the release of the six Tsinghua students and all other students and faculty there wrongfully imprisoned for Falun Gong. It must be made clear to China's leadership that the war on terrorism cannot be used to justify State terrorism. Dr. Zhou can also be reached for interviews or comments at 267-246-3792.