Abductions & Imprisonment
In China today, tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners are at risk of being abducted by police at any moment. Once detained, they can be held in detention centers, “black jails,” and brainwashing centers; they can be wrongfully sent to prison for up to 20 years. They live under this reality morning, noon, and night.
Teams of police can arrive at any time of day to Falun Gong practitioners’ homes and workplaces to take them away. Some have been abducted right off the street after shopping or dropping their children off at school. Once taken into custody, they are interrogated at length about their faith and Falun Gong contacts, while their homes are ransacked for any so-called “evidence” like spiritual texts or homemade leaflets.
Many types of dissidents have suffered in China’s network of labor camps, detention centers, and prisons, but Falun Gong practitioners have long been one of the largest populations of prisoners of conscience in the country. At any given time over the past 20 years, there have been as many as several hundred thousand Falun Gong practitioners held in China’s vast system of detention facilities. According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International, Falun Gong practitioners “constituted on average from one-third to in some cases 100 percent of the total population of certain reeducation-through-labor camps.”
“Falun Gong practitioners continued to be subjected to arbitrary detention, unfair trials and torture.”
Although China officially abolished its labor-camp system in 2013, Falun Gong practitioners continue to be unjustly jailed in large numbers, be it in prisons after sham trials or in extralegal facilities for political indoctrination. In a 2017 report, the human rights group Freedom House “independently verified 933 cases of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to prison terms of up to 12 years” between 2013 and 2016, while acknowledging that this was only a portion of those detained.
Although sentenced in court, these Falun Gong practitioners received no justice. Falun Gong trials completely lack due process and violate China’s own laws, while Communist Party committees manipulate judges behind the scenes to arbitrarily impose prison terms. Human rights lawyers who have tried to defend Falun Gong have encountered this first-hand. Mo Shaoping, a top Chinese attorney, reflected on the case of Ms. Liu Jin who was sent to a prison camp for three and a half years after accessing information about Falun Gong online: “She downloaded from the internet articles that are good in her judgment and passed them to others to read—[this] caused no harm to society. Liu Jin’s behavior is consistent with provisions of China’s Constitution about the freedom of speech and freedom of belief and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
For Falun Gong practitioners and others held in China’s vast system of gulags, forced labor is a daily fact of life. Detainees are forced to work up to 20 hours per day. Those who refuse are beaten, tortured, or starved. Many of the products they make—Christmas tree lights, toys, chopsticks, and much more—are sold in America, Europe, and Australia, the products of slave labor by innocent people.
When Jennifer Zeng was imprisoned in Beijing’s Xin’an labor camp, she worked long hours making toy rabbits for Beijing’s Mickey Toys Co. Ltd., a project reportedly subcontracted from Nestlé. After she was released and moved to Australia, she was shocked to find the toys she had made were being sold on store shelves there.
“Usually we began work at 5 o’clock in the morning and worked until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning the next day,” says Ms. Zeng. “Long hours of intensive work and severe lack of sleep made me feel for a long period of time, that the only thing I needed in my life was sleep.”
Mr. Lin Shenli, a Canadian immigrant, was forced to make soccer balls by hand in a Jiangsu Province labor camp. Other types of intensive manual labor led to large, bloody wounds on his chest and buttocks. Throughout his sentence, labor-camp staff tried to force Mr. Lin to renounce his beliefs.
EXTORTED FOR MONEY
Since 1999, Chinese courts have extorted many millions of yuan from Falun Gong practitioners under the pretext of fines. According to prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, “The prison terms and fines imposed on Falun Gong people are in complete violation of basic legal principles and contemporary legal norms.”
This extortion continues today. In January and February 2019 alone, courts ordered 40 practitioners across China to pay fines totaling 692,000 yuan (US$103,000), according to reports by Minghui.org.
During that time, 109 people were imprisoned in China for sharing messages about Falun Gong with friends or neighbors, for showing signs of support for practitioners, or for refusing to renounce their belief in the practice. On Jan. 7, 2019, Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Xinwei Zhang from Bazhong City, Sichuan Province, was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 4,000 yuan.
Every month, the tally grows. Many of those released have found themselves detained and jailed again when officials discover they have persisted in practicing Falun Gong. What awaits them are harsh conditions and rampant torture. Some never return home.