Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
Part IV: Falun Dafa Information Center 2008 Annual Report
The year 2008 witnessed a systematic and nationwide increase in arbitrary arrests and detention of Falun Gong adherents, apparently as part of a clean-up effort ahead of the Beijing Olympics. Upon conclusion of the games, adherents continued to be sentenced without trial to “re-education through labor” for up to 2.5 years (see next section for sentencing to prison).
- The Congressional Executive Commission on China noted that: “Official accounts of the [pre-Olympic] crackdown were publicly available on Web sites for all 31 of China’s provincial-level jurisdictions in 2007-2008.”
- Two adherents with relatives in the United States were freed from detention following international campaigns calling for their release.
From the months of December 2007 to May 2008, the Falun Dafa Information Center received reports of over 8,037 Falun Gong adherents being taken into detention. According to the reports, many of the arrests follow a common pattern, whereby officers from the local police station or Public Security Bureau (PSB) branch come to the adherent’s home or workplace, conduct a search for any Falun Gong-related materials, and take the individual into custody at the district detention center. In some cases, family members or co-workers who do not practice Falun Gong have been taken into custody as well. At least nine adherents were killed within days or weeks of their arrest.
See: FDIC Press Release 1 and FDIC Press Release 2
In Beijing, where at least 208 Falun Gong adherents were detained in the months ahead of the Olympics, the Public Security Bureau offered awards of up to 500,000 Yuan for information leading to the arrest of Falun Gong practitioners, among other “security threats.”
Of the 208 practitioners arbitrarily arrested in Beijing ahead of the Olympics, at least 30 were sentenced to reeducation-through-labor for terms of up to two and a half years. Others were held in pre-trial detention before being sentenced judicially to prison terms (see Denial of Fair Public Trial), and many others are awaiting sentence.
See: FDIC Press Release
Typical among these was Xu Na, widower of musician Yu Zhou. Both were arbitrarily arrested on January 26, 2008, in Beijing while on their way home from a concert. Yu Zhou was reportedly tortured to death within eleven days of his detention, while Xu Na was held in pre-trial detention for over nine months before her trial. (see next section for details of her trial and sentencing).
The crackdown on Falun Gong ahead of the Olympics would appear to be part of a centrally coordinated effort directed by the Public Security Bureau. According to Amnesty International, in preparing for the Games, Former Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang issued the following order in the context of “successfully holding the 17th Communist Party Congress [in October 2007] and the Beijing Olympic Games”: “We must strike hard at hostile forces at home and abroad, such as ethnic separatists… and ‘heretical organizations’ like the Falun Gong.”
Role of 6-10 Office:
The pre-Olympic crackdown was coordinated with the help of the Falun Gong Control Office, or the 6-10 Office, as it is otherwise known. In its 2008 Annual Report, the Congressional Executive Commission on China noted the role of the 6-10 Office in the pre-Olympic campaign and the circulation of its orders nationwide:
“In April 2008, the central government 6-10 Office issued an internal directive to local governments nationwide mandating propaganda activities to prevent Falun Gong from ‘interfering with or harming’ the Olympics. References to the directive appear on official Web sites in every province and at every level of government. Most official reports focus on demonstrating that local authorities have stepped up security and fulfilled the requirement to ‘educate’ target audiences on the directive’s content. Local authorities distributed the directive widely in an effort to raise public awareness.”
Reports posted by regional 6-10 Offices offer an indication of how the policy against Falun Gong was to be prosecuted, as reported by the CECC:
“According to Nanjing City Public Security provisions published in June 2008, the 6-10 Office is at the forefront of ‘organizing and leading the struggle against Falun Gong.’ Its responsibilities include ‘directing investigations into significant cases,’ ‘digging deep to uncover covert plots and organizers,’ ‘gathering intelligence,’ and ‘organizing and coordinating the prevention, control, and punishment of Falun Gong and other harmful qigong organizations by municipal public security forces….”
“An April 2008 notice posted on the Gutian county government Web site in Fujian province describes the central government’s ‘basic policy’ outlawing the practice of Falun Gong and outlines five primary tasks to implement: (1) ‘explicitly order the dissemination of information regarding the ban [on Falun Gong],’ (2) ‘carry out comprehensive administration [of the policy],’ (3) ‘fully utilize all legal weapons, sternly punish the criminal activities of cult ringleaders and key members,’ (4) ‘do a good job at transformation through reeducation for the great majority of practitioners,’ and (5) ‘prevent external cults from seeping into the area, reduce the conditions that allow cults to propagate.’”
“Re-education through labor”
Falun Gong adherents continue to comprise a very high percentage of the population in China’s reeducation-through-labor camps, believed to hold upwards of 500,000 individuals. The year saw a spike in the number of adherents sentenced to RTL, including in the weeks following the Olympics. Individuals can be sentenced without trial to RTL for terms of up to two and a half years for virtually any offense.
By some estimates, Falun Gong prisoners account for half of the RTL population, and some camps are comprised almost entirely of Falun Gong adherents. Leeshai Lemish, research assistant for an upcoming book on Falun Gong, noted in a recent National Post article, “Last year, the Beijing Female Labour Camp, for example, contained 700 Falun Gong practitioners and only 140 actual criminals.”
Si Miao, female, age 36, Shijiazhuang, Hebei province: At 8am on April 22, 2008, approximately two dozen personnel from the State Security Bureau and local law enforcement agencies arrested Ms. Si Miao and her father Mr. Si Shilin. Ms. Si was arrested directly from her work place, while Mr. Si was arrested when the officers came to his home, in which they conducted a thorough search, confiscating Falun Gong-related materials, computers and address books. The two were taken separately to a secret interrogation site, whose precise location remains unknown. One week later, Mr. Si was released, while Ms. Si was transferred to a local detention center.
Thirty days later she was sentenced without trial or legal representation to 1.5 years of “re-education through labor” for practicing Falun Gong to be served at Shijiazhuang Women’s RTL camp. According to her father Mr. Si, much of the interrogators questions focused on the activities of his son Mr. Si Yang, a U.S. citizens residing in Los Angeles.
See: FDIC Press Release; National Post
Bu Dongwei, male, 40, Beijing, Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, wife resides in California: “Bu Dongwei, also known as David Bu, was assigned to two-and-a-half years’ “Re-education through Labour” (RTL) on 19 June in connection with his activities as a member of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. He is detained at an undisclosed location, and Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience. He is at serious risk of torture or ill-treatment….”
“Bu Dongwei had been working in Beijing for the US aid organization, the Asia Foundation, before he was detained by around seven police officers at his home in the Haidian District of the capital, Beijing, on 19 May. According to the decision of Beijing’s RTL committee, which has the power to impose periods of arbitrary detention without charge or trial, he was accused of ‘resisting the implementation of national laws’ and ‘disturbing social order’. The evidence cited was a verbal confession he made to police, and 80 copies of Falun Gong literature that the police discovered in his home. He is due to be released on 18 November 2008. Bu, who worked for the U.S. based NGO Asia Foundation, was detained from his home in 2006 and sentenced without trial to 2.5 years of “re-education through labor” at Beijing’s Tuanhe RTL camp after police found copies of Falun Gong literature in his possession.”
Following a widespread letter writing campaign from Amnesty International and others, Bu was released from RTL in July 2008, several months ahead of schedule. According to Amnesty: “Bu Dongwei’s health deteriorated in detention, probably because of malnutrition. He was provided very little food of low nutritional value and was not allowed to buy additional meals himself. He had to attend re-educational classes every day and undertake packaging work.”
An additional form of arbitrary detention commonly imposed on Falun Gong adherents was holding them for extended and undefined periods of time at “brainwashing centers” where they are pressured, and in many instances tortured, to renounce their faith in Falun Gong.
Ms. Qin Shizhen, female, age 67. Ms. Qin, whose daughter resides in Albany, NY, was detained by Urumqi police in Xinjiang on March 31, 2008, during a visit to her sister’s home. The two women were followed by police while distributing information about Falun Gong late at night. The police detained Qin’s sister and forced her to unlock the door to her home, which they subsequently searched, confiscating computer equipment and Falun Gong-related materials. The two women were placed under house arrest until May 23. On that date, agents from the 6-10 Office of the Gansu Administration College (Qin’s former employer) and policemen from her home town of Lanzhou arrived in Xinjiang to collect her. They traveled by train for over 24 hours, arriving in Lanzhou on May 24, 2008, when Ms. Qin was immediately placed in Gongjiawan brainwashing center.
Following a large degree of international pressure – including letters from dozens of New York state elected officials urging her release, Qin was eventually released in October 2008, after over six months in custody.