China’s Gestapo Marks a Decade

Official government websites, Chinese lawyers cite torture, surveillance by secret agency

New York—Ten years after its creation by fiat on June 10, 1999, the extralegal 6-10 Office continues to lead the Chinese Communist Party’s violent campaign to eradicate the Falun Gong spiritual group, the Falun Dafa Information Center said on Tuesday. 

Testimony from torture survivors, human rights lawyers, and defectors, as well as official Chinese government websites, highlight the exceptional powers still exercised by the largely secret agency.

“The 6-10 office is just like Hitler’s Gestapo,” says Guo Guoting, a Chinese human rights lawyer in exile. “They are powerful and they got enough financial support from the government so…they secretly control all the Falun Gong practitioners in their local areas.”

Witnesses and survivors of China’s vast incarceration system have reported that 6-10 personnel were involved in many of the over 3,000 cases of Falun Gong practitioners killed, mostly through torture.

Established by former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin and announced in a speech to elite cadres a month before Falun Gong was banned in July 1999, the organization exists outside China’s legal framework. Jiang granted it wide-ranging powers and the authority to use “every means necessary” to wipe out Falun Gong.

Operating in an atmosphere of impunity even after Jiang was replaced by Hu Jintao, the 6-10 Office and its plainclothes agents have become notorious for regular use of extreme torture.

“The immoral act that has shaken my soul most is the 6-10 Office and policeman’s regular practice of assaulting women’s genitals,” Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng wrote after a 2005 investigation into the persecution against Falun Gong. “Of those persecuted, almost every woman’s genitals and breasts and every man’s private parts have been sexually assaulted in a most vulgar fashion.” (full letter)

Recent activities

Though the Chinese authorities deny its existence, the 6-10 Office’s activities are an open secret in China. Before the Olympics, nationwide directives from the central 6-10 Office were key to the escalation of the campaign against Falun Gong in 2008, according to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. (report)

Official Chinese Communist Party websites from 2008 and 2009 discuss the strengthening of 6-10 operations with the purpose of “handling” and “disposing of” Falun Gong.

“The Municipal Party Committee’s 6-10 Office has established two task forces,” states a posting dated December 2008 from Leiyang in Hunan province (link / cache / page capture).  The “synthesizing group” is responsible for intelligence information, investigation and research, maintaining secrecy, administrative affairs, and handling personnel of political and ideological work.

“The education group is responsible for struggling against Falun Gong and anti-‘heterodox organization’ propaganda work in society; it is responsible for education and transformation work against ‘Falun Gong’ adherents.” 

A typical case of how such “transformation” is carried out is that of Ms. Xiao Sumin from Shandong’s Pingdu city. Within three weeks of her arrest at the hands of the local 6-10 Office, she died of torture on June 21, 2008. (news)

Official websites dated as recently as May 27, 2009 cite heightened activity by 6-10 Office branches against local Falun Gong adherents in the run-up to the ten year anniversary of the persecution’s launch on July 20. Last month’s posting on the official website for Qidong in Jiangsu province states that the town’s 6-10 Office is to strengthen and consolidate its transformation efforts against Falun Gong. (link / cache / page 1 capture; page 2 capture)

Expanding Mandate

Beyond direct involvement in rights violations, the office’s real power lies in its ability to direct the campaign against Falun Gong from behind the scenes. According to former 6-10 Office agent Hao Fengjun, who defected to Australia in 2005, the task force employs quotas and incentive systems, while latching onto the Party’s existing and pervasive bureaucracy.

The 6-10 office is thus responsible for overseeing all aspects of the campaign against the Falun Gong: from controlling the criminal justice system to gathering overseas intelligence through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to infiltrating top Chinese universities.

Multiple sources – including Hao Fengjun, government websites (link / cache / page 1 capture; page 2 capture), and a report in the New York Times – indicate that while the 6-10 office remains primarily focused on Falun Gong, its mandate has been expanded in recent years. Its targets now include other spiritual groups the Party has decided to outlaw, including Christian ones.

“The 6-10 Office epitomizes the illegality, arbitrariness, and sheer brutality of the CCP’s decade long campaign against millions of innocent Chinese people who practice Falun Gong,” says Falun Gong spokesperson Erping Zhang.

“The 6-10 Office’s existence and expansion—with its power over courts, labor camps, and prisons—fundamentally undermines any effort to build the rule of law in China and any claims by the CCP to be moving in that direction,” Zhang says.  “It’s terrifying to think how many lives have been ruined by this agency, and how many more will be every day it continues to operate.”

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