Dozens of Falun Gong Practitioners Killed in First Third of 2011

Photos smuggled out of China show emaciated, bruised, or hospitalized victims

New York–Over two dozen Falun Gong practitioners have died due to abuse in custody since January 1, 2011, according to reports received by the Falun Dafa Information Center and published on Thursday. In a feature particular to the campaign against Falun Gong, several of the victims died after being held in makeshift “brainwashing centers” where torture and ingestion of unknown drugs were used to force people to renounce their practice of Falun Gong.

Drawing on reports from people on the ground in China, the Falun Dafa Information Center has documented the deaths from abuse of 26 Falun Gong practitioners since January 1, 2011 (list). Seven of the cases include photos smuggled out of China that show signs of beating, emaciation, or hospitalization (photo gallery). Given the difficulty of obtaining information from China, the actual death toll is likely significantly higher.

Zhou Yongkang, who has been named in news reports as taking the lead in a recent crackdown that has seen prominent artist Ai Weiwei and numerous human rights lawyers “disappeared,” has over the past decade been intimately involved in the repression of Falun Gong practitioners. Zhou specifically named Falun Gong as a target for a pre-Olympic crackdown in which thousands of practitioners were detained. Six of them are among the list of individuals killed in early 2011.

“The death cases reported since January are a microcosm of the campaign against Falun Gong, as well as the Communist Party’s broader disregard for human life,” said Falun Dafa Information Center executive director Levi Browde. “Zhou Yongkang and other party thugs have, over the past decade, refined surveillance, intimidation, and torture methods on Falun Gong practitioners, and we’re now seeing these tactics being applied to an even broader segment of the Chinese population.”

“These Falun Gong deaths should serve as an alarm bell to the international community on how far party leaders will go to eliminate  independently thinking members of Chinese society.”

The 26 victims come from all age groups, strata of society, and geographical regions. The youngest was a 32-year-old woman from Hebei province, and the oldest was a 71-year-old retired railroad worker from Hunan. Half of those killed (13 people) were abducted from their homes or workplaces simply because they were known to the authorities as practicing Falun Gong. At least six others were detained while exercising their right to free expression, such as printing and distributing leaflets to inform fellow Chinese of human rights abuses. Many of the victims had been detained or imprisoned prior to their most recent abduction, highlighting the persistent efforts of the Chinese authorities to seek out known Falun Gong practitioners.

The vast majority of victims died due to physical and psychiatric torture. Several were killed within weeks of their detention. In other cases, the victims had been sentenced to lengthy prison terms and, after years of torture and deprivation, died in custody or were released to their family on the verge of death, only to pass away shortly thereafter.

Half of those killed (13 people) had been held at prison camps, an indication of the extent of abuse suffered by Falun Gong practitioners at such facilities, in addition to re-education through labor camps. Perhaps the most dramatic such examples were three Falun Gong prisoners of conscience held at Jiamusi prison in Heilongjiang province who died within two weeks of each other after being taken to a special ward for heightened “transformation” efforts (news / photo gallery).

Several deaths were clearly connected to an intensified three-year “transformation” campaign launched by Communist Party leaders in mid-2010 (news). In addition to the above-mentioned three, four other victims died after being abducted in late 2010 and taken to makeshift detention facilities in hotels, companies, or schools specifically dedicated to holding Falun Gong practitioners and using any means necessary to “transform” them. Upon their release but before their deaths, two men informed family members that they had been forced to consume unidentified drugs that caused headaches, dizziness, and memory loss.

The cases and details cited in the list were compiled from a variety of sources, including testimony of relatives or friends of the deceased and photographic evidence showing marks of torture.

In total, the Center has recorded the deaths of 3,434 Falun Gong practitioners as a result of various forms of persecution since 1999. Given the Chinese Communist Party’s significant efforts to obstruct the investigation of Falun Gong practitioners’ untimely deaths and reports of forced organ removal from an unknown number of Falun Gong detainees, the actual death tolls for 2011 and overall are believed to be significantly higher than what the Center has been able to document.

Since 1999, the Chinese Communist Party has carried out a widespread, brutal campaign of persecution to eradicate Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual and qigong practice, whose adherents in China still number in the tens of millions. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese who practice Falun Gong remain in captivity, rendering them the single largest group of prisoners of conscience in China (article).

The United Nations, Amnesty International, Chinese human rights lawyers, and Western media have documented Falun Gong torture and deaths at the hands of Chinese officials (reports). In its annual report released last month, Amnesty International stated that Falun Gong practitioners who refused to renounce their beliefs “are typically tortured until they co-operate; many die in detention or shortly after release” (report). The Communist Party’s campaign and its implementation are in violation of Chinese law and, contrary to common reporting, Falun Gong was not banned as an “evil cult.” (analysis)

Sample cases

The following cases illustrate typical circumstances surrounding recent Falun Gong deaths. The full list is available here.

  • Mr. Chen Shiming from Meishan in Sichuan province: In July 2010, Mr. Chen was abducted from his home. This was the fifth time he had been detained for practicing Falun Gong, including two previous stints in forced labor camps. He was punched and kicked as police dragged him into a police car. He was taken to a makeshift brainwashing center at Meishan 505 telecommunications department. At the center, he was injected with unidentified drugs and suspected that his food and drink were also laced with such substances. He was released when he began to suffer from hypertension. By then, he appeared to have lost his memory and other cognitive abilities. He could not stop shaking and had become extremely thin. He never recovered and passed away within less than six months.

  • Ms. Dai Lijuan, 48, from Wuxi in Jiangsu province: On June 20, 2003, agents from Baitang police station abducted Ms. Dai. She was taken to the Public Security Bureau and viciously beaten for three days, to the point of being in critical condition. The beatings and injections left Ms. Dai paralyzed, incontinent, and with muscle atrophy. She had difficulty speaking and moving her fingers. Her elderly mother cared for her, but she never recovered and died eight years later in March 2011. Photos of her smuggled out of China show her emaciated and wearing a diaper (photos).

  • Ms. Zheng Baohua, 32, from Renqiu in Hebei province: Between 2000 and 2009, Ms. Zheng was detained four times for practicing Falun Gong and she was in custody for seven years. Her last arrest came in July 2008, when she was talking to people about Falun Gong and the persecution. She was sent to a brainswashing center and then the Tangshan Kaiping Re-education Through Labor camp, where she was beaten, shocked with electric batons, and brutally force-fed. In May 2009, she contracted tuberculosis. She was released in November 2009, when it reached late-stage. She never recovered and died in April 2011.