Falun Gong Deaths Escalate as Olympics Approach

NEW YORK — The Falun Dafa Information Center is alarmed at a series of reports indicating adherents in China are being killed in custody within days, or even hours, of being detained by authorities. The Center expressed today that the escalating maltreatment is a direct result of efforts to “stamp out” Falun Gong prior to the summer Olympics.

“The speed with which Falun Gong adherents are being seized by police, abused, and turning up dead is alarming and reprehensible,” says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesperson Ms. Gail Rachlin. “These are people who never should have been arrested in the first place. Arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial executions are no way to ‘prepare’ for the Olympics.”

“If China’s communist authorities wish to hold a truly ‘successful’ Olympic Games, rounding up and killing those who might remind us that ‘all is not well’ is not the way to go about it. The artificially sterile, silent streets of Beijing should give visitors the chills.”

The Center is particularly concerned over recent reports of adherents dying in custody shortly after their arrest. Within the first three months of 2008, the Center has documented six cases of practitioner deaths occurring within merely 16 days of arrest and in some cases, within hours. By comparison, in 2007, it was over the course of the entire year that the same number died within such a short time in custody. In several of the recent cases, family members were able to view the body before its cremation and saw signs of torture, including strangulation marks or bruises from electric batons.

Among the deaths reported in 2008 was that of Mr. Yu Zhou, 42, a musician who was arrested with his wife Ms. Xu Na at the end of January on their way home from a performance by his band. The couple was among those listed in a previous Center release about widespread arrests in Beijing (news). Eleven days after their arrest, the authorities notified their family members to come to Qinghe Emergency Center, where they found Yu already dead. He had been in good health before his detention, but the hospital refused to conduct an autopsy. Ms. Xu, who was released in 2006 after serving five years in prison for practicing Falun Gong, remains in custody at Beijing Detention Center. Yu had graduated from the French Department at Beijing University and an online music video of his band shows him playing the drums: http://www.youmaker.com/video/sv?id=571f7e4d385e4dfd86cb89fa573c6a2d001

Cases such as Yu’s and others detailed below indicate an increase in the severity of treatment inflicted in custody on those who practice Falun Gong and point to the immediate danger facing the hundreds of adherents detained in Beijing and elsewhere since the beginning of the year. The reports also match testimonies from adherents who were released recently, stating that security agents had spoken to them of orders received from above to escalate the crackdown on the group ahead of the Olympic Games.

Since January 2007, the Center has documented the cases of 129 Falun Gong practitioners that died of abuse, passing away either in police custody or upon release as a result of injuries incurred while in detention. A complete table of the names and available details surrounding these known cases is available here: http://faluninfo.net/downloads/FDI_Press/deaths-as-of-01-01-07.pdf. The table was compiled from a variety of sources, including testimony of relatives or friends of the deceased, photographic evidence, and follow-up phone calls made by researchers to the relevant police or prison authorities.

The following are a number sample cases. Additional details that lend themselves to independent verification can be made available upon request. Tables with the names of those Falun Gong practitioners who have died in the past 15 months are attached:

Examples of 2007 deaths occurring shortly after arrest:

  • On March 10, 2007, police arrested Ms. Tang Xingyun, 65, from the city of Shenyang in the northeastern province of Liaoning as she distributed printed material about Falun Gong. She died the same day at the police station, reportedly as a result of being shocked simultaneously by eight electric batons.
  • Mr. Deng Wenyang, a former employee of Shanhaiguan Bridge Factory in Hebei province who was in his thirties, was arrested on September 26, 2007. He was already in weak physical condition following an earlier detention in August, but was nevertheless was sent to Gaoyang RTL camp. He died ten days later, on October 8.

Examples of 2008 deaths occurring shortly after arrest:

  • Ms. Gu Jianmin, 53, from Pudong New District in Shanghai was arrested on March 1, 2008. Twelve days later, on March 13, an agent from the local 610 Office called her husband, saying she was unwell and was to be released on medical parole. After spending several hours completing forms for her release, Ms. Gu’s husband was taken to a local hospital, where a doctor declared her dead after a brief attempt to rescue her.
  • Mr. Wang Guiming, 40, from Tonghua City in Jilin Province was arrested on February 13, 2008, while selling sweet potatoes. He was taken to Changliu Detention Center and within days was sentenced to re-education through labor (RTL). He was transferred to Chaoyanggou RTL camp on Feb 17, 2008, where he was reportedly shocked with electric batons. He died on Feb 29, 16 days after his initial arrest. His family was permitted to see his body on March 3, and found large bruises on his face, chest and anus.

Such deaths appear to be the result of official enactments of Chinese communist party policy. Official statements and documents have repeatedly named Falun Gong as one of the key targets for monitoring and repression in anticipation of the Olympics. (fact sheet) This fits a regular pattern of cracking down on the group before important national events, such as the recent 17th Party Congress in October 2007. (fact sheet)

According to one report from an intelligence journal in 2005, for example, China’s deputy minister of public security, Liu Jing, was assigned the responsibility of wiping out the practice before the Games. (news) More recently, 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 Olympics: “We must strike hard at hostile forces at home and abroad, such as ethnic separatists, religious extremists, violent terrorists and … the Falun Gong.” (report)

In total, since 1999, the Center has documented the cases of 3,137 Falun Gong practitioners, who have died as a result of various forms of persecution, not only from abuse in custody, but also of destitution and other traumas related to the campaign. Despite the apparently high count, due to the secrecy surrounding such cases and the danger posed to families sending information overseas, the actual death toll is most likely much higher.