Falun Gong News Bulletin: September 23, 2011
Monitoring Falun Gong-related Developments in China and Beyond
Quote of the month: “I’m going to die here. They beat me everyday.”
– Ms. Ding Zhenfang to her husband when he visited her in 2010 at Liaoning Women’s Prison where she was held for talking to people about Falun Gong. On August 1, 2011, Ms. Ding died in custody.
- Thousands in China send Mid-Autumn festival greetings to Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi
- Jamestown China Brief: “The 610 Office: Policing the Chinese Spirit”
- Six new cases of Falun Gong deaths from torture documented
- Bo Xilai intensifies Falun Gong crackdown in Chongqing
- Indonesia radio station manager sentenced to jail for broadcasts on human rights in China
- Urgent Appeal: Chinese refugees in Korea facing imminent deportation
Images smuggled from China in August-September 2011
This photo gallery features 10 photos smuggled from China in August and September 2011 and obtained by the Falun Dafa Information Center. The images, sent abroad via the internet at great risk to the senders, provide a unique first-hand glimpse at both the reality of persecution faced by Falun Gong practitioners and their continued faith despite the repressive environment. The images included range from samples of Mid-Autumn festival greetings sent from China to Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi, to the entrance sign of a local brainwashing center, to a series of photos of victims and their families taken before they were detained and, in some cases, killed, including one of a 24-year-old woman who died earlier this month.
Thousands of greeting cards were sent this month via Falun Gong’s Minghui website to the founder of Falun Gong Mr. Li Hongzhi in celebration of the Mid-Autumn festival. The greetings, which typically represent collections of Falun Gong students in a variety of geographic regions, provide insight into the resilience of the Falun Gong community in China, despite over a decade of suppression. The Mid-Autumn Festival is, along with the Chinese Lunar New Year, one of the most important holidays in China and often a time for reunion with friends and family. This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival greetings also included many submissions sent by non-practitioners of Falun Gong, including from current and retired public security personnel, military veterans, journalists, and lawyers. See this bulletin’s photo gallery for samples from Chongqing, Shanghai, and Shandong.
* FDIC, Photo gallery
Jamestown China Brief: “The 610 Office: Policing the Chinese Spirit”
In its September 16 issue, the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief included an article on the 610 Office, described as a “plainclothes CCP-based extra-ministerial security force focused on suppressing the Falun Gong spiritual group.” The piece, authored by researchers Sarah Cook and Leeshai Lemish, analyzes the 610 Office from the perspective of the CCP’s tradition of arbitrarily creating “leading groups” that operate at the behest of top cadres. The authors argue that the agency is “a CCP-based, rather than a state-based, security organization” that highlights the “revival of the use of security agencies to enforce ideological compliance. Moreover, they say, “the 610 Office signifies a systemic arrangement by CCP leaders to avoid the reach of legal reforms when dealing with a perceived existential threat to their power. The willingness and ability of CCP leaders to take such actions has implications not only for how we understand the trajectory of rule of law development in China, but also for how we might anticipate the regime responding to present and future threats to its security.”
* China Brief, “The 610 Office: Policing the Chinese Spirit.”
At least six additional Falun Gong practitioners died from abuse in custody between June and August 2011, according to reports compiled by the Falun Dafa Information Center. Several of the victims died after being released in poor condition from long-term abuse in custody. On the other hand, in one case, a schoolteacher was killed within less than a month from when she was taken into custody. These cases bring to 49 the total number of deaths known to have occurred since January. The following is a list of the known victims, though given the difficulty of obtaining information, the actual death toll is surely higher. A more detailed account of each case is provided at the corresponding link.
• Mr. Guan Zhenyuan, 58, from Gansu, was a father of two who died on June 2, 2011 after 8 years of torture.
• Mr. Pan Benyu from Heilongjiang died on July 17, 2011 as a result of prolonged torture
• Ms. Huang Tao, 55, from Yunnan never recovered from forced labor and died on July 28, 2011
• Ms. Zhuang Shuling, a schoolteacher from Heilongjiang, died on July 30, 2011 only 25 days after being taken into custody.
• Mr. Feng Qi, 48, from Anhui was tortured to the point of disability and passed away on July 31, 2011
• Ms. Ding Zhenfang, 62, a bookstore owner from Liaoning died on August 1, 2011 from nonstop beatings at a women’s prison
TORTURE, DETENTIONS AND OTHER ABUSES
In recent weeks and months, the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in Chongqing has intensified under the direction of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head Bo Xilai. According to information obtained from CCP insiders, Bo apparently seeks to capitalize on the crackdown to advance his political ambitions and show that he is capable of wiping out Falun Gong in his jurisdiction. Bo already has a long track record of directing attacks on Falun Gong practitioners in Liaoning province where he previously served as a top CCP official. Although Falun Gong practitioners in Chongqing have been persecuted since 1999, recent months have witnessed an intensification of the campaign against them with the following features:
- Increased abductions: According to records collected by Minghui, the main Chinese-language Falun Gong website, during 2009, there were 188 cases of Falun Gong practitioners in Chongqing being abducted because of their beliefs. By comparison, during the first seven months of 2011, already 224 detentions have been reported.
- Physical and psychiatric torture at brainwashing centers: In recent weeks, Chongqing authorities have reportedly set up 13 new brainwashing centers for illegally holding Falun Gong practitioners and trying to force them to renounce their beliefs. Several local residents sent to these makeshift detention facilities report being served strange smelling water, which caused intestinal disorders, numbness, nightmares, and slowness of the mind indicating to them that it had been laced with some kind of psychiatric drug. Physical torture has also been reported.
- Cutting off utilities: Police have been cutting off electricity and water supplies to practitioners’ homes in an effort to force them to surrender and be taken into custody for “transformation.”
Hunan woman sentenced to seven years in prison for reading Falun Gong literature at friend’s home
A court in Hunan province recently ordered that 61-year-old former bank employee Ms. Xiang Huaixiang be sent to a prison camp for seven years because she practices Falun Gong. Ms. Xiang was abducted by security agents on July 19, 2010, while gathering in private with eleven other elderly practitioners to read Falun Gong teachings and share their spiritual understandings. Suddenly, agents from the 610 Office and police raided the home and detained them. Four of the practitioners were released because they were over 80 years old, but others remained in custody. Between November 2010 and April 2011, Ms. Xiang had four sham trials, including one at which a court-appointed lawyer pleaded guilty for her against her will. At the last trial, a judge from Suxian District Court in Chenzhou announced she would be sent to prison for seven years. In 2000, Ms. Xiang’s daughter, Ms. Chen Lijuan was detained for practicing Falun Gong and rendered mentally unstable due to the torture she suffered in custody. She never recovered and died in 2004. She was only in her 20s. For a photo of the elderly Ms. Xiang, see photo gallery.
Brainwashing center opened at Anhui University of Science and Technology
In August 2011, Chinese Communist Party officials and 610 Office agents set up a center for forcibly converting Falun Gong practitioners at the Anhui University of Science and Technology hotel. At least seven Falun Gong practitioners have reportedly been held there over the past month. In one case, Mr. Zhang Jinguo, an employee of Huainan internal revenue service, and his wife were tricked into going to the center on August 4, and held there. In several other cases, practitioners were reportedly taken to the hotel in an ambulance. The center is one of countless such makeshift detention facilities across the country where Falun Gong practitioners are pressured to renounce their belief, often with physical and psychiatric torture. The centers numbers have increased as part of an intensified three-year campaign to “transform” Falun Gong practitioners launched in 2010.
MEDIA AND INTERNET FREEDOM
Urgent Appeal: Elderly woman facing imprisonment for distributing Falun Gong DVDs
A 72-year-old woman from Heilongjiang province could be brought to court for a sham trial and potential imprisonment at any time, simply because she practices Falun Gong and distributed DVDs about it to others. Ms. Zhang Hongyi was abducted by police in March 2011 while she was handing out DVDs related to Falun Gong and human rights abuses at a bus stop in Mudanjiang. Several days later, police raided her home, confiscating books of Falun Gong’s spiritual teachings and two computers. Police attempted to detain her longer term but the detention center refused to accept her because of her advanced age. Since then, Zhang and her children have been repeatedly harassed and called in for questioning. The family recently discovered that on August 12, Gao Lianshun from the procuratorate had sent an indictment to Xi’an District Court, which has accepted the case. Given the CCP’s record of illegally imprisoning Falun Gong practitioners, Zhang and her family fear she could be sent off to a prison camp for years. The Falun Dafa Information Center calls on press freedom groups and democratic governments to raise Ms. Zhang’s case with the Chinese authorities, pressuring them to drop all charges and allow her to exercise her rights to freedom of belief and expression without fear of reprisal.
On September 6, a judge in Batam, Indonesia handed down a six-month jail sentenced to the manager of a radio station that had aired broadcasts about human rights in China, including the persecution of Falun Gong. Gatot Machali, manager of Radio Era Baru, was also fined 50 million rupees ($5,800) and has said he will appeal the decision. Press freedom groups have strongly condemned the trial and sentencing, urging the Indonesian government to resist CCP pressure to silence critical voices within its borders. The entire case has been marred with concerns of selective enforcement and fears that the charges result from Chinese pressure, including a 2007 letter from the Chinese embassy to Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding closure of the station and noting Machali by name. Reporters without Borders wrote immediately to the Indonesian President and Minister of Law and Human Rights asking them to intervene on Machali’s behalf. Radio Era Baru is an affiliate of Sound of Hope, a radio network founded by Falun Gong practitioners with the mission of providing uncensored news to Chinese audiences around the world.
Video showing cyber attack on Falun Gong removed from state-run TV
After catching the attention of the international community, a video clip that inadvertently admitted Falun Gong websites are a target for military cyber attacks has been removed from state-run China Central Television’s (CCTV) website. Cybersecurity analysts and international media took notice of the clip because it was a rare admission by the CCP that the many cyber attacks originating from China against human rights groups, government departments, and businesses in the United States and Europe indeed have official backing. The clip is still available on the U.S.-based video-sharing website YouTube.
U.S. Confucius Institutes import discrimination against Falun Gong
Confucius Institutes that are located at U.S. universities are indirectly importing the CCP’s employment discrimination against Falun Gong practitioners, according to a recent investigative report by The Epoch Times. The paper discovered that the hiring policy used to choose which Chinese are sent to teach at such institutes, non-profit cultural centers sponsored by the Chinese government, explicitly cites the following qualifications: “Aged between 22 to 60, physical and mental healthy, no record of participation in Falun Gong and other illegal organizations, and no criminal record.” Disturbingly, when reporters brought this policy to the attention of administrators at 9 U.S. universities hosting Confucius Institutes, the latter expressed little disapproval, asserting instead the CCP’s right to vet institute teachers according to its own criteria, even if those would be illegal in the United States. Other commentators, including legal experts and religious freedom advocates, viewed the hiring practices as unethical and clear religious discrimination. One Canadian pundit took his critique a step further saying, “That would be like if in the 1930s, if we had a German Institute in universities saying you have to be healthy, 22 to 60, and ‘No Jews Allowed.’”
A young Chinese couple who practice Falun Gong and live in South Korea are facing imminent deportation back to China, which would put them at risk of illegal imprisonment, torture, and death. On September 6, immigration officials raided the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jin Jingzhe, and detained Mr. Jin, taking him to a protection center for migrants. The couple had applied for asylum and their application was rejected, part of a pattern in South Korea in recent years. Despite being a signatory of the UN Convention against Torture, which forbids deportation of people to a country where they would face torture, the Korean government, under possible pressure from the CCP, has sent 10 Falun Gong practitioners back to China since 2009. In July 2011, three Falun Gong practitioners were repatriated. The Korean Falun Dafa Association has submitted a complaint about the matter to the office of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the UN High Commission for Refugees. Roger Helmer, a member of the European Parliament, wrote on September 9 to the South Korean Ambassador in the United Kingdom, voicing his concern for the couple and requesting assurance that Korea would fulfill its international obligations to asylum seekers. According to The Wall Street Journal, at least 23 members of the U.S. congress have also written to the Korean government.
Swiss musician dedicates album to Falun Gong persecution victims
Swiss musician and activist Michael de Salem released his debut album “Something Getting Wrong” last month. An avid environmentalist and human rights activist, he has dedicated the album to exposing the suppression Falun Gong practitioners face in China. De Salem was reportedly deeply touched by the story of a Chinese family who lost their lives as a result of the persecution. The song entitled “Higher” on the debut album was written especially for Falun Gong victims in China who have “suffered tremendously for simply wanting to improve their lifestyles and attain higher levels of consciousness.” The album is available for sale in record stores and online shops such as Amazon.
Petition urges U.S. Senators to co-sponsor Falun Gong Resolution
A new petition launched in early September on Change.org is urging U.S. Senators to co-sponsor Senate Resolution 232. The resolution, introduced on July 13, 2011 by New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, aims to recognize the continued persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, call for an immediate end to the campaign against them, and take note of the Tuidang movement whereby Chinese citizens renounce their ties to the Chinese Communist Party and its affiliates. The Falun Dafa Information Center encourages readers to sign the petition or otherwise reach out to Senators during the month of September to urge them to co-sponsor the resolution.
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 in early 2011, 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.” 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)