Killed for their belief: Falun Gong Deaths from Abuse in 2009
By the time of writing, The Falun Dafa Information Center had documented the deaths of 96 Falun Gong practitioners between January and December 2009 resulting from severe abuse in police custody or other forms of persecution. Given the difficulty of obtaining information from China, the actual death toll is likely significantly higher. As delayed reports emerge in the coming weeks, the confirmed death toll is also expected to climb.
As the year 2010 begins, large numbers of Chinese citizens detained for practicing Falun Gong continue to die because of brutality suffered at police stations, labor camps and prisons across China. Throughout calendar year 2009, the Falun Dafa Information Center recorded the deaths of 96 practitioners due to such conditions. The Center has already received reports of at least three deaths in 2010. None of these individuals committed any “crime” or engaged in any violent act. Rather, they sought only to peacefully pursue the spiritual path of their choice. Yet these case are most likely just the tip of the iceberg – they are the stories that, thanks to the courage and tech savviness of the victims’ acquaintances, succeeded in slipping through the veil of secrecy and censorship that envelops Falun Gong deaths.
Thirty-three of the victims—over one third of the cases documented in 2009—died inside a Chinese police station, detention center, prison or labor camp. Twenty-two practitioners were detained in 2009 and died within less than a year of their initial arrest, either in custody or shortly after release. Last-minute discharges and speedy cremations are common tactics employed by the Chinese authorities to avoid responsibility for detainees dying in custody. Thirty-five of those killed had been detained prior to 2007, many of them dying in the midst of serving a long term in a prison camp or after release, having never recovered from the injuries obtained in detention.
The victims were of all ages, professions, and locations. They ranged from a 28-year-old factory worker from Sichuan province who died in custody within weeks of being detained to a 71-year-old woman from Chongqing, who was sentenced to a labor camp in 2008 and died just months after her release, unable to recover from the daily beatings, starvation, and hard labor endured in the camp. The victims’ occupations included farmers, retired factory workers, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, teachers, and doctors. The gender breakdown was exactly even, with 43 women and 43 men counted among the victims. A large number had previously been illegally detained in labor or prison camps for practicing Falun Gong.
A complete table of the names and available details surrounding these known cases can be found in the Appendix to this report. 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. Several cases also draw on reporting during the year by international media, the United Nations, and human rights groups. Due to the difficulties inherent in investigating Falun Gong cases, details for some cases may be not be fully available.
The table does not include cases of Falun Gong practitioners killed so that their organs could be used for transplants, due to the extreme secrecy surrounding the practice. Nevertheless, since 2006, a range of credible evidence and investigations have pointed to the existence, and likely continuation, of such forcible organ removal. Its full scale remains unknown.
In total, since 1999, at least 3,352 Falun Gong practitioners are documented to have died as a result of various forms of persecution. As mentioned above, the actual death toll is almost certainly much higher.