Internet Freedom 2009
Part VIII: Falun Dafa Information Center 2008 Annual Report
Throughout the year, Falun Gong and related websites remained among the most systematically and hermetically blocked by China’s Great Firewall, including during the Olympics. In at least one well-documented case, an adherent was sentenced to prison simply for downloading and circulating Falun Gong-related information from the internet.
In particular, while access to some previously blocked sites was eventually allowed in the Olympic media centers after an international outcry, Falun Gong-related websites—including Faluninfo.net—reportedly remained blocked throughout the games.
According to the Congressional Executive Committee on China: “In response to foreign reporters’ complaints over blocked Web sites, a Chinese Olympics official publicly acknowledged in late July 2008 that sites relating to Falun Gong were blocked and would remain blocked despite the Olympics. Following those complaints, foreign media reported that some previously blocked sites, including those for Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Radio Free Asia, became accessible at the Olympic village.”
Falun Gong terms targeted for Skype surveillance
“Falun Gong” and other key words related to the group were also found to have been among those most likely to trigger monitoring, censorship, and storage of communication of Tom-Skype users, according to a study conducted by the Information Warfare Monitor and OpenNet Initiative Asia. The study, published in October 2008, found that in addition to filtering communications, Tom-Skype logs were retaining sensitive personal information of users, including usernames, passwords, bank account numbers, and e-mail addresses. Among the 96,499 messages that the researchers were able to access after they had been filtered and logged, “Falun” appeared in 6,744 (6.99%), the largest number of any other specific term (the only two terms with higher recorded numbers were the more vague ‘communist’ and ‘communist party’). The name of Falun Gong’s founder “Li Hongzhi” was detected in 485 of the messages. The prevalence of these terms within the sample would also indicate that Falun Gong is a particularly common topic of conversation among Tom-Skype users, be they Falun Gong adherents or other Chinese.
Individuals punished for downloading Falun Gong information
While an increasing number of individuals have been gaining access to proxy servers in recent years and succeeding in circumventing blocks imposed by the Great Firewall, those found to have accessed and downloaded Falun Gong-related information continued to be at risk of arrest and sentencing.
On November 3, 2008, a Shanghai court sentenced Liu Jin (female) to 3.5 years in prison for downloading information about the practice from the Internet and printing it to distribute to others. Liu, a former librarian at Shanghai Normal University, was sentenced by Fengxian District Court in a trial that lasted less than one day. She was sentenced in spite of statements made to the court in her defense by prominent Beijing rights lawyer Mo Shaoping. According to the Associated Press, Mo confirmed the sentencing. “‘This is common,’ Mo, who is well known for defending dissidents in China, said of the case and the sentence.”
Prior to sentencing, Liu was held in pre-trial detention for nearly a year, having been arrested from her home without a warrant in November 2007, when police confiscated computer equipment and 20,000 yuan (~$3,000).