Large Numbers of Falun Gong Practitioners Targeted for Persecution and Arrest in 2009, Says Congressional-Executive Commission on China
New York—In its 2009 Annual Report released last week, the U.S. government’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China thoroughly documents the continued and intensified targeting of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese security apparatus over the past year. The section on Falun Gong cites, in particular, the involvement of top Chinese Communist Party officials in directing a “strike hard” campaign against Falun Gong, as well as the robust activity of the extralegal 6-10 Office in carrying out such directives.
“The government maintained its longstanding ban against the Falun Gong spiritual movement [in 2009],” says the report. “Viewing the 10th anniversary [of the ban] as sensitive, the central government held fast in 2009 with its 2008 pre-Olympics efforts to ferret out and punish Falun Gong practitioners.”
“Authorities conducted propaganda campaigns that deride Falun Gong, carried out strict surveillance of practitioners, detained and imprisoned large numbers of practitioners, and subjected some who refuse to disavow Falun Gong to torture and other abuses in reeducation through labor facilities. International media and Falun Gong sources also reported deaths of practitioners in Chinese police custody in 2008 and 2009.”
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China is a special joint body of the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate, and executive branch established in 2000 to monitor human rights and the development of rule of law in China. Its 400-page annual report, released on October 10, covers in detail a wide range of issues, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and the functioning of the judicial system. The research on Falun Gong draws on official Chinese documents and websites, reports by international media and human rights groups, and testimony from Chinese rights lawyers and former prisoners of conscience.
Key Findings and Evidence
- Advancing the CCP’s decade-long persecution against Falun Gong was a key priority in a nationwide crackdown in 2009. The crackdown was led by top Party leaders—including Vice President Xi Jinping and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang—and carried out by the public security bureau (PSB) and local Party branches throughout the country.
- Large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners nationwide continued to be subject to surveillance, detention, “re-education through labor” and abuse in custody, leading sometimes to death. During the year, concerns of organ harvesting from nonconsenting Falun Gong prisoners of conscience continued to arise, including from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.
- Extensive efforts were made, led by the 6-10 Office, to vilify Falun Gong practitioners amongst Chinese citizens and mobilize the public to contribute to the arrest of practitioners—including via special school lessons and offers of monetary rewards to informants.
- The CCP and 6-10 Office continued to use political control over the court system, legal profession, and law enforcement agencies to systematically deny Falun Gong practitioners their basic rights to due process, fair trials, and access to counsel. These efforts included direct instructions to judges on how to decide Falun Gong cases and an escalation in the assaults and harassment of Chinese lawyers seeking to defend Falun Gong clients.
KEY FINDINGS AND EVIDENCE FROM CECC REPORT
1. Advancing the CCP’s decade-long persecution against Falun Gong was a key priority in a nationwide crackdown in 2009. The crackdown was led by top Party leaders—including Vice President Xi Jinping and Politburo Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang—and carried out by the public security bureau (PSB) and local Party branches throughout the country.
o PSB directives: “The high priority that Party leaders place on the ‘struggle’ against Falun Gong was demonstrated by its inclusion as a principal target for a ‘strike hard’ campaign in a [February 2009] directive that set the agenda for public security bureaus (PSB) nationwide this year” (pg. 353)
o Project 6521: “Chinese authorities placed the anti-Falun Gong campaign prominently on the agenda of a special public security taskforce called ‘Project 6521,’ which reportedly was established to maintain ‘social stability’ during four sensitive anniversaries in 2009, including the 10th anniversary of the April 25 Falun Gong silent demonstration near the Party leadership compound in Beijing.” (pg. 121)
“The presence of two of China’s top leaders at the helm of Project 6521, Vice President Xi Jinping [viewed by many experts as a likely successor to Hu Jintao] and Zhou Yongkang, indicates the importance that the Party assigns to its political ‘struggle’ against Falun Gong… Provincial and municipal governments were reportedly required to set up temporary 6521 taskforces led by the local deputy Party secretary and public security chief while county and township authorities were instructed to report their implementation of Project 6521 to the municipal and provincial taskforces.” (pg. 353)
2. Large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners throughout the country continued to be subject to surveillance, detention, “re-education through labor” and abuse in custody, leading sometimes to death. During the year, concerns of organ harvesting from nonconsenting Falun Gong prisoners of conscience continued to arise, including from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.
· Surveillance: “The 6–10 Office and public security bureaus throughout China surveilled and monitored communities, residences, and workplaces in order to identify and isolate Falun Gong adherents…. In June 2009, Jiujiang city officials in Jiangxi province described a surveillance system focused on a group of 829 ‘key figures,’ composed primarily of former Falun Gong prisoners [of conscience]. In July, authorities in Shandong province’s Zibo city placed nine practitioners under a ‘system of 24-hour monitoring and control.’” (pg. 122)
· “Re-education through labor” (RTL): “Chinese authorities continue to employ an extrajudicial system of incarceration known as ‘reeducation through labor’ (RTL) to punish multitudes of Falun Gong practitioners… In 2008, the Beijing Women’s RTL Center reportedly held 700 Falun Gong practitioners compared to only 140 prisoners accused of other crimes. In February 2009, more than half of 13 former RTL inmates interviewed for one study—none of whom were practitioners—noted that Falun Gong constituted one of the largest groups of RTL prisoners and that they are singled out for harsh treatment.” (pg. 123)
· Widespread arrests: “As security intensified ahead of the 10th anniversary of the ban [on Falun Gong], the ‘strike hard’ campaign resulted in widespread detentions and imprisonment of Falun Gong practitioners. In the first half of 2008, Harbin municipality authorities in Heilongjiang province placed 53 Falun Gong practitioners in criminal detention, 23 in administrative detention, formally arrested 23, and ordered 19 to serve RTL.” (pg. 123)
· Torture and deaths in custody: “Cases of torture and death of Falun Gong practitioners in official custody, both confirmed and alleged, continued to surface in the past year… In March 2009, a public security officer at the Shibei District Liaoyuan Road PSB station in Qingdao reportedly beat Lu Xueqin, a Falun Gong practitioner, for nine days until she was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. In July 2009, a 45-year-old practitioner named Yang Guiquan was reportedly declared dead upon arrival at the Fuxin City Mining Corporation General Hospital in Liaoning province after being held for 16 days by police and reportedly beaten with electric batons and force-fed.” (pg. 124)
· Organ harvesting: “In the past year, allegations of organ harvesting from nonconsenting Falun Gong prisoners have emerged again, further raising concerns about possible abuses in China’s organ transplant industry… In December 2008, the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) indicated in its report on China that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, had noted ‘an increase in organ transplant operations coincides with the ‘beginning of the persecution of [Falun Gong practitioners],’… In an August 2009 interview, Nowak noted that ‘[i]t remains to be seen how it could be possible that organ transplant surgeries in Chinese hospitals have risen massively since 1999, while there are never that many voluntary donors available.’” (pg. 188)
3. Extensive efforts were made, led by the 6-10 Office, to vilify Falun Gong practitioners amongst Chinese citizens and to mobilize the public to contribute to the arrest of practitioners—including via special school lessons and offers of monetary rewards to informants.
· Public propaganda campaigns: “Xuanwei authorities [in Yunnan province] also authorized a ‘powerful political offensive’ in all villages and neighborhoods involving mandatory resident participation in a propaganda campaign to ‘effectively frighten’ Falun Gong.” (pg. 122)
· Anti-Falun Gong lessons in universities and elementary schools: “The 6–10 Office focuses on public schools and universities as venues for spreading its message… In May 2009, the Xinjiang Agricultural University initiated a 10-month campaign to ‘build a durable ideological line of defense’ to ‘guard against and resist’… Falun Gong. In July, elementary school students in Leshan city, Sichuan province, attended a ‘lively’ speech from the local Party secretary and viewed an ‘anti-cult warning film.’ The principal instructed students to study ‘anti-cult’ materials during the summer, take notes or write a comic book to illustrate lessons learned, and return a form with a parent’s signature to verify completion of the assignment.” (pg. 123)
· Paid informants: “Identification and monitoring of Falun Gong practitioners is also accomplished through the 6–10 Office’s cultivation of paid informants… The 6–10 Office in Liuyang, a county-level city under Hunan province’s Changsha municipality, launched a 24-hour hotline for informants in March  and announced rewards of between 50 and 1,000 yuan (US$7 and US$146)… Authorities in Anhui province’s Bengbu city credited an informant’s call for facilitating the capture of a 50-year-old disabled Falun Gong practitioner named Yu Xiaoping who was distributing leaflets.” (pg. 122)
4. The CCP and 6-10 Office continued to use political control over the court system, legal profession, and law enforcement agencies to systematically deny Falun Gong practitioners their basic rights to due process, fair trials, and access to counsel. These efforts included direct instructions to judges on how to decide Falun Gong cases and an escalation in the assaults and harassment of Chinese lawyers seeking to defend Falun Gong clients.
· 6-10 Office interference in judicial proceedings: “The Party’s 6–10 Office reportedly has interfered in the adjudication of Falun Gong cases. In November 2008, defense lawyers for two practitioners on trial at the Jiguan District People’s Court in Jixi city, Heilongjiang province, challenged the court’s independence when the presiding judge was seen meeting with 6–10 Office agents during a court recess. In February 2009, the Xi’an District People’s Court in Liaoyuan city, Jilin province, reported that when preparing for a trial involving Falun Gong …, the court must first ‘petition’ the municipal 6–10 Office, and only after receiving an affirmative response is the court then permitted to hear the case.” (pg. 126)
· Other forms of obstructing justice: “In the past year, trials of Falun Gong practitioners continued to display procedural irregularities and violations, while justice bureaus took actions that subverted ordinary legal protections. In October 2008, the Wuhou District People’s Court in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, sentenced 11 Falun Gong practitioners to between three and seven years in prison. The court reportedly barred family members from attending the trial and prohibited the defendants’ lawyers from speaking. More than 15 lawyers joined together to appeal the ruling, but the appeals court attempted to obstruct their access to court records. The Harbin Municipal Justice Bureau issued a directive in October requiring attorneys who defend Falun Gong practitioners to report to and receive pre-trial ‘guidance’ from the government-controlled lawyers association.” (pg. 126)
· Physical assaults and detention of lawyers: “In the past year, security officials in southwest China reportedly assaulted attorneys who attempted to defend Falun Gong clients facing charges in China’s judicial system… In 2009, authorities in northeastern China reportedly detained at least four attorneys on account of their defense of Falun Gong clients… On May 13, 2009, more than 20 officers from the Jiangjin District Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Chongqing municipality reportedly physically assaulted attorneys Li Chunfu and Zhang Kai at the home of Jiang Xiqing, a Falun Gong practitioner whose death in custody they were investigating. Officers took Li and Zhang to the PSB where they hung them inside iron cages, interrogated, and beat them. Police reportedly told Li and Zhang that ‘‘you absolutely cannot defend Falun Gong; this is the situation in China.” (pg. 124)
· The torture and disappearance of Gao Zhisheng: “The Chinese Government’s harsh treatment of lawyers who defend Falun Gong has been most severe in the case of Gao Zhisheng, a prominent human rights attorney who was last seen being forcibly taken from his hometown by public security officials on February 4, 2009. When public security officials abducted Gao in September 2007, Gao was tortured in a secret location outside Beijing for more than 50 days. Gao’s account of the abduction describes how he was repeatedly struck with electric batons all over his body, including his genitals, and subjected to other forms of torture. Gao recounts how his tormentors admitted that Falun Gong practitioners were indeed tortured as Gao had previously alleged: ‘‘you are not incorrect in saying that we torture Falun Gong followers. That’s right, we do. The 12 courses we’re serving you were perfected on the Falun Gong followers.’’ Gao was also warned that he would be killed if he told anyone about being abducted and tortured. He has not been seen since February.” (pg. 125)
· Harassment and loss of license: “In cases where authorities did not physically assault or detain attorneys who defend Falun Gong, officials often harassed and intimidated them… As of early September 2009, at least 21 rights lawyers had not passed the ‘‘annual assessment and registration’’ [effectively disbarring them]. Rights lawyers and NGOs believe that authorities are punishing the lawyers for taking on cases the government deems sensitive or controversial, such as cases involving Falun Gong… In late March 2009, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian—two of the human rights lawyers whose licenses to practice law were not renewed by the May 31 deadline this year—were prevented from meeting their detained client, Ge Hefei, a Falun Gong practitioner, in Hebei province.” (pg. 104)