Latest US State Department Religious Freedom Report Cites Large-Scale Persecution of Falun Gong

On May 15, 2023, the US Department of State released their annual International Religious Freedom report, covering global developments and repression of religious beliefs during the period January 1 to December 31, 2022. China was once again designated as being of “a Country of Particular Concern” given the severe violations of religious freedom taking place.

The China chapter makes 39 references to Falun Gong and the ongoing, nationwide campaign of persecution. For example, it stated that in 2022, thousands of practitioners were harassed to renounce their faith, and that “authorities sentenced hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners from 28 provinces and regions for their faith to terms ranging from six months to 15 years in prison…[and] physically abused and tortured Falun Gong practitioners in custody…172 Falun Gong practitioners died during the year as a result of persecution suffered because of their faith.”

The report also covers other aspects of the persecution faced by Falun Gong practitioners, including sexual assault, the role of the 610 Office, societal discrimination, and a crackdown that occurred ahead of the 20th Party Congress

The State Department’s annual religious freedom report is widely used among parts of the US government as an authoritative assessment of government repression on faith communities. These include immigration judges who assess asylum applications, Congressional staff assisting US residents with family detained in China, and lawmakers drafting legislation and resolutions.

The severity and scope of the persecution of Falun Gong documented in the report provides an up-to-date resource informing this work.

Cases from Falun Dafa Information Center’s 2022 Report

Several of the references in the report drew on the Falun Dafa Information Center’s 2022 report, “Pandemic, Persecution and Pushback,” which examines the latest updates and trends related to the CCP’s anti-Falun Gong campaign over the period of 2020-2022. the DOS noted from our 2022 report: “The targeted practitioners came from all walks of life, including former government employees, professors, company managers, teachers, doctors, engineers and accountants.” Everyone who identifies as a believer is at-risk, regardless of their occupation or age.

In addition, incidents of physical abuse and torture in custody mentioned in the report were also featured. The DOS cited, “In July, authorities handcuffed a former university professor, forced wasabi water into her nose, and sexually assaulted her.” In some cases, authorities reportedly cremated release the bodies of the deceased without the families’ consent. The IRF report referenced Simon Zhang’s case, and the rescue campaign for his mother Ji Yunzhi in 2022.

New York architect Simon Zhang and his mother, Ji Yunzhi, during a trip to Hangzhou city in Zhejiang Province, China, in 2012. Ji, a Falun Gong practitioner, died in the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong in March 2022. (Courtesy of Simon Zhang)

The State Department wrote, “[O]n February 1, authorities arrested practitioner Ji Yunzhi in her home. They beat and physically abused her while in custody and she died in a hospital in Chiefeng City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, seven weeks later. When Ji went on a hunger strike to protest this treatment, authorities reportedly force fed her and repeatedly slapped her in the face. Upon her death, authorities transferred her body under armed guard to a crematorium against the family’s wishes.”

The “Pandemic, Persecution and Pushback” report is available online here.