One Thousand People from 20 Countries Appeal to Australian U.N. Mission to Rescue Elderly Couple

Husband Previously Taken from His Home in China and Tortured, Wife Detained

GENEVA (FDI) — Falun Gong practitioners from 20 different countries will deliver 1000 personal letters to the Australian Mission to the U.N. today, asking Australian officials to cease deportation proceedings of an elderly couple back to China.

Mr. Wang Juntao (66) and Ms. Wang Liluan (62) were due to be deported on March 11 after their application for asylum was rejected by Australian officials (news). Due to Mr. Wang’s medical condition, deportation was rescheduled for later today.

Over 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners have gathered this week in Geneva to bring attention to the nationwide persecution of Falun Gong in China (special report) during the United Nation Commission on Human Rights’ annual meeting.

Persecution of Falun Gong Permeates All Sectors of Chinese Society

According to reports from Australia, the main reason given for rejecting the Wangs’ asylum application was the belief that “ordinary” Falun Gong practitioners would not face persecution if they practiced only at home.

“This is a misconception stemming from the information blockade that the Chinese regime has put in place regarding the Falun Gong issue,” explains Jason Loftus, spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Association in Canada who is in Geneva this week. “But the blockade is not entirely effective, as a number of media, organizations and government leaders have been able to document the pervasive and systemic nature of the persecution and how it directly affects each and every person who practices Falun Gong in China.”

On July 4, 2001, Australia’s own ABC TV reported that “close to half” of all those held in China’s forced labour camps are Falun Gong practitioners.

The United States Congress unanimously passed a resolution on July 24, 2002, condemning the persecution of Falun Gong in China (news). In the resolution, the systematic nature of the persecution was highlighted: “the campaign of persecution has been generated by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, is carried out by government officials and police at all levels, and has permeated every segment of society and every level of government in the People’s Republic of China”

Mr. Loftus concludes, “the overwhelming evidence that has been documented over the last three and a half years points to one simple fact: Regardless of who you are, if you practice Falun Gong in China, you are a target of a nationwide persecution campaign.”

Dark Days in China Still Haunt the Wangs.

The Wangs have previously been victimized by the persecution of Falun Gong in China.

Mr. Wang was arrested in his home in September 1999 while having a meal with his brother and son. While in detention, Mr. Wang was beaten and shocked repeatedly with electric batons until he lost consciousness. In October 1999, when Ms. Wang arrived at the detention center to appeal for her husband, she too was arrested.

A month later, Mr. Wang’s brother-in-law was detained, and then tortured to death several months later. Two of Mr. Wang’s brothers have also been sent to labor camps without trial, simply for practicing Falun Gong.

Unfamiliar with Democratic Freedoms, Elderly Couple Baulks after Asylum Rejection

Upon rejection of their application for asylum in Australia, the Wangs retreated to their place of residence and made no further contact with Australian officials. They did not follow the proper follow-up steps nor initiate an appeal.

“Having been raised and lived for so long under China’s Communist regime,” explains Ms. Lucy Zhou, a native of China who is actively working to secure the Wangs’ safety. “They really don’t have the concept of ‘appealing’ or taking any further steps to have their case heard. In China, appeals and similar matters are all very symbolic…once the ‘higher-ups’ have ruled, there is really no channel for a legitimate appeal.”

Ms. Zhou says this upbringing — combined with the confusion and fear at the prospect of being sent back to China — caused the elderly couple to not pursue the matter further, and instead, confine themselves to their residence.

The Question of Asylum: Principle vs. Protocol

As Ms. Zhou points out, however, this failure to engage in follow-up asylum application steps is no grounds to send the couple back to China. “The real issue here is the fundamental principle of asylum,” says Ms. Zhou. “The laws and procedures for asylum application exist to help people who face persecution. If we send people back to face persecution for not following the application procedures — especially under these circumstances — has the law upheld its own founding principle or has it actually been used to violate that principle?”

Ms. Zhou says that only Cambodia, under the pressure from Chinese authorities, has deported Falun Gong practitioners back to China, an action that was condemned by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. These practitioners were arrested upon returning to China and their current status is unknown. They have had no communication with the outside world.