PARIS (FDI) – Last week, Mr. William Bourdon, one of the lawyers responsible for the trials against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, announced that a French criminal court has begun legal proceedings in a lawsuit charging the former Vice-Prime Minister of China, Mr. Lanqing Li, with crimes of torture.According to Mr. Bourdon, an examining magistrate in Paris has been assigned to the case.The lawsuit charges Mr. Li with crimes of torture inflicted upon Falun Gong practitioners in China. According to the complaint, Mr. Li was the head of the “6-10 Office” – a Gestapo-like agency created by Jiang Zemin to implement Jiang’s policy to “eradicate” Falun Gong. (special report) In a U.S. Congressional resolution passed unanimously (420-0) on July 24, 2002, the U.S. Congress described 6-10 as “notorious offices” charged with “overseeing the persecution of Falun Gong members through organized brainwashing, torture, and murder.” (news)Another lawyer who was involved with the trials of Augusto Pinochet, Mr. Georges-Henri Beauthier, is also working on the case against the former Chinese Vice-Prime Minister.The complaint was originally filed on December 4th 2002 in Nice, France, but was later moved to Paris where it was accepted by the criminal court in July. (news)The complaint is based on the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which France signed in 1984. As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, French Courts are authorized to hear cases which allege violation of its terms.“This is an important development in this case,” said Ms. Terri Marsh, a prominent human rights attorney in the United States. “The crimes alleged, the evidence and the legal analyses are quite similar to those of the lawsuit filed in the U.S. against the 6-10 Office and former Chinese leader, Jiang Zemin. This case demonstrates that the underlying principle of the UN Convention Against Torture – that no one is immune from prosecution for crimes of torture – can and will be implemented in courtrooms around the world.”Ms. Marsh is the lead attorney in a class-action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court charging Jiang Zemin and the 6-10 Office with torture, genocide and crimes against humanity. (news)Crimes of Torture By Lanqing Li and “6-10 Office” – State-Sanctioned and SystematicReliable sources inside China say Jiang Zemin personally appointed Mr. Li to be head of the 6-10 Office, giving him free reign to implement the “eradicate Falun Gong” policy. 6-10 Offices throughout China operated above the law and outside the Chinese constitution. Using a top-down system of quotas and fines imposed on security personnel throughout the country, these sources say the 6-10 Office sought to ensure results in destroying Falun Gong practitioners financially and physically.Dozens of sources in China say quotas are given to labor camps for the number of Falun Gong practitioners “required” to give up their practice by signing statements renouncing Falun Gong. Fines – or even the threat of losing their jobs – are then imposed on labor camp officials that do not meet these quotas. Additionally, the state-run media has flooded television, radio and newspapers with propaganda demonizing Falun Gong, inciting hatred against those who practice. Thus, with free-reign to extract the signed statements from practitioners, labor camp officials often utilized brutal forms of torture to secure the statements – all of which was not only sanctioned by the 6-10 Office, but encouraged to secure the result of “eradicating” Falun Gong.In a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of articles, the Wall Street Journal’s Ian Johnson reported on this top-down, by-any-means-necessary method implemented by the 6-10 Office to crush Falun Gong: “It puts huge pressure on local officials to comply with central edicts -- but gives them absolute discretion over implementation," reported Mr. Johnson. "That meant they were under strict orders to eliminate the huge number of Falun protesters...but faced no scrutiny of the methods they used.”Wave of International Lawsuits Target Persecution of Falun GongThe French lawsuit against Mr. Li is the tenth international lawsuit to emerge in the past two years against high-ranking Chinese officials or government bodies for their roles in persecuting Falun Gong.In the United States, five such lawsuits have been filed, two of which have handed down judgments in favor of Falun Gong.In June 2003, a U.S. Magistrate Judge denied foreign sovereign immunity to Beijing Party Secretary and former Beijing Mayor Liu Qi. In a report the judge submitted to the court, Liu Qi was found guilty of overseeing the torture of practitioners of Falun Gong. (news)In December 2001 the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York ruled against Zhao Zhifei, chief of police and second-in command of the “6-10 Office” in Hubei Province. In this case, the judge ordered a default judgment against Zhao Zhifei and awarded nominal damages to the plaintiffs, which could include the punitive and declaratory damages sought by the plaintiffs. (news)In March 2003, a Switzerland-based international non-governmental organization, "Track Impunity Always," announced plans to sue Jiang Zemin for his role in persecuting Falun Gong. (news)Lawsuits have also been filed in Indonesia and Hong Kong, while citizens of Canada, the United States, France, Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong and China have submitted a case against Jiang Zemin to two United Nations bodies as well as the International Criminal Court.