Selected Excerpts from United Nations Reports

2010 Annual Report

United Nations (U.N.) Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups first began conveying communications and urgent appeals about Falun Gong adherents to the Chinese authorities in 2000. Since then, they have issued urgent appeals for dozens of adherents, transmitted hundreds of cases of concern to the Chinese government, and determined in formal opinions that Falun Gong adherents were detained arbitrarily.

After a 2005 mission to China, the Special Rapporteur on Torture reported evidence that practitioners had been tortured to death and held in solitary confinement in labor camps in Shanghai and Beijing, respectively. In other communications, Special Rapporteurs have raised concerns over the systematic detention of Falun Gong practitioners in labor camps, the use of sexual torture against female adherents, and ongoing reports of Falun Gong deaths in custody due to torture.

In a November 2008 legally binding decision, the United Nations Committee against Torture called for an investigation into illicit organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners. The committee’s conclusions followed on consistent inquiries transmitted to the Chinese government since August 2006 by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, which have received unsatisfactory replies. [For more information on U.N. statements related to organ harvesting, see “Forced Organ Removal from Falun Gong Prisoners of Conscience” in this report].


Background

Unlike many U.N. positions, which are held by government representatives, the individuals who serve as U.N. Special Rapporteurs or on Working Groups bodies are independent experts, often professors of international law, who are appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council (previously the Human Rights Commission – UNHRC). Their mandates are defined by the UNHRC and their work includes receiving complaints of abuse from victims and civil society groups, transmitting concerns over reliable allegations to governments, investigating allegations, and in the case of U.N. Working Groups, issuing formal opinions on particular cases.

During the regular meetings of the UNHRC these experts also present their findings to the plenary and in several instances have mentioned abuse of Falun Gong adherents as an issue of particular concern. In the 2003 report by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Ms. Asma Jahangir, stated:

The Special Rapporteur continues to be alarmed by deaths in custody in China. Reports describe harrowing scenes in which detainees, many of whom are followers of the Falun Gong movement, die as a result of severe ill-treatment, neglect or medical attention. The cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture defy description.[1]

More recently, in his February 2010 report on the state of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Manfred Nowak reflected on the Re-education Through Labor camp system used to incarcerate large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners:

China maintains the most institutionalised method of opposing political dissent that I have encountered. Political dissidents and human rights defenders, […], as well as spiritual groups such as Falun Gong are often accused of political crimes […].

Such individuals are not only at a high risk of torture when arrested, but the Re-education Through Labour (RTL) regime that is often used as a sentence for political crimes employs measures of coercion, humiliation and punishment aimed at altering the personality of detainees up to the point of breaking their will, and can itself be considered as inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, if not mental torture. [2]


Sample Falun Gong-related Evaluations from U.N. Reports

Since 2000, the following U.N. Special Procedures experts have raised Falun Gong cases with the Chinese authorities: Special Rapporteur (SR) on Torture, SR on Extrajudicial Executions, SR on Freedom of Religion or Belief, SR on Violence against Women, SR on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, SR on Freedom of Expression, SR on the Right to Health, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Working Group on Disappearances.

What follows is a small sample of their reports and comments.

2005 Mission to China of the Special Rapporteur on Torture [3]

At the end of November 2005, the SR and a team of experts conducted a mission to China. The following are several of the excerpts from his report on the visit:

Falun Gong Practitioners Comprise 66 Percent of Reported Torture Victims

Since 2000, the Special Rapporteur and his predecessors have reported 314 cases of torture alleged torture to the Government of China […] The following table indicates the typology of the victims of alleged torture and ill-treatment.

Table 1

Victims of alleged torture

               Victims

 Percentage
 Falun Gong practitioners
 66
 Uighurs  11
 Sex workers
 8
 Tibetans  6
 Human rights defenders  5
 Political dissidents
 2

 Other (persons infected with HIV/AIDS
and members of religious groups)

 2

 

The methods of torture alleged include, among others:

•    beatings with sticks and batons;

•    use of electric shock batons;

•    cigarette burns;

•    hooding/blindfolding;

•    guard-instructed or permitted beatings by fellow prisoners;

•    use of handcuffs or ankle fetters for extended periods (including in solitary confinement or secure holding areas);

•    submersion in pits of water or sewage;

•    exposure to conditions of extreme heat or cold;

•    being forced to maintain uncomfortable positions, such as sitting, squatting, lying down, or standing for long periods of
     time, sometimes with objects held under arms;

•    deprivation of sleep, food or water; prolonged solitary confinement;

•    denial of medical treatment and medication;

•    hard labour; and

•    suspension from overhead fixtures with handcuffs.

In several cases, the techniques employed have been given particular terminologies, such as the “tiger bench”, where one is forced to sit motionless on a tiny stool a few centimeters off the ground; “reversing an airplane”, where one is forced to bend over while holding legs straight, feet close together and arms lifted high; or “exhausting an eagle”, where one is forced to stand on a tall stool and subjected to beatings until exhaustion.

On the basis of the information he received during his mission, the Special Rapporteur confirms that many of these methods of torture have been used in China.


Assessment following visit to Beijing Municipal Women’s Re-education Through Labour (RTL) Facility (Visited on 24 November 2005)

The Special Rapporteur […] is deeply concerned by the prolonged periods for which detainees are held in solitary confinement. During his visit, he inspected the ‘Intensive Training’ section which houses 10 small solitary confinement cells and was informed by the prison authorities that the maximum duration in solitary confinement was seven days.

[… However,] detainees stated that Falun Gong practitioners who had not renounced their beliefs after six months in detention were placed in the Intensive Training section until they were ‘reformed’. Falun Gong practitioners formerly detained at this facility mentioned that they would refer to this section as the “Intensive Torture Section”.


Eyewitness account of Falun Gong practitioner killed in labor camp

Ms. Mao Hengfeng, aged 44, Shanghai […] (Interviewed in Beijing on 24 November 2005). She alleges that she has been targeted by officials for various petitions she has made to Beijing authorities. […] On 16 March 2004, she was detained, and later sentenced on 5 April 2004 to 18 months’ of re-education through labour for “disrupting social order”, to be served at the Qingpo Women’s RTL camp, Shanghai. The camp reportedly manufactures Christmas tree lights, sweaters, and small toys. She was released on 12 September 2005.

[…] She reported that one prisoner, Ms. Li Limao, who was a Falun Gong practitioner, died one month after the Chinese New Year in 2005 following a punishment for disobedience. She was hung from a window from her hands tied behind her back, and with her toes just touching the floor.


2009 Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions includes 16 Falun Gong cases

Citing an allegation letter dated 13 March 2009, sent with the Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the Rapporteur’s annual report stated:

We would like to bring to your Government’s attention information we have received regarding the cases of 16 deaths of Falun Gong practitioners due to injuries allegedly sustained in custody in China.

While the circumstances under which the deaths occurred differ, all the victims were Falun Gong practitioners and they all died under the supervision of law enforcement officers or soon after their release from custody. Concern is expressed that the arrests and deaths of these individuals were solely connected with their activities as Falun Gong practitioners. In the Annex of this letter, we have reproduced detailed information on each of the 16 cases.[4]

[FDIC editor’s note: For the full list of individual cases included in the appeal, see: “Deaths Due to Torture in Custody” here]


Sample Individual Cases Cited in Recent United Nations Reports

2008 Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak

Joint Urgent Appeal of the Rapportuer with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, dated 29/3/2007

Ms. Liang Wenjian, aged 39, her husband, Lin Zhiyong, aged 40, Ms. Li Dongmei, Wang He, Wu Jiangyan, and three other persons whose identities have yet to be established.

All eight individuals were arrested on 10 February 2007 by around ten plain-clothed police officers for participating in a […] gathering at the residence of Liang Wenjian. The police also searched their home and confiscated Falun Gong literature and a computer.

About one month later seven of the eight individuals mentioned above were assigned to two years of “Re-education through Labour” (RTL) in connection with their Falun Gong activities without formal charges, trial or any other judicial process. One person, an elderly woman whose identity has yet to be established, was assigned to one and a half years of “RTL”. All eight persons are currently being detained at Panyu detention centre in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province, awaiting transfer to an “RTL” camp. Their families have not been notified of their orders of detention and have not been allowed to visit them.

Liang Wenjian had previously been assigned to “RTL” at Guangzhou Chaitou Xiaodao from February 2000 to April 2001. During this period she was subjected to ill-treatment. She was hung up by her wrists so that her feet could barely touch the ground for two hours for practicing Falun Gong in detention. Liang Wenjian was also required to work for up to 14 hours per day to make artificial flowers. [5]


2009 Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir

Urgent appeal sent on 14 July 2009 jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Special Procedures mandate holders brought to the attention of the Government information they had received regarding Mr. Zhou Xiangyang. He was sentenced to 9 years in prison in May 2003, because he allegedly refused to give up his belief in Falun Gong. Reportedly, he was brutally tortured and was locked in a solitary cell for four months in the winter. At Gangbei Prison, Mr. Zhou was verbally and physically abused, and was detained in isolation numerous times.

In February 2009, the guard captain at Gangbei Prison informed that Mr. Zhou was being force-fed five times per day and that he could die at any moment. When his family visited him two months later, four prisoners had to carry Mr. Zhou out of his cell as he was too weak and thin to walk by himself. During the visit, the other prisoners monitored his conversation and would kick him as a warning to change the subject, when they had the impression that he was disclosing information about the treatment he had experienced in prison.  

In April and mid-May 2009, Mr. Zhou was taken to the Police Hospital for emergency treatment, including intravenous injections. Mr. Zhou’s family requested his release on bail for medical treatment, but this was refused by the Gangbei Prison. The prison authorities allegedly indicated that he had to renounce his belief before he could be released for medical treatment. Based on Mr. Zhou’s deteriorating health, concern was expressed for his physical and mental integrity.[6]

Urgent appeal sent on 18 September 2009 jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The Special Rapporteurs brought to the attention of the Government information they had received regarding Mr. Li Feng and Mr. Yu Ming.

On 4 October 2002, Mr. Li Feng was sentenced to 15 years in prison at Prison No. 4 in Shijiazhuang City, due to his involvement in broadcasting a television program about Falun Gong. Mr. Li was allegedly tortured in prison, which resulted in him suffering from seizures, high blood pressure, breathlessness, bowel and urinary disorders. He also lost consciousness several times. In January 2006, he was kept in the hospital for two days after he lost consciousness for 12 hours. His family was not allowed to visit him. Mr. Li is currently in critical condition. He suffers from lower limb oedema, dizziness and needs support to talk. He also suffers from constant vomiting.

According to additional information, on 3 March 2006, Mr. Yu Ming was sentenced to two and a half years of forced labour. He was detained at several centres and transferred to the Tuanhe Forced Labor Camp on 1 September 2006. Mr. Yu refused to renounce Falun Gong and held a hunger strike to protest his detention. As a result, he was tortured, force-fed and tied to a chair with ropes around his neck, chest, waist, hands and legs. A dozen inmates allegedly took turns torturing him. He remained tied to the chair from mid-September to the end of 2006. He was untied after suffering cardiac arrest. He was later detained in a solitary cell and tied to the bed.

On 21 May 2007, Mr. Yu was transferred to the Masanjia Forced Labour Camp in Shenyang City, where he was taken to the camp hospital due to his overall weakness and stiff limbs. He was later transferred to the Luotaishanzhuang Brainwashing Center in Fushun City. On 2 September 2008, Mr. Yu’s term was extended for another year. He was sent back to the Masanjia Forced Labour Camp in October, and has been held in solitary confinement since then. At the camp, Mr. Yu was forced to sign a suicide letter, before he was beaten, including on his head with a steel baton, hung and shocked with electric batons. As a result, he bled severely and lost consciousness for more than a week. Repeated requests by his family to visit him have been denied. As a result of the alleged beatings suffered by both Mr. Li and Mr. Yu in detention, concern is expressed for their physical and psychological integrity.

(b) No response received from the Government

           (c) Observations of the Special Rapporteur

The Special Rapporteur regrets that she has so far not received a reply from the Government of China concerning the above mentioned allegations. The Special Rapporteur is very concerned by the continued violations of freedom of religion or belief suffered by Falun Gong practitioners. [7]

 —

Notes:

[1] Asma Jahangir, “Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Asma Jahangir to the 60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights,” December 22, 2003, E/CN.4/2004/7, p.13.

[2] Manfred Nowak, “Study on the phenomena of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the world, including an assessment of onditions of detention,” February 5, 2010, A/HRC/13/39/Add.5; http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A.HRC.13.39.Add.5_en.pdf

[3] Manfred Nowak, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: Mission to China,” March 10, 2006; E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.6; http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/699005.6.html

[4] Philip Alston, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,” May 29, 2009, A/HRC/11/2/Add.1, p.67.
 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/11session/A.HRC.11.2.Add.1.pdf 

[5] Manfred Nowak, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment: Summary of information, including individual cases, transmitted to Governments and replies received,” February 19, 2008, A/HRC/7/3/Add.1; http://daccess-ods.un.org/TMP/7659164.html

[6] Asma Jahangir, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief: Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received,” Feburary 16, 2010, A/HRC/13/40/Add.1, p.16; http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/13session/A-HRC-13-40-Add1_EFS.pdf

[7] Ibid. p.21