Top 10 Things You Should Know about the Beijing Olympics and Falun Gong
- China’s Olympic Committee President was found liable for torture
- To prepare for the Olympics, Chinese security ordered a “strike hard” against Falun Gong.
- Falun Gong practitioners are being killed in custody faster and more frequently than before.
- Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners around China have been arrested “in preparation” for the games.
- Falun Gong practitioners are officially excluded from the Games because of religious belief, in clear violation of the Olympic Charter.
- Falun Gong has never taken a position on an Olympic boycott.
- A “clean up” of districts hosting Olympic venues has included the arrest of local residents who practice Falun Gong.
- Despite ostensibly freer regulations for foreign journalists, Falun Gong remains taboo.
- Hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners will experience the Olympics from inside labor camps, where they are often tortured.
- Most Chinese are unaware of any of the above because independent information about Falun Gong remains blocked inside China.
(1) China’s Olympic Committee President was found liable for torture
In 2004, a U.S. federal court found that Liu Qi, the man heading Beijing’s Olympic Organizing Committee, was responsible for the torture of Falun Gong adherents during his tenure as Beijing’s mayor from 1999 to 2002. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, which publicized the case in April 2008:
For more information visit: http://centerforinvestigativereporting.org/node/3625
For a summary of the case and relevant legal documents visit: http://www.cja.org/cases/liuqi.shtml
(2) To prepare for the Olympics, Chinese security ordered a “strike hard” against Falun Gong.
According to Amnesty International, in preparing for the Games, Former Public Security Minister Zhou Yongkang issued the following order in the context of “successfully holding the 17th Communist Party Congress [in October 2007] and the Beijing Olympic Games”:
(3) Falun Gong practitioners are being killed in custody faster and more frequently than before.
Within the first three months of 2008, the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC) documented six cases of practitioner deaths occurring within merely 16 days of arrest and in some cases, within hours. By comparison, in 2007, it was over the course of the entire year that the same number died within such a short time in custody. In several of the recent cases, family members were able to view the body before its cremation and saw signs of torture, including strangulation marks or bruises from electric shock batons.
One of the most prominent victims was Mr. Yu Zhou, 42, a musician who was arrested with his wife Ms. Xu Na at the end of January on their way home from a performance by his band. Eleven days after their arrest, the authorities notified their family members to come to Qinghe Emergency Center, where they found Yu already dead. He had been in good health before his detention, but the hospital refused to conduct an autopsy. Ms. Xu, who was released in 2006 after serving five years in prison for practicing Falun Gong, remains in custody.
According to The London Times, which reported on Yu’s death:
For The London Times’ coverage of Yu Zhou’s case, see: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/china/article3779899.ece
(4) Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners around China have been arrested “in preparation” for the games.
Following orders such as Zhou Yongkang’s (see #2 above), Chinese security agencies have been conducting large-scale arrests of Falun Gong adherents throughout China in recent months as authorities step up efforts to “stamp out” the practice in advance of the Olympic Games in August.
Since January, the FDIC has been receiving regular reports from adherents and their families inside China of door-to-door searches and arrests. According to statistics compiled from these reports, there have been at least 2,000 arrests across 29 provinces, major cities, and autonomous regions. In Beijing alone, over 150 arrests are known to have taken place.
NOTE: A follow-up report with up-to-date statistics and details will be released shortly.
(5) Falun Gong practitioners are officially excluded from the Games because of religious belief, in clear violation of the Olympic Charter.
Throughout 2007, several statements by top officials, as well as an internal document, indicated that Falun Gong adherents from both inside and outside China will be excluded from participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as athletes, coaches, journalists or spectators. Such a policy that discriminates on the basis of religious belief contravenes both the Olympic charter as well as the code of ethics signed in Beijing in April 2007.
One official admission of the intent to exclude foreigners who practice Falun Gong from the games was provided by Li Zhanjun, director of the Beijing Olympics media center, in November 2007.
While rejecting allegations that the Chinese authorities intended to limit the entry of Bibles for personal religious use, Li singled out Falun Gong texts as an exception. As reported by the Associated Press: “We don’t recognize it [Falun Gong]… So Falun Gong texts, Falun Gong activities in China are forbidden.”
For more information see: http://faluninfo.net/downloads/FDI_Press/FDI-FACTSHEET-OLEX.doc
(6) Falun Gong has never taken a position on an Olympic boycott.
As a spiritual practice, Falun Gong in and of itself does not take a stance on issues such as whether or not to boycott the Olympics. Yet, individual adherents are entitled to take their own positions and make statements accordingly. Nevertheless, such views represent the opinion of that particular individual, rather than Falun Gong as a whole.
What the FDIC is concerned about is the escalation of abuses and extrajudicial killings of practitioners ahead of the games, and indeed, because of the games. There is ample evidence, including points presented in this document, that shows how China’s communist leaders are using the Olympic games as a reason to intensify the campaign to ‘eradicate’ Falun Gong.
(7) A “clean up” of districts hosting Olympic venues has included the arrests of local residents who practice Falun Gong.
Between December 2007 and March 2008, at least 16 Falun Gong adherents had been arrested from Chaoyang District alone, which is set to host the beach volleyball and tennis events, and 10 from Shunyi district, the site of the Olympic rowing and kayaking venues. In total, over 156 practitioners in Beijing and at least 1,878 nationwide have been rounded up during this time period.
According to reports received by the FDIC, many of the arrests have followed a common pattern. Officers from the local police station or Public Security Bureau (PSB) branch come to the adherent’s home or workplace, conduct a search for any Falun Gong-related materials, and take the individual into custody at the district detention center. In some cases, family members or co-workers who do not practice Falun Gong have been taken into custody as well.
The systematic nature of the arrests suggests that authorities are using a previously compiled list of local adherents – a common practice of the PSB. According to former PSB agent Hao Fengjun, who currently resides in Australia, authorities in the city of Tianjin, where Hao formerly worked, had a database of 30,000 Falun Gong practitioners’ names.
For a list of 67 adherents detained in Beijing as of March 2008, including the above-mentioned 16, visit: http://www.faluninfo.net/downloads/FDI_Press/Olympics%20arrests%20-%203-12-1.pdf
(8) Despite ostensibly freer regulations for foreign journalists, Falun Gong remains taboo.
The Chinese government issued temporary regulations for foreign journalists in January 2007. The directives, in place until October 2008, reduce travel restrictions and the need for pre-approval of interviews. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), however, in practice “the government continues to interfere with foreign reporters,” particularly regarding taboo topics like Tibet or Falun Gong.
The following is an excerpt from a recent CPJ report illustrating the official obstacles placed before reporters seeking to cover Falun Gong:
It gives some indication of the welcome that foreign journalists will receive. In a section titled, “How to Stop Illegal News Coverage,” the practice dialogue features a police officer confronting a reporter who tries to cover a story on the outlawed religious group Falun Gong.
“Excuse me, sir. Stop, please,” says the officer politely but firmly, before explaining in impressively advanced English: “It’s beyond the limit of your coverage and illegal. As a foreign reporter in China you should obey China law and do nothing against your status.” “Oh, I see. May I go now?” says the visiting reporter hopefully. “No. Come with us,” the officer is told to reply at this point. “What for?” “To clear up this matter.”
For the original report from which this excerpt is taken and a full discussion of press freedom violations ahead of the Olympic Games, see “Falling Short” at: http://cpj.org/Briefings/2007/Falling_Short/China/10_2.html
(9) Hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners will experience the Olympics from inside labor camps, where they are often tortured.
Sentencing without trial to “re-education through labor” camps remains one of the most prevalent ways in which the Chinese authorities punish people for practicing Falun Gong. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2007 report on human rights in China: “Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in reeducation-through-labor camps, while Falun Gong sources overseas placed the number even higher.”
Adherents are usually picked up by police from their home, workplace, or while attempting to distribute leaflets about the practice and the persecution against it. After being held in a detention center, they are sentenced to a labor camp. They are never brought before a judge and most are denied the right to employ a lawyer. According to Amnesty International:
For two stories Falun Gong practitioners who had been detained in an RTL, see: Daily Mirror: “Annie Yang reveals Olympic torch guards place her into labour camp”: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/topstories/2008/04/12/annie-yang-reveals-olympic-torch-guards-place-her-into-labour-camp-89520-20380214/
For information about Bu Dongwei, a Falun Gong practitioner detained in a Beijing labor camp for whose release Amnesty International is campaigning, and to write an appeal letter on his behalf, see: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA17/052/2007/en/dom-ASA170522007en.html
(10) Most Chinese are unaware of any of the above because independent information about Falun Gong remains blocked inside China.
For the majority of Chinese people, their only source of information about Falun Gong is the state-run media or government sponsored websites, all of which have been used to vilify Falun Gong and deny rights abuses. Domestic journalists receive specific directives forbidding independent reporting on the topic.
On the internet, Falun Gong and related terms remain among the most highly filtered by the “Great Chinese Firewall.” According to the Committee to Protect Journalists: “A Web search for “Falun Gong,” […] would not draw a blank, but it would yield carefully vetted sites that present the government-approved line.”
Websites such as the FDIC’s, that are run by overseas Falun Gong practitioners and include information about rights abuses, are inaccessible from inside China. So are the sites of independent rights organizations like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. Even discussion of the issue over Instant Messenger is prevented by filters built-in when Chinese IM software is downloaded (see below).
The only way to access independent information about Falun Gong from inside China is with a proxy server used to circumvent censorship, a technological luxury that remains out of the reach of most Chinese.
As a result, though they live in China, many Chinese remain oblivious to the nonviolent nature of Falun Gong adherents or to the brutality meted out against them.
For a brief explanation of online censorship in China, see: http://cpj.org/Briefings/2007/Falling_Short/China/9_2.html
For a list of censored words integrated into downloadable IM software (20% of which relate to Falun Gong), see: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2004/08/the-words-you-never-see-in-chinese-cyberspace/