Torture and Death of Falun Gong Continue, Say Submissions to United Nations

Lawyers seeking to defend adherents also at risk of abuse

New York—Human rights groups’ statements submitted to the United Nations Committee against Torture prior to the body’s review of China on Friday highlight the continued torture and death in custody of Falun Gong adherents.

Submissions by Amnesty International, the Conscience Foundation, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, and Interfaith International cite persistent reports of torture and death in custody of Falun Gong practitioners in recent years, as well as the culture of violence and impunity surrounding them.

China ratified the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1988 and will be undergoing its fourth periodic review by the body’s panel of independent experts on Friday in Geneva. Prior to such reviews, civil society groups are invited to submit evaluations of the degree to which the government has fulfilled its international commitments.

“These reports illustrate the very real danger to life and limb that Falun Gong practitioners continue to face in Chinese custody simply for adhering to their peaceful spiritual beliefs,” says Falun Gong spokesman Erping Zhang. “We urge the U.N. Committee against Torture to unequivocally condemn the ongoing torture of Falun Gong adherents in China.”

A submission by David Matas on behalf of Interfaith International analyzes the Chinese government’s response to a 2006 report he co-authored, which found that allegations of organ harvesting from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience were well-founded. He refers to the government’s reply as “propagandistic” and absent substantive evidence to disprove his findings. (report)

A report by the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, as well as several other submissions, point to another aspect of the persecution—the harassment and abuse of lawyers who have defended Falun Gong adherents.

“When prominent lawyers like Gao Zhisheng or Li Heping who represent Falun Gong adherents are beaten or shocked with electric batons, one can only imagine the treatment meted out to their clients,” says Zhang. “That legal professionals are subjected to such treatment illustrates the emptiness of Communist Party claims to strive towards the ‘rule of law.’”

The following are links to the above reports, as well as sample excerpts:

The Conscience Foundation, Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group (report):
“One particular category of cases is the death of Falun Gong practitioners in police custody due to heinous torture and/or denial medical treatment. Several UN Special Rapporteurs have sent PRC government interventions on more than one thousand such cases. The PRC government consistently claimed that these victims died of natural causes, but nonetheless admitted that they died in custody. This also proves the accuracy of our information. …

RTLs, “brainwashing centers,” “law education schools,” and similar extra-judicial jails are by far the main locations used for torture of Falun Gong practitioners. The vast majority of torture deaths of Falun Gong practitioners happen in such places. … As the only group [for which] the PRC government has publicly announced a policy to completely eradicate, Falun Gong practitioners are particularly targeted with the harshest measures…

We have only one recommendation to the Committee: to report the severe and deliberate violations of the Convention by the PRC government to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and to suggest to the UNHRC that it suspend the PRC’s right to membership in the UNHRC.”

Amnesty International (report):
“Yu Zhou, a well-known folk singer, graduate of Beijing University, and reportedly a Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested in Tongzhou District, Beijing, on 26 January 2008, along with his wife, Xu Na, a poet and painter. On 6 February 2008, the authorities notified the family to come to the Qinghe District Emergency Centre, where they learned that Yu Zhou had already died. A family member recounted how his body was covered by a white sheet, and only his eyes were visible. The family was told that Yu had died from either diabetes or from a hunger strike, although he had been perfectly healthy at the time of his arrest. The staff at the Emergency Centre refused the family’s request to view the body and for an autopsy to be performed and the authorities refused to hand over Yu’s body to the family. Xu Na, who was imprisoned from 2001 to 2006 for her adherence to Falun Gong, is reported to remain in custody, at risk of ill-treatment and long-term detention.”

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (report):
“At the root of the prevalence of torture is a lack of effective restraints on the coercive powers of law enforcement agencies. …The prioritization of political considerations over individual human rights is most clearly demonstrated by the case of Falun Gong. After the Chinese government decided to crack down on Falun Gong, it established Office 610 to persecute Falun Gong adherents. As a political office, it has higher status than the judiciary, the PSB and the Procuratorate. In theory, Falun Gong practitioners can petition its Letters and Visits Office or sue Office 610 for torture. In practice, even these limited complaint mechanisms are closed to Falun Gong practitioners because they are treated as a ?special category? and their complaints are not accepted by government offices. Falun Gong practitioners rarely lodge official complaints for fear of being subjected to even worse persecution due to their membership in [Falun Gong]. It is believed that Office 610 is responsible for the torture and cruel treatment of many Falun Gong practitioners and that its officers are never punished or held legally responsible for their crimes.”

Interfaith International, David Matas (report):
In the submission, David Matas asserts that the Chinese government has yet to provide information that would substantively contradict the pieces of evidence used in the 2006 report he co-authored which reached the conclusion that organs were harvested from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (report):
“The above [cases of Gao Zhisehng, Li Heping, and others] are more well-known cases about mainland Chinese human rights lawyers and legal rights defenders being illegally and unreasonably harassed by law enforcement officers. It is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many more cases involving lesser known human rights legal practitioners. These lawyers were targeted because they took up cases regarded by fellow legal practitioners as highly politically sensitive, such as defending political dissidents, rights defenders and Falun Gong practitioners.”