UN Review Must Address China’s Largest Population of Prisoners of Conscience

Falun Gong detentions and sentences rise surrounding Olympic crackdown

New York—Member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council must question the PRC over the ongoing—and recently escalated—persecution of Falun Gong adherents in China at Monday’s Universal Periodic Review session, the Falun Dafa Information Center said Friday.

“As the Council members prepare to review China’s rights record, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Chinese are languishing in prisons, detention centers, and torture chambers simply because of their identity as Falun Gong practitioners,” says Falun Dafa Information Center spokesman Erping Zhang. “It is imperative that the international community give these people a voice, all the more so as labor camp and prison sentences are on the rise in the aftermath of a nationwide pre-Olympic crackdown.”

The year 2008 witnessed a clear escalation of the campaign against Falun Gong adherents, as thousands were arrested nationwide, most commonly after a raid by security agents of their home or being discovered in public possessing Falun Gong-related materials. According a study by the Congressional Executive Committee on China, official reports of a pre-Olympic crackdown appeared on websites in all 31 of the country’s provincial level jurisdictions.

Many of those arrested have been held in long-term pre-trial detention as the authorities were apparently waiting for the conclusion of the Olympic games to sentence them. Following this pattern, in the months since the closing ceremonies, there has been a spike in trials in which adherents have been sentenced to up to 13 years in prison. Many others have been sentenced without trial to “re-education through labor” for up to 2.5 years. Once in custody, adherents face extreme torture and at least 65 were found to have died from related injuries in 2008.

According to the 2007 U.S. State Department’s human rights report, “Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the … officially recorded inmates in reeducation-through-labor camps.” Similarly, in a report on his 2005 mission to China, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture stated that 66 percent of the reports of torture that his office received had Falun Gong practitioners as victims.

“The Chinese representatives may try to sidestep or deflect criticism of the systemic abuses against those who practice Falun Gong,” says Zhang. “The UNHRC members, and particularly those coordinating the discussion, must raise pointed and substantive questions regarding the persecution of Falun Gong adherents who remain the country’s largest population of prisoners of conscience.”

Links to a sampling of background information on the pre-Olympic campaign.