Western Falun Gong Practitioners Abused While in Chinese Detention

NEW YORK, November 27, 2001 (Falun Dafa Information Center) — Shortly after being expelled from China, participants in last week’s international appeal for Falun Gong in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square revealed broken bones, bruises and a report of sexual assault suffered while in police custody.

Among the 35 appeal participants arrested and detained on Nov. 20 in Beijing, many were injured or hurt when police forcibly broke up the appeal and physically attacked Falun Gong practitioners who were passively resisting. Chris Cominos, a young man from Australia, was bleeding from the mouth area and suffered a broken bone in his hand during the arrest. Police dragged German practitioner Marion Ogorek by the hair, tearing some out, as she sat in a meditative posture. Zenon Dolnyckyj, the young Canadian man often seen in last week’s news photos, was kicked and wrestled to the ground by police. His nose was broken when police punched him in the face.

Inside the vans, five or six police beat Roland Odar from Sweden until he lay half unconscious on the floor. Police then continued to stomp on his head and face repeatedly. Helene Petit, a young woman from Paris, was struck in the face, held dangerously by the throat and bent backward over her seat.

The Falun Gong practitioners were immediately driven across the square to the Tiananmen Police Station where they were held for initial interrogation. Passports and personal belongings were seized, often by force. Leeshai Lemish, 23, from Israel, reports being struck hard across the face and kicked in the groin by the police officer who initially questioned him.

All 35 detainees were soon forced into a small cement prison cell in the basement while police upstairs conferred with government officials. Two young women from Sweden were bruised as they were pushed down the flight of stairs and forced behind bars with the others.

An hour or so later, at the same time that news of the arrest was breaking in Europe, the police moved everyone back upstairs and soon began to relocate the practitioners to the Garden Airport Hotel, a facility run by China’s Public Security Department. All detainees were watched and interrogated overnight. It was in this holding facility that a more senior policeman roughly grabbed and held Ms. Petit in the genital region as he confiscated the mobile phone that she had used to contact the French Embassy and her friends at home.

Police used violence and coercion on several occasions during individual interrogations. Martin Larsson, 29, from Sweden was beaten. Three police twisted his arms behind his back and pulled his hair in order to take a photo of him. Dr. Alejandro Centurion, 30, a resident at Stanford Medical School, was struck on the head when he resisted signing a question sheet written in Chinese. He explains, “When I was hit, there was another practitioner in the room from Germany who stood up and objected. The police officer was enraged. He turned to the practitioner from Germany and threatened him, using a Chinese expression that meant ‘die’ or ‘death’. I was moved by the practitioner’s courage in that situation.”

The Falun Gong practitioners representing 11 countries had gathered in Tiananmen Square to appeal to China’s leaders to stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners in China. The majority of participants were seated on the square while others raised a light gold banner displaying the words, “Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance” in Chinese and English. This was the first appeal for Falun Gong in Tiananmen Square conducted almost exclusively by non-Chinese practitioners.

In an obligatory phone call to the American and European embassies, a Chinese official claimed that the westerners were treated with “humanitarian concern.” Practitioners disagree and indicate that they are considering various actions in response to being detained. It is likely that a report will be filed with the United Nations. The government of Sweden has also been particularly outspoken to condemn China for detaining and mistreating the foreign nationals.

This morning, less than a week after all 35 westerners were released and forced to leave the country, the Falun Dafa Information Center reported eight more deaths of Falun Gong practitioners in China who died due to injuries from beatings and torture while in police custody. One woman, Ms. Liao Qinying, died on November 8th, 2001, in a police car less than an hour after being taken from her home. Hundreds of people from Ms. Liao’s village appealed to the local township for justice, only to be met with truckloads of police, “some brandishing bayonets to intimidate the villagers,” the report said.

The Falun Dafa Information Center has confirmed the deaths of 320 Falun Gong practitioners who died due to brutality in custody since Chinese President Jiang Zemin banned Falun Gong in July, 1999. Government officials inside China, however, report that the actual death toll is well over 1,000. Over 100,000 have been detained, with many of them being sentenced to forced labor camps with no trial.