Thursday, November 27, 2008

China’s Prison Labor System Criticized in 2008 US-China Commission Annual Report

By Gary Feuerberg
Epoch Times Washington, D.C. Staff Nov 27, 2008
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U.S. citizen Dr. Charles Lee spent three years in a communist Chinese labor camp. (Thai Ton/The Epoch Times)
WASHINGTON—The U.S-China Economic and Security Review Commission (often shortened to: The China Commission) made special reference in its sixth annual report to the Congress of Chinese goods made by prison labor that are imported into the United States, giving China an unfair competitive advantage. This was the first time the Commission had addressed this problem in detail. The report was released on November 20 at a news conference held on Capitol Hill.

“Although formal agreements have been made between the U.S. and Chinese governments to stop the export of prison labor goods to the U.S., the practice nonetheless continues. [Officials of the U.S. Embassy in China] have recently identified a number of products for retail sale by prison labor, to include artificial flowers, Christmas decorations, shoes, and garments. At least some of these items are making their way to the U.S. market,” said Commissioner Peter Videnieks at a hearing on June 19 that the Commission held on the subject of China’s prison labor.

It is illegal to import goods into the U.S. that are products of prison labor—a statue that dates back to 1930. Commissioner Videnieks continued that this illegal practice “hurts legitimate U.S. businesspeople who are trying to play by the rules.”

The Commission faulted China’s refusal to allow U.S. inspections of prisons in violation of agreements it signed. The Commission explicitly rejected China’s classifying persons held under its “reform by labor” system as not prisoners; China is designating such persons as non-prisoners, so that the work facility is not subject to U.S.-China agreements on prison labor.

The prison labor problem takes up only a small portion of the nearly 400-page document which reports on China’s threats to international peace and to U.S. economic and national security, including government manipulation of its economy and currency; cyber attacks and spying, arms sales to the rogue regimes of Sudan, Burma, and Iran; tightening information control to its citizens; and the potential of a major health risk to Americans due to contaminated fish imported from China’s fish farms. The bipartisan Commission, consisting of six Republicans six Democrats, reached unanimous consent, held eight hearings during the year, and made 45 recommendations.

This article focuses on Chinese prison labor concerning products imported in the United States. Future reports will discuss other findings and recommendations in the 2008 annual report of the China Commission.

China’s Labor Camps

The Chinese system of prison labor facilities and reeducation camps aims to punish and reform criminals and others deemed undesirable.

Today, one can be administratively sentenced by the local public security forces to a reform institution in the labor camp system for associating with a group that the CCP regards unfavorably, or endangering state security. Chinese citizens are sentenced to “reeducation through labor” for up to three years without any formal judicial proceedings. Common criminal convicts are lumped together with political prisoners in the labor camp system, but the former have a right to a trial.

The prison system in present-day China had its origins after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) defeated the Nationalists in 1949 and desired to “reform” its political opponents. Modeled after the Soviet Gulag with its vast archipelago of prison work camps, the Chinese communists set up a network of prison camps throughout China. The objective of imprisonment was not only to punish, but to change the thinking of the incarcerated as well as to gain economically from the products made.

“Accurate information on the size of the Chinese forced labor system, the scope of its economic production, and the demographic composition of its prisoner population is difficult to obtain from official sources. The Chinese [regime] classifies such information related to the prison system as a state secret,” writes the Commission.

During the earlier years, especially following the mass arrests of Mao’s political campaigns, there was a relatively large number of political prisoners in the system. More recently, it has been alleged that a large proportion of the population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners. One of the latter, Charles Lee, as a U.S. citizen of Chinese heritage, was allegedly forced with other prisoners to “spend long hours making Christmas lights intended for export to the U.S. retail market,” according to the research of Gregory Xu, June 2005 before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Representatives of Falun Gong from Europe gave evidence that Falun Gong practitioners were sold from other correctional facilities to serve as slave labor in the production of wigs exported to the United States and Europe. The company, Henan Rebecca Hair Products, was named in the report, as well as the two labor camps in Henan province. The “project … proved very profitable to the camp and its officials,” says the report.

Jung Chang in her book, Mao, says that during Mao Zedong’s period, China’s prison and labor camp population was roughly 10 million in any one year, and the conditions were so harsh that the annual death rate was at least 10 percent. Conditions are still harsh and degrading, according to former prisoners. Although Chinese law does not permit working longer than an eight hour day, prisoners commonly work 12 or more hours a day, typically attend 2-hour political propaganda sessions after work, and are expected show progress in their thought reform. Food rations are minimal.

“Counter revolutionary crimes” was the basis used in the 1970s to send one to this prison system, in which the criminal code described the criminal as one having the goal of overthrowing the political system. More recently, the interpretation of the counter revolutionary crime was greatly expanded. “When the crime was renamed ‘endangering state security’ under the 1997 criminal code, an explanation of what constituted endangerment was not provided. As a result, the PRC may now criminalize activities it interprets as threatening state security,” writes Ramin Pejan, in the Human Rights Brief (2000, vol. 7, no. 2).

The dual political and economic role continued under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, beginning in the late 1970s, despite the economic reforms that were carried out. “[P]rison labor became a significant source of Chinese manufactured goods,” says the report. It is linked to the CCP-controlled state and economy.

The regime shows no shame in this holdover from its past. “Each [labor] camp has both a camp name and a public name. For example, the Shanghai Municipal Prison is also called the Shanghai Printing, Stationery Factory,” writes Pejan.

China Sets Up Roadblocks to Prison Labor Enforcement

In 1992 and 1994, the United States and China entered into agreements on enforcing the ban of prison labor products imported into the United States. These allowed inspections within 60 days of suspected facilities and stated the exact procedures.

Chinese officials from the PRC’s Ministry of Justice allowed just three of 18 prison site visits requested by the U.S. Customs between 1996 to 2002, and none of these inspections occurred within the 60-day period required by the agreements. Five site visits were granted between September 2002 and April 2005. No evidence was found that the particular facilities were making goods bound for the United States. No visits have been allowed since 2005.

The Commission says the conduct of PRC officials, that is, the small number of site visits permitted and the long delays in getting in to inspect, suggests that “U.S. officials are granted permission to visit only selected prison facilities from which all evidence of export manufacturing has been removed.”

In recent years, talks between China and the United States on prison labor have been sporadic and Chinese officials evasive. As U.S. investigation of prison labor in China is wholly dependent upon Chinese official cooperation, there appears to be nothing the United States can do.

The Commission recommended that when Customs enforcement officials have not been permitted to inspect a prison labor facility within 60 days of their request, that products from that facility be denied admittance into the United States, at least temporarily.

Prison Labor vs. Forced Labor

Besides being uncooperative, the PRC classifies some “reeducation through labor” sites as off limits to U.S. officials, namely the ones that hold political and religious dissenters, who were sentenced administratively outside the judicial system. The PRC maintains that these “forced labor” camps are not “prisons,” and therefore are not covered by agreements on prison labor.

The Commission firmly rejects the PRC definition of prison labor and states that “forced labor under penal conditions” is “prison labor,” regardless on how the Chinese regime officially designates such facilities.

The Commission recommended that Congress urge the administration to amend the U.S.-China agreement to make explicit that “reeducation through labor” facilities are within the scope of agreements related to prison labor.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Widow of Olympic Torture Victim Faces Immediate Sentencing for Practicing Falun Gong

Urgent Appeal

New York, November 24 (FDIC) —The widow of a well-known musician and Falun Gong adherent who died from abuse in police custody is scheduled to be sentenced to a potentially long prison term in Beijing’s Chongwen District Court on Tuesday morning Beijing time (Monday evening EST).

Ms. Xu Na and her husband Yu Zhou, a popular folk band member, were arrested in Beijing on January 26 while returning home from a performance by Yu’s band. Eleven days later, Yu’s family was told to go to the Qinghe Emergency Center. When his family arrived, they found him dead. Xu has been represented by Mr. Cheng Hai of Yitong Law Firm, a well-known human rights lawyer, who has pleaded Xu’s innocence.


OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

I.O.C. Issues Glowing Review of Beijing Games

The IOC is only reinforcing the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil policy that the Beijing cadre had articulated in 2001. No lesson learned there--simply outrageous!

Excerpt: NYT

The Beijing Olympics were an “indisputable success” that brought change to China in areas as diverse as press freedom, the environment and public health, according to an assessment released by the International Olympic Committee this week that activists criticized as ignoring human-rights violations that occurred during the Games.


“I think the I.O.C.’s fact sheet is missing a lot of salient facts,” said Minky Worden, media director for Human Rights Watch. “What is missing in this document is the extent to which the International Olympic Committee lowered its standards on human rights around the Beijing Olympic Games.”

Thousands of people were evicted from their homes to make way for construction of Olympic venues, and some activists were detained before the Games began. Although authorities set up “protest zones” during the Olympics, no demonstrations took place, and several people who applied for protest permits were detained, including two elderly women who were initially sentenced to up to a year of “re-education through labor.” The sentence was later rescinded.

Despite promises by the Chinese that foreign journalists would have unfettered access to the Internet, authorities initially blocked access to several Web sites at the main press center. Although some of the restrictions were loosened, it led the I.O.C. member overseeing press operations, Kevan Gosper, to accuse the Olympic committee of betrayal. In addition, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China logged more than 60 incidents of “reporting interference” during the Olympic period, including several cases where foreign journalists were physically harassed.

“I think in the end, the government’s approach to the media hasn’t changed that much,” said Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists. Dietz said he and other members of his group traveled to the Olympic committee’s Swiss headquarters in 2006 and met with officials, then again in Beijing in 2007 to express their concerns about press freedom in China. He called the I.O.C. response “tone deaf.”

“They just didn’t get it,” he said. “They didn’t understand the importance of our concern.”

Sam Zarifi, the Asia Pacific director for Amnesty International, said while the Chinese government has made some strides in recent years, it has hardened its stance on other issues, such as Tibetan autonomy. “China has moved forward, but not at the pace that we had hoped,” Zarifi said. “Certainly for the I.O.C. to pat itself on the back I think is not really a fair evaluation of all that they accomplished.”

The I.O.C. report also applauded the Games for improving public health in China, saying that authorities “took new steps to improve food and water safety” and quoted a World Health Official, Hans Troedsson, as saying the public-health legacy of the Games is a “long-term gift to China.”

There was no mention of the tainted-milk scandal that broke just after the conclusion of the Games and which has led to the death of four infants and sickened more than 50,000 others. Worden pointed to reports that a Chinese journalist’s blog post about the contaminated milk was removed from a Web site just as the Games were beginning. Chinese reporters were also prohibited from reporting on food-safety issues during the Olympics, she said.

“I think it has to be said that the news was there of the toxic baby formula,” Worden said. “Censorship in China is a matter of life and death.” (more)

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Guns N' Roses Rock the Great Wall!

MWC: It was worth waiting 17 years for this new release of Guns N' Roses album "Chinese Democracy' that highly inspires. The new humanitarian Axl Rose leads the way with a powerful song depicting the communist party's (CCP) blood lust knowing how well it will sit with the Beijing cadre. Very brave!

Me, I found the lyrics to track one "Chinese Democracy" to be enlightening and thought provoking.

*Blame it on the Falun Gong; They've seen the end and it can't hold on now *.

Although the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang doesn't seem to quite agree with me. He was quoted as saying that "as far as I know, many people don't like this kind of music"…"it's too noisy and clamorous." Banning the song is not the answer either Mr. Gang —it's only going to add to your pirating crisis!

But a serious question comes to mind though. I wonder how long will the CCP actually lurk around and use Falun Gong as their 'axel' to fulfill their own end. The CCP have been known to jump the gun before--think the Cultural Revolution from 1966-76, the 1989 Tiananman Square massacre and the 1999 persecution (of Falun Gong) still occurring today unabated.

* And now you're keeping your own kind in hell; When your great wall rocks blame yourself*

Meanwhile let Guns N' Roses rock the Great Wall to the limit amidst the lies of this Chinese Democracy for all to see. I sure hope it's the beginning of a new trend. Paging Madonna....

The lyrics are below and you can listen to it here.

It don't really matter
You're gonna find out for yourself
No it don't really matter
You're gonna leave this thing to somebody else

If they were missionaries
Real time visionaries
Sitting in a Chinese stew
To view my dis-in-fat-u-ation

I know that I'm a classic case
Watch my disenchanted face
Blame it on the Falun Gong
They've seen the end and it can't hold on now

'Cause it would take a lot more hate than you
To end the fascination
Even with an iron fist
All they got to rule the nation
When all I've got is precious time

It don't really matter
Guess I'll keep it to myself
Said it don't really matter
It's time I look around for somebody else

'Cause it would take a lot more time than you
Have got for masturbation
Even with your iron fist
All they got to rule the nation
When all we got is precious time
All they got to fool the nation
When all I got is precious time

It don't really matter
I guess you'll find out for yourself
No it don't really matter
So you can hear it now from somebody else

You think you got it all locked up inside
And if you beat 'em enough they'll die
It's like a walk in the park from a cell
And now you're keeping your own kind in hell
When your great wall rocks blame yourself
While their arms reach up for your help
And you're out of time

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

China Falun Gong follower receives 3-year sentence

BEIJING: A Beijing court Tuesday sentenced a follower of the banned Falun Gong meditation movement to three years in prison on a vaguely worded charge, her lawyer said.

Artist Xu Na was convicted of "using a cult organization to undermine implementation of the law," her lawyer Cheng Hai said. He had yet to study the verdict — the second time authorities have used the vague charge this month to imprison a group member_ but said her family planned to appeal.

According to the U.S.-based Falun Gong Information Center, Xu and her husband were picked up in the Chinese capital on Jan. 26 as part of a security sweep tied to the Beijing Olympics. The center said Xu's husband, musician Yu Zhou, died in police custody 11 days after his detention, a claim that could not be verified.

Falun Gong attracted millions of followers in the 1990s with its program of traditional Chinese calisthenics and philosophy drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the often-unorthodox teachings of founder Li Hongzhi, who lives in hiding overseas.

Originally promoted by authorities, it was banned in 1999 after members mounted a massive demonstration outside government headquarters in Beijing. Authorities labeled it an "evil cult."

A clerk with Beijing's Chongwen District People's Court, who gave only his surname, Wang, confirmed there was a verdict against Xu but declined to confirm the sentence.

Xu's sentencing follows that earlier this month of former Shanghai university librarian Liu Jin on the same charge. She was imprisoned for three and a half years. Liu's lawyer said she had passed on information about the group downloaded from the Internet.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Axl Rose Leads Plot for Global Domination

op-ed /commentary
Special to The Epoch Times Nov 25, 2008
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Chinese state media today released information from unidentified sources who revealed a plot currently being undertaken to "grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn."

Communist Party newspaper, Global Times, also revealed that China was the main focus of the attack, as the aggressor, "turns its spear point on China.”

The startling news also revealed the threat to be part of a larger plot by Western nations to “venomously attack China". The main weapon identified in the international conspiracy is the new Guns n’ Roses album.

The album called, “Chinese Democracy” has raised questions about the meaning behind the title.

Guns n’ Roses bandleader, Axl Rose, is said to have been plotting his quest for global domination for the past 17 years. He even spoke publicly of his plans for the “album” in 1994, prompting some to comment that it was a “plot cooked up in the open.”

We were unable to speak with Mr. Rose’s spokespeople, as we did not attempt to make contact.

The title of the article in the Communist paper, “American band releases album venomously attacking China,” seemed to hint at the identity of one of the Western nations thought to be involved in the global plot, but the article did not mention specifics.

It is believed that China’s Communist authorities will be looking closely into Mr. Rose’s past in an attempt to ascertain the identities of the Western nations being lead by Mr. Rose in this international conspiracy.

Some clues may include that fact that Mr. Rose sometimes wears a kilt on stage, which could implicate Scotland or Ireland.

Considering that the paper believes the conspirators intend to implement democracy as the sole global ideology, new meaning may be read into the fact that Mr. Rose has often been seen on stage vehemently gesticulating with a single finger in the air. Research may be conducted into the true meanings behind “flip” and “bird”.

However, long time Guns n’ Roses fans may simply see this as another paranoid example of “all Communist and no party.”

Michael Mahonen is an actor/writer/director. He is a winner of the Gemini Award (Canada's Emmy) for acting and his first feature film as writer/director, Sandstorm, ( has won multiple awards at international film festivals. He is currently writing a script about the persecution of Falun Gong and has recently completed a script for a feature film to be shot in the Rocky Mountains

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chinese Democracy: GNR style

There you have it! They're off to a great start!

Chinese Democracy: Has it been banned? YES

While other singers, bands and musicians continue to add China as a stop on their world tours, it looks like Guns N' Roses won't get to do that anytime soon. The Associated Press reports that Chinese state media have blasted their song Chinese Democracy:

In an article Monday headlined "American band releases album venomously attacking China," the Global Times said unidentified Chinese Internet users had described the album as part of a plot by some in the West to "grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn."

Shanghaist: Just how subversive are the lyrics of the song Chinese Democracy? Read on after the jump and decide for yourself:

It don't really matter You're gonna find out for yourself No it don't really matter You're gonna leave this thing to somebody else

If they were missionaries
Real time visionaries
Sitting in a Chinese stew
To view my dis-in-fat-u-ation

I know that I'm a classic case
Watch my disenchanted face
Blame it on the Falun Gong
They've seen the end and it can't hold on now

'Cause it would take a lot more hate than you
To end the fascination
Even with an iron fist
All they got to rule the nation
When all I've got is precious time

It don't really matter
Guess I'll keep it to myself
Said it don't really matter
It's time I look around for somebody else

'Cause it would take a lot more time than you
Have got for masturbation
Even with your iron fist
All they got to rule the nation
When all we got is precious time
All they got to fool the nation
When all I got is precious time

It don't really matter
I guess you'll find out for yourself
No it don't really matter
So you can hear it now from somebody else

You think you got it all locked up inside
And if you beat 'em enough they'll die
It's like a walk in the park from a cell
And now you're keeping your own kind in hell
When your great wall rocks blame yourself
While their arms reach up for your help
And you're out of time

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Guns N' Roses Puts Chinese Communists In Its Sights

Tina Wang, 11.24.08, 11:46 AM EST

The rock band's long-delayed album 'Chinese Democracy' targets the party, and Beijing is finding the harsh light bad for its complexion.

Forbes: For China's ruling circles, the title of heavy metal group Guns N' Roses' new album triggers some memories they would rather forget. After keeping fans waiting for 17 long years, Guns N' Roses released Chinese Democracy for sale this weekend with lyrics and a Web site sure to trigger action by Chinese censors. About two decades ago, Beijing experienced the same commingling of rock music and pro-democracy advocacy, right on its doorstep, in the protests at Tiananmen Square.

Beyond the album title, Guns N' Roses, known as "Qiang Hua" in China, did not shy away from pressing Beijing's most sensitive buttons. One line in the title track has Axl Rose singing, "Blame it on the Falun Gong. They've seen the end and you can't hold on now," as if addressing Communist Party leaders. Falun Gong gained international recognition after Beijing banned the movement, saying that its adherents disturbed social stability. The album art features Beijing artist Shi Lifeng's Red Star painting, which portrays a bloodied fist holding up a star covered by flailing figures. Guns N' Roses' label, Geffen Records, told the Chinese press that it did not expect to obtain approval to distribute the album in mainland China. Access within China to the album's Web site has also reportedly been intermittent or blocked.

For the Communist Party, the music can indeed be a sore point. A movement to spread rock music, known as yaogun yinyue, flowered in China in the late 1980s, paralleling escalating calls for economic and political reform from students, labor advocates and intellectuals. Chinese rocker Cui Jian took the band scene by storm around 1987 with his hit song "Yi Wu Suo You," or "I have nothing / Nothing to my name," which was seen as capturing a generation's discontent and sense of dispossession. The protesters, particularly college students, that filled Tiananmen Square in a series of sit-ins between April 15 and June 4, 1989, blasted Cui's music, as well as that of foreign rock bands popular at the time, from speakers. The government ended up banning most of Cui's concerts, and he wore a red bandana during performances in protest against the government's violent Tiananmen crackdown.

Chinese authorities seem to have their hands full dealing with unwanted attention from global pop music performers this year. Bjork's performance of the song "Declare Independence," followed by her "Tibet!" shout in Shanghai in March--during the sensitive period leading up to the summer Beijing Olympic Games--prompted a tightening of regulations, including preapproval of all songs to be performed.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

UN body criticises China over 'widespread' torture allegations

Published on France 24 ( 22/11/2008 - 03:40

A UN body has expressed deep concern over allegations of widespread torture in China and called on the country to fully probe rights abuses.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture, meeting in Geneva, also revisited the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, urging the government to grant reparations and investigate the crackdown.

"The committee remains deeply concerned about the continued allegations, corroborated by numerous Chinese legal sources, of routine and widespread use of torture and ill treatment of suspects in police custody, especially to extract confessions or information to be used in criminal proceedings," it said in a report released Friday.

It hit out at "continued reliance on confessions as a common form of evidence for prosecution, thus creating conditions that may facilitate the use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects," quoting the case of dissident and human rights militant Yang Chunlin.

The committee also criticised China's handling of its relations with the Tibetan Autonomous Region, noting there had been "longstanding reports of torture, beatings, shackling and other abusive treatment, in particular of Tibetan monks and nuns."

No inquiry had been carried out into the arrests, firing on crowds of peaceful demonstrators, torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during the recent repression in Tibet, the experts noted.

Regarding the Tiananmen Square protests and crackdown, the committee said China "should conduct a full and impartial investigation" of the events.

It added that Chinese authorities should "provide information on the persons who are still detained from that period" as well as "offer apologies and reparation as appropriate and prosecute those found responsible for excessive use of force, torture and other ill treatment."

More generally, the committee pointed to "reports of abuses in custody, including high numbers of deaths... Reeducation through labour for individuals who have never had their case tried in court, nor the possibility of challenging their administrative detention," and secret detention facilities.

The UN experts expressed concern about the fate of Hu Jia, like other human rights backers the victim of harassment and violence committed by thugs who were unofficially recruited by the authorities.

The Committee Against Torture mentioned allegations of removal of organs from members of the Falun Gong sect for transplant. The special UN rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak was quoted as saying that "an increase in organ transplant operations coincides with the beginning of the persecution of (Falun Gong practitioners)."

The committee was also concerned about the fate of North Korean refugees who were turned back at the border despite the risk that they would be subjected to torture in their own country.

Finally, the committee said it was worried about the conditions of people on death row who were chained day and night and whose organs could be removed for transplant after their death without their prior consent, according to information received by the experts.

Earlier this month, the committee's chief rapporteur Felice Gaer had accused the Chinese of not providing sufficient information.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang denied this and said earlier this month that "it is China's consistent stance that we oppose torture."

Gaer had said China had been unwilling to release data on individual cases by invoking its State Secrets Act to withhold information.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Guns N' Roses' New Album Is Up Against a Chinese Wall

NOVEMBER 22, 2008

The Title Is a Problem for Authorities And Even for Some Shanghai Fans

SHANGHAI (WSJ) -- The heavy metal band Guns N' Roses is roiling China's music scene. But sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll aren't the issue.

The trouble is the name of the group's latest album: "Chinese Democracy."

[Axl Rose]

Axl Rose

It has taken 17 years for the band to produce a new studio record. Now, even before it goes on sale Sunday, in a release heralded by its producers as a "historic moment in rock ' n' roll," the disc is getting the thumbs down from Chinese authorities. It's also causing anxiety among GN'R's legion of loyal fans here, who aren't sure they like what lead singer W. Axl Rose is trying to say about their country.

China's government-owned music-importing monopoly has signaled that local record distributors shouldn't bother ordering the GN'R production. Anything with "democracy" in the name is "not going to work," said an official at the China National Publications Import & Export (Group) Corp., part of the Ministry of Culture.

For fans, the response is more complicated. GN'R developed a major following in China in the late 1980s, when the young Mr. Rose was recording early hit songs like "Welcome to the Jungle." China was in the throes of its own rebellious era, and heavy metal was its protest music. GN'R's popularity soared in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Learning the band's 1991 ballad "Don't Cry" was a rite of passage for a generation of Chinese guitarists.

Chinese Democracy

Listen to a clip of the title track from GN'R's new album and, below, read some of the lyrics.

If they were missionaries
Real-time visionaries
Sitting in a Chinese stew
To view my disinfatuation

I know that I'm a classic case
Watch my disenchanted face
Blame it on the Falun Gong
They've seen the end and it can't hold on now.

When your great wall rocks blame yourself
While their arms reach up for your help
And you're out of time

"It was not only the music, the band's clothes also pushed the craze," says 30-year-old Chen Lei , one of Beijing's best-regarded rock guitarists, who cites GN'R as a primary influence.

GN'R nostalgia remains strong. A program on state-run China Central Television last year ranked "Qiang Hua" (literally, "Guns Flowers"), as the group is known in Chinese, at No. 8 on a list of top rock bands of all time.

Chinese fans eager for news on the Web about the new album sidestep censors by using coded language. Many deliberately scramble the name, typing "Chinese Democraxy" or "Chi Dem." They say they fear that typing the Chinese characters for the title will draw government scrutiny. Still, it's not much challenge to find news about the record on the Web, where even the site is a discussion of GN'R, not politics.

Some fans in China relish how the album discomfits the establishment. "Rock 'n' roll, as a weapon, is an invisible bomb," says one.

Leo Huang, a 25-year-old guitarist, just hopes it will retrace GN'R's roots. "I prefer rock 'n' roll," said the skinny 25-year-old guitarist after a recent gig with his band, the Wildcats, at a hard-rock bar below a Shanghai highway.

Yet, for some fans in this nation of 2.6 billion ears, the new album's title is an irritation. Democracy is a touchy subject in this country. Elections are limited to votes for selected village-level officials, and senior leaders are all chosen in secret within the Communist Party. Many Chinese wish for greater say in their government. But others -- including some rockers -- think too much democracy too quickly could lead to chaos, and they resent foreign efforts to push the issue.

Mr. Chen, the guitarist, says the "Chinese Democracy" album title suggests "they don't understand China well" and are "just trying to stir up publicity."

Some Chinese artists, loath to be branded as democracy campaigners, declined valuable offers to help illustrate the album. "I listened to their music when I was little," says Beijing visual artist Chen Zhuo . He was "very glad" when GN'R asked to buy rights to use his picture of Tiananmen Square rendered as an amusement park -- with Mao Zedong's head near a roller coaster. Then, Mr. Chen looked at lyrics of the album's title song and, after consulting with his lawyer and partner, declined the band's $18,000 offer. "We have to take political risks into account as artists in China," says the 30-year-old.

The new album's title track, already released as a single, begins with eerie, high-pitched noises that sound vaguely like chattering in Chinese. In the song's three verses, Mr. Rose sings of "missionaries," "visionaries" and "sitting in a Chinese stew."

The overall message is unclear, but his most provocative lines aren't. "Blame it on the Falun Gong. They've seen the end and you can't hold on now," Mr. Rose sings. It is a reference to the spiritual movement that Beijing has outlawed as an "illegal cult" and vowed to crush.

Mr. Rose, 46, who is the only remaining original member of GN'R, is rarely interviewed and declined to comment for this article. He picked the new album's name more than a decade ago. In a 1999 television appearance, he discussed the thinking behind it.

"Well, there's a lot of Chinese democracy movements, and it's something that there's a lot of talk about, and it's something that will be nice to see. It could also just be like an ironic statement. I don't know, I just like the sound of it," Mr. Rose said.

Mr. Rose in recent years has visited Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Xian, and he worries he won't be let back in, says his assistant, Beta Lebeis. "Everything is so controlled," she says.

Chinese authorities in recent years have started letting once-controversial artists perform in the country, but they remain uncomfortable with hard rock. The Rolling Stones played their first China concerts in 2006, but only after bowing to government demands to drop certain songs, including "Brown Sugar," that were considered controversial.

Fresh barriers went up after a Shanghai concert in March by the singer Bjork, who punctuated her song "Declare Independence" with shouts of "Tibet!" Officials thought it sounded like agitation against Beijing's rule of the restive Himalayan region. In new rules issued later, they threatened to hold promoters responsible for performers who violated its laws, "including situations that harm the sovereignty of the country."

One casualty: GN'R promoters in China dropped plans for two shows this year, says Ms. Lebeis.

The Ministry of Culture forbids imports of music that violate any of 10 criteria, including music that publicizes "evil sects" or damages social morality. In reality, many songs make it into China anyway, pirated and via the Internet.

It's unclear how much exposure the new record will get. "I have to say, 'Chinese Democracy' sounds sensitive," says a Beijing radio station's programming chief who doubts it will get much air play.

The title alone makes it "impossible" to imagine the album will be released in China, says Nicreve Lee , a student in northeastern China who runs a Web site called GN'R Online ( He says his first reaction listening to the title track was, "This is an anti-China song." But, he says, "I gradually began to understand what the song wants to say. Perhaps Axl Rose doesn't know China well, but at least he is on the right track."

—Ellen Zhu in Shanghai contributed to this article.

Write to James T. Areddy at

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

United Nations calls on China to prosecute organ harvesters

Ottawa, Winnipeg (MWC) - The United Nations Committee against Torture today (21 November 2008) stated that China

"should immediately conduct or commission an independent investigation of the claims that some Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to torture and used for organ transplants and take measures, as appropriate, to ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished."

The statement was made in the Committee’s Concluding Observations on the report made by China on compliance with the Convention against Torture. Those observation can be found [here]

"The Government of China should do what the Committee recommends. Failure to conduct or commission an independent investigation on organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners would put China in violation of its international obligations under the Convention against Torture, which the Government of China freely signed and ratified", said David Matas, co‑author with David Kilgour on a report of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners

"It is rare for the UN system to call the Government of China to account for its human rights violations. The Committee against Torture must be commended for its willingness to confront directly the very real human rights problems the Government of China has posed to the world", said David kilgour.

The Committee considered the China compliance report in Geneva on November 7 and 10. The Committee had a briefing session on November 6th with non‑governmental representatives which David Matas attended.

The report of David Matas and David Kilgour on organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners was released in a first version in July 2006 and in a second version in January 2007. It is available on the internet at:

For further information contact:
David Matas 204‑944‑1831
David Kilgour 613‑747‑7854
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Home of Chinese rights activist demolished

Published: Friday, November 21, 2008

BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing authorities destroyed the home of leading rights activist Ni Yulan on Friday as her distraught husband pleaded with the government to release her from jail.

Up to 200 police surrounded the home of the activist lawyer Ni and her husband Dong Jiqin as a bulldozer demolished the rest of the central Beijing courtyard home that Dong's parents purchased in 1951.

Authorities had already razed much of it in April.

Dong Jiqin (L) the husband of one of China's leading rights activists looks at whats left of their home in Beijing on November 18, 2008. Beijing's Xicheng court ordered developers to destroy the home of Ni Yulan, a prominent rights activist and lawyer fighting against government backed land grabs in central Beijing, one of the city's most sensitive social issues.View Larger Image View Larger Image

Dong Jiqin (L) the husband of one of China's leading rights activists looks at whats left of their home in Beijing on November 18, 2008. Beijing's Xicheng court ordered developers to destroy the home of Ni Yulan, a prominent rights activist and lawyer fighting against government backed land grabs in central Beijing, one of the city's most sensitive social issues.

Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

"The home is not so important, what is important is that Ni Yulan should be released from jail," a visibly shaken and tearful Dong told AFP as he watched the razing of the home where he was born.

"She was illegally arrested, beaten, jailed and illegally threatened to agree with this demolition."

Workers came knocking on the door early Friday morning, while police blocked both ends of the road leading to the home, refusing entry to those without proper identification.

Dong, 56, was able to only grab a plastic bag of legal documents before he was escorted out of the home.

Ni is a long-time campaigner against government-backed land grabs and has organized evicted residents to protest what they have alleged are government backed "illegal forceful eviction and demolition of homes."

The issue is one of the most sensitive social problems in China, with ordinary residents nationwide accusing local government officials of enriching themselves through collusion with developers in lucrative real estate deals.

Ni, 47, who has worked with other leading activists or "rights defenders" like Hu Jia and Gao Zhisheng, was arrested and charged with "obstructing official business" in April after wrecking teams destroyed most of the home.

Hu was sentenced to prison earlier this year, while Gao has disappeared and is believed to be in police custody.

Ni previously served a year in prison in 2002 for opposing evictions in Beijing.

"Who told you Ni Yulan has been jailed? I have never heard of this," said an official with Beijing's Xicheng government who refused to identify himself.

"This home is being forcibly demolished in accordance with the law."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Chinese journalist sentenced to 3 years

By HENRY SANDERSON: 21 Nov. 2008

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese writer and journalist who was arrested after protesting against a power plant in southwest China was sentenced Friday to three years in prison on charges of subverting state power, his lawyer said.

Chen Daojun was sentenced in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, in a trial lasting a little more than 30 minutes, said Beijing-based lawyer Zhu Jiufu.

Three of Chen's articles were presented in court as evidence that he attacked the Communist Party, Zhu said.

"In my opinion, he was only criticizing the party, and never said he would subvert it," Zhu said.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an overseas group, said Chen supported Tibetans who protested against Chinese rule in March. The uprising of Tibetans across western China marked the biggest challenge to Chinese rule in Tibet in nearly two decades.

Calls rang unanswered Friday at the Chengdu Intermediate Court.

Chen, 40, was detained five days after he participated in a demonstration on May 4 against the building of an ethylene plant and oil refinery in Pengzhou near Chengdu, according to Chen's wife, Zeng Qirong.

State media said about 200 people marched against plans to build the petrochemical plant because they believed it would seriously pollute Chengdu's air and water. Ethylene is a common industrial chemical that can be fatal in high concentrations.

The Sichuan Environmental Protection bureau has defended the project, saying it meets government environmental standards.

Zhu said Chen believed the real reason he was sentenced was for his role in the protest, although the court did not bring this up.

Chen worked for eight years on a Communist Party internal newspaper in Chengdu before becoming an editor at the Sichuan Daily, according to a friend, Li Yuanze.

PEN, the international organization that monitors human rights abuses against writers, said Chen had started to write essays and articles for overseas Chinese media in the last few years.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Impromptus: Jay Nordlinger

Excerpt/National Review:

They say that no one cares about the Falun Gong, and the vicious persecution they suffer at the hands of the Chinese government. But some care — and here is just one instance of persecution among thousands: “The Falun Dafa Information Center has learned that a 45-year-old farmer from northeastern China has died as a result of torture after being illegally detained for three months. His fingerprints on a fabricated confession were taken while he was unconscious for an alleged ‘crime’ of carrying 100 Falun Gong flyers.” (For a report, go here.)

That man’s name was Dong Liantai, and he lived in a village called Zhengjiu. What will happen to a different person, Liu Jin? “A Shanghai court sentenced Falun Gong practitioner Ms. Liu Jin to three and a half years in prison on November 3 for downloading information about the practice from the Internet and printing it to distribute to others.” (Report here.)

Say “kooky cult” all you want as you conduct business with the PRC, but don’t you think that death-by-torture is a little much — for possessing flyers and other such “crimes”?

Have one more item from our “strategic partner,” China, before we move on:

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that Guo Feixiong . . ., who was tortured by prison authorities and brutally beaten by an inmate, has been denied access to his lawyer. Guo is serving a five-year sentence in Meizhou Prison, Guangdong Province, and intends to appeal his conviction and file a complaint against the prison authorities. Guo’s wife, Zhang Qing . . ., told HRIC that on October 20, Guo’s Beijing-based lawyer, Hu Xiao . . ., after traveling more than 1,000 miles to Meizhou Prison, was not permitted to see Guo.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Cisco Needs To Step Up To Reduce Net Censorship

Says Net Freedom Advocate

Posted by: Peter Burrows on November 19

Business Week: I recently finished writing a story on Net censorship in Saudi Arabia, as part of a larger package on Cisco’s ambitions in the world’s emerging markets. Throughout the process, my editor Peter Elstrom and I struggled with how to explain the link, if any, between what Cisco sells and what the Saudi Arabian government does. Cisco has always maintained that it just sells the routers—that what each customer chooses to do with them is their own business. I have a hard time with this explanation, if only because Cisco’s strategy in emerging markets is all about selling the e-services that make those routers useful. For example, it has designed a massive 250,000-camera surveillance system that will likely be deployed in the vast King Abdullah Economic City that is now under construction in Saudi Arabia. If Cisco readily admits that it’s helping build a system that could enable surveillance of anti-government activists, would a Cisco salesman really refuse to give any pointers to a government customer that wants to censor?

Yet most of the Net Freedom advocates I spoke with had the same view: while they were concerned about Cisco’s potential to aid censors, the company had never been caught in the act. The closest thing to proof was a PowerPoint presentation crated by a mid-level staffer that suggested Cisco knew the Chinese government intended to use its technology against the Falun Gong, which led to a Congressional hearing on the topic. But most experts didn’t think it amounted to that smoking gun, and Cisco publicly apologized for what it called a violation of company ethics policy. “I’m not ready to grab a pitchfork” to go after Cisco, Jonathan Zittrain told me earlier this summer. He’s the author of “The Future of the Internet — And How To Stop It” and co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

A few days before we published, news broke that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo had agreed to support the Global Network Initiative, a new code of conduct for tech companies, to help “protect and advance individuals’ rights to free expression and privacy on the Internet.” Absent from the list of participants was Cisco, so I called the company for comment. I was told that the code of conduct only applied to Net service providers, not equipment makers, but that the company had “indicated an interest in participating in a comparable effort for hardware providers.”

I also called the Berkman Center, which had been a key driver of the initiative. While I didn’t reach anyone live, I got emailed responses from the Center’s acting executive director, Colin Maclay. Unfortunately, they arrived after the magazine story had gone to press. But if you’re interested, here’s the email interview, after the break:

Me: How would (should) the new code of conduct affect Cisco? The company has argued in the past that it only sells off-the-shelf technology to governments around the world, but does nothing to customize that technology so it can be used for censorship purposes. Does this perspective comply with the code of conduct? If not, what should they do?

Maclay: Cisco offers dual-use technology that is fundamentally different from the companies participating in the Global Network Initiative (GNI), which offer consumer products and services and are committing to practices that will reduce risk to users through their own internal practices and decision-making, interactions with governments seeking to abridge the human rights to free expression and privacy, and broader stakeholder engagement over time. The GNI isn't designed to address what sort of businesses should - or should not be - conducted with governments. I am not familiar enough with Cisco's particular situation to say what they should do, but what I can say, is that they must do something. Ignoring endangerment of the rights to free expression and privacy puts at risk much of the good that information and communications technologies (ICTs) can (and should) do for social and economic development around the world.

Me: Was Cisco approached to join the initiative? If so, why didn't they join? What were their concerns? Do you expect them to join in the future?

Maclay: Cisco was invited to participate on a number of occasions both before the process started and during it, but declined saying that they would wait and look at the GNI when the first phase was complete. I believe this is also what they said at the most recent Senate hearing. We are still developing procedures for including new participants (our publication of the documents earlier this month generated significant interest among companies and non-companies alike). But from my personal perspective it seems unlikely that Cisco would participate at this point. Because they did not participate in the drafting process, their specific challenges are not explicitly addressed within our work to date. We have discussed the formation of sector-specific groups that could fit under the GNI umbrella, but for the present remain focused on the substantial work to which we have already committed.

Me: The company is in a difficult competitive position, since companies like Huawei and ZTE are under less pressure (certainly in China) to be vigilant in this area. In other words, Cisco could put itself at a severe competitive disadvantage, in many fast-growing emerging markets. Do you see this as a problem? Can you share your thoughts on how Cisco could comply or be a leader, given this reality?

Maclay: There will always be competition, both in terms of the current competitors and technologies, and the next generations - whether Huawei and deep packet inspection, or others yet to come. This is simply part of the landscape and isn't an excuse for inaction or behavior otherwise not befitting a global leader. Cisco needs to figure out how best to solve this problem, whether alone or in concert with others, lest the problem be solved for them - possibly in a less effective manner. Indeed, they run the very real risk of provoking legislation aimed at them and other companies providing services to governments that use them to limit expression and privacy, such as Fortinet products in Burma and Websense products in Tunisia.

It's an opportunity for the global leadership we expect from technology industry visionaries in particular, and American companies in general. In the case of GNI, the participants recognized that by proactively working together, they could collectively protect and advance human rights in a far more effective manner than they could individually and reactively, even if it risked putting them at a disadvantage as compared to the rest of the market. While they recognize they will incur new costs, may be punished by governments, and so on, they feel strongly that the resources necessary to make this initiative a success, are a worthwhile investment in every sense, from keeping employees and shareholders happy, to tapping into the growing market for free expression and privacy, to reinforcing their brand value, to simply doing the right thing.

ICT companies face significant challenges now and they will only increase in the years ahead as users and uses of technology increase, and governments become more deeply aware of their capacity. At the present time, I believe that these companies along with other stakeholders, are best positioned to develop and implement creative, collaborative, proactive and dynamic solutions that ensure that the amazing tools available to us are not a platform for censorship and repression, but a hugely powerful and nearly boundless enabler for information access, expression, and interaction.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sir Paul in China?

Compliments of Harley Blues - I couldn't agree more.

Now Paul wants to perform in China? hell no!!

Now Paul wants to perform in China? hell no!!

Sir Paul McCartney wants to perform a gig in China, three years after announcing he would boycott the country over its animal rights record.

The former Beatle said it is the one country he dreams of performing in.He recently performed his first concert in Israel, 43 years after the Beatles were banned over fears they would corrupt the nation's youth.

Asked during a radio interview where he would like to play next, Sir Paul replied: "I've never played in China, I'm kind of interested to see what that's like. There's lots of places I've never played, but I think China would be the answer."

In 2005, the singer announced he would never perform there after watching undercover footage of dogs and cats being killed for their fur.

Sir Paul, a staunch vegetarian, said at the time that the practice was "like something out of the dark ages". After viewing the BBC film with his then wife, anti-fur campaigner Heather Mills, he said: "I wouldn't even dream of going over there to play, in the same way I wouldn't go to a country that supported apartheid. This is just disgusting. It's just against the very rule of humanity. I couldn't go there. If they want to consider themselves a civilised nation, they're going to have to stop this."

hb: take:

Paul what the hell?

Paul do not go against your word!!! think of all the animal's rights violations!

the recent Melamine in milk,. poisoning baby's!

the lead in children's toys!

human rights violations!

this upsets me,. but Macca will do what he will do,. aren't these enuff reasons for you not to perform there Paul?

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

China's Gruesome Organ Harvest

The whole world isn't watching. Why not?
By Ethan Gutmann, The Weekly Standard
11/24/2008, Volume 014, Issue 10

The jeepney driver sizes us up the minute we climb in. My research assistant is a healthy, young Israeli dude, so I must be the one with the money. He addresses his broken English to me: "Girl?"

No. No girls. Take us to the .  .  .

"Ladyboy? Kickboxer?"

No. No ladyboy, no kickboxer, thanks. I may be a paunchy, sweaty, middle-aged white guy, but I'm here to--well, actually, I am on my way to meet a Chinese woman in a back alley. She is going to tell me intimate stories of humiliation, torture, and abuse. And the truly shameful part is that after 50 or so interviews with refugees from Chinese labor camps, I won't even be listening that closely. I'm in Bangkok because practitioners of Falun Gong, the Buddhist revival movement outlawed by Beijing, tend to head south when they escape from China. Those without passports make their way through Burma on motorcycles and back roads. Some have been questioned by U.N. case workers, but few have been interviewed by the press, even though, emerging from Chinese labor camps, they are eager, even desperate, to tell their stories. With the back-alley Chinese woman, I intend to direct my questions away from what she'll want to talk about--persecution and spirituality--to something she will barely remember, a seemingly innocuous part of her experience: a needle jab, some poking around the abdomen, an X-ray, a urine sample--medical tests consistent with assessment of prisoners for organ harvesting.

My line of inquiry began in a Montreal community center over a year ago, listening to a heavy-set middle-aged Chinese man named Wang Xiaohua, a soft-spoken ordinary guy except for the purple discoloration that extends down his forehead.

He recalled a scene: About 20 male Falun Gong practitioners were standing before the empty winter fields, flanked by two armed escorts. Instead of leading them out to dig up rocks and spread fertilizer, the police had rounded them up for some sort of excursion. It almost felt like a holiday. Wang had never seen most of the prisoners' faces before. Here in Yunnan Forced Labor Camp No. 2, Falun Gong detainees were carefully kept to a minority in each cell so that the hardened criminals could work them over.

Practitioners of Falun Gong were forbidden to communicate openly. Yet as the guards motioned for them to begin walking, Wang felt the group fall into step like a gentle migrating herd. He looked down at the red earth, streaked with straw and human waste, to the barren mountains on the horizon. Whatever lay ahead, Wang knew they were not afraid.

After 20 minutes, he saw a large gleaming structure in the distance--maybe it was a hospital, Wang thought. The summer of 2001 had been brutal in South China. After he'd worked for months in the burning sun, Wang's shaved head had become deeply infected. Perhaps it was getting a little better. Or perhaps he had just become used to it; lately he only noticed the warm, rancid stench of his rotting scalp when he woke up.

Wang broke the silence, asking one of the police guards if that was the camp hospital ahead. The guard responded evenly: "You know, we care so much about you. So we are taking you to get a physical. Look how well the party treats you. Normally, this kind of thing never happens in a labor camp."

Inside the facility, the practitioners lined up and, one by one, had a large blood sample drawn. Then a urine sample, electrocardiogram, abdominal X-ray, and eye exam. When Wang pointed to his head, the doctor mumbled something about it being normal and motioned for the next patient. Walking back to camp, the prisoners felt relieved, even a tad cocky, about the whole thing. In spite of all the torture they had endured and the brutal conditions, even the government would be forced to see that practitioners of Falun Gong were healthy.

They never did learn the results of any of those medical tests, Wang says, a little smile suddenly breaking through. He can't help it. He survived.

I spoke with Wang in 2007, just one out of over 100 interviews for a book on the clash between Falun Gong and the Chinese state. Wang's story is not new. Two prominent Canadian human rights attorneys, David Kilgour and David Matas, outlined his case and many others in their "Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China," published and posted on the web in 2006.

By interviewing Wang, I was tipping my hat to the extensive research already done by others. I was not expecting to see Wang's pattern repeated as my interviews progressed, nor did I expect to find that organ harvesting had spread beyond Falun Gong. I was wrong.

Falun Gong became wildly popular in China during the late 1990s. For various reasons--perhaps because the membership of this movement was larger than that of the Chinese Communist party (and intersected with it), or because the legacy of Tiananmen was unresolved, or because 70 million people suddenly seemed to be looking for a way into heaven (other than money)--the party decided to eliminate it. In 1998, the party quietly canceled the business licenses of people who practiced Falun Gong. In 1999 came mass arrests, seizure of assets, and torture. Then, starting in 2000, as the movement responded by becoming more openly activist, demonstrating at Tiananmen and hijacking television signals on the mainland, the death toll started to climb, reaching approximately 3,000 confirmed deaths by torture, execution, and neglect by 2005.

At any given time, 100,000 Falun Gong practitioners were said to be somewhere in the Chinese penal system. Like most numbers coming out of China, these were crude estimates, further rendered unreliable by the chatter of claim and counterclaim. But one point is beyond dispute: The repression of Falun Gong spun out of control. Arrests, sentencing, and whatever took place in the detention centers, psychiatric institutions, and labor camps were not following any established legal procedure or restraint. As an act of passive resistance, or simply to avoid trouble for their families, many Falun Gong began withholding their names from the police, identifying themselves simply as "practitioner" or "Dafa disciple." When asked for their home province, they would say "the universe." For these, the nameless ones, whose families had no way of tracing them or agitating on their behalf, there may be no records at all.

In early 2006, the first charges of large-scale harvesting--surgical removal of organs while the prisoners were still alive, though of course the procedure killed them--of Falun Gong emerged from Northeast China. The charges set off a quiet storm in the human rights community. Yet the charge was not far-fetched.

Harry Wu, a Chinese dissident who established the Laogai Foundation, had already produced reams of evidence that the state, after executing criminals formally sentenced to death, was selling their kidneys, livers, corneas, and other body parts to Chinese and foreigners, anyone who could pay the price. The practice started in the mid-1980s. By the mid-1990s, with the use of anti-tissue- rejection drugs pioneered by China, the business had progressed. Mobile organ-harvesting vans run by the armed services were routinely parked just outside the killing grounds to ensure that the military hospitals got first pick. This wasn't top secret. I spoke with a former Chinese police officer, a simple man from the countryside, who said that, as a favor to a condemned man's friend, he had popped open the back of such a van and unzipped the body bag. The corpse's chest had been picked clean.

Taiwanese doctors who arranged for patients to receive transplants on the mainland claim that there was no oversight of the system, no central Chinese database of organs and medical histories of donors, no red tape to diminish medical profits. So the real question was, at $62,000 for a fresh kidney, why would Chinese hospitals waste any body they could get their hands on?

Yet what initially drew most fire from skeptics was the claim that organs were being harvested from people before they died. For all the Falun Gong theatrics, this claim was not so outlandish either. Any medical expert knows that a recipient is far less likely to reject a live organ; and any transplant dealer will confirm that buyers will pay more for one. Until recently, high volume Chinese transplant centers openly advertised the use of live donors on their websites.

It helps that brain death is not legally recognized in China; only when the heart stops beating is the patient actually considered dead. That means doctors can shoot a prisoner in the head, as it were, surgically, then remove the organs before the heart stops beating. Or they can administer anesthesia, remove the organs, and when the operation is nearing completion introduce a heart- stopping drug--the latest method. Either way, the prisoner has been executed, and harvesting is just fun along the way. In fact, according to doctors I have spoken to recently, all well versed in current mainland practices, live-organ harvesting of death-row prisoners in the course of execution is routine.

The real problem was that the charges came from Falun Gong--always the unplanned child of the dissident community. Unlike the Tiananmen student leaders and other Chinese prisoners of conscience who had settled into Western exile, Falun Gong marched to a distinctly Chinese drum. With its roots in a spiritual tradition from the Chinese heartland, Falun Gong would never have built a version of the Statue of Liberty and paraded it around for CNN. Indeed, to Western observers, Falun Gong public relations carried some of the uncouthness of Communist party culture: a perception that practitioners tended to exaggerate, to create torture tableaux straight out of a Cultural Revolution opera, to spout slogans rather than facts.

For various reasons, some valid, some shameful, the credibility of persecuted refugees has often been doubted in the West. In 1939, a British Foreign Office official, politely speaking for the majority, described the Jews as not, perhaps, entirely reliable witnesses. During the Great Leap Forward, emaciated refugees from the mainland poured into Hong Kong, yammering about deserted villages and cannibalism. Sober Western journalists ignored these accounts as subjective and biased.

The yammering of a spiritual revivalist apparently counts for even less than the testimony of a peasant or a Jew. Thus, when Falun Gong unveiled a doctor's wife who claimed that her husband, a surgeon, had removed thousands of corneas from practitioners in a Northeastern Chinese hospital named Sujiatun, the charge met with guarded skepticism from the dissident community and almost complete silence from the Western press (with the exception of this magazine and National Review).

As Falun Gong committees kicked into full investigative mode, the Canadian lawyers Kilgour and Matas compiled the accumulating evidence in their report. It included transcripts of recorded phone calls in which Chinese doctors confirmed that their organ donors were young, healthy, and practiced Falun Gong; written testimony from the mainland of practitioners' experiences in detention; an explosion in organ transplant activity coinciding with a rise in the Falun Gong incarceration rate, with international customers waiting as little as a week for a tissue match (in most countries, patients waited over a year). Finally, Kilgour and Matas compared the execution rate in China (essentially constant, according to Amnesty International) and the number of transplants. It left a discrepancy of 41,500 unexplained cases over a five-year span.

This report has never been refuted point by point, yet the vast majority of human rights activists have kept their distance. Since Falun Gong's claims were suspect, their allies' assertions were suspect. Transplant doctors who claimed to have Falun Gong organ donors in the basement? They were just saying what potential organ recipients wanted to hear. Written testimony from practitioners? They'd been prepped by activists. The rise in organ transplant activity? Maybe just better reporting. The discrepancy between executions and transplants? As a respected human rights scholar asked me, why did Kilgour and Matas use Amnesty International's estimate of the number of executions in China to suggest the execution rate had stayed constant for 10 years? Even Amnesty acknowledges their numbers might represent a gross understatement. There might be no discrepancy at all.

Finally, why had no real witness, a doctor or nurse who had actually operated on Falun Gong practitioners, come forward? Without such proof (although such an individual's credibility can always be savaged, even with supporting documents), human rights advocates argued there was no reason to take the story seriously. There certainly were not sufficient grounds for President Bush to mention organ harvesting in his human rights speech on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.

The critics had hinted at legitimate points of discussion. But so had the Chinese government: Fresh off the confession in 2005 that organs were being harvested from ordinary death-row prisoners, and after issuing their predictable denials of harvesting organs from Falun Gong, Beijing suddenly passed a law in July 2006 forbidding the sale of organs without the consent of the donor.

Three things happened. The organ supply tightened. Prices doubled. And transplants continued. So unless there has been a dramatic cultural shift since 2004, when a Chinese report found that only 1.5 percent of transplanted kidneys were donated by relatives, the organs being sold must still come from somewhere. Let's assume it's prisoners--that's what Taiwanese doctors think--and theorize that the new law was a signal: Get your consent forms and stop harvesting from Falun Gong. For now.

And the critics had one thing exactly right: Precision is an illusion. No taped conversation with a mainland doctor is unimpeachable. All witnesses from China have mixed motives, always. And, again, no numbers from China, even the one in the last paragraph, can be considered definitive.

Indeed, the entire investigation must be understood to be still at an early, even primitive, stage. We do not really know the scale of what is happening yet. Think of 1820, when a handful of doctors, scientists, and amateur fossil hunters were trying to make sense of scattered suggestive evidence and a disjointed pile of bones. Twenty-two years would pass before an English paleontologist so much as coined the term "dinosaur"--"terrible lizard"--and the modern study of these extinct creatures got seriously under way. Those of us researching the harvesting of organs from involuntary donors in China are like the early dinosaur hunters. We don't work in close consultation with each other. We are still waiting for even one doctor who has harvested organs from living prisoners of conscience to emerge from the mainland. Until that happens, it is true, we don't even have dinosaur bones. But we do have tracks. Here are some that I've found.

Qu Yangyao, an articulate Chinese professional, holds three master's degrees. She is also the earliest refugee to describe an "organs only" medical examination. Qu escaped to Sydney last year. While a prisoner in China in June 2000, she refused to "transform"--to sign a statement rejecting Falun Gong--and was eventually transferred to a labor camp. Qu's health was fairly good, though she had lost some weight from hunger strikes. Given Qu's status and education, there were reasons to keep her healthy. The Chinese police wanted to avoid deaths in custody--less paperwork, fewer questions. At least, so Qu assumed.

Qu was 35 years old when the police escorted her and two other practitioners into a hospital. Qu distinctly remembers the drawing of a large volume of blood, then a chest X-ray, and probing. "I wasn't sure what it was about. They just touch you in different places . . . abdomen, liver." She doesn't remember giving a urine sample at that time, but the doctor did shine a light in her eyes, examining her corneas.

Did the doctor then ask her to trace the movement of his light with her eyes, or check her peripheral vision? No. He just checked her corneas, skipping any test involving brain function. And that was it: no hammer on the knee, no feeling for lymph nodes, no examination of ears or mouth or genitals--the doctor checked her retail organs and nothing else.

I may have felt a silent chill run up my spine at points in our interview, but Qu, like many educated subjects, seemed initially unaware of the potential implications of what she was telling me. Many prisoners preserve a kind of "it can't happen here" sensibility. "I'm too important to be wiped out" is the survivor's mantra. In the majority of the interviews presented here, my subjects, though aware of the organ harvesting issue, had no clear idea of my line of questioning or the "right" answers.

Falun Gong practitioners are forbidden to lie. That doesn't mean they never do. In the course of my interviews I've heard a few distortions. Not because people have been "prepped," but because they've suffered trauma. Deliberate distortions, though, are exceedingly rare. The best way to guard against false testimony is to rely on extended sit-down interviews.

In all, I interviewed 15 Falun Gong refugees from labor camps or extended detention who had experienced something inexplicable in a medical setting. My research assistant, Leeshai Lemish, interviewed Dai Ying in Norway, bringing our total to 16. If that number seems low, consider the difficulty of survival and escape. Even so, just over half of the subjects can be ruled out as serious candidates for organ harvesting: too old, too physically damaged from hard labor, or too emaciated from hunger strikes. Some were simply too shaky in their recall of specific procedures to be much help to us. Some were the subjects of drug tests. Some received seemingly normal, comprehensive physicals, though even such people sometimes offered valuable clues.

For example, Lin Jie, a woman in her early 60s living in Sydney, reported that in May 2001, while she was incarcerated in the Chongqing Yong Chaun Women's Jail, over 100 Falun Gong women were examined "all over the body, very detailed. And they asked about our medical history." Fine. Yet Lin found herself wondering why "one police per practitioner" escorted the women through the physical, as if they were dangerous criminals. Practitioners of Falun Gong are many things--intense, moralistic, single-minded--but they are strictly nonviolent. Clearly someone in the Chinese security system was nervous.

Or take Jing Tian, a female refugee in her 40s, now in Bangkok. In March 2002, the Shenyang Detention Center gave a comprehensive physical to all the practitioners. Jing watched the procedure carefully and saw nothing unusual. Then, in September, the authorities started expensive blood tests (these would cost about $300 per subject in the West). Jing observed that they were drawing enough blood to fill up eight test tubes per practitioner, enough for advanced diagnostics or tissue matching. Jia Xiarong, a middle-aged female prisoner who came from a family of well-connected officials, told Jing outright: "They are doing this because some aging official needs an organ."

But Jing sensed something else in the air that fall, something more substantial: Prisoners were arriving in the middle of the night and disappearing before dawn. There were transports to "hospital civil defense structures" with names like Sujiatun and Yida, and practitioners with no names, only numbers.

It was not a good time to be an angry young practitioner, according to a refugee in her 30s recently arrived in Hong Kong. She has family in China, so let's call her Jiansheng Chen. Back in 2002, Chen noticed another pattern. When the blood tests started, she said, "before signing a statement [renouncing Falun Gong] the practitioners were all given physicals. After they signed, they wouldn't get a physical again."

Chen was a "nontransformable"--with an edge. Not only did she refuse to renounce Falun Gong, but she shouted down anyone who did. Chen was getting medication three times a day (possibly sedatives), so drug-testing can't be ruled out. Yet as her resistance dragged on, the police said: "If you don't transform, we'll send you away. The path you have chosen is the path of death." For eight days efforts were made to persuade Chen to renounce Falun Gong or gain her submission by torture. Suddenly the guards ordered her to write a suicide note. Chen mocked them: "I'm not dead. So why should I sign a death certificate?"

The director brought in a group of military police doctors wearing white uniforms, male and female. The labor camp police were "very frightened" at this point, according to Chen. They kept repeating: "If you still won't transform, what waits for you is a path to death."

Chen was blindfolded. Then she heard a familiar policewoman's voice asking the doctors to leave for a minute. When they were alone, the policewoman began pleading with her: "Chen, your life is going to be taken away. I'm not kidding you. We've been here together all this time, we've made at least some sort of connection by now. I can't bear to see this--a living person in front of my eyes about to be wiped out."

Chen stayed silent. She didn't trust the policewoman--why should she? In the last eight days, she had been hung from the ceiling. She had been burned with electric batons. She had drunk her own urine. So, the latest nice-nice trick was unconvincing. Then Chen noticed something dripping on her hand--the policewoman's tears. Chen allowed that she would think about transforming. "That's all I need," the policewoman said. After a protracted argument with the doctors, the police left.

Practitioners like to talk about altering the behavior of police and security personnel through the power of their own belief. It's a favorite trope. Just as a prisoner of war is duty bound to attempt escape, a Falun Gong practitioner is required by his moral code to try to save sentient beings. In this spiritual calculus, the policeman who uses torture destroys himself, not the practitioner. If the practitioner can alter the policeman's behavior, by moral example or supernatural means, there's some natural pride, even if the practitioner still gets tortured.

But practitioners vary. Chen did not tell her story with composure. She screamed it out cathartically, in a single note of abrasive, consuming fury. It's also relevant that Chen is not just stubborn, impossible, and a little mad, but young, attractive, and charismatic. She gave her account of the policewoman without braggadocio, only abject, shrieking shame at having finally signed a transformation statement. The policewoman had met a fellow warrior--her tears are plausible.

Dai Ying is a 50-year-old female refugee living in Sweden. As 2003 began, 180 Falun Gong were tested in Sanshui labor camp. The usual our-party-especially-cares-for-you speech was followed by X -rays, the drawing of massive blood samples, cardiograms, urine tests, and then probes: "They had us lie on [our] stomachs and examined our kidneys. They tapped on them and ask[ed] us if that hurt."

And that was it--organs only, hold the corneas--a fact that Dai, almost blind from torture at the time, remembers vividly. Corneas are relatively small-ticket items, worth perhaps $30,000 each. By 2003, Chinese doctors had mastered the liver transplant, worth about $115,000 from a foreign customer.

To meet the demand, a new source of supply was needed. Fang Siyi is a 40-year-old female refugee in Bangkok. Incarcerated from 2002 to 2005, Fang was examined repeatedly and then, in 2003, picked out for special testing in the Jilin detention center in Northeast China.

Fang had never seen the doctors before: "Upon arriving here, they changed into labor camp uniforms. But what struck me is that they seemed to be military doctors." Twelve prisoners had been selected. Fang estimates that eight were Falun Gong. How did she know? "For Falun Gong, they called them, Little Faluns." Who were the other four? "[The staff] would say, Here comes another one of those Eastern Lightning."

Eastern Lightning are Christians--fringy, out-there Chinese Christians to us, incurable, nontransformable deviants to the party. Jing, too, remembers Eastern Lightning being given blood tests in 2002, but Fang remembers the Jilin exam as far more focused: "The additional examinations would just be blood tests, electro-cardiograms, and X-rays, nothing else. It was Falun Gong practitioners and Christians."

Compassion fatigue seeping in? I'll keep this short.

"Masanjia Confidential" has family in China, so prudence dictates mentioning only that she's about 40 and is in Bangkok. Her experience takes us into what I call the "Late Harvest Era" of 2005, when many practitioners seem to have been whisked off to wham-bam organ exams and then promptly disappeared. When I asked her if anyone in Masanjia Labor Camp actually received medical treatment, she responded without missing a beat: "If people came in on a stretcher, they were given cursory treatment. In good health, a comprehensive exam. .  .  . They needed healthy people, young people. If you were an auntie in your 60s or 70s they wouldn't pay attention to you."

Were there military personnel present at the physicals? "They didn't need them. Masanjia is very close to Sujiatun [hospital]--a pretty quick drive. If they needed someone they could just tie them up and send them over. .  .  . Usually they were taken at night."

In 2007, Yu Xinhui, free after five years in Guangdong prison, signed himself, his wife, and their infant son up for a foreign trip with a Chinese tour group. Upon arriving in Bangkok, they fled to the YMCA and applied for U.N. refugee status. Yu is in his 30s, the picture of robust health. While in prison, he was tested repeatedly, finally graduating to an "organs-only" exam under military supervision in 2005.

Yu makes a good show of indulging my questions, but to him it was never a big mystery: "There was common knowledge of organ harvesting in the prison. .  .  . Even before you die, your organs are already reserved." Criminal prisoners would taunt the practitioners: "If you don't do what we say we'll torture you to death and sell your organs." That sounds like a stupid game, but everyone knew there was a real list: Prisoners and practitioners alike would be taken away on an annual schedule. Yu knew which month the buses would arrive and where they would park in the courtyard. He gave me a tour of the exact spot on Google Earth.

When Falun Gong's claims about organ harvesting surfaced in March 2006, Yu still languished in prison, incommunicado. So it's all the more interesting that he vividly remembers a large, panicky deportation of prisoners (perhaps 400 people, including practitioners) in May 2006. "It was terrifying," Yu says. "Even I was terrified." The timing is consistent: With all the bad publicity, mainland doctors were hinting at a close-of-business sale on organs at exactly this time.

By 2007, the consensus was that the Chinese government had shut down Falun Gong harvesting to avoid any embarrassing new disclosures before the Olympics. So my final case must be viewed as borderline, a comprehensive medical exam followed by .  .  . well, judge for yourself.

Liu Guifu is a 48-year-old woman recently arrived in Bangkok. She got a soup-to-nuts physical-- really a series of them--in Beijing Women's Labor Camp in 2007. She was also diagnosed as schizophrenic and possibly given drugs.

But she remembers her exams pretty well. She was given three urine tests in a single month. She was told to drink fluids and refrain from urinating until she got to the hospital. Was this testing for diabetes or drugs? It can't be ruled out. But neither can kidney-function assessment. And three major blood samples were drawn in the same month, at a cost of about $1,000. Was the labor camp concerned about Liu's health? Or the health of a particular organ? Perhaps an organ that was being tissue-matched with a high-ranking cadre or a rich foreign customer?

The critical fact is that Liu was both a member of a nontransformed Falun Gong brigade with a history of being used for organs and was considered mentally ill. She was useless, the closest approximation we have to a nameless practitioner, one of the ones who never gave their names or provinces to the authorities and so lost their meager social protections.

There were certainly hundreds, perhaps thousands, of practitioners identified by numbers only. I've heard that number two hundred and something was a talented young female artist with nice skin, but I don't really know. None of them made it out of China alive.

None of them likely will. Tibetan sources estimate that 5,000 protesters disappeared in this year's crackdown. Many have been sent to Qinghai, a potential center of organ harvesting. But that's speculative. Both the Taiwanese doctors who investigate organ harvesting and those who arrange transplants for their Taiwanese patients agree on one point: The closing ceremony of the Olympics made it once again open season for harvesting.

Some in the human rights community will read that last assertion with skepticism. Until there is countervailing evidence, however, I'll bet on bargain-basement prices for organs in China. I confess, I feel a touch of burnout myself at this thought. It's an occupational hazard.

It's why I told that one-night-in-Bangkok joke to get you to read beyond the first paragraph. Yet what's really laughable is the foot-dragging, formalistic, faintly embarrassed response of so many to the murder of prisoners of conscience for the purpose of harvesting their organs. That's an evil crime.

Washington faces its own imperatives: The riptide of Chinese financial power is strong. Those in government do not want to hear about Falun Gong and genocide at a time of financial crisis, with China holding large numbers of U.S. bonds. So the story continues to founder under the lead weight of American political and journalistic apathy. At least the Europeans have given it some air. They can afford to. They aren't the leader of the free world.

It will be argued--quietly, of course--that America has no point of easy leverage, no ability to undo what has been done, no silver bullet that can change the Chinese regime. Perhaps not, but we could ban Americans from getting organ transplants in China. We could boycott Chinese medical conferences. Sever medical ties. Embargo surgical equipment. And refuse to hold any diplomatic summits until the Chinese put in place an explicit, comprehensive database of every organ donor in China.

We may have to live with the Chinese Communist party, for now. For that matter, we can console ourselves that there are no bones, for now. There will be none until the party falls and the Chinese people begin to sift through the graves and ashes.

We are all allowed a touch of compassion fatigue--it's understandable. But make no mistake: There are terrible lizards. And now that the Olympic Games are over, and the cameras have turned away, they roam the earth again.

Ethan Gutmann, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, wishes to thank the Earhart Foundation and the Wallenberg family of Sweden for research support.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008