Friday, January 30, 2009

MEPs call for Chinese TV station to be put back on air

A cross-party group of MEPs have called for the uncensored Chinese language broadcaster NTDTV to be put back on air.

The Parliament (UK).com
: The demand follows a move by the Chinese authorities last June to shut down NTDTV’s broadcast via the Paris-based satellite carrier Eutelsat.

Critics of the Chinese regime say Beijing did so by applying “political pressure and business interest lures” to Eutelsat.

The MEPs' demand comes a day before Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is due to visit Brussels for meetings with, among others, commission president José Manuel Barroso and EU foreign affairs supreme Javier Solana.

Several deputies held a news conference in parliament on Wednesday to call for the ‘ban’ on NTDTV to be lifted.

UK Tory Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice president of the assembly, said he wants the French government to press the Eutelsat to restore the station’s broadcasts to China.

He pointed out that recently some 476 MEPs signed a written declaration urging Eutelsat to resume the service.

“The other EU institutions, including the commission and council, should take note of the fact that so many MEPs signed what amounts to a resolution,” he said.

“It is unfortunate that Paris succumbed to pressure from the Chinese so the French government and its president Nicolas Sarkozy should also take note of the strength of feeling on this issue.

“The EU has a specific role to play here in putting pressure on the French to restore this vitally important service to the Chinese people.”

Italian ALDE deputy Marco Cappato, who also spoke at the news conference, said, “As the west celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, in 2009 China will observe the 50th anniversary of the Chinese communist government’s rule in Tibet, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the 10th anniversary of the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice.

“This strong contrast highlights the need for information freedom in China.

“Without NTDTV’s pioneering work to bring uncensored information to China, the vast majority of the Chinese population will have no access to information commemorating these solemn occasions.

“Since it seized power, the Chinese regime has continuously suppressed media voices that do not toe its political line and last June the regime succeeded in shutting down NTDTV’s broadcast by applying political pressure and business interest lures to Eutelsat.

“With the passage of the written declaration on media freedom by a large majority of MEPs, parliament is signalling its will to defend media freedom in China.”OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

The Last Victims of 2010

Mostly Water: The BC Supreme Court has ruled for the removal of the Falun Gong protest billboards and hut outside the Chinese Consulate on Granville Street. The city was granted an injunction under the pretext that the group breached some street structure bylaw.

The Falun Gong has maintained that hut and those billboards for over seven years to protest their consistent persecution and torture by the Chinese government.
Their values and beliefs were perceived by the Chinese government as a distinction from the Marxist-atheist ideology and a challenge to party rule. They were banned from practice in 1999. Since then a massive crackdown began on the group; criminalization, torture, illegal imprisonment, and psychiatric abuse were used to persecute practitioners. Several human rights investigators reported the ongoing practice of systematic organ harvesting from living Falung Gong practitioners in China.

The terror campaign doesn't stop there, the party uses everything they could to persecute the group[:] the education system, the workplace, family members, and a large scale of media propaganda.

During the past seven year, the dismantl[ing] of the billboards and banners was ordered only once in 2006, by the former [Vancouver] Mayor after major pressure from an important economic partner: the Chinese government. Then, the freedom of expression prevailed, but today they are fighting against more powerful forces: the Olympics.

Not only the Canadian Government failed them in doing nothing against the human rights violations in China, but now because of the coming of the 2010 Olympics, the BC government and the city have raised some concerns that were absent for seven years and under the pretext of some kind of bylaw they are depriving this group of one of the most fundamental [freedoms] of a democratic society; the freedom of expression.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Fight for Falun Gong freedom continues

The Times-Herald By Winston Skinner

Efforts to obtain full religious freedom in China continue, and the daughter of a Chinese freedom activist is in the United States working to secure her father's freedom.

Many religious groups, including Christians who meet outside the state approved churches in China, face persecution. One group that has been singled out for punishment is Falun Gong.

Atlanta practitioner Robert Lu lectured on Falun Gong and demonstrated the spiritual practice at the Newnan-Coweta Public Library in December 2000.

Chinese media reportedly began attacking Falun Gong in 1996. Efforts by Falun Gong followers to explain the practice two years later were ignored. "In China, they don't allow anyone else to speak out," Lu said.

On April 23, 1999, Falun Gong practitioners were beaten by government forces. A group of 10,000 practitioners subsequently went to Beijing. "They tried to appeal to the government leaders to get this resolved," Lu said, but were not successful.

In 2000, Lu said he believed Falun Gong was chosen to be made an example. "They wanted to use this to stabilize their power," he stated. "Because Falun Gong is a peaceful group, they will not return a fist or even say a bad word back."

Reports from Falun Gong practitioners who have come to the United States indicate the movement continues to grow.

Ti-Anna Wang, 19, is working to secure the release of her father, Dr. Wang Bingzhang, who is currently in his seventh year of a life sentence in a Chinese prison for his lifelong pro-democracy writings.

"The situation with Dr. Wang is particularly heartbreaking," according to Jim Geheran, director of international programs for Initiatives for China.

United Nations documents show Wang and two other people were accosted in the lobby of their hotel in Mongcai, Vietnam on June 27, 2002. A group of approximately 10 men dressed in plain clothes, but claiming to be Vietnamese police officers, demanded three men accompany them to the local police station for questioning.

Wang initially resisted and "was physically assaulted in the lobby," according to the UN documents. "They possessed all the required travel documents, including Vietnamese visas."

An hour earlier, Wang had met with a Chinese activist from Guangxi province about "the labour movement in China, workers' discontent and rising unemployment, the situation of the Falun Gong and its campaign to win religious freedom and the corruption of some Guangxi governmental officials," according to the UN information.

The following year -- in a one-day, closed trial -- Wang was convicted to life in prison on charges of espionage and terrorism.

According to Ti-Anna Wang, her family had been receiving a monthly invitation to visit with her father at Shaoguan Prison in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province, China once a month for 30 minutes. When no invitation was received late last year, Wang's wife began calling the prison. Her calls were answered but then immediately disconnected.

At last report, inquiries by lawyers for Wang to prison authorities had received no response.

Ti-Anna Wang has enlisted some powerful people to help her. She met with U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, to talk about her father's situation. Accompanying her were Bob Fu of China Aid and several Chinese Human Rights lawyers.

Smith pledged his support for advancing Wang Bingzhang's case.

U. S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-West Virginia, and U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas have also pledged their support. On Jan. 26, Brownback, Smith and Wolf, sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "We urge you to raise this case at the highest levels in the Chinese government. As one of the founders of China's democracy movement, Dr. Wang has dedicated his life to the cause of freedom," the letter stated.

Ti-Anna Wang "is taking the year off before entering college and working with our office in D.C. to help get congressional support for pushing for Dr. Wang's release," Geheran said. "She is a wonderful young lady, but she bears a terrible burden."

In his 2000 interview, Lu said the pacifist stance of Falun Gong made the group attractive to some opportunistic government leaders in China. Rather than seek to squelch a true dissident group, which might respond with terrorism, they chose to attack a peaceful movement without political aims.

Lu said it may be hard for people from a belief system other than Buddhism to focus on Falun Gong, but noted people from many different backgrounds have followed the practice. "Some people believe in Buddha. Some are Christians. It will bring people closer to God," he said.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Chinese Regime Strengthens Infiltration of Western Mainstream Media

The Epoch Times Jan 29, 2009
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During the week before the 2009 Chinese New Year, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Political Bureau Central Committee held a meeting to discuss propaganda campaigns outside China for the upcoming year.

During the meeting’s concluding speech, the Standing Committee member who is in charge of “ideology” pointed out that due to the joint efforts of the Propaganda Department, the “United Front” and the Foreign Affairs departments over the past decade, most overseas Chinese media companies very much carry the identity of the CCP’s policies and practices.

The official felt that major Chinese newspapers in Western countries are all able of having a strong interaction with the local government, except for several small newspapers controlled by the so-called “three anti-China forces.” The CCP thus decided to continue their heavy investment in propaganda campaigns overseas.

During the Propaganda Minister’s speech, he said that after the fund was allocated, several overseas Chinese media outlet owners have contacted the Propaganda Department and said that they were willing to cooperate with the CCP to promote “China’s international image.”

However, leaders from the “United Front” and the CCP’s Intelligence Agency warned that discretion should be exercised when appropriating the budget to overseas Chinese newspapers because advertising revenue from CCP-funded companies should be enough to keep them cooperating with the regime, and as such, there is no longer need to give them special funding.

Instead, a special report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that the CCP begin to focus their attention on Western mainstream media outlets. They cited the UK publication Evening Standard’s acquisition by former KGB agent Lebedev as an example to follow and urged that the CCP begin training overseas Chinese agents to begin to acquire Western mainstream media.

They continued in their meeting to cite examples such as CNN’s so-called “distorted” remark on the Chinese regime in 2008, claiming that it sounded a warning bell showing that that simply manipulating overseas Chinese media is not enough.

Some foreign affairs experts believe that the CCP’s current perceived strength on the international stage and their subsequent influence on world affairs lead them to be fully capable of gaining full control over several mainstream Western media outlets.

It was not a coincidence that the CCP’s Intelligence Agency’s report mentioned the acquisition of a British media outlet by a former KGB agent. The report analyzed the increasing financial difficulties that many Western media outlets are facing during the current global economic crisis and made the conclusion that the time is right to begin attempting to acquire such outlets without it being construed as a political move.

The Ministry of State Security warned that extreme caution should be exercised when selecting which agents should attempt to acquire Western media. Their recommendation was to inject money to various overseas Chinese media and utilize them as the pawns who would take control of the outlets.

All of the meeting’s participants reached a consensus that the main goal of the CCP’s 2009 overseas propaganda campaign would be to concentrate all of the Party’s financial, material, and human resources to infiltrate Western media through either the injection of funding or direct acquisition, with the ultimate goal being to so-called “enhance China’s international status.”

Read original article in Chinese.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Falun Gong Protesters Will Appeal Injunction: Lawyer

By Joan Delaney
Epoch Times Staff Jan 30, 2009
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Falun Gong, Chinese consulate, B.C. supreme court,
Falun Gong practitioners gather at their protest site outside the Chinese consulate on Thursday night. (Christina Liao/The Epoch Times)

The lawyer representing a group of Falun Gong practitioners has said his clients will appeal Thursday’s B.C. Supreme Court ruling granting an injunction requiring them to remove a hut and billboards erected outside the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver.

Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein issued a 37-page ruling upholding the City of Vancouver’s application seeking the removal of the structures, which have been part of the Falun Gong round-the-clock protest at the consulate for seven years.

“I don’t think [the judge] properly interpreted and applied the charter or made the appropriate findings in the case with respect to what was really going on,” says lawyer Joseph Arvay.

To raise awareness about what they say is a genocide, Falun Gong practitioners erected a wall of posters and photographs of their persecuted counterparts in China along the consulate fence in 2001.

While Stromberg-Stein made it clear that she was referring only to the signs and hut and not any other forms of protest used in the vigil, Arvay says the structures are necessary to ensure that the long-running vigil can continue.

“The whole idea of the hut is to allow it to be a vigil—a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year vigil. As long as the persecution is going on in China these people want to be protesting, and protesting in a way that really sends the most powerful message possible.”

He said the protest wouldn’t be nearly as effective without the signs and hut, which “are on a strip of dirt that nobody uses” and are not blocking the sidewalk.

“Its kind of ridiculous that the city says they can be there with their signs every day marching up and down the sidewalk—in which case they will obstruct the sidewalk—but they can’t be there with their hut and the billboards which doesn't obstruct anyone.

"The reason that we say that the city doesn't want the hut and the billboards there is because it knows that without them the vigil will likely end before its time or simply lose its effectiveness. It is the hut that allows these people to man this vigil 7/24 through all kinds of weather.”

He added that carrying the signs on a daily basis would be “onerous” on the mostly elderly practitioners and would “transform the nature of the protest which is one of a silent and peaceful meditation—the very peaceful meditation that has, for whatever bizarre reason, caused the Chinese government to persecute the Falun Gong.”

After news of the ruling reached the Vancouver Falun Gong community, more than 40 practitioners gathered outside the consulate on Thursday night, marking day 2717 of the vigil.

Falun Dafa Association of Canada (FDAC) spokesperson Sue Zhang says the group is “very disappointed” with the court ruling.

“We have been here now over seven years, we are not interfering with anyone and we have cooperated with the city all along,” she says.

“Our fellow practitioners in China don’t have any voice, and we are here trying to be their voice, trying to stop the persecution, nothing else. We are here not for ourselves, not for any other gain or whatever—just to stop the brutal persecution.”

Stromberg-Stein stated in the judgment that she accepted that former Mayor Sam Sullivan wanted the structures removed in 2006 “as part of his public order agenda” and not “because of the sensitivities of the Chinese government.”

Arvay had argued that Sullivan wanted the structures removed at the behest of the Chinese regime and that Chinese consulate officials had pressured Sullivan to get rid of the protest.

“We say the real reason is to appease the Chinese consulate and we believe we have the evidence to prove that. The judge didn’t accept that and we’re off to the Court of Appeal to prove otherwise,” says Arvay.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

AI: Testimony Human Rights in China

Amnesty International Testimony Human Rights in China And UN's Universal Periodic Review
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Committee on Foreign Affairs United States Congress

Presented by T. Kumar Advocacy Director Asia & Pacific Amnesty International USA on January 27, 2009

AI USA: Thank you Co-Chairs and members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for inviting Amnesty International to testify at this important and timely hearing. We are pleased about the creation of Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and are confident that it will play an important role in shaping US human rights policy and shine a light on every corner of the world.

The topic of this hearing is China’s human rights and the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR is a unique system adopted by the UN General Assembly to monitor human rights of all the UN member states, every four years, by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This global human rights review is now being conducted for the first time in UN history. Various elements of good practice are being developed in the UPR process, such as specific and measurable recommendations.

The UPR Working Group of the UN Human Rights Council is meeting in its fourth session in February 2009 to review China as well as some other countries. This is the first time China’s record is going to be scrutinized by the UPR and the success of this review will set the tone for all future UPR reviews. If China escaps rigorous review, not only will the UPR process be weakened, but it will also set a precident that powerful countries do not need to abide by and respect the rights of their people. We urge the Chinese authorities to fully corporate with the review.

To have the review be successful the US should play an active role in the UPR process and should take an active role in the UNHRC. The Bush Administration not only resisted engaging with UNHRC; under the leadership of Amb. Bolton the US actively damaged the process of UNHRC.

President Obama

This hearing is also important since we have a new Administration headed by President Obama. We would like to express our appreciation to President Obama for the positive steps he has taken to stop torture and to close the Guantanamo prison camp. We urge him to take similar steps in dealing with the Chinese autorities and to set the tone in the outset that human rights must be respected in China.
The Chinese Government has already taken steps to show President Obama their intransigence. They have censored parts of President Obama’s inauguration speech for their populace. We urge President Obama to immediately condemn this action and send a strong message to the Chinese authorities that human right is a priority for this Administration. Failure to do so would embolden the Chinese authorities to continue their abusive practices. We also urge the Obama Administration to not to follow the Bush Administration’s half hearted approach to China’s human rights.

We would urge President Obama to actively engage with the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the UN’s principal human rights political body and to make public his intention for the US to run for the Council. We are however disappointed with UN Ambassador designee Susan Rice’s unclear position on running for the UNHRC during her recent Senate confirmation hearing. It is imperative that the US become an active member of the UNHRC to continue the impressive steps that the Obama Administration has taken on the domestic front.

During President Obama’s candidacy, he made clear that when he becomes president, multilateral engagement and respect for human rights would be the order of the day. He promised to set a new course, saying “we must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission- we must lead the world, by deed and example.” Actively participating in the UNHRC is a good example.

Chinese Government – Promise keepers?

The Chinese Government’s record on keeping its promises is not impressive. All the promises on human rights improvements hey gave when bidding for the Olympics were not kept once they won the rights to hold them in Beijing. One wonders whether they will keep the promises they make to other countries and to the UN. That’s why President Obama should take firm and effective steps on human rights at the outset with the Chinese authorities. He should set specific benchmarks in dealing with them and not compromise those priciples for such issues like trade.

Human rights in China – a summary

The scale of China’s human rights violations is staggering. A quarter to half a million people are langushing in labor camps, imprisoned under the “re-education through labor” detention system, where they are detained without charge or trial at the whim of local police and other officials. China executes more people than the rest of the world combined. China also executes political prisoners. Torture by law enforcement personnel is endemic resulting in many prisoner deaths while in custody.
Thousands suffer brutal religious presecution and political repression. Religious persecution has led to the detention and repression of thousands of Christians, Tibetan Budhists, Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners. Other targets of repression include political dissidents, trade union organizers, advocates of reform, and people using the internet to disseminate information deemed to be “politically sensitive.”

North Korean asylum seekers face intense repression and large scale forcible repatriation to North Korea. Women are still compelled to undergo forced abortion and sterilization to enforce the one-child policy. The government regularly denies the right to freedom of conscience, expression, religion and association.

Human rights in China: Our submission to UPR Working Group

Detention without trial

Chinese authorities continue to make extensive use of various forms of extra-judicial or administrative detention in which individuals are deprived of their liberty without charge, trial or judicial review. This is a violation of both Article 9 and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed and declared an intention to ratify in the near future. The failure to uphold such safeguards as the rights to liberty and to a fair trial seriously undermines the quality of the criminal justice system and facilitates the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Re-Education through Labour

One of the largest of such detention systems is the Re-education through Labour system, in which estimates of between 300,000 and 500,000 individuals are held. Other forms of administrative detention include Custody and Education (for prostitutes and those soliciting prostitutes), and Enforced Drug Rehabilitation (for drug addicts). Administrative forms of detention give the police the power to impose punishment without judicial oversight while depriving defendants of the rights of due process, including the right to legal counsel and the presumption of innocence. While the new Public Order Administrative Punishment Law, put into operation in March 2006, in theory allows defendants to challenge or to appeal for a reduction or suspension of their sentences, it is difficult for defendants to carry out such appeals in practice and they rarely succeeded.

The Re-education through Labour system has been used to facilitate the incarceration of common criminals and to crack-down on and intimidate activists, human rights defenders, and individuals who practice their religion outside official channels. The system is often used on those regarded as “troublemakers”, or those accused of minor offences which are not considered to amount to a “crime” and are therefore not prosecuted under the criminal justice system. While the authorities may wish to introduce special procedures or bodies to deal with minor offenders, essential procedural safeguards must be upheld: laws should not be used to punish people on the basis of their “anti-social” behaviour as assessed by non-judicial bodies.

Despite calls by Chinese reformers and legal experts for its abolition, legislative reform of the Re-education through Labour system has remained stalled in recent years, and in the run-up to the Olympics the authorities made increased use of the system to lock up those they believed might disrupt the Games and to “clean-up” Beijing prior to the Games. The lack of independent oversight over the RTL system and other forms of administrative detention has also engendered widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment to punish or “reform” detainees.

A case study

One such case is Liu Jie, who is serving a term of 18 months in RTL in Heilongjiang province, northeast China, after she organised a public letter urging leaders at the 17th Chinese Communist Party Congress to introduce political and legal reforms, including a call for the abolition of RTL. According to sources, for five consecutive days in May 2008 she was forced to sit upright on a long bench (known as the ‘tiger bench’) with her hands tied behind her back, her thighs tied to the bench, and her feet raised off the floor on bricks. On or around 22 May 2008, the authorities transferred Liu Jie from Qiqihaer RTL facility to Harbin Drug Rehabilitation Centre together with around 30 other inmates and it is unclear whether the torture took place in Qiqihaer or Harbin.

Torture and other ill-treatment:

Amnesty International has noted concern expressed by legislators and other officials in China about the continued use of torture and other ill-treatment by law enforcement officials across the country. Notwithstanding steps taken by the government in this respect, torture and ill-treatment continues to be endemic in the authorities’ treatment of prisoners and individuals held in extra-judicial or illegal detention centers.

Death in Custody

Amnesty International continues to receive reports of deaths in custody in a variety of state institutions, including prisons, RTL facilities and police detention centres. Many of these deaths are alleged to be the result of torture or ill-treatment in custody. According to overseas Falun Gong sources, in the course of 2007 over 100 Falun Gong practitioners died in detention or shortly after release as a result of torture, denial of food or medical treatment, or other forms of ill-treatment. The rate of deaths in detention of Falun Gong practitioners is reported to have increased in 2008. Occasional reports in the Chinese media suggest that perpetrators of torture are in some instances punished for such violations, but in many more cases documented by Chinese human rights activists, Amnesty International and other NGOs, official investigations rarely take place and perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity. Investigations that are undertaken also fail to meet the necessary requirements of independence as stipulated in the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) to which China is a party.

Prohibition on torture?

Over recent years, the Chinese authorities have passed numerous regulations intended to strengthen the formal prohibition of torture stipulated in the Criminal Law. However, the categories of prohibited behaviour are limited and fail to fully comply with definitions of torture under international law, failing, for instance, to prohibit certain acts defined as torture in CAT, such as mental torture. Furthermore, Articles 247 and 248 of the Criminal Law list several offences related to the prohibition of torture; however, these crimes are only applicable to a limited range of officials in limited circumstances or locations. In addition the procuratorate (prosecuting authorities), which directly investigates and prosecutes torture and other offences committed by officials, continues to set criteria for taking up cases which further limit the application of these provisions.

Detention without trial?

The broad discretion given to the police by the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) to detain suspects for long periods in pre-trial detention increases opportunities for torture and other ill-treatment of detained individuals. The CPL provides for police detention without charge for up to 14 days for ordinary criminal suspects, 37 days for some categories of suspects, and potentially indefinitely for others. Detention for investigation after charge may be as long as seven months, and may be extended to nine months under certain circumstances. During this time detainees’ access to their families and legal representatives may be limited. Under the CPL, the police should inform the family of a detainee about their detention, arrest and place of detention within 24 hours, except where it ''would hinder the investigation'' (Articles 64 and 71). However, in practice communication with the family is frequently denied until the detainee is brought to trial or sentenced.

Access to Lawyers

Provisions on access to a lawyer also fall short of international standards. Article 96 of the CPL states that a suspect ''may appoint a lawyer to provide legal advice or to file petitions and complaints on his behalf'' after the first session of interrogation by the ''investigative organ'', or from the day when the suspect is subjected to one of the forms of detention or restriction provided by the law (''compulsory measures''). Lawyers “may” meet the suspect in custody “to enquire about the case”, but police investigators may also be present at such meetings. In cases ''involving state secrets'' the prior approval of the police is required before a lawyer is appointed or any meeting between lawyer and client can take place. The use of vague language means that in practice detainees are required to obtain permission from the police before obtaining access to a lawyer, and often they are also denied access to family and legal counsel during extended periods of detention.

Examples of Death in Custody

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

Another case is that of Paltsal Kyab, who died five weeks after he was detained by police in connection with a protest march on 17 March 2008 in Charo township in Ngaba (Ch:Aba) county, a Tibetan-populated area of Sichuan province. According to witnesses, Paltsal Kyab did not take part in the violence, but tried to persuade the protesters to demonstrate peacefully in line with the Dalai Lama’s principle of non-violence. Paltsal Kyab gave himself up voluntarily to the police following an official announcement that those who surrendered voluntarily would be treated leniently. The police detained him on arrival at Charo police station on 17 or 18 April 2008. He was transferred to Ngaba police detention centre on 27 April 2008 and his family had no further news of him until 26 May 2008 when two Charo township leaders came to Paltsal Kyab’s home to inform his family of his death.

When family representatives went to claim his body, the police told them that he had died of an illness, claiming that they had taken him to hospital twice for treatment for kidney and stomach problems. His relatives report that he was healthy when he was first detained with no history of major health problems. According to witnesses who saw his body, the front of his body was bruised and covered with blisters from burns; his back was also bruised without a single area of natural skin tone; bruising was evident on his wrists, elbow joints, just below his shoulders, biceps and forearms. According to his relatives, to date there has been no official investigation into his death.

The death penalty

Since the Supreme People’s Court resumed its review of all death sentences on 1 January 2007, Chinese authorities have claimed a drop in their number. However, the authorities continue to consider death penalty statistics to be a state secret, and refuse to make public national statistics on death sentences and executions. In 2007, Amnesty International recorded 470 executions; however, this was based only on public reports and should be considered as an absolute minimum. The Dui Hua Foundation estimates that executions in 2007 numbered between 5,000 and 6,000. In the absence of full national statistics it is impossible to assess how the reinstatement of review by Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of all death sentences has affected the application of the death penalty in China, including whether it has brought about a reduction in death sentences and executions.

Fair Trials?

Those facing capital charges do not receive fair trials in line with international human rights standards. Failings include lack of prompt access to lawyers, lack of presumption of innocence, political interference in the judiciary and failure to exclude evidence extracted through torture. Death row inmates suffer cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions of detention, in some cases being shackled or handcuffed 24 hours a day, and severely beaten, sometimes by other inmates. The continued admissibility in court of confessions based on torture has undercut government-led campaigns against forced confessions.

Lethal injection: A humane method?

Arguing that it was a more humane method of execution, China expanded its lethal injection programme in 2008. This ignores the inherent problems of the death penalty, including its arbitrary application and possible miscarriages of justice that include execution of the innocent. In addition, the death penalty continues to be applied to some 68 crimes in the PRC, which include a wide range of non-violent offences, such as economic and drug-related crimes.

Criminalizing free speech:

Over recent years the Chinese authorities increasingly use vaguely defined criminal charges, including “subverting state power”, “disturbing public order”, “endangering state security”, and “leaking state secrets”, to silence and imprison peaceful activists in China. Defendants charged with having committed such crimes, or others relating to “state secrets”, are deprived of many rights, including access to legal counsel of their choosing, access to family and a public trial. Amnesty International fears that the police may use this provision in the law to deny detainees access to evidence against them. The definition of “state secrets” in China is very broad; encompassing matters which would be subject to public scrutiny in other countries.

Article 105(2) of the Chinese Criminal Code, which stipulates the crime of “inciting subversion of state power”, is one of the most frequently used to bring such criminal charges. China’s use of the concepts of “state security” and “subversion of state power” violates international standards as specified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, which state that any restrictions placed on freedom of expression must be narrow, specific and limited to information that would threaten the life of the nation if disclosed.

Examples of prisoners

Recent examples of individuals charged under these provisions include Yang Tongyan (pen-name: Yang Tianshui), a freelance writer, who is serving a 12 year prison sentence for “subversion” in connection with several charges, including writing in support of political and democratic change in China. In 2007, he was reportedly forced to work making footballs and basketballs in a toxic environment for 8-10 hours per day; however, at the end of 2007, he was transferred to lighter work as prison librarian. He is serving his sentence in Nanjing Municipal Prison, Jiangsu province and is due for release on 22 December 2017.

Hu Jia, a human rights activist, was sentenced on 3 April 2008 to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and one year’s deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion”. The verdict on his case cites his writing and other activities as the basis of the charge. The timing of his formal detention suggests that Hu’s imprisonment was related to his role is speaking out publicly on human rights issues in China, as well as the fact that he had established contacts with foreign journalists, embassy staff and other international figures.

Abuses continue

Individual Chinese writers, journalists, and human rights defenders continue to be arrested and sentenced to prison terms for their writings and posting of articles on the internet. Access to the Internet continues to be closely monitored and censored. Under international pressure, the Chinese authorities unblocked a number of Internet sites just days before the start of the Olympic Games (including Amnesty International’s main site and those of Human Rights Watch and Radio Free Asia). However, other sites remain blocked. There have been no official pronouncements from the Chinese authorities as to how long these sites will remain unblocked. New regulations for foreign journalists in China introduced in January 2007, ostensibly gave them greater freedom to investigate news stories; however, the regulations do not apply to Chinese journalists, who continue to work under conditions of tight control and at high risk of prosecution and imprisonment for reporting on sensitive issues.


Amnesty International call on the Chinese government to:

On the death penalty
• Publish full national statistics on death sentences imposed and executions, disaggregated by region, sex, income, and other categories;
• Reduce the scope of crimes subject to the death penalty, including elimination of all non-violent crimes currently subject to the death penalty;
• Provide information on the procedures for the Supreme People’s Court review of death penalty cases and ensure that the rights of defendants meet international standards, including the right to prompt access to a lawyer, to regular family visits, to a presumption of innocence and the inadmissibility of confessions extracted under torture;
• Provide a time-table for effecting concrete reforms relating to the death penalty, with the goal of declaring a moratorium on executions in line with UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 of 18 December 2007.

On Detention Without Trial

• Bring all administrative detention laws and provisions into line with the international human rights law and standards, including Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In particular, to ensure that those arrested and accused of offences punishable with deprivation of personal liberty are afforded all due process rights, including the rights to a fair and public trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, access to legal counsel of one’s choosing, the presumption of innocence, and the opportunity to appeal their sentence through a process of judicial review;
• Transfer all powers to impose imprisonment as a punishment from the police to the courts. To introduce institutional reforms to ensure that courts are competent, independent and impartial and carry out proceeding in accordance with international fair trial standards;

On Torture and Ill Treatment

• Implement the recommendations by the UN Committee against Torture and the Special Rapporteur on torture. These include revision of China’s legal codes, including the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedures Law, to bring these in line with CAT, and making inadmissible evidence obtained through torture; strengthening the right of detainees to prompt access to legal counsel and to regular family visits; and bringing the definition of torture into line with international standards, including mental torture;
• End the impunity of officials who engage in torture and other ill-treatment by making the institutional reforms necessary to ensure effective implementation of existing laws prohibiting torture;
• Ensure that law enforcement officials, medical personnel, investigators and other personnel involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of detainees receive appropriate training about the prohibition of torture;

On Freedom of Expression

• Release all prisoners of conscience and all those detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, including Yang Tongyan, Hu Jia, and Liu Jie;
• Cease censorship of the Internet and other media, and fulfil the right to freedom of expression guaranteed in China’s Constitution;
• Make permanent media regulations introduced in January 2007 granting greater freedoms to foreign journalists and extend these to Chinese journalists;
• Review criminal and administrative legislation to ensure that all offences are clearly and narrowly defined, including Article 105(2) of the Criminal Law;
• Exclude from punishment any act undertaken in peaceful pursuit of fundamental human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly and association, and the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, as provided in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international treaties and standards.

Amnesty International calls on President Obama to:

1) Immediately condemn the Chinese authorities for censoring part of his inaugural speech.
2) Urge Chinese authorities to abolish “Re-Education throgh Labour” system, under which around a quarter to half a million people are imprisoned without charge or trial.
3) Fully commit to include human rights in all US Government dealings with the Chinese Government.
4) Announce US intention to run for the UN Human Rights Council seat.
5) Upgrade the U.S. presence at the Human Rights Council by appointing a fulltime Geneva based ambassador for human rights.

Thank you for inviting Amnesty International for this hearing.OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Friday, January 23, 2009

Two Chinese Artists Still in Forced Labor Camp

By Gisela Sommer
Epoch Times Staff Jan 16, 2009
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Related articles: China > Democracy and Human Rights

Chinese paramilitary policemen patrol past the Beijing Olympics countdown clock on the edge of Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 29, 2008. Leading up to the Olympics the Chinese regime cracked down on groups deemed dissidents. (Teh Eng Koon/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
According to an eyewitness account on, two well-known artists from Beijing who were arrested before the Olympic Games because they practice Falun Gong are still in prison.

Wang Mingyue, a famous oil painter, and Jin Xiaohui, a photographer, were arrested in Beijing on July 8 and 9, 2008 under the Chinese regime’s policy of "safeguarding the Olympic Games." They are said to be now imprisoned in the Tuanhe Forced Labor Camp in Beijing.

Both were practitioners of Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa). The practice was once among the most popular meditation disciplines in China, yet was banned by the communist regime in China due to the large number of people who were practicing it. The regime accompanied its ban with a massive propaganda campaign, arrests, and torture of those who practice.

Recent reports have shown evidence that the regime now uses practitioners of Falun Gong as living sources for organ transplants.

Wang Mingyue is an internationally acclaimed painter. His works have been displayed in many exhibitions, both in China and abroad. In 2000, he was invited to paint the portrait of Britain’s former Prime Minister, the late Sir Edward Heath.

Mr. Wang was in very good physical condition before his arrest, the report says, but now, according to a witness from the labor camp, he has lost a great deal of weight.

Wang Mingyue and Jin Xiaohui are said to be good friends.

The Chinese communist regime accelerated its persecution of numerous groups in the days leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games. Among the groups who were cracked down on were Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, House Christians, and human rights activists.

Human Rights organizations around the world are increasingly alarmed over the abuse, torture and deaths during detention of Falun Gong practitioners at the hands of the Chinese police and regime officials.

Falun Gong advocates non-violence, kindness, and being honest. The Chinese Communist Party is an atheist system which advocates social struggle. Similar to the reasons why the regime persecutes religious groups such as Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Muslim Uighurs, the regime sees Falun Gong’s emphasis on moral values as a threat to its own power.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Friday, January 16, 2009

China: Would-Be Olympics Protester Ji Sizun Jailed

Human Rights Watch: Climate for Peaceful Dissent Tightens
January 16, 2009

Ji Sizun's conviction is just the latest betrayal of the Chinese government's promises that the Beijing Olympics would foster greater development of human rights in China. It's four months after the 2008 Beijing Games ended, and the Chinese government is still punishing people like Ji Sizun for merely trusting official promises that citizens would be permitted to peacefully protest during the Olympics.

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

(New York, January 16, 2009) - The Chinese government should immediately exonerate and release imprisoned grassroots legal defender Ji Sizun, Human Rights Watch said today. Ji's efforts to protest during the 2008 Beijing Olympics reportedly resulted in a three-year prison term, handed down on January 7, 2009, for "forging official seals and documents."

Ji, 58, a self-described grassroots legal activist from Fujian province, was arrested on August 11, 2008, after applying for a permit to hold a protest in one of Beijing's three official "protest zones" designated for public use during the August 8-24, 2008, Beijing Olympic Games. Ji's protest application, filed at Deshengmenwai police station in Beijing's Xicheng District on August 8, stated that his planned protest would call for greater participation of Chinese citizens in political processes, and denounce rampant official corruption and abuses of power. Ji was detained after returning to the police station three days later to check on the progress of his application's approval.

"Ji Sizun's conviction is just the latest betrayal of the Chinese government's promises that the Beijing Olympics would foster greater development of human rights in China," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "It's four months after the 2008 Beijing Games ended, and the Chinese government is still punishing people like Ji Sizun for merely trusting official promises that citizens would be permitted to peacefully protest during the Olympics."

Ji was just one of dozens of Chinese citizens who responded to the July 23, 2008, announcement by Liu Shaowu, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) security director, that "people or protesters who want to express their personal opinions can go to do so" in line with "common practice in other countries." The Chinese government typically does not tolerate public protests; those that do occur are very quickly broken up and their participants detained. Over the following week, 149 people filed a total of 77 applications.

On August 18, China's official Xinhua News Agency announced that authorities had not approved any of them. Xinhua said that 74 of the cases were "properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations," without providing any details. The Chinese government imposed a tight security cordon around all three official protest zones in order to avert any spontaneous protests at the sites, although several surprise protests by advocates of Tibetan independence occurred in Beijing during the course of the Games.

The Chinese government made human rights improvements an explicit component of its bid to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the 2008 Games. Human Rights Watch and other organizations extensively documented rights abuses related to the Beijing Games, including media freedom restrictions, violations of the rights of migrant workers, and abuses linked to evictions and demolitions to build Olympics infrastructure. However, the IOC consistently failed to speak out forcefully about human rights abuses directly related to the preparations for and execution of the Beijing Olympics. An official IOC review of the Beijing Olympics released in November 2008 praised the Games as an "indisputable success" without mention of the numerous documented Olympic-related human rights and press freedom violations.

"It is hard to square any measure of ‘success' with freedom of expression being crushed," said Richardson. "It is incumbent on the IOC to publicly protest Ji's conviction to the Chinese government, and to adopt a permanent human rights mechanism for evaluating and benchmarking future prospective Olympic host cities."

Human Rights Watch said that Ji's conviction is part of a broader campaign against dissent and perceived threats to the Chinese Communist Party's one-party rule linked to official concerns about possible unrest in 2009. Those concerns have been heightened by rising unemployment related to the global financial crisis and a series of highly sensitive anniversaries on the Chinese government's calendar this year, including the 20th anniversary of the June 3-4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1. The tightening on dissent in recent weeks has included:

  • January 7, 2009: China Human Rights Defenders reported that Wang Rongqing, a member of the Zhejiang province chapter of the outlawed China Democracy Party was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for "subversion of state power" by Hangzhou City Intermediate People's Court in Zhejiang province.
  • December 18, 2008: a Beijing court sentenced housing activist Ni Yulan to two years of imprisonment for "obstructing official duties." Ni's conviction was linked to events on April 15, 2008, when without warning, more than a dozen workers and police knocked down the wall surrounding Ni's house in Qianzheng hutong, in the central Xicheng district of Beijing. According to her husband, Dong Jiqin, when Ni tried to protect her home, she was hit on the head with a brick and dragged to the ground by one of the demolition workers. Police detained Ni and accused her of assaulting a demolition worker.
  • December 8, 2008: police detained Liu Xioabo under "residential surveillance." Liu is a writer, a former Beijing Normal University professor, the director of the independent Chinese PEN Center, and a veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Liu's detention, which his lawyer has since described as "residential surveillance," came just hours after the circulation of an online petition he helped organize which calls for greater development of human rights and the reform of China's one-party political system. Many of the other original 303 signatories of the petition, Charter '08, which represent a cross-section of China's intelligentsia and include dissidents, scholars, journalists and artists, have been the targets of Chinese police harassment and intimidation.

The Chinese government's conviction of Ji and its ongoing harassment, intimidation, and detention of other dissidents is occurring just weeks ahead of the United Nation's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of China's human rights record on February 9, 2009, in Geneva. Moreover, the crackdown is occurring despite the announced release sometime early this year of the Chinese government's new official "human rights action plan."

"If the Chinese government wants the world to take seriously its claims that its citizens ‘... have freedom of speech ... (and the) right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organs,' it needs to exonerate and release Ji Sizun immediately," Richardson said. "The Chinese government should be aware that its imminent ‘national human rights action plan' will not be credible so long as the government continues to persecute citizens for trying to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed rights."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Thursday, January 08, 2009

For China, 2009 brings glorious — and painful — anniversaries

The State:
- McClatchy Newspapers

BEIJING -- Celebrations for the 60th anniversary of modern China's founding are still nearly 10 months off, but newspapers are already full of stories about the grand military parade in Tiananmen Square that will show off the country's muscle.

The parade Oct. 1 will be the first such display this decade, and it's likely to showcase some of China's newest weaponry.

The pageantry to mark six decades of Communist Party rule is only one of the key dates coming up this year, however, some of them marking particularly painful episodes in China's past - and they have leaders a tad nervous.

In a nation where numbers play a prominent role in culture and anniversaries often are noticed dutifully, the year 2009 marks an unusual confluence of such anniversaries, most of which are likely to be swept under the collective rug or suppressed through force.

June 4 will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre of pro-democracy protesters in and around the capital's huge Tiananmen Square, a historic smudge on China's leadership for which it's yet to be held to account. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the famine that left tens of millions of people dead during Mao Zedong's ill-fated Great Leap Forward, a calamitous push for China's rapid industrialization.

Other anniversaries, great and small, are around the corner.

Some of China's social commentators say that a recent police crackdown on writers, authors and intellectuals who dared to sign a new charter demanding political reforms is a sign of the apprehension in Beijing's Zhongnanhai, the walled compound of the Chinese leadership, over opposition to its monopoly grip on power since 1949.

"The Public Security Bureau officers have come looking for me twice," said Li Datong, a sacked newspaper editor who signed Charter 08 last month, a bold manifesto named after the Charter 77 dissident group in the former Czechoslovakia three decades ago.

A group known as China Human Rights Defenders said in a statement Tuesday that authorities had summoned and interrogated at least 86 people who'd signed the manifesto.

"The government is nervous," Li said, adding that sputtering economic growth has given authorities particular concern about unrest. "Many factories are closing. ... Millions of migrant workers have lost their jobs."

David Kelly, a political scientist with the China Research Center at Australia's University of Technology Sydney, said China didn't have "a government that feels it can let its guard down. ... This is a regime that feels threatened by any challenge. Even a minor challenge can potentially shake the government."

China's security forces are adept in handling unrest, as they showed in quashing ethnic Tibetan uprisings last March that were the broadest ethnic protests in nearly two decades.

The Tibet issue may come to the fore again around March 17, the 50th anniversary of the flight into exile of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, who's become a global icon.

July 22 brings the 10th anniversary of the banning of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, a little-known meditation that mushroomed into a virulently anti-party force. The anniversary may become a test of whether security officials have effectively extinguished the movement.

Even the celebrations over China's 60th anniversary haven't been without controversy.

In December, the liberal Yanhuang Chunqiu magazine, run by retired political elders, criticized plans for the Oct. 1 military parade as being lavish in a time of hardship.

Earlier this week, Xinhua, China's official news agency, carried a report that China's leaders had ordered the parade "to be carried out in a strictly frugal manner."

President Hu Jintao will oversee the parade, cementing his legacy on a par with predecessors Deng Xiaoping, who presided over the 35th anniversary parade, and Jiang Zemin, who oversaw the 50th anniversary celebrations, the year of the last major military parade.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Human Rights Activist Ann Lau is given the9th Annual Thorny Rose!

Beacon Media: The 9th Order of the Thorny Rose has spoken once again. Ann Lau, a leading critic of last year’s China float in the Rose Parade, is the 8th recipient in 9 years. Former city councilperson Paul Little has been a back-to-back winner of the prickly prize. Lau is certainly best known for her political theater in front of the Tournament House portraying the harvesting of human organs from unsuspecting corpses, fake blood and all. She was promptly removed by the Pasadena Police Department.

Each year the Thorny Rose is awarded to Pasadena’s most controversial citizen, by an anonymous committee of local socio-political observers. Winning individuals have previously been distinguished by their brazen, often, confrontational style, indifference to public decorum and Lone Ranger bravado(a). This year’s awardee is no exception. Ann Lau, who’s also head of the Visual Arts Guild, has routinely prodded, scolded and harassed city officials to take a stand on China’s human right’s violations. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Human Rights Doctrine, Lau, along with Guild members, Amnesty International and the local Falun Gong, lectured city council on current abuses against political activists there. Although the Human Relations Commission encouraged an official statement, City Council declined their recommendation.

The inaugural Thorny Rose was given in 2000 to Charles “Chuck” Cherniss, former salty columnist for the Pasadena Star News. Subsequent winners have included Paul Little, Roy Begley, Mary Dee Romney, the West Pasadena Residents Association, the entire Pasadena Unified School District Board and local gadfly Wayne Lusvardi.

As is the tradition for Thorny Rose winners, Lau will given an invitation to receive her award and be driven along the route of this year’s 32nd Pasadena Doo Dah Parade. Doo Dah takes place Sunday, January 18th, stepping off at 11:30am in Old Pasadena. Excluding last year’s awardee, Wayne Lusvardi, no Thorny Rose winner has ever passed on the invitation. Mr. Lusvardi was replaced by a 6-foot chicken.

China crisis at the Playhouse

Scotsman: Published Date: 31 December 2008
A CHINESE dance and music show planned for the Edinburgh Playhouse is set to be axed because of the organiser's links with the Falun Gong spiritual group.
The internationally-acclaimed Divine Performing Arts (DPA) group were in advanced talks with the city venue to host a one-off show in April next yea
But the Evening News has learned that Live Nation – the Playhouse's American owner – has pulled the plug on the gig because of the DPA's association with the Chinese Falun Gong meditation movement

Falun Gong is outlawed by the Chinese government and it is understood that bosses at Live Nation's UK headquarters in Oxford were concerned the DPA show could potentially sour Live Nation's concert and venue interests in China.

Many of the DPA performers are Falun Gong followers and the Edinburgh show, along with another date in London, was also being organised in conjunction with the Falun Gong Association UK.

Tang Arts Ltd, the UK promoter of the concert, has now appealed to bosses at Live Nation's Los Angeles headquarters to reconsider their decision, particularly given that the DPA has performed in 37 American Live Nation-owned venues this year alone.

The Playhouse declined to comment.

Eddie Aitken, of Tang Arts Ltd, said: "This all came as a shock, we were just wrapping things up.

"We had actually signed the contracts from our side and then we were told that it would not be happening because Live Nation are worried about the effect it will have on their business interests in China.

"Many of the performers practice Falun Gong and there is also the Falun Gong Association UK link.

"The manager at the Playhouse has been great but this is obviously a decision which has come from above him.

"The stupid thing is that Live Nation have a number of venues where the Divine Performing Arts shows have already been.

"We have appealed to the American headquarters but because of the holidays we will have to wait and see what happens.

"I know they have got a job to do like everyone else but I hope they can see sense as the show would be a truly enriching experience for the people of Edinburgh."

The Divine Performing Arts' show has been well received by audiences across the world, including America. The non-profit dance company is based in New York.

Live Nation is one of the world's biggest concert promoters.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

It's Time to Rally Behind China’s Unsung Heroes

Epoch Times
By Levi Browde
Jan 6, 2009
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Related articles: Opinion > Thinking About China

FALUN DAFA HAO: A banner reading
FALUN DAFA HAO: A banner reading 'Falun Dafa is good' hangs in a village in Heilongjiang province, China. Small acts such as this, done at great personal risk, are part of a larger campaign to raise awareness in the face of state suppression.

A former university librarian in Shanghai sits at her home computer. Using proxy servers, Ms. Liu Jin breaks through China’s vast “Great Firewall” and accesses a Falun Gong-related website. She downloads accounts of rights abuses against fellow adherents and begins printing. Soon, the stack of homemade, underground newsletters finds its way into the hands and mailboxes of neighbors, local shopkeepers, and former colleagues. A “materials production site,” one of tens of thousands across China, is born, bringing into people’s hands basic facts of injustice that the Communist Party has worked tirelessly to censor.

For this nonviolent act of courage, Ms. Liu is punished harshly. As reported by the Associated Press, she was sentenced last month to 3.5 years in prison in an unfair trial that lasted less than a day. Having been tortured and force-fed during a previous imprisonment for practicing Falun Gong, she once again faces a similar fate—or worse.

Sixty years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), millions of ordinary citizens across China remain in danger of arbitrary detention, torture, and death. For what? For doing nothing more than exercising the very basic rights to freedom of belief and expression that are cornerstones of the UDHR.

A Brutal Suppression Unfolds

When former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin ordered Falun Gong to be “eradicated” in 1999, tens of millions of ordinary Chinese overnight found themselves rendered “criminals” by virtue of their peaceful faith. A brutal state apparatus committed to proactively preventing them from pursuing a traditional Chinese path of physical self-improvement and spiritual fulfillment that had become a fundamental part of their identity. It was trying to change who they were.

Any avenue they might use to stop this assault was closed off — the state-run media would only spew horrific anti-Falun Gong propaganda claims, petitioning offices were turned into detention centers, and Party-appointed judges were hardly going to depart from the official line.

Nearly a decade later, hundreds of thousands remain in labor camps — at least half of China’s gulag population, according to experts []. [^] Thousands more are in prisons following trials not unlike Ms. Liu’s. They are beaten, shocked with electric batons, and injected with various drugs, sometimes causing paralysis or death. Recent investigations have revealed evidence that adherents have been killed so their organs could be sold for profit. Untold numbers are left destitute, refugees in their own country, unable to return to their homes or jobs for fear that local police will take them away.

Branches of the 610 Office — an extra-legal task force created in 1999 to lead the campaign against Falun Gong — remain active across China, not only in security agencies and government offices, but also in private companies, universities, and neighborhood watch committees. The latest report by the Congressional Executive Committee on China found references to the agency across the country, from Nanjing to Yunnan to Jiangxi. Official accounts of a pre-Olympic crackdown on Falun Gong appeared on government websites in all of China’s 31 provincial-level jurisdictions. The result? During the 16 days of the Olympics alone, eleven Falun Gong adherents are confirmed to have died from abuse in custody.

Unsung Heroes Respond

Communist Party leaders and state-run media claim that Falun Gong has been crushed. But this begs the question – why then would a nationwide apparatus like the 610 Office remain active and growing? Why would labor camps continue to fill with adherents? The fact is, today Falun Gong practitioners in China continue to resist Party efforts to “eradicate” them. They persist in their faith, produce underground newsletters, hang banners, and simply talk to people in day-to-day conversations. They explain the innocence of Falun Gong, the horrific abuses being meted out against adherents, and the Party’s broader history of persecuting the Chinese people — all this in an effort to awaken the consciences of fellow citizens. This is crucial in a context where the state controls media and uses it to dehumanize Falun Gong, mobilizing the rank and file to implement the policy of “eradicating” the practice.

The efforts of Falun Gong adherents are starting to bear fruit with the result that practitioners are no longer fighting the battle to end the persecution alone. A generation of daring, world renown lawyers has risen to defend them, defying Party orders and risking their own safety. They plead their clients’ innocence with defenses based on the Chinese Constitution and the UDHR, as attorney Mo Shaoping did for Ms. Liu.

Nevertheless, the Chinese regime remains uncompromising in its policies against Falun Gong. Arrests and torture are still widespread and systematic. That is why now, more than ever, the support of the outside world is needed to end this injustice and brutality once and for all. Two vital, yet simple steps that any of us can take towards this end are to, first, educate ourselves and peel back Party propaganda that has unwittingly seeped into mainstream Western reporting; second, follow the lead of adherents in China and talk directly to the Chinese people.

From colleagues to neighbors, private sector entrepreneurs to state company managers, in trainings with local judges and research with university professors, we must make a proactive effort to encourage Chinese to question what they’ve been told and to read the very information on Falun Gong that the Party blocks. We must articulate that taking a stance against rights abuses is not being “anti-China,” but rather moving the country a step closer to truly realizing its historic greatness.

Practitioners and their supporters inside China risk their careers, freedom, and even their lives to resist injustice. Joining their efforts is the least we can do for the likes of Ms. Liu on this international human rights day.

After all, ending atrocities like these is precisely the reason why the UDHR was created.

Levi Browde is Executive Director of the Falun Dafa Information Center in New York.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008