Thursday, April 30, 2009

China: Crackdown on activists intensifies; rule of law ignored

giovedì, aprile 30, 2009, 17:31

Amnesty International: Chinese authorities have intensified the crackdown on human rights activists across the country in the lead up to the twentieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests.

Amnesty International has documented at least a hundred cases of activists who have been detained or faced violence from authorities. Several of these cases are related to the surveillance of activists ahead of the anniversary.

In the first four months of 2009, Amnesty International has documented at least four cases of lawyers who were threatened with violence by the authorities as they defended their clients, at least ten cases where lawyers were hindered from meeting or representing clients, and at least one case in which a lawyer has been detained for doing his work.

“If anything, the crackdown on human rights activists is escalating as we approach the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Beijing pro-democracy protests,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director. “Most worrying is the complete disregard for national laws and the obstructions thrown in front of lawyers trying to do their jobs.”

Activists across the country have been arbitrarily detained and have faced violence when defending land rights, housing rights, and labour rights. Signatories to Charter 08, a petition calling for legal and political reform, continue to face questioning across the country. Liu Shasha, a young woman signatory and an oil plant worker in Henan, was detained for four days for printing and disseminating the charter on the street.

Qi Zhiyong, who was left disabled by a gunshot injury during the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, told reporters in a recent text message that he had been detained by the police. He has previously been threatened with arrest if he did not leave Beijing prior to the start of the Olympic Games. It’s believed Qi’s treatment and detention were associated with the 20th anniversary of the death of Hu Yaobang, a reformist leader. Hu’s death marked the beginning of the pro-democracy protests twenty years ago.

Beijing lawyers Cheng Hai and Zhou Peng were recently attacked by at least four individuals who claimed to be from a government agency charged with coordinating the offices of the police and courts. The lawyers were on the way to meet their client’s family when they were attacked.

On the same day, another two lawyers, Wu Jiangtao and Li Renbin, were also blocked from meeting the family of their client, Falun Gong detainee Wei Cheng, when they arrived at northern Changchun city in Jilin province. Police put Wei Cheng’s family and relatives under surveillance and threatened them with imprisonment if they hired a lawyer.

Activist Chen Yunfei, based in Chengdu city, Sichuan province was questioned for six hours, and warned not to try to organize activists during the 4 June anniversary. Police have had his living compound under surveillance since 20 April 2009.

“Authorities must stop this harassment of people trying to address legitimate human rights issues in China,” said Roseann Rife. “Issues like environmental rights, the right to participate, the right to a fair trial and rights of the person, which were all reaffirmed in the recently released National Human Rights Action Plan.” OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beijing launches massive "security campaign," restricts business visas

The real aim seems to be that of repressing all dissent and social protests. Experts: as a major economic power, China cannot continue to isolate itself from the world.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China is introducing tougher security measures and restricting entry permits, in view of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the communist state, which falls on October 1. But experts observe that the government seems more concerned about blocking protests for other anniversaries, like the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre next June 4.

Zhang Xinfeng, deputy minister of public safety, explained yesterday that a strict "security campaign" will begin in May, intended to guarantee "a steady and harmonious social environment" for the celebrations on October 1, which are also scheduled to include a grandiose military parade in downtown Beijing, attended by all the authorities.

Police will be conducting more strict controls on every kind of criminal activity, with the declared purpose of "maintaining public order." This definition often includes the repression of any form of dissent against the authorities, and of public protest for human and civil rights.

Meanwhile, travel agents complain that for two weeks, draconian limits have been reintroduced on entry permits for foreigners, similar to the ones adopted before and during the Olympics in 2008. According to sources for the newspaper South China Morning Post, it appears that all of the new business permits will expire by next September 15, while there are no new restrictions on visas for tourists or students. It appears that at least one important international conference scheduled for May in Beijing has already been postponed because of difficulties related to entry visas.

In recent months, more than 3,000 local police chiefs and 2,000 communist officials have been attending classes in Beijing on blocking protests, negotiating with demonstrators, improving the Party's image, and maintaining order. The government is putting great emphasis on these courses, which will are being taught by leaders including Zhou Yongkang, a Politburo Standing Committee member and the highest authority on matters of law and public order, and Meng Jianzhu, the national police chief.

Analysts observe that the security campaign also includes strict control of Tibet and Xinjiang, where the local populations contest the domination and restrictions imposed by Beijing, even on religious matters. It is also intended to prevent the growing social protests for economic reasons, partly a result of the financial crisis and the frequent injustices committed by companies against their workers, who are often defrauded of their wages.

Experts comment that these kinds of restrictions are not in keeping with China's role as an economic power, and that a great country does not need to use pervasive control to make the people proud of the state. They observe that the true objective seems instead to be repressing and controlling any kind of dissent and those who fight for rights, as was done for the Beijing Olympics. Some are saying that the campaign has been underway for some time, and is code named "Project 6521," because it is intended to prevent protests for the many anniversaries in 2009: 60 years since the founding of the state, 50 years since the revolt in Tibet, 20 since Tiananmen, and 10 since the banning of the movement Falun Gong.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Chinese Communists repress Falun Gong by David Matas

You may view the speech here and below.

(Remarks delivered to an International Conference on Religious Freedom in China, European Parliament, Brussels, 15 April 2009)

The Communist Party of China represses every belief system it does not control. At one time, one could say that the Party would repress every belief system other than its own. But with the switch from socialism to capitalism highlighted by then president Deng Xiaoping's statement 1984 "to get rich is glorious", Communism in China was gutted of its ideological content. All that was left was the hollow shell of power to which the rulers have held on to for dear life. Despite ceasing to stand for anything except enriching and empowering its cadres, the Communist Party will not accept any other belief.

The Communist Party banned the practice of Falun Gong in 1999, a set of exercises with a spiritual foundation. At the time, the repression of the Falun Gong just seemed Communist Party business as usual. When the Communists are repressing every other community of belief they do not control, it is hardly surprising that they also banned the practice of Falun Gong.

What is striking about Chinese Communist repression of the Falun Gong is not so much the fact of repression as the extent of repression. Practitioners of Falun Gong are persecuted far more, far worse than adherents of any other belief.

Falun Gong has the ignominious honour of leading by far the parade of human rights victims in China. They represent two thirds of the torture victims. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture's 2006 report on his 2005 mission to China1 indicated that 66% of the victims of alleged torture and ill-treatment in China were Falun Gong practitioners, with the remaining victims comprising Uighurs (11%), sex workers (8%), Tibetans (6%), human rights defenders (5%), political dissidents (2%), and others (persons infected with HIV/AIDS and members of religious groups 2%)2.

Falun Gong represents half the people in detention in re-education through labour camps. The United States Department of State Country Reports for 2008 state:

    "Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in the country's reeducation-through-labour camps...."3

Falun Gong practitioners and prisoners sentenced to death are the sole victims of organ harvesting, the killing of innocents for their organs for transplant surgery. Former Canadian Minister of State David Kilgour and I wrote a report on organ sourcing in China released first June 2006 and, in a second version, January 2007 under the title "Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China". In that report we concluded that between 2001 and 2006 China killed Falun Gong practitioners in the tens of thousands so that their organs could be sold to foreign transplant tourists.

The extremes of language the Chinese regime uses against the Falun Gong are unparalleled, unmatched by the comparatively mild criticisms China has of the victims the West is used to defending. The documented yearly arbitrary killings and disappearances of Falun Gong exceed by far the totals for any other victim group.

The question which arises from all this is not so much why the Falun Gong is being persecuted. To believe in anything the Party does not control, if you live in China, means you run the risk of persecution. The question is rather, why is the Communist Party persecuting Falun Gong practitioners so much worse, so much more than adherents of other beliefs? Why is Falun Gong alone of all the beliefs which the Communist Party represses the victim of organ harvesting?

There are two obvious answers for organ harvesting, the large numbers and the grotesque incitement. Only the Falun Gong are a large enough number in the Chinese detention system to constitute, on their own, a captive organ donor bank throughout China. Only the Falun Gong are dehumanized so viciously that their jailers and the hospitals who pay them off do not even think of them as human.

But that does not get us very far. Why are the Falun Gong jailed in such large numbers? Why are they so dehumanized? I have a dozen suggested explanations.

1 One is simply the numbers. Falun Gong before it was banned had, according to a 1999 Government estimate, 70 million adherents. That year, the Communist Party of China membership was an estimated 60 million. In Beijing alone, before the banning, there were more than 2000 Falun Gong practice stations. Practitioners were found everywhere, at all levels of society and government, within the inner reaches of the Communist Party.

A group of that size no matter what its belief attracts the attention of a repressive government. The Falun Gong, before their banning, were not anti-Communist. But they weren't Communist either. And that was, for the Communists, a matter of concern. These were people who no particular fealty to the Communist Party of China.

2 When it comes to victimization of the innocent at home, the Chinese Communist government is much like other tyrannies. The chosen enemies vary from country to country, but, whatever the country, the story is much the same - innocents suffer so that despots can stay in power.

At one level, the Chinese Communist repression of Falun Gong is sheer totalitarian nuttiness, the manufacturing of an enemy out of thin air, a form of paranoia to which the followers of Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse Tung are prone. The Communist Party needs enemies in order to justify their continuing hold on power and the Falun Gong had the bad luck to be around in sufficient numbers and available to fill the enemy slot.

For a communist regime, far worse than having bitter enemies is having no enemies at all. Without anyone to demonize, communists are left speechless when justifying their hold on power.

3 Another facet of the Falun Gong which led to their singling out is their principles. In short, the Falun Gong stand for three basic beliefs - compassion, tolerance and truth. Anyone who believes in any one of these principles spells trouble for the Communist Party government - a cruel, repressive, dishonest regime. Tens of millions of Chinese believing in all three principles had to give the Party chills.

The worst nightmare of a gangster is an honest person. The nemesis of the corrupt are those who will not take a bribe. The venal speak a common language with the unscrupulous. With the principled, dialogue is impossible. All that is left is force.

4 The collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism through Central and Eastern Europe haunts the Chinese Communist Party. The practice of Falun Gong went from a standing start in 1992 to numbers greater than the membership of the Chinese Communist Party within the space of seven years, spreading rapidly throughout China immediately after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of Communist Party control in Central Asia and Eastern and Central Europe. The Communist Party of China feared a similar collapse, a similar loss of control.

When the Party saw their own Chinese nationals, in the tens of millions, engaging publicly in a form of exercise which had an underlying belief system completely divorced from Communism, Communists fantasized the Falun Gong as the engine of their destruction. They turned a group of innocents into an enemy and launched a persecution to combat this imaginary enemy.

5 Fifth, there is the lack of structure. Falun Gong is neither a movement nor an organization; it is rather a set of exercises with a spiritual foundation. Literally, the word "Gong" means "practice" or "exercise" and Falun means "the wheel of law". The phrase "wheel of the law" is a short hand description of Falun Gong beliefs. So Falun Gong is a form or type of practice or exercise.

The exercises can be done by anyone, anywhere, at any time, though commonly they are done once daily in groups. Those who are interested can begin the exercises whenever they want and stop whenever they want. A person need not register with anyone or join anything to practice the exercises. All information about how to do the exercises is publicly available.

Those who practise Falun Gong have no leadership. Li Hong Zhi has written books and given public lectures widely available in print and on the internet which have inspired individual Falun Gong practitioners. But that is all he has done.

There are some Falun Gong practitioners who have formed and joined support organizations, Falun Dafa associations. Falun Dafa associations are local or national. There is no one international Falun Dafa Association.

These associations encompass only a portion of Falun Gong practitioners. They may facilitate some Falun Gong activities. But they do not represent or lead or organize all Falun Gong practitioners.

The amorphous nature of Falun Gong meant that it was impossible for the Communist Party to control. Because other beliefs are organized, the Government of China has responded in part by attempting to take over the organizations.

There is a Chinese government appointed Buddhist Panchen Lama, Chinese government selected Roman Catholic bishops, Chinese government chosen Muslim imams. These designations mitigate the attacks the Government of China launches against these beliefs, since it does not want to undermine its own appointees.

If Falun Gong had a leadership, the Party, as it had done with the major religions, just would have appointed some of its cronies and said that they were the leadership of the Falun Gong. But Falun Gong does not lend itself to this sort of usurpation.

For Falun Gong, since there is no organization and no leadership, there is no one China can appoint to head the Falun Gong. Not being inhibited from undermining its own appointees, the Government of China attacks on the Falun Gong know no bounds.

6 Mirror imaging worked against the Falun Gong community. Though the Falun Gong is not an organization with a leadership, the Communist Party of China surely is. When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The Communist Party of China saw the Falun Gong community as a mirror of itself, organizationally similar, but ideologically different.

The absence of organization and leadership of Falun Gong has not stopped the Government of China from believing there is one. Chinese officials just think it is hidden underground. The very lack of visibility of leadership and organization has led the Government of China to greater suspicion, greater fears.

This belief in a hidden organization has generated exaggerated spying efforts on Falun Gong practitioners. Defectors from Chinese embassies and consulates around the world tell us that the primary effort, expense and person power of the Government of China around the world is dedicated not to trade, not to international relations with foreign governments, but to spying on the Falun Gong.

Calling an uncoordinated mass of individuals engaged in parallel activities an organization with a leadership may, on its own, just be an innocent mistake. But once one starts attributing anti-state activity to this imagined organization, the mistake ceases to be innocent. The error becomes paranoic, a conspiracy fantasy.

7 The mobilization capacity of Falun Gong practitioners alarmed and frightened the Communist Party. The Party, in April 1999, published an article in the magazine Science and Technology for Youth, which singled out Falun Gong as a superstition and a health risk because practitioners might refuse conventional medical treatments for serious illnesses. A large number of Falun Gong adherents demonstrated against the contents of the piece outside the Tianjin editor's office. Arrests and police beatings resulted.

To petition the Government Petition Office in Beijing about these arrests, on April 25th, 1999, 10,000-15,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered from dawn until late at night outside the Communist Party headquarters at Zhongnanhai next to Beijing's Forbidden City. The gathering was silent, without posters4.

This was the largest gathering of protesters in Beijing since the Tiananmen square massacre. The Party had no advance warning of this gathering and was startled.

8 The Falun Gong community was the first to take advantage of modern technology to protest. The growth of the practice of Falun Gong and mobilization of its practitioners is directly attributable to the advent of the internet and cell phones. Through cell phones and the internet it is possible for large numbers of people to do the same thing at the same time, be at the same place at the same time, without organization or leadership. For Falun Gong practitioners, one can say - make publicly available the exercises and beliefs, spread the technology of cell phones and the internet and they will come, without organization or leadership.

This phenomenon was unknown in China before it was manifested through the Falun Gong. When the Communist Party saw a group of people doing the same thing at the same time, they were intellectually incapable of attributing this activity to cell phones and the internet. They simply had no idea of its mobilization capacity. What they saw instead is what they knew - an organization, an hierarchy, a leadership, a plan, rather than what was in fact staring them in the face. The Party projected on to others, a disparate group of Falun Gong practitioners, its own manner of operation. The persecution of the Falun Gong began and continues with a simple mischaracterization.

9 A large measure of the persecution against Falun Gong can be attributed to petty personal jealousy of then President Jiang Zemin. Initially, it was Jiang alone of the central leadership of the Party who wanted Falun Gong banned. Others eventually fell into line because he was insistent and because he was the guy in charge.

One can see this jealously in the language he used. He wrote in April 1999:

  • "Can't the Marxism our communists have, the materialism, atheism we believe in really win over that suit of stuff aired by Falun Gong? If that were the case, would it be a thumping joke?"5

He was concerned that he personally would be seen as a thumping joke.

Jiang attempted in 2002 to provide a cover for the continuation in power of the Communist Part of China after the end of Communism with an ideology labelled "the three represents". Wikipedia, which makes every effort to be neutral, labels this ideology as "incomprehensible". Jiang was envious of Li Hong Zhi, that something an outsider proposed could become so popular while his own "Three Represents" writings languished in confusion and obscurity.

10 Falun Gong detainees are more vulnerable than other detainees. Falun Gong detentions present an unusual feature.

Falun Gong practitioners who came from all over the country to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to appeal or protest the banning were systematically arrested. Those who revealed their identities to their captors would be shipped back to their home localities.

Their families would be implicated in their Falun Gong activities and pressured to join in the effort to get the practitioners to renounce Falun Gong. Their workplace leaders, their co-workers, their local government leaders would be held responsible and penalized for the fact that these individuals had gone to Beijing to appeal or protest.

To protect their families and avoid the hostility of the people in their locality, many detained Falun Gong declined to identify themselves. The result was a large Falun Gong prison population whose identities the authorities did not know. As well, no one who knew them knew where they were.

Though this refusal to identify themselves was done for protection purposes, it had the opposite effect. It is easier to victimize a person whose whereabouts is unknown to family members than a person whose location the family knows. This population is a remarkably undefended group of people, even by Chinese standards.

Those who refused to self identify were treated especially badly. As well, they were moved around within the Chinese prison system for reasons not explained to the prisoners. Members of this population could just disappear without anyone outside of the prison system being the wiser.

11 Repressed democracy activists, journalists, human rights defenders, Tibetan and Christian activists generate more sympathy than the Falun Gong because they are more familiar to the West, more in tune with Western sensibilities. The Falun Gong are recent, started in 1992, foreign, without an obvious link to globally entrenched traditions.

To outsiders, there is the immediate albeit superficial strangeness of the name Falun Gong. The words "Falun" and "Gong" in Western languages mean nothing.

For the Communists, victimizing the Falun Gong is a crime which is easier to get away with than victimizing other, better known groups. Falun Gong victims are often people without Western connections or Western languages. It is a lot easier for outsiders to relate to victims who have universal labels - journalists, human rights defenders, democracy activists, than a group with a name which means nothing to most ears.

It is also a lot harder to misrepresent the known than the unknown. When the Communists slur Tibetan Buddhists or the Christian underground churches, we know that they are talking nonsense. When the Communists slur the Falun Gong, many people are not sure whether there is any basis in the charges or not. Some people hearing slurs against the unknown may think that, where there is smoke, there must be fire, that the repression may, in fact, be justified. Outsiders do not have either the acquired knowledge or the time and energy to do the research to contradict Chinese Communist propaganda.

12 The Communist Party fright from the rise of the Falun Gong came from content as well as form. Falun Gong is authentically Chinese, rooted in ancient Chinese traditions. It is a blend of ancient Chinese spiritual and exercise traditions.

As exercise, it is a form of qi gong, a set of Chinese exercise practices. The form most familiar to Westerners is Tai Chi. But there are many such Chinese exercise practices.

Nor does Falun Gong have just any spiritual foundation. Its spiritual formulation has direct links with Taoist and Buddhist disciplines, ancient Chinese beliefs. Though his writings, Li Hongzhi managed to articulate a set of beliefs which reverberates with the Chinese people, the Chinese soul.

The global TV network run, in the main, by Falun Gong practitioners is called NTD TV. NTD stands for New Tang Dynasty. The old Tang Dynasty, which ran from 618 to 907 A.D., was a particularly glorious period of Chinese history, a period to which the Chinese look back with pride.

The Falun Gong, then, are an outgrowth from ancient Chinese traditions; they are its modern form. Put in Hegelian/Marxist terms, they are the present stage of the Chinese historical dialectic. They are the face of the real China, the grass roots China, the China of the people, in Marxist terms the China of the proletariat.

It is no coincidence that the Falun Gong emerged in 1992 at the time of the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the ending of any rational belief world wide in Communism. What was to fill the ideological gap left by the global collapse of Communism? For China, it seemed, the answer was Falun Gong.

If China were free from the chains which the Chinese Communist Party has clamped on them, there would flower the variety of beliefs and practices we see in any tolerant society. But the predominance would be Falun Gong.

The threat the Communist Party of China saw from the Falun Gong in 1999, when repression was decreed, was not political; but it was and is ideological. To the Chinese Communist Party, the Falun Gong were a regression, a huge leap backward, back to where China was before the Communist Party took over. For Falun Gong to prevail would mean a China that would continue as if the Chinese Communist Party never existed, aside from the scars the Party left behind.

The problem for the Communists was not just that Falun Gong is so authentically Chinese; it is also that Communism is so patently foreign. Communism is a Western ideological import into China. Communists saw a widespread, popular Chinese based ideology as cutting out from under them the very ground on which they stood.

Tolerating the Falun Gong would not have meant, at least in the short run, the collapse of the current regime. But it would have meant the disappearance of whatever ideological presence the Communist Party still had in the hearts and minds of the Chinese people. Once there was no one left to believe in Communism, even within the Communist Party, the loosening of the grip of the Communist Party on power could not be far behind.

So what we have with the Falun Gong is a vicious Chinese Communist Party repression, a repression without bounds, a repression far worse than suffered by any other victim group. The crimes against the Falun Gong are crimes against humanity. It should not matter that we are not Falun Gong, that the words "Falun" and "Gong" mean nothing to us. We share their humanity. Crimes against them are crimes against us. That should be enough to engage our efforts.


David Matas is an international human rights lawyer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

  1. U.N. Commission on Human Rights: Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, on his Mission to China from November 20 to December 2, 2005 (E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.6), March 10, 2006. 2006 6 Add6.doc
  2. Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak MISSION TO CHINA, UN Document E/CN.4/2006/6/Add.6, 10 March 2006, paragraph 42.
  3. 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom: China
  4. Danny Schechter, Falun Gong's Challenge to China, Akashic Books, 2000, pages 44 to 46.
  5. Jiang, Zemin, Comrade, to standing members of the Political Bureau of the CCCCP, 25 Apr. 1999. <>
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Thursday, April 23, 2009

China's decade-long ban on Falun Gong holds firm


Forbes: 04.23.09, 01:16 PM EDT

Now entering its second decade, China's relentless drive to obliterate the Falun Gong spiritual sect has left a human toll ranging from the deaths of followers in custody to the self-exile of others and the beatings of their lawyers.

Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of a protest by an estimated 10,000 practitioners in Beijing that alerted the communist government to the group's strength and wide appeal.

The April 25, 1999, demonstration was intended to show how Falun Gong believers had learned compassion, forbearance and tolerance, said practitioner Bu Dongwei in a telephone interview from the United States, where he fled six months ago.

But the size and discipline of those who gathered unsettled the communist leadership, ever wary of independent groups that could threaten its authority.

Two months later, the group was labeled an "evil cult" and banned, its leadership arrested, and a campaign launched to forcibly reconvert millions of believers. Anyone practicing Falun Gong or even possessing materials about it could be arrested.

Followers say the crackdown cost the lives of 3,200 practitioners, including 104 last year.

The government says some Falun Gong followers have died in detention because of hunger strikes or refusing medical help. But it denies any have been intentionally killed.

U.S.-based spokesman Levi Browde said since 1999 the group has recorded more than 87,000 cases of torture and estimates that anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million practitioners have been detained for various lengths of time.

Though less visible now that Falun Gong has been driven underground in China, the crackdown remains as viscous as ever, he said.

"The brutality continues and the systematic nature is the same and may have escalated a bit," Browde said.

The Chinese government contends Falun Gong brainwashes people into believing the practice can cure them of illness. It also alleges the movement convinced several members to self-immolate at Tiananmen Square in 2001, where a mother and her 12-year-old daughter died.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular press briefing Thursday the movement was harmful because it caused "illness, disablement and even death of many innocent people," but she did not give specifics.

"The Falun Gong cult violates human rights by controlling people's minds," Jiang said. "We encourage the entire society to help those practitioners who have been taken in."

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, a former government grain clerk who now lives in hiding overseas. Organized by volunteers, the group claims to have no political agenda.

International human rights groups, the United Nations and numerous Western governments have criticized China for its crackdown, particularly its reeducation through labor, a system that allows authorities to imprison practitioners without trial.

At a highway off-ramp on the outskirts of Beijing, Yu Qun, a non-practitioner, reluctantly met an Associated Press reporter to show pictures and tell the story of her younger brother, Yu Zhou, a folk musician and a practitioner who died last year in police custody.

Yu, 41, and his wife were stopped, allegedly for speeding, as they drove home from a concert. Police detained the couple after finding CDs and printed material about Falun Gong in their car.

Ten days later, Yu Qun was called to the detention center's hospital. Her brother had died but authorities were unclear about the cause. More than a year later, the case remains unresolved. Yu Zhou's wife, Xu Na, is serving a three-year sentence at a reeducation through labor facility.

China's Public Security Bureau did not immediately respond to a faxed request seeking information about the case.

In recent years, a handful of Chinese lawyers have begun taking Falun Gong cases. Cheng Hai, a self-trained Beijing lawyer represents Yu Zhou's wife and family, as well as six other practitioners. He says he was beaten earlier this month while trying to visit the home of another Falun Gong client.

"In China, a lot of people feel it's not worth fighting for their rights because they are so likely to fail," Cheng said. "They don't know that the big victories are won by adding up many, many small wins and actions."

Bu, the practitioner who took part in the 1999 demonstration, was sent to a labor camp for 2-1/2 years after a search of his home in 2006 turned up Falun Gong books.

In November, Bu and his young daughter boarded a plane for the United States, knowing if he stayed he would continue to be persecuted. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles.

"I hope I can go back. I am sure I will go back soon after, you know, the Communist Party is over," he said.

Yu Zhou plays drums with his band, Xiao Juan and the Valley Residents:

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Media freedom weakening: think tank

INFLUENCE: Taiwan Thinktank chairman Chen Po-chih said China is seeking to gain control over the content of news in Taiwan by investing in or buying media outlets
By Loa Iok-sin
Monday, Apr 13, 2009, Page 3

Taipei Times: Taiwan’s hard-won freedom of expression is under threat from Chinese attempts to gain control of media outlets, as well as the policies of the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), critics said yesterday.

“The freedom of expression we enjoy in Taiwan today is the hard-earned fruit of the sacrifices of many human rights pioneers,” Taiwan Thinktank chairman Chen Po-chih (陳博志) told a forum on freedom of speech in Taipei yesterday.

“Unfortunately, this freedom has come under threat recently because of the meddling of a foreign authoritarian government, the authoritarian mentality of our government and its collaboration with a country that is hostile to us,” Chen said.

China is that foreign country, he said.

Chen said China was trying to gain control over media in Taiwan by investing in or buying outlets, while the Taiwanese government eliminated information from media reports that portrays itself or China negatively.

The government is accomplishing this by “excluding targeted media outlets from government-sponsored projects or by pulling commercials from those media outlets,” he said.

Former Presidential Office secretary-general Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), also took part in the forum, saying she was concerned that most people in Taiwan were not aware of the threat.

“When media bosses are thinking about investing in China or when they get their money from China, how do you expect the media to provide balanced and fair reports when it comes to anything related to China?” Yeh asked.

“It’s sad that most people in Taiwan are not aware of it — they’re like frogs gradually cooking alive in warm water: By the time they realize the water is boiling, it’ll be too late,” she said.

National Taiwan University professor of economics Chang Ching-hsi (張清溪), who practices Falun Gong, said when New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV), a Chinese TV network based outside China, was trying to buy a channel to broadcast in Taiwan in 2007, no cable system owners would sell them one.

NTDTV has a strong focus on Falun Gong and human rights-related developments in China, including coverage on Beijing’s persecution of the spiritual movement.

“They told me they didn’t want to earn ‘troublesome money’ from us because we’re Falun Gong,” Chang said. “When you take a closer look at these cable system companies, you find that most of them have investments in China.”

Association of Taiwan Journalists chairman Leon Chuang (莊豐嘉), meanwhile, criticized Ma for giving former aides management positions at the state-owned Radio Taiwan International and the Central News Agency (CNA) after taking office in May.

Chuang, who was then CNA’s deputy editor-in-chief, resigned in protest.

He also panned the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus for freezing part of the budget for the Taiwan Broadcasting Systems (TBS) and its proposal that TBS projects be subject to legislative review.

“Although most people are not aware of it, freedom of expression is weakening and the situation is very bad,” Chuang said. “We’re forced to see the world through the eyes of China and some people still believe that it can be called ‘global perspective.’”

In other news, former national policy adviser Huang Hua (黃華) continued his hunger strike for the sixth day yesterday at Liberty Square in Taipei in honor of democracy movement pioneer Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who committed suicide by self-immolation 20 years ago.

Huang, who initiated the New Country Movement with Deng in 1988, is protesting the government’s plan to sign an economic pact with China.

He had expected police to remove him by force last night because of a memorial concert held at the square to mark the 100th anniversary of former president Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) birth.

The Taipei City Police Department said yesterday they would leave Huang alone because they were “having a very busy day.”


Fears grow over Chinese lawyer's disappearance

Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, shown in 2006, vanished in February.

Canada urged to take leading role in battling for release of activist

Apr 13, 2009 04:30 AM

Toronto Star ASIA BUREAU

BEIJING–He has been called "the Conscience of China," someone who – in another country – would probably be hailed as a hero.

But on Feb. 4 in Xiaoshibanqiao village in Shaanxi province, human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was treated worse than a common criminal.

In the small hours of the morning, police entered the home of his in-laws where he had been staying, wrested him from his bed and spirited him off into the darkness.

He has not been seen since.

In the 69 days since he disappeared, rights activists, international lawyers and the Canadian government, have all expressed concerns for his safety.

They want assurances that Gao is safe and still alive.

Their concerns are based on serious and credible allegations that Gao was brutally tortured by police in September 2007. A graphic account of that torture, written by Gao himself, was released in February by the New York-based non-governmental organization, Human Rights in China.

"It is horrifying," says Irwin Cotler, a Liberal MP and former federal justice minister who has taken a special interest in the case and has read the account in detail. "As long as he is not freed ... there is risk that it may happen again."

The Chinese government, however, has refused to say where Gao is, what condition he's in – even why he was detained.

If there is one major challenge facing Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day on his mission to China this week – aimed at helping to heal a Canada-China rift – it's how to patch a battered relationship, without abandoning professed principles.

Reliable sources requesting anonymity say that during the United Nation's Universal Periodic Review of human rights held in February in Geneva, Canada pressed China to conduct "an independent and impartial investigation" into allegations of Gao's torture, to end "arbitrary detention" and to commit to "the prohibition of torture."

To date, China has offered no substantial response.

But its treatment of Gao – and of his family, who last month fled to the United States – has triggered outrage among many, especially lawyers.

"We have heard rumours, unconfirmed, that he has again been subject to terrible torture but is still alive," says New York University law professor Jerome Cohen, who is also an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Cohen called China's treatment of Gao, "disgraceful."

"It irks me to see highly able, civilized technocrats in the (Chinese Communist party's) politburo who go around the world basking in China's new glory – and there are still people who allow this to happen.

"It is the greatest blemish on China's record," Cohen said. "China wants to be considered a civilized modern state – and every day you get these (kinds of) reports."

He said he hopes Canada won't "drop the ball" and presses forward on Gao's behalf.

A former People's Liberation Army soldier and Communist party member, Gao taught himself law and passed the bar examinations with ease in the mid-1990s.

He soon gained fame, battling local government corruption and defending the poor and the persecuted. He had a penchant too for politically sensitive cases.

But many believe he enraged the Communist party when he started defending members of the Falun Gong, a Buddhist-like, religious group preaching peace and tolerance – but which the Chinese government portrays as an evil cult.

Gao does not belong to the Falun Gong. He is a Christian – and staunch defender of freedom of worship and democracy.

He also wrote letters to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao calling for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong adherents.

In December 2006, he was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for five, for "inciting subversion of state power."

But he wasn't the only one punished. The government's harsh treatment of Gao's wife, his daughter Gege, 16, and son Tianyu, 5, has also sparked outrage.

Although the Chinese government denied it on March 17, Gao's wife, Geng He, told the Star in a later interview from the U.S. of a nightmare of surveillance at the hands of the state, that drove her daughter to attempt suicide – and forced the family to flee China.

"The Communist Party of China had been stalking my husband and our family since 2005," she said.

During one period, she recalled, male and female police moved into their home, located in a humble neighbourhood west of Beijing's glittering Olympic stadium.

"They watched us while we slept," she said. "Our lights had to be kept on 24 hours. When we took showers, they would stand and watch."

Every day Gao's teenage daughter, Gege, was brought to school by police, her every move monitored, then driven back home.

When other students began taunting her, she slumped into depression. Finally, last September, police stopped her from going to school at all.

"Her spirits totally collapsed," her mother recalled. The teenager broke out in a rash, had problems sleeping and on several occasions tried to commit suicide.

"I had to get them out," Geng He said of her children. "I had to give them a chance at school."

She described Gao as "a good husband ... a good father ... and an upright person who had sympathy for the weak."

Every year, she said, he did a third of his cases for free.

Other lawyers who know Gao look up to him. He's tall, confident, a fiery orator – and fearless.

"The Chinese government should provide information about his whereabouts, provide him with access to ... his lawyer and family, and detail on what basis he is being detained," says Martin Flaherty, co-founder of the Leitner Center for International Justice at Fordham University.

"If there are no charges – he should be released."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Letter: China sends poison abroad, crushes believers at home

April 13, 2009

TCPalm: This letter is to broaden Joe Zuther’s March 31 submission, “It’s time to put the clamps on China’s export machine.”

China has been exporting its poisonous food, furniture, drywall, children’s toys, spices and uses monies derived from these exports to suppress people.

Besides brutally persecuting Tibetans and Chinese citizens who dare to speak their grievances, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also is persecuting a group called Falun Gong for practicing Chigong and for their spiritual beliefs in “truthfulness-compassion-forbearance.”

According to reports from human-rights lawyer David Matas, the United Nations and other organizations, from 1999 to 2008, CCP arrested more than a million Falun Gong practitioners, putting them through physical and psychiatric torture, slavery and imprisonment without trial.

To protect its international image, CCP targets foreign governments, businesses and the media through under-the-table pressure tactics, to silence them over what some legal experts have termed the “genocide of Falun Gong.”

In 2001, CCP even went so far to orchestrate the “Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident” to defame Falun Gong by hiring five people to set themselves on fire so the Chinese people would hate Falun Gong for their cruelty.

This incident was investigated by International Education Development and many other international organizations.

According to Lee Funzhi, a recent defector from China’s Ministry of Public Security (currently in the United States), CCP set aside one fourth of its annual budget for persecuting Falun Gong.

Why is CCP so invested in waging a campaign against Falun Gong? Because China’s former leader, Jiang Zemin, felt threatened by the popularity of Falun Gong membership, which has exceeded that of the CCP’s.

Edie Bassen


OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Defense attorney for Falun Gong beaten bloody by police

04/14/2009 12:44

Asia A brutal attack yesterday in Chengdu, in broad daylight. When the police arrived, the attackers said they were public officials, and no charges were filed. An alarming rise in violence and intimidation against lawyers who defend human rights.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The lawyer Cheng Hai was beaten bloody late yesterday morning in Chengdu, by public officials, only because - the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders claims - he defends a follower of the religious group Falun Gong.

Cheng was going to see the mother of Tao Yuan, a member of the group Falun Gong who is in prison in Chengdu for "publicizing an evil cult." Cheng is asking that he be released for medical reasons. But he was surrounded by 4-5 people who violently beat him, continuing to kick him even when he was on the ground.

The lawyer called the police, but the attackers said they were officials from the Jinyang General Management Office (district of Wuhou, Chengdu), a government agency charged with coordinating the various offices of the police and the courts, and the ultimate guarantor of social order. They called the incident a "misunderstanding." The police left without taking any report of the beating.

Cheng is an expert lawyer, a member of the Yitong law firm in Beijing until a few months ago, when he and some other colleagues were dismissed for defending human rights and asking for the direct election of the heads of the Beijing Lawyer’s Association, who are currently appointed by the Communist Party.

Wang Songlian, CHRD’s research coordinator, points out that the beatings took place "on the same day the ‘National Human Rights Action Plan of China’ was launched [by the government]." The group charges that violence is increasing in the country against lawyers who defend human rights, as in the recent beating of Yang Zaixin (in the photo), who helps farmers in the county of Hepu (Guangxi) who have been deprived of their land.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Coherence Needed in Canada-China Relations

By David KilgourImage

MWC: Derek Burney’s essay (Globe, Apr.11th) can be boiled down to calling for a wider and deeper commercial relationship with China, which sounds reasonable until one looks more closely.

He is, for example, rightly concerned that the trade balance has soared in China's favour from $8.5 billion in 2001 to $28.8 billion by 2007, but does not explain how a bilateral investment treaty would create more exports for Canadians.

Burney argues that a treaty must give Chinese investors the right to invest in Canada’s natural resources, but they already have it. Recent examples include Sinopec increasing to 50 per cent its share in the Northern Lights oil sands project in Alberta and China National Petroleum earlier buying some oil sands leases.

China Minmetals, a branch of its mines ministry, earlier explored buying Noranda Mining, but was rebuffed when Canadian critics pointed out that that this would amount to a Chinese government takeover of a strategic asset in the Canadian economy. Does Burney favour this kind of investment too?

Peter Navarro, a professor at the University of California, argues correctly that consumer markets across the world have been “conquered” by China largely through cheating on trade practices. These include export subsidies, widespread counterfeiting and piracy of products, currency manipulation, and environmental, health and safety standards so weakly enforced that they have made China a very dangerous place to work.

Navarro says new trade legislation by all of China’s trade partners should achieve fair trade by the following:

All must refrain from illegal export subsidies and currency manipulation and abide by the rules of the World Trade Organization(WTO);

For currency manipulation, he supports what the bi-partisan US-China Commission has recommended to the American Congress: define it as an illegal export subsidy and add it to other subsidies when calculating anti-dumping and countervail penalties;

Every trade partner must respect intellectual property; adopt and enforce health, safety and environmental regulations consistent with international norms; provide decent wages and working conditions; and ban the use of forced labour;

Adopt a 'zero-tolerance' policy for anyone who sells or distributes pirated or counterfeit goods;

Defective and contaminated food and drugs must be blocked more effectively by measures which make it easier to hold importers liable for selling foreign products that do harm to people or pets;

Despite growing criticism, China's party-state continues to trade its UN Security Council veto for energy, raw materials and access to markets from Angola to Burma to Zimbabwe. Increased monitoring and exposure of China's party-state activities everywhere is important;

To reverse the 'race to the environmental bottom' in China, to require all to compete on a level playing field and to reduce acid rain and smog affecting populations abroad, all bilateral and multilateral trade agreements should henceforth include strong provisions for protection of the natural environment.

Canadian/Chinese Values

Many Canadians allow our respect for the people of China to mute criticism of their government. When apologists for its party-state insist that the situation for a growing part of the population is getting better, many of us appear willing to overlook bad governance, official violence, growing social inequalities, widespread corruption and chronic nepotism.

The Chinese people want the same things as Canadians, including, respect for all, education, to be safe and secure, good jobs, and a sustainable natural environment. Living standards have improved on the coast and in other urban areas, but there is a cost. Most Chinese continue to be exploited by the party-state and firms, often owned by or contracted for manufacturing to multinationals, which operate today across their country like 19th century robber barons.

This explains partly why the prices of consumer products 'made in China' seem so low—the externalities are borne by workers, their families and the natural environment.

Labour Camps

In doing our final report on party-state organ pillaging from Falun Gong practitioners, David Matas and I visited about a dozen countries to interview adherents sent to China's forced labour camps since 1999, who managed later to leave the camps and the country itself. They told us of working in appalling conditions for up to sixteen hours daily with no pay, little food, being cramped together on the floor for sleeping and being tortured. They made export products, ranging from garments to chopsticks to Christmas decorations as subcontractors to multinational companies. This, of course, constitutes both gross corporate irresponsibility and violations of WTO rules.

The labour camps are outside the legal system and allow the party-state to send anyone to them for up to four years with neither hearing nor appeal.

There is a link between the involuntary labour done since 1999 by tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners in these camps and the resulting loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and elsewhere. One estimate of the number of the camps across China as of 2005 was 340, having a capacity of about 300,000 inmates. In 2007, a US government report estimated that at least half of the inmates in the camps were Falun Gong.

Such practices would not be occurring if the Chinese people enjoyed the rule of law and their government believed in the intrinsic importance of each one of them. It is the combination of totalitarian governance and 'anything is permitted' economics that allows such practices to persist. Canada and other countries should ban forced labour exports.


The attempted crushing of democracy movements, truthful journalists, Buddhist, Falun Gong, Christian, Muslim and other independent faith groups, human rights lawyers and other legitimate civil society communities in recent years indicates that China's party-state must still be engaged with caution.

If its government stops abuses of human rights and takes steps to indicate that it wishes to treat its trade partners in a mutually-beneficial way, the new century will bring harmony for China, its trading partners and neighbours. The Chinese people have the numbers, perseverance, self-discipline, entrepreneurship, intelligence, culture and pride to make this new century better and more peaceful for the entire human family.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Thursday, April 09, 2009

ASIO reveals China-linked campaign to dominate Australia's media

By Bernard Keane, Crikey

April 01, 2009

Australia’s relationship with China is about to be rocked by revelations of a major Chinese-linked attempt to dominate Australia’s media and other cultural influences as part of a growing "soft power" campaign.

The revelation, based on the work of Australian security agencies, comes at a time when domestic debate about Australia’s, and the Rudd Government’s, relationship with China has entered a new phase of suspicion, with suggestions of an improper relationship between Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon and Australian-Chinese businesswoman Helen Liu, and claims that the Prime Minister is too active in China’s interests.

Crikey understands that Australia’s domestic and foreign intelligence services are also concerned at the Prime Minister’s own links with the shadowy figure at the centre of the campaign.

According to a joint briefing prepared by both ASIO and ASIS, the campaign centres on an attempt by Chinese-linked interests to control a major segment of the Australian media market by owning newspapers in most capital cities, as well as a national masthead that purports to "shape the agenda". In a number of cities, the group monopolises newspaper opinion. The group has a longstanding record of attempting to influence political and business issues to serve its own interests.

The group also has a major stake in Australia’s subscription television sector through a monopoly provider that has driven competitors out of the market. This enables television channels from the Chinese international broadcaster CCTV to pump pro-Chinese propaganda into Australian homes 24 hours a day. The group also has a substantial operation in Parliament House in Canberra, through which it has extensive access to key decisionmakers.

"The group has apparently unlimited ambitions," said one veteran intelligence analyst, speaking to Crikey on the condition of anonymity.

"They’ve even got a huge stake in the National Rugby League competition. I’ve never seen such a concerted effort to control how people think. China has really looked long and hard at how America uses its soft power and is determined to do even better, using the media as its conduit."

The group is controlled by an American businessman with extensive Chinese links. He is married to a Chinese businesswoman hailing from Jiangsu province, which borders Shandong province, home of Helen Liu. Shandong is famous as a source of senior soldiers in China. The businessman is on the public record as hailing China’s "industrialization and modernization" as "one of the most profound social transformations in human history", has attacked media services that are not sufficiently pro-Chinese, and criticised dissident movements such as Tibetan independence supporters and Falun Gong.

The group is also understood to have links with Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister Rudd, who is currently campaigning for China to be allowed greater power in the IMF. Yesterday, the Government approved a Chinese foreign investment bid in Fortescue Metals and is currently considering a Chinese investment bid for Rio Tinto.

According to reports, the Prime Minister dined with the businessman in New York prior to his election and had an hour-long meeting, details of which Mr Rudd refused to provide to the press.

More seriously, Rudd is also a long-time friend with one of the group’s senior executives, and is understood that the Prime Minister is godfather to the executive’s son.

"The role of ‘godfather’ is a very sacred and honoured position in Chinese society," said the analyst.

"It demonstrates both the high regard in which Rudd is held, and how close he is with them. It’s deeply disturbing."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

CBC's Red Pride and Prejudice

MWC: Not long ago, I would have been happy to speak out in defence of the CBC. I grew up with CBC and always considered it one of the superior broadcasters in the western world.

I should also say that I have supported virtually every cause Avaaz has taken up in recent times.

But I lost all inclination to defend CBC once it became clear that this once proud and independent broadcaster had sold its soul and become a shameless mouthpiece for the Beijing government, suppressing information about the persecution of Falun Gong and Tibetans, and even going so far as to serve in the role of a Beijing agent in broadcasting vicious defamatory material supplied by Beijing against the Falun Gong community in Montreal.

Having witnessed that shameful spectacle, and also watched CBC click its collective heels and then koutou and grovel at the feet of the Beijing dictators in order to ensure preservation of the contract for Olympic coverage (I refer to the withdrawal and then drastic revision of the independently produced documentary “Beyond the Red Wall”), as far as I am concerned the CBC is on its own. Let it look to Beijing for support and sympathy.

Clive Ansley
Courtenay, BC

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008


By Hon. David Kilgour, J.D.
Press Conference
Centre Block, Parliament of Canada
April 06, 2009

I should say immediately that rules-based international trade has helped peoples around the world to live more fulfilled lives. A return to protectionism would only worsen the present economic problems for most of us. What many of us oppose is unfair trade, which, in one of its worst forms, involves the export of consumer products made by forced labour.

We are hearing today in effect about the link between involuntary labour done since 1999 by tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience in camps across China and the resulting loss of manufacturing jobs in Canada and elsewhere. One estimate of the number of these camps across China as of 2005 was 340, having a capacity of about 300,000 inmates.In 2007, a US government report estimated that at least half of 250,000 officially recorded inmates in the camps were Falun Gong adherents.

Inhuman Camps

These camps have existed in China since the 1950s. Since then, any Chinese national could be sent to one of them without any form of trial for up to four years upon commital by a simple police signature. No appeal is possible. The Beijing party-state closely duplicated the work camp model set up in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, although the earlier networks did not appear to have been involved in forced labour exports.

Another major difference is that since 2001 only Falun Gong inmates in the Chinese camps have been used as a live organ bank to be pillaged for sales to foreigners. Medical testing is required of such inmates before organs can be matched with recipients.

Ms. Guizhi Chen, 62, just spoke of her four years of forced labour without pay in two different labour camps camp. Among the products, some for export, she worked on were purses and sweaters for an average of twelve hours daily. In the first facility located near the outskirts of Beijing, about half of the other 700 female labourers were Falun Gong practitioners. In the second located far from the capital, there were about 300 women labourers, again with approximately half being Falun Gong. The practitioners in both were examined medically with blood tests and x-rays periodically.

You have also heard from Ms Lian Yao now of Montreal, the wife of a Falun Gong practitioner, Jian Ma, who was the manager of a European company in Beijing, but has already served 767 days in effect as a slave labourer in one of these camps for being a Falun Gong practitioner. She was also arrested, fired from her job and tortured before coming to Canada. She urges Trade Minister Day to seek her husband`s release while visiting China. All of us here today, of course, support her request.

WTO Rules

It is illegal under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to export goods made by forced labour, but the party-state in China does not respect WTO rules or other undertakings it gave to the world organization when it joined in 2001. WTO inspectors rarely, if ever, identify such exports, which is why governments anxious to protect their nationals must act effectively and together now to keep this kind of competition out of our markets. The Doha Round should deal with effective remedies to this, among other trade issues of concern to all world economies.

It's a well-established fact that in recent years "cheap goods" from China have dominated most world markets; slave labour is certainly one reason for this phenomenon. It is certainly not the fault of the Chinese people, who are often grossly underpaid, work long hours, and often have neither medical insurance, nor clean air/ water, nor pensions nor work safety regulations from a regime which, often with the help of its own and foreign business communities, exploits more than one fifth of the world’s population.

David Matas, and I were asked by the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in 2006 to study allegations of organ pillaging against the Falun Gong community across China. We did so as volunteers because we both believe in human dignity for all. He’ll tell you about our report, which you can access our report website ( From eventually 52 kinds of proof, we concluded beyond any reasonable doubt that the government of China since 2001 has killed without any form of prior trial thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in order to sell their vital organs for high prices to ‘organ tourists’.

Falun Gong

Falun Gong is an exercise movement with a spiritual component, which began in China only in 1992 and received full government sanction. In fact, state-run media even praised the group for their contribution to health improvements among the Chinese population. It grew so quickly that by 1999 there were 70-100 million Falun Gong practitioners across the country by the regime’s own estimate, with participants that included well-educated professionals, high-level officials and veteran Party members. With their belief in “truth, compassion and forbearance,” the Falun Gong diaspora today include many non-Chinese individuals and live as good citizens in some eighty countries. China, which is homeland to the majority of Falun Gong practitioners, is now the only country where they do not have the freedom to practise. Worse yet, it is the only country where they are blatently persecuted by the party state with every element of government machinery.

Why did Beijing declare war on Falun Gong in the summer of 1999? The main reason no doubt was totalitarian paranoia. The movement had grown so fast that its participants were more numerous than the membership of the Communist Party of China. Its values were very different from those of then President Jiang Zemen and others governing the country since 1949. When thousands of Falun Gong practitioners held a silent protest at Party headquarters in Beijing on April 25th that year, the mercilous persecution began. Hundreds of thousands were initially imprisoned, tens of thousands went to forced labour camps and thousands were killed for their vital organs. The party-state media continues to demonize and vilify them across China just as the persecution continues.

Matas and I are not practitioners, but we have both been most impressed by those we have met in perhaps 45 countries. Almost with no exceptions, they are hard-working, peaceful, loving and caring individuals with amazingly enduring dignity. In my judgement, the war on the large group of its own people began and continues today because of totalitarian governance combined with 'anything-is-permitted capitalism'. If the party-state is truly a government of the people, as it so often claims, it would have respected its fellow citizens and such crimes against humanity would not occur.

Gao Zhisheng

Finally, I should mention Gao Zhisheng, a courageous lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who was once ranked one of the ten best in the country by China's ministry of Justice. When he, a Christian, defended Falun Gong in court, he and his family became targets of the same persecution imposed on Falun Gong practitioners, including 50 days of harrowing torture for him in prison. His wife and two children escaped China a few weeks ago, but Gao disappeared yet again in February to the great conern of many of us.

It is therefore imperative that the international community heed our appeal to hold the Chinese government accountable and block the export of goods produced by forced labour.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Editor Dismissed Over Pro-Beijing Edits, Say Sources

By Jason Loftus
Epoch Times Staff
Apr 8, 2009
Print E-mail

Wilson Chan
The Torstar-owned Sing Tao newspaper fired managing editor Wilson Chan amid controversy over edits to a story on the Tibet turmoil last year that appeared to favour Beijing, sources have told The Epoch Times. (Photo by Shelbie Vermette)
Repression in Tibet

TORONTO—The top editor of Toronto’s Sing Tao Daily was fired after he edited out criticisms of the Chinese regime from a front-page story published during the thick of the heavily repressed protests in Tibet last year, sources have told The Epoch Times.

Wilson Chan, then managing editor at the Chinese-language Sing Tao, was let go in the fall, according to the sources, which include two staff members at Sing Tao.

The story, which ran on April 13, 2008, was written by a reporter for the Toronto Star, an English-language newspaper owned by Torstar Corporation. Torstar also holds a majority share in the Canadian edition of Sing Tao an international Chinese-language newspaper headquartered in Hong Kong. The relationship gives Sing Tao rights to translate and publish stories from the Star.

The controversy underscores the challenges faced by Canadian media companies that purchase stakes in Chinese-language press in hopes of tapping into burgeoning immigrant markets.

Often, the Canadian media executives are unable to read the contents of the newspaper, and, as in the case of Sing Tao, much of the content is provided by Hong Kong-based parent companies that they have no control over, and which have in recent years been accused of tilting increasingly in favour of Beijing.

For Sing Tao's parent company, that tilting has occurred over the last two decades. Longtime owner Sally Aw gained financial help from Beijing when in crisis in the late 1980s; a shift in the newspaper’s position followed.

It has continued under Charles Ho's ownership of Sing Tao. Ho is a member of the Standing Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a select group of the communist party’s most loyal friends.

Torstar purchased its stake in the Canadian Sing Tao in 1998.

Two Newspapers: Two Different Stories

The decision to remove Chan is said to have come from Torstar, but The Epoch Times was unable to reach Carol Peddie, the Torstar VP who is CEO of Sing Tao, by press time. An assistant for Ms. Peddie explained that she was in meetings.

The Epoch Times did reach Sing Tao’s VP of Operations, Peter Li. When asked about the reports from staff that Mr. Chan had been fired over the controversial edits, Li said he could not comment as “it involves Mr. Chan’s personal information.”

The controversy first erupted after The Epoch Times reported major differences between Sing Tao’s translation of the Tibet story last April and the original English version that appeared in the Star on the same day.

The Star’s article was printed on the newspaper’s front page under the headline “Chinese Canadians Conflicted on Tibet.” It examined some Chinese Canadians’ dual feelings of national pride toward their homeland and concern over the Chinese regime’s human-rights abuses.

But in Sing Tao’s version of the article, criticism of the Chinese regime had been removed. The words “so-called” were added in front of “human-rights violations” in a quote from one commentator. “Tibetans” became “Tibetan separatists” in another.

The original Star article also quoted observers as saying the Chinese regime was using the Tibet incident to fan nationalism and to conflate national pride with support for the communist party’s policies. These comments were removed.

Instead, Sing Tao’s version of the Star article blamed the West for “suppressing China” with media reports of the crackdown in Tibet. “Most Mainland Chinese immigrants stand on the side of the Chinese government, supporting the suppression of the rampant Tibet independence forces before the Beijing Summer Olympics,” read content added by Sing Tao to the translated story.

Sing Tao’s headline ran across the width of its front page: “The West Attacks China With Tibet Issue, Inciting Chinese Patriotism Overseas.”

Initial Defense

The paper hit the streets the morning that pro-Beijing activists in Toronto were filling chartered buses destined for Ottawa for a large rally supporting the Chinese regime’s crackdown in Tibet.

For those concerned about the human-rights abuses, the perceived bias in Sing Tao’s coverage came at a sensitive time.

Mr. Chan initially defended the edits in an interview with The Epoch Times the week the controversial story appeared.

“Different editors have different readings; if this is the way the editor reads into it, then it's the way he reads into it," Chan said of the drastically revised headline.

The criticisms of the Chinese regime that were cut were “not something new,” he said. "We try to get close to the original meaning itself; we don't try to distort the story," he added.

But those explanations did not satisfy critics.

Mounting Criticism

Ten Chinese Canadians wrote a joint letter criticizing Sing Tao’s changes to the Star story. They then met with senior Sing Tao and Torstar executives.

Toronto lawyer Avvy Go was there.

“If you want to add editors’ comments, they should be clearly marked,” Go told The Epoch Times this week, explaining the concern of the group that met with Torstar. “And they should not make people feel that is how the Toronto Star’s original article was written. We feel how they did it was wrong.”

Go says she and others felt Sing Tao’s overall coverage of the protests leading up to the Olympics was not objective and “did not meet the professional standards of media.”

Then in August, the popular lifestyle magazine Toronto Life ran a story on the topic.

Toronto Life pointed to the controversial edits in the April 13, 2008 article and to edits made to other wire stories in Sing Tao that seemed to favour Beijing. The magazine concluded that Sing Tao was “pumping out communist propaganda.”

Canadian Sing Tao’s president, Louis Cheng, countered with a letter published in the September issue of Toronto Life.

Cheng conceded that there were problems with the April 13 story, but said the error did “not amount to censorship.” The mistakes were isolated and were a result of an error in “editing and translating” the story, he said.

Torstar Intervention

But according to a source close to the translation desk, translation was not the problem. The story was translated accurately and changes were made later by the editor.

One well-placed source said it was Chan himself who edited the story.

The source also said that was the cause for his dismissal in October.

As news has begun circulating beyond Sing Tao’s walls, Chan’s departure has been welcomed by some Chinese Canadians concerned with what they say is a growing Pro-Beijing bias among many Chinese-language press.

One community organizer said Chan’s dismissal could not have happened if Torstar had not purchased its stake in Sing Tao.

But the organizer was also not optimistic that the incident would prove to be more than symbolic accountability.

“With the majority of content coming directly from Hong Kong, even if the Canadian editorial department reports the news accurately, objectively, and fairly, the content from Hong Kong still cannot be controlled.”

Additional reporting by Anna Yang and Haixing Zhang.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008