China's campaign to "eradicate" unregistered groups intensified during the late 1990s. At the turn of the millennium, unregistered Catholics and Protestants, as well as Tibetan Buddhists, and Muslims report that many of their followers endure arrests, fines, imprisonment, and severe economic discrimination, and that some of their leaders have been tortured and killed. In the weeks before Christmas, over a thousand churches and temples were destroyed, some were bulldozed in Wenzhou and neighboring areas.

Freedom House would like to bring your attention to escalating religious persecution by the Beijing regime and its brutal crackdown against peaceful, non-violent Falun Gong practitioners.

Human rights groups report that over 50,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been sent to labor camps without trial, and several hundred have been given harsh jail sentences of up to 18 years since the crackdown began in 1999. Entire families have been devastated. Parents have nowhere to turn when police tell them that their son or daughter has supposedly died of natural causes while in police custody and that the body will be cremated immediately. The number of documented deaths has risen more than 300% in just the last six months of this 19-month crackdown. Labor camp officials have received orders from "the top" that no measure is considered too severe to use against Falun Gong practitioners. If a victim dies from the abuse Chinese officials are authorized to document it as a suicide.

As a result, the tortures appear to have intensified. In one case, a Falun Gong practitioner was detained in an office of the local township for going to Beijing to appeal. She reports that a crowd of male officials forced her to take off her clothes. One official then thrust an electric baton into her vagina, shocking her to the ground. He then handcuffed her to the window, grabbing her breasts and applying repeated electric jolts to her upper body. She was then told to put on her shirt and sit on the floor while the men surrounded her and kept kicking her while she screamed in agony. After most of the men had left the room, one official picked up the electric baton and shocked her in the vagina again. He touched her breasts and pressed his genitals against her buttocks. By this point, the humiliation and the physical and emotional trauma from the torture had left the woman barely able to move.

We must ask: what is all this human suffering for? Just to force people to give up their beliefs? The persecution is senseless, brutal, and illegal, and Falun Gong practitioners have declared they will not give up their peaceful resistance until they prevail and freedom of conscience is respected in China. Through their sacrifice, they help defend the freedoms of all those oppressed under the current Chinese regime. This is why Freedom House calls on this 57th UN Human Rights Commission not to conduct business as usual this year and to stand up for greater accountability. We urge the Commission to be a force for positive change in China and urge the distinguished delegates and delegations to establish a special rapporteur or special committee to fully investigate and put to an end Beijing's brutal persecution of peaceful Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Freedom House commends the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance for his work in many countries around the world. We recommend that he visit, and in some cases, revisit, and continue to report on [some other countries] and China.

Thank you for your attention.