Volume 49, No. 108, Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Court Street -- "The purpose is to torture you in the extreme -- both mental and physical. You don't have even your last sense of dignity." Said (Gang Chen), recalling his sentence in a Chinese detention center and labor camp, where he says he was tortured for practicing meditation.

[Chen] joined a demonstration outside Brooklyn Supreme Court to collect signatures for the release of Dr. Charles Lee, an American doctor imprisoned in China. Lee reportedly intended to use the government--controlled media to expose human rights violations suffered by Falun Gong practitioners in China.

Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese meditation practice based on the principles of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance." It has grown quickly in China and around the world since it became public in 1992. Brooklyn practitioners gather every week at Prospect Park, Coney Island, and Fort Hamilton.

"In '99, persecution of Falun Gong practitioners began in China," explained Quan Sha, a Falun Gong practitioner who lives in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin outlawed Falun Gong in 1999 when his government estimated that there were over 100 million practitioners -- "more than the Communist Party," said [Chen]. Sha and [Chen] suggested that [Jiang] considered it a threat to the communist government.

In April 2002, Amnesty International called for "urgent action" to address the deaths of Falun Gong practitioners in Changchun, China.

Last fall, plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois, charging [Jiang and his 610 Office] with genocide and crimes against humanity. Jiang is no longer president, but activists say Dr. Lee and hundreds of thousands of others are still being tortured in Chinese prisons and labor camps.

The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified 765 deaths since persecution of Falun Gong in China began in 1999.

"It's hard for westerners to understand because your government is so different," [Chen] said yesterday. He said that he was forced to sit in a squatting position for several hours at a time, and was once deprived of sleep for 15 days in a row while working as hard labor paving roads and producing steel brushes.

[Chen], whose sister lives in New Jersey, said his torture was less violent because of international rescue efforts.

"The overseas rescue efforts do affect things in the prisons," said [Chen]. His parents were both musicians in the Chinese Symphony Orchestra. "Without the rescue efforts I would be tortured even further. International efforts to rescue have greatly restrained the persecution in China."

In less than an hour, the "rescue tour" collected over 60 signatures outside Brooklyn Supreme Court yesterday. They were headed to City Hall, and on across the country in a national car tour to raise awareness and support for Dr. Lee and other Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned in China.