March 23, 2006

"China's secret concentration camp."

The title describes the content of fliers Jiang Hu distributed Saturday outside Antioch Library at Antioch Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway, Merriam.

Stories about still-Red China's political prisoners, torture and forced labor to create cheap goods for certain American mega stores are not new. But Hu's flier described something different and worse - an atrocity against a seemingly harmless multitude of dissidents who practice Falun Gong.

"Falun Gong is like a tai chi or yoga; it's a meditation," Hu said. "I do the same Falun Gong exercise. I would be prosecuted if I were in China right now."

Meditation is viewed by many as being akin to religion, and religion, including Christianity, is something the communist government in China has long repressed.

The penalty for practicing Falun Gong can be as little as a fine, which Hu says one of her friends paid.

"She was asked to renounce the belief, and sign the guarantee document, then she paid the penalty of a thousand yuan," Hu said.

Instead of a fine, some practitioners pay a price as horrible as anything Dr. Josef Mengele perpetrated on Jews at Auschwitz, if allegations coming out of China are credible. These include that the communists run a death camp where doctors harvest Falun Gong practitioners' organs for black marketers.

"Just recently, there was a Chinese government insider leak out the news," Hu said with a slight accent. "There is a place in northeastern China called Sujiatun. There is a death camp, concentration camp, set up over there for killing all these practitioners for their organs."

Inside Antioch Library, several Falun Gong practitioners, including children, meditated. They sat cross-legged in a room filled with laminated posters, some on easels, some on the walls.

In contrast to the relaxed posture of those practicing Falun Gong in the room, the posters described penalties paid by people doing the same exercises in China. The posters included photographs of people beaten to the point of mutilation.

Catherine Rooney, Eudora, said she has helped to conduct research over the past year for a report chronicling China's abuse of Falun Gong practitioners. The report will be sent for review to people representing the United Nations, Rooney said.

Rooney, who works for the University of Kansas, Lawrence, said the database used for the report included more than 40,000 testimonials describing persecution and torture.

The alleged abuse represents a marked departure from how the government embraced Falun Gong in 1992, giving founder Li Hongzhi awards for his work. By 1999, Falun Gong had gained tens of millions of followers, especially among the elderly, Hu said.

"Mainly it talks about the principle of truth, compassion, forbearance," she said.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin, seeing the exercise's popularity as a threat to the government, outlawed falun gong in July 1999.

"He felt like the population was 'high' and that the belief is not in line with communism," Hu said.

An estimated 70 million Chinese practiced Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, prior to the crackdown. Since then, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center, more than 2,800 practitioners have died in police custody.

The center supports the organ harvesting allegation, stating the news came from a Chinese journalist who saw the prison holding up to 6,000 people in the Sujiatun area, Shenyang City, Liaoning Province, China.

"If Falun Dafa practitioners are sent to Sujiatun," according to the source, "they have no chance of coming out. ... The CCP won't let a prisoner consume food forever. So what are they up to, then? ... The Falun Dafa practitioners are killed for their organs, which are sent off to various medical facilities. Organ sales is now a highly profitable business in China."

Western media sources have published little that supports the organ harvesting allegation.

"This news got release out by a Chinese person," Hu said. "I know CNN has one report on organ trading, but it didn't mention about Falun Gong organs."

CNN in 2001 published a report about organs being harvested from executed, though not always dead, prisoners. Chinese physician Wang Guoqi alleged he helped cull organs from prisoners whose executions had been botched intentionally. [...]

Wang told the U.S. House Subcommittee on Human Rights he also worked at a crematorium, carving skin off convicts' bodies for use on burn victims, according to CNN.

Independent verification for such allegations is made more difficult due to the limited access people inside China have to the outside world. The information situation derives partly from a decision by U.S. companies to help the communist government spy on how Chinese citizens use the Internet.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, prior to a congressional hearing Feb. 15, accused Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Google Inc. of "enabling dictatorship" by helping China censor the Internet.


Also due to censorship, using instant messaging is risky for Chinese who wish to discuss events at Shenyang.

"It used to be uncensored, but now it is censored as well," Hu said. "Just to protect people in mainland China, it would be best not contacting them."

Hu said she has heard through other means from friends about continuing Falun Gong persecution, but not about organ harvesting.

"That one is super secret. Even the people living close to the area have no idea what they're doing over there, but they know there's a chimney - there's some kind of smoke coming out," she said.

Hu said she came to the United States from mainland China for an education, then became a permanent resident. She said she could not return to China.

"If I go back I will face the same fate like they are facing right now," she said. "The persecution ... is all over society."