Human Rights in China

Falun Gong: the persecution continues

Fran ois Baertschi

Over 100,000 practitioners of Falun Gong have been sent to labour camps. And even Protestants are hunted. The situation is becoming serious.

Over the past several years the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China has intensified. But they are not the only ones, since Christian groups are also being targeted. "It has become increasingly clear that the authorities have encouraged recourse to violence against practitioners of Falun Gong as one of the means to put an end to the movement", Amnesty International wrote in its 2002áreport.

Repressive psychiatry

Psychiatry, in particular, is used to suppress people who follow this practice - a practice that is unlike that of any religion but rather is linked to a form of personal development rooted in Buddhist and Taoist traditions.

The persecution has reached unbelievable proportions. According to the Swiss Falun Gong Association, millions of Chinese practitioners, albeit in good physical and mental health, have been committed to psychiatric hospitals.

Cases of torture

In September 2002, this same association gave the figure of 467 documented deaths under torture, while adding that the actual figure, according to alternative sources, amounts to more than 1,600. More than 6,000 people have been illegally detained in prison, while more than 100,000 practitioners have been sent to forced labor camps. The Swiss practitioners denounce numerous cases of torture. The accounts of witnesses send a shiver down the spine.

Appeal to the authorities

According to the UPI Press Agency, the World Association of Psychiatrists has voted to send an international inquiry team to China "to investigate the alleged abuse of psychiatric diagnoses by the Government in its continuing suppression of Falun Gong".

Amnesty International has just deposited a memorandum with the Chinese authorities asking for a reform of the judicial system and for the promotion of human rights. According to the international organization, the authorities must take action to introduce institutional reforms that will protect individual rights. Amnesty International proposes recommendations for the reform of the judicial system, the abolition of two systems of administrative detention and the introduction of measures against torture.

Protestants targeted

The system of re-education through labor actually permits detention without judgment or legal restrictions pending trial. At the beginning of 2002, 310,000 people were detained in these re-education through labor camps. The number has probably augmented since the offensive launched against Falun Gong.

Chinese Protestants are also victims of such issues. Amnesty International informs us of five Chinese Protestants who were condemned to death in questionable circumstances, since torture would have been used to obtain confessions. They are accused, as in the case of Falun Gong practitioners, of belonging to a "heretical organization". Fortunately, these individuals must be retried and Amnesty asks that they be given a fair trial.

The Chinese "gulags"

At the time when the Chinese economy is opening to the world, the Middle Kingdom needs to take a big step forward in another field: human rights. Meanwhile, human beings are suffering in silence. We are in somewhat the same situation as that in which the Soviet Union found itselfáduring the 1970s, at a time when the dissidents - and the most famous of all, AlexanderáSolzhenitsyn - were subjected to the atrocious gulag.

In view of what is actually happening in China we cannot remain silent.

(Translated from French)