Published June 12, 2003

( More than three dozen members of Congress will ask a Chicago federal judge this morning to allow Falun Gong practitioners to press their genocide lawsuit against former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin in the U.S. courts.

The congressional group opposes Bush administration requests to dismiss the case. Falun Gong advocates who rallied at Freedom Plaza yesterday blame that legal position on pressure from China.

Asserting an official interest in "human rights conditions in the People's Republic of China," the bipartisan congressional group said the Justice Department went too far to shield the former president and Communist Party leader.

"The executive branch has gone beyond asserting the legitimate interests of the United States," they said in papers that argue foreign-policy concerns should not trump the right of U.S. courts to decide the novel issue of whether a leader loses immunity -- "the divine right of kings" -- when he retires from office.

This morning, U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly will hear the House members' motion to join the case as a friend of the court, or amicus curiae, before deciding whether to throw out the lawsuit. The Justice Department is not a party to the case and is also involved as an amicus curiae.

The abstract legal issue was made more personal at yesterday's rally when Yeong-Ching Foo of Menlo Park, Calif., told about 40 people that China has detained her fiance, Charles Li, an American citizen, for 4 months for practicing Falun Gong.

"There is no hope for justice in China, so we must rely on the U.S. justice system to end the torture of Falun Gong," she said.

A State Department official confirmed that Mr. Li is jailed and was last visited by a consular official on March 27 at Nanjing Prison, where he is serving a three-year sentence for what Chinese officials call attempted sabotage of broadcasting equipment.

The Oct. 18 lawsuit accuses Mr. Jiang of establishing the powerful Falun Gong Control Office to persecute those who express a belief in and practice Falun Gong, and putting the office, which is also called the 610 Office, under his command "to carry out a campaign of murder, torture, terrorism, rape, beatings and destruction of property against Falun Gong and their families."

Mr. Jiang banned Falun Gong and vowed to eradicate the movement, whose name is translated by a religious tolerance group as "the practice of the wheel of the Dharma." It involves five sets of exercises using lotus postures and hand movements, sometimes accompanied by music.

The Justice Department seeks dismissal of the lawsuit, which asks declarations to stop persecution and offer compensation and punitive damages for three Falun Gong practitioners from China and expatriates, identified as "Plaintiffs A, B, C, D, E, F and others ...."


The lawsuit invokes two U.S. laws -- the Alien Tort Claim Act and Torture Victim Protection Act -- to justify allowing federal courts to hold Jiang Zemin accountable for genocide, torture and other acts against humanity.

"In filing an amicus brief in the case, the [House International Relations] Committee affirms the sanctity of the inalienable rights enshrined in our Constitution," said Alan Adler, executive director of [Friends of]Falun Gong USA.

Despite Mr. Adler's description, papers were filed not by the House committee but by 38 members of Congress led by committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, and the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Tom Lantos of California.