Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2008 Annual Report Cites Ongoing Persecution of Falun Gong
(Clearwisdom.net) The Congressional-Executive Commission on China issued its 2008 Annual Report on human rights conditions and the development of the rule of law in China on Friday, October 31, 2008. The report outlined continued state-sanctioned persecution and abuse of Falun Gong practitioners and other religious and spiritual groups. The following is an excerpt from the Annual Report, discussing the persecution of Falun Gong within all levels of government administration, including escalated persecution related to the Beijing Olympics.
One Hundred Tenth Congress
OCTOBER 31, 2008
On June 10, 1999, former President Jiang Zemin and Politburo member Luo Gan established an extrajudicial security apparatus called the "6-10 Office.'' This entity was charged with the mission of enforcing a ban on Falun Gong and carrying out a crackdown against its practitioners, which commenced on July 22, 1999, when the government formally outlawed the movement. Falun Gong practitioners describe it as a "traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that is Buddhist in nature,'' which consists of "moral teachings, a meditation, and four gentle exercises that resemble tai-chi and are known in Chinese culture as 'qigong.' " Tens of millions of Chinese citizens practiced Falun Gong in the 1990s and adherents to the spiritual movement inside of China are estimated to still number in the hundreds of thousands despite the government's ongoing crackdown.
The central government intensified its nine-year campaign of persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in the months leading up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. Chinese security forces continued to detain and imprison Falun Gong practitioners and subjected some who refused to disavow the practice to torture and other forms of abuse in reeducation through labor (RTL) camps and other detention facilities.119 In September 2007, Zhou Yongkang, then-Minister of Public Security and current member of the Politburo Standing Committee, ordered that all police and public security forces "strike hard on overseas and domestic hostile forces, ethnic splittists, religious extremists, violent terrorists, and the Falun Gong" to safeguard "social stability" for the 17th Party Congress and the Olympics. Official accounts of the crackdown were publicly available on Web sites for all 31 of China's provincial-level jurisdictions in 2007-2008.
Since the government outlawed Falun Gong in July 1999, it has detained thousands--most likely hundreds of thousands--of practitioners. Chinese government Web sites regularly report detentions of Falun Gong "criminal suspects'' and some provincial and local authorities offer rewards as high as 5,000 yuan (US$732) to informants who report Falun Gong "escaped criminals.'' In July, Chinese state media reported the arrest of 25 Falun Gong practitioners and the destruction of 7 Falun Gong publishing operations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In 2007, Yingshang county government in Anhui province revealed that it had detained 13 "Falun Gong and other cult criminals," held another in "public security detention," and "reeducated and reprimanded" more than 1,600. During the same period, Miyi county in Sichuan province recorded detentions of 62 practitioners as part of its "strike hard" campaign and claimed to have "transformed" 14 of them. Relying on reports from practitioners and their families in China, sources outside of China, not all of whom are themselves Falun Gong practitioners, estimate that Chinese authorities detained "at least 8,037" practitioners between December 2007 and the end of June 2008 in a nationwide pre-Olympics crackdown. International observers believe that Falun Gong practitioners constitute a large percentage--some say as many as half--of the total number of Chinese imprisoned in RTL camps. Falun Gong sources report that at least 200,000 practitioners are being held in RTL and other forms of detention. As of April 2008, Falun Gong sources in the United States had documented over 3,000 deaths of practitioners as a result of government persecution as well as over 63,000 cases of torture since 1999. From 2000 to 2005, Falun Gong practitioners accounted for 66 percent of all cases of alleged torture by Chinese authorities reported to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
As this Commission reported in 2006, Chinese government persecution of Falun Gong practitioners contravenes the standards in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed but not ratified. The Chinese government asserts its anti-Falun Gong campaign is necessary to protect public safety, order, and morals in accordance with Article 36 of the Constitution 133. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, however, has rejected this argument.
Background: anti-"cult" institutions
Publicly available government documents detail the central role of the 6-10 Office in the persecution of Falun Gong. Since its inception, the 6-10 Office has also expanded its targets to include other religious and qigong groups that the central government deems "harmful.'' According to Nanjing City Public Security provisions published in June 2008, the 6-10 Office is at the forefront of "organizing and leading the struggle against Falun Gong.'' Its responsibilities include "directing investigations into significant cases,'' "digging deep to uncover covert plots and organizers,'' "gathering intelligence,'' and "organizing and coordinating the prevention, control, and punishment of Falun Gong and other harmful qigong organizations by municipal public security forces." A notice posted on a Yunnan provincial government Web site in March 2008 declares that the government must "sternly guard against" Falun Gong, calling it a "cultic, anti-Communist Party, anti-socialist organization." It warns government workers that "if [you] hear of Falun Gong reactionary propaganda immediately notify your unit leader and the public security '610' Office."
An April 2008 notice posted on the Gutian county government Web site in Fujian province describes the central government's "basic policy'' outlawing the practice of Falun Gong and outlines five primary tasks to implement: (1) "explicitly order the dissemination of information regarding the ban [on Falun Gong],'' (2) "carry out comprehensive administration [of the policy],'' (3) "fully utilize all legal weapons, sternly punish the criminal activities of cult ringleaders and key members,'' (4) "do a good job at transformation through reeducation for the great majority of practitioners,'' and (5) "prevent external cults from seeping into the area, reduce the conditions that allow cults to propagate."
Several reports mention "three zeroes" that security officials should aim to achieve. An official report from the Communist Party Political-Legal Committee of Wuling district in the city of Changde in Hunan province urges cadres to "resolutely achieve the 'three zeroes goal' in 6-10 management work," which is defined as "no petitions in Beijing, zero incidents of local assemblies and protests, zero incidents of interference with television broadcasts." The same report also stresses the need to carry out four tasks to this end: (1) "strengthen the prevention, control, and management [of Falun Gong] and conscientiously keep an unflinching eye on Falun Gong practitioners,'' (2) "strengthen the use of transformation through reeducation as a line of attack against their fortifications, use all your might to transform obstinate Falun Gong elements," (3) "strengthen strikes against and punishment of [Falun Gong], give the 'Falun Gong' underground gang a forceful scare," and (4) "strengthen anti-cult cautionary education, reinforce the people's ability to recognize, prevent, and oppose cults."
Aggressive surveillance is a key aspect of the 6-10 Office's work. The Wuling Party Political-Legal Committee describes having implemented a set of three "responsibility measures" to ensure that "more than 600 Falun Gong practitioners'' are closely monitored by the district police, neighborhood committee, and their own relatives.
The Committee also instructs security officials to organize an "inspect and control" system whereby local police are to conduct home "visits" of Falun Gong practitioners three times per day. In order to monitor more "die-hard" practitioners, public security forces are to form an "inspection and control small group'' to carry out "24-hour surveillance." A county report from Jiangxi province also stresses the need to "dispatch inspection and control personnel" during "important periods of time" in order to ascertain a practitioner's "movement 24 hours a day," and report "unusual situations" in a timely manner to the 6-10 Office. In addition to surveillance, the 6-10 Office is also required to develop broad "intelligence channels'' that allow them to "know whenever the enemy moves."
6-10 Offices throughout China maintain extrajudicial "transformation through reeducation'' facilities that are used specifically to detain Falun Gong practitioners who have completed terms in reeducation through labor (RTL) camps but whom authorities refuse to release. The term "transformation through reeducation" (jiaoyu zhuanhua) describes a process of ideological reprogramming whereby practitioners are subjected to various methods of physical and psychological coercion until they recant their belief in Falun Gong. In 2002, local officials in Hunan joined with the 6-10 Office to establish a "transformation through reeducation camp'' for Falun Gong practitioners where "management methods'' such as solitary confinement are employed. Four years after opening, the camp claimed a "transformation rate" of 70 percent for the 77 detainees in custody. In reporting on a transformation camp in Weifang city in 2000, Pulitzer Prize winner Ian Johnson writes that it was "at these unofficial prisons that the killings [of Falun Gong practitioners] occurred."
Chinese government sources contain many references to the 6-10 Office calling for the "punishment" (chengzhi) of Falun Gong practitioners. In Hunan's Changde city, Wuling district officials boast of having "cracked" 31 Falun Gong cases that produced 33 "public security detentions," 19 "reeducation through labor sentences," 29 "criminal detentions,'' 20 "arrests," as well as the "destruction of 12 underground nests" between 2002 and 2006. A city government Web site in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region lauded a security official for his role in "striking against" and "disposing of'' over 1,000 cases involving "core members" of Falun Gong and the Disciples sect. A report to the 9th CCP Representative Assembly in Guandu District of Kunming City in Yunnan province acknowledges the capture of "26 Falun Gong criminal suspects" in 2005. Eleven of these "suspects" were formally arrested and six were sentenced to RTL camps. Officials from a township in Anhui province posted a report stating that after several years of "strikes against and cleansing'' (daji qingli) of Falun Gong, the majority of local practitioners had "realized their errors and mended their ways.''
Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer who has defended various Chinese activists, exposed numerous forms of torture and violence employed by the 6-10 Office against Falun Gong practitioners. Gao describes the 6-10 Office as a "Gestapo-like organization" with "powers that no civilized state in the world would even consider trying to obtain." He further notes that "of all the true accounts of incredible violence that I have heard, of all the records of the government's inhuman torture of its own people, what has shaken me most is the routine practice on the part of the 6-10 Office and the police of assaulting women's genitals." Gao went missing in September 2007 following the public release of a letter he sent to the U.S. Congress and remains in detention at an undisclosed location.005 23:54 N
Working in concert with the 6-10 Office to undermine Chinese citizens' right to believe in and practice Falun Gong and other banned religious sects is a national network of "anti-cult associations" (fanxiejiao xiehui). Local anti-cult associations can be found at the provincial, county, municipal, and neighborhood level. Such associations have emerged as a prominent information channel for the government's campaign against Falun Gong, as they widely disseminate anti-Falun Gong propaganda by holding study sessions and other community activities to raise "anti-cult awareness.'' The Beijing-based China Anti-Cult Association was founded in November 2000 and claims to be a "non-profit, social welfare organization" that was "voluntarily formed" and "registered according to the law." The government's hand, however, can be clearly discerned in the publications and activities of anti-cult associations.
An anti-cult association in Guizhou province admitted in one report that it was founded "under the leadership of the Party and government." Anti-cult association publications often expose connections with the 6-10 Office. A May 2007 report from Changchun revealed that the Jilin Provincial Anti-Cult Association partnered with provincial and municipal 6-10 Offices to "jointly organize and launch'' anti-cult activities at 87 middle schools throughout the provincial capital.
Directives and measures related to Falun Gong and the Olympics
In April 2008, the central government 6-10 Office issued an internal directive to local governments nationwide mandating propaganda activities to prevent Falun Gong from "interfering with or harming" the Olympics. References to the directive appear on official Web sites in every province and at every level of government. Most official reports focus on demonstrating that local authorities have stepped up security and fulfilled the requirement to "educate" target audiences on the directive's content. Local authorities distributed the directive widely in an effort to raise public awareness. References can be found on various Web sites ranging from public entities with indirect relations with the state (state-run enterprises, public schools, universities, parks, TV stations, meteorological bureaus, etc.) to commercial and social entities with no obvious ties to the state. Anti-cult associations also actively circulated and promoted the 6-10 Office's Olympic directive.
Olympic and municipal officials in Shanghai and Beijing also issued directives pertaining to Falun Gong in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games. The Shanghai Public Security Bureau sent a warning to Falun Gong practitioners and other dissidents in April 2008 demanding that they remain in the city during the Olympics and report to the public security office at least once a week until the end of October. The notice threatened to detain or punish anyone who violates the order. In November 2007, Beijing Olympic organizers reminded visitors to the games that possession of Falun Gong writings is strictly forbidden and that no exceptions would be made for international visitors. The Beijing Public Security Bureau issued a public notice offering a reward of up to 500,000 yuan (US$73,100) for informants who report Falun Gong plans to "sabotage'' the Olympics.172 From January to June 2008, public security agents reportedly arrested at least 208 practitioners from all 18 districts and counties in Beijing municipality.
Falun Gong sources have documented the names and other information for 141 of the 208 practitioners who were detained in Beijing, 30 of whom are now reportedly being held in reeducation through labor camps with sentences as long as two-and-a-half years.
Chinese security officials made statements prior to the Olympics that sought to link Falun Gong with terrorist threats, but produced no evidence to substantiate these claims. Tian Yixiang, the head of the Military Affairs Department of the Beijing Olympics Protection Group, listed Falun Gong among the groups that might "use various means, even extreme violence, to interfere with or harm the smooth execution of the Olympic Games.'' Li Wei, Chairman of the Center for Counterterrorism Studies at the quasi-official China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, categorized Falun Gong as among the top five terrorist threats to the 2008 Olympic Games.
Domestic institutional sources of anti-Falun Gong activity
The PRC Constitution stipulates that the state "protects the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese nationals residing abroad and protects the lawful rights and interests of returned Chinese and of the family members of Chinese nationals residing abroad.'' The primary government institution to which the Constitution assigns this role is the State Council--the executive body at the pinnacle of state power and administration. Within the State Council, the office responsible for implementing this mandate is the State Council's Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO).
In 2001, then OCAO director, Guo Dongpo, urged cadres to "wake up and see that the struggle with the 'Falun Gong' is a serious political struggle.'' Guo called for marshalling OCAO resources to "unite all powers that can be united . . . make them understand and support the Chinese government's position and policy of handling the 'Falun Gong' problem according to the law.'' Guo also called for "striking against the overseas forces of the 'Falun Gong', stop them from spreading, and eliminate their bad influence.'' An official report on the January 2007 OCAO directors' meeting, in which OCAO provincial and municipal leaders gathered with the national leadership in Beijing, stated that the "OCAO also coordinates the launching of anti 'Falun Gong' struggles overseas by relevant departments.''
A 2005 OCAO report urges overseas Chinese and returned overseas Chinese to "firmly establish the concept of 'greater overseas Chinese affairs,' " and to "aggressively expand domestic Chinese and overseas Chinese friendship ties.'' Specifically, overseas Chinese should "aggressively expand the struggle with Taiwanese independence forces, the Falun Gong, ethnic separatism and other enemy forces in order to contribute to the defense of state security.'' A similar provincial report published on the OCAO Web site devotes a section to "resolutely implementing and executing the Party line, the Party's guiding principles, and the Party's policies.'' Within this section, OCAO cadres are called to "attach a high degree of importance to launching struggles to oppose the 'Falun Gong' and to the work of 'safeguarding stability.' " In an OCAO online research journal, a cadre from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) discusses the formation of an "Overseas Chinese Work Corps.'' The cadre writes that within the XUAR Overseas Chinese Work Corps system, "more than 30,000 overseas Chinese'' operate under the "correct leadership of the Party Work Corps,'' and are charged with "resolutely implementing and executing each and every policy task in the Party's and nation's overseas Chinese work.'' One such policy task is defined as "launching a resolute struggle against enemy forces, ethnic separatists, Taiwanese independence forces, and the Falun Gong cult organization.''
In 2006, Chen Yujie, the Director of the OCAO, "expressed his admiration'' to a visiting delegation of overseas Chinese and Chinese- Americans from Chicago for their "positive contributions'' in the "struggle against 'Falun Gong' and other enemy forces.'' Reports of similar appeals to take action against Falun Gong have appeared in Europe, with the China Anti-Cult Association taking a leading role in spreading anti-Falun Gong propaganda there. In September 2008, the OCAO Web site reported that the Chinese Ambassador to Argentina attended an award ceremony in which a local Chinese man was honored for "organizing members of the China Peaceful Unification Promotion Association of Argentina to aggressively struggle against 'Falun Gong' elements and Tibetan independence'' during the Olympic torch relay.
In July 2008, the OCAO held a meeting in Beijing to discuss their "integrated preparations and deployment during the Olympic period.'' A high-ranking official used this occasion to stress to OCAO cadres that "inviting overseas Chinese to attend the opening and closing ceremonies is a heavy task for our office. We must adopt strict organizational measures, thorough security services, and good security defense.'' Immediately thereafter, the official reminded his audience to "strengthen network security protections and the security of internal office secrets'' because "the activities of Falun Gong elements grow wilder by the day.''