(Clearwisdom.net) The US State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released its 2009 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on October 26, 2009. The East Asia and Pacific chapter focuses mainly on the restriction and abuse of religious freedom in China. The report maintained that Falun Gong groups, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and members of unregistered Protestant and Catholic groups have their religious freedom the most severely violated. The abuses against these people continued during the reporting period.

The "Status of Religious Freedom" section records the situation of Falun Gong practitioners in China. The report pointed out that, prior to the onset of the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, "it estimated that there were 70 million adherents." "Falun Gong sources estimate that tens of millions continue to practice privately."

Speaking of the CCP's interfering with the employment of some individuals due to their religious or spiritual beliefs or activities, the report states, "There were widespread reports that employers, both Chinese and foreign, were discouraged from hiring members of Falun Gong."

The report highlights the ordeal of China's human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. "On February 4, 2009, a dozen police officers forcibly took Christian attorney Gao Zhisheng from his hometown in Shaanxi. Gao had defended house church Christians and Falun Gong members. The Ministry of Justice rated him one of the country's top ten lawyers in 2001. After his arrest, NGOs published a letter he reputedly wrote detailing more than 50 days of brutal torture at the hands of police during a detention in 2007. Gao claimed he was tortured in retribution for writing an open letter to President Bush and the US Congress describing the Government's human rights abuses, including religious freedom abuses against Falun Gong and house churches. He also questioned the choice of Beijing as host of the 2008 Olympic Games. Gao's current whereabouts were unknown at the end of the reporting period. Gao's wife and children, who resettled in the United States during the reporting period, stated that security officials kept them under constant surveillance at home and school while they lived in Beijing. During sensitive periods, they were forcibly relocated to other parts of the country."

The report gave a brief introduction to the persecution of Falun Gong in China and listed a few specific cases:

"According to Falun Gong practitioners abroad, since 1999 several hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been detained for engaging in Falun Gong practices, admitting that they adhere to the teachings of Falun Gong, or refusing to criticize the organization or its founder. The organization reported its members have been subject to excessive force, abuse, rape, detention, forcible psychiatric commitment and treatment (including involuntary medication and electric shock treatment), and torture, and that some members, including children, have died in custody. Practitioners who refused to recant their beliefs were sometimes subjected to extrajudicial 'legal education' centers after the expiration of their criminal sentences. According to former RTL [forced labor] camp detainees, Falun Gong practitioners make up a significant percentage of the RTL camps' population."

"Overseas Falun Gong organizations alleged a surge in arrests and deaths of Falun Gong practitioners carried out to prevent disturbances during the Olympic Games. They claimed that authorities arrested thousands of adherents and imprisoned hundreds, and that 100 practitioners died in 2008 as a result of persecution. Reports of abuse were difficult to confirm because the Government prevented Falun Gong members from meeting with foreign reporters and government officials. These organizations also reported that the Government harassed their members in other countries, including the United States, through threatening phone calls and physical harassment. The Government frequently used harsh rhetoric against Falun Gong. In May 2009, several attorneys who had represented Falun Gong practitioners did not have their licenses renewed by the Lawyers Associations in their localities.

"In April 2009, Zhang Xingwu, a retired physics professor from Shandong Province, was sentenced to seven years in prison after police found Falun Gong literature in his apartment.

"In November 2009, a Shanghai court sentenced Liu Jin to three and a half years in prison for downloading from the Internet and distributing to others information about Falun Gong.

"In December 2009, Bu Dongwei left the country after serving two and a half years at a re-education through labor facility; he maintained that he was tortured because of his Falun Gong activities. Before his arrest, he worked for The Asia Foundation, a U.S.-based organization.

"On August 8, 2008, Falun Gong practitioner Cao Changling disappeared while riding his bicycle. Two days later, his family was summoned to the Tenth Wuhan City Hospital, where they found him unconscious, with broken bones and bruises. Cao died on August 15 without regaining consciousness; his family maintained that the circumstances of the death were suspicious.

"On January 26, 2008, Beijing police stopped musician Yu Zhou and his wife, poet Xu Na, for speeding. Police found Falun Gong materials in their car and detained the couple. Yu died in custody 11 days later. He was reportedly tortured; police refused to allow an autopsy. His wife was sentenced to three years in prison."

When discussing the US government policy, the report stated that "US officials protested vigorously when there were credible reports of religious harassment or discrimination in violation of international laws and standards, and they requested information in cases of alleged mistreatment in which the facts were incomplete or contradictory. On numerous occasions the Department of State, the Embassy, and the consulates general protested government actions to curb freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, including the arrests of Falun Gong followers, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and Catholic and Protestant clergy and lay persons."

"Since 1999 the Secretary of State has designated the country as a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The most recent re-designation as a CPC was on January 16, 2009."

Source: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2009/127268.htm