U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China Annual Report: Persecution of Falun Gong in China Still Going On
The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) issued its 2015 annual report on October 8. The CECC believes that China has become more repressive and brutal, citing the persecution of Falun Gong and other spiritual and religious practices, and noting increased persecution of human rights lawyers. The report also pointed out that international medical professionals and human rights organizations remain highly skeptical of China's “voluntary” organ donation system, even though the Chinese government has announced that it would cease harvesting organs from executed prisoners for organ transplantation.
Chinese Government Continues Suppression of Falun Gong
The report states: “The government and Party continued a campaign—initiated in 1999—of extensive, systematic, and in some cases violent efforts to pressure Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their belief in and practice of Falun Gong. Authorities also continued to harass and detain family members, lawyers, and others who had contact or were affiliated with Falun Gong practitioners. Examples from this past year include Bian Xiaohui—daughter of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioner Bian Lichao—and Falun Gong practitioner Chen Yinghua.”
Persecution of Seven Falun Gong Practitioners Detailed in 2015 Report
The report provides examples of seven Falun Gong practitioners who have been persecuted in China within the past year.
“In October 2014, Falun Gong practitioner Kong Qiuge, in her late 60s, reportedly died in a prison hospital in Urumqi municipality, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, after authorities detained her on suspicion of a 'cult'-related crime.”
“In October 2014, authorities released Falun Gong practitioner Wang Zhiwen—sentenced to 16 years in prison in 1999 on 'cult'-related charges—from Qianjin Prison in Beijing. Authorities reportedly then transferred him to a 'transformation through reeducation center' (or 'brainwashing center')—a facility where authorities allegedly pressure Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their belief in Falun Gong. Authorities released Wang from the 'transformation through reeducation center' on October 24, 2014. Wang reportedly suffered various forms of torture during his time in prison and was in poor physical and mental condition upon release.”
“On August 22, 2014, the Qinghe District People’s Court, in Huai’an city, Jiangsu province, reportedly sentenced 55-year-old Falun Gong practitioner Zuo Kangwei to three years’ imprisonment. Officials in Huai’an detained Zuo on March 5, 2014, in apparent connection to her practice of Falun Gong, and on March 17, 2014, the Qinghe District People’s Procuratorate approved indictment on charges of 'organizing and using a cult to undermine implementation of the law,' a crime under Article 300 of the PRC Criminal Law.”
Li Guifang, Meng Fanli, Wang Yanxin, and Shi Mengwen
On May 21, 2015, the Jiansanjiang Agriculture Reclamation People’s Court, in Fujin city, Jiamusi municipality, Heilongjiang province, sentenced Falun Gong practitioner Shi Mengwen to three years’ imprisonment and Falun Gong practitioners Li Guifang, Meng Fanli, and Wang Yanxin each to two years’ imprisonment for 'organizing and using a cult to undermine implementation of the law.' Authorities in Jiansanjiang detained the four on March 21, 2014, for joining rights lawyers and others on March 20, 2014, outside a 'legal education center' in Jiansanjiang where authorities had arbitrarily detained Falun Gong practitioners. In 2015, the practitioners’ lawyers filed an appeal, but the Heilongjiang Agriculture Reclamation Intermediate People’s Court, in Harbin municipality, Heilongjiang, reportedly informed the practitioners’ lawyers that the appeal would not be heard in court.”
Twenty Falun Gong Practitioners Arrested in Tianjin
In another example of the persecution of Falun Gong, the report cites the arrest of 20 practitioners in Tianjin before the March 2015 National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference meetings.
“Authorities in Tianjin municipality reportedly detained at least 20 Falun Gong practitioners and confiscated literature, computers, and other personal items from Falun Gong practitioners as part of a coordinated crackdown. According to Minghui (or Clear Wisdom), a U.S.-based news organization affiliated with Falun Gong, Zhao Fei—head of the Tianjin Municipal Public Security Bureau—offered cash rewards to officials who detained Falun Gong practitioners. Officials reportedly detained at least some of the practitioners in connection to their speaking to others about Falun Gong or possessing Falun Gong literature. Those reportedly detained include Zhuge Yufang and her daughter Chen Ruoming, Fu Shaojuan, Zhang Cuihuan, Zhao Manhong, Song Yunling, Qu Lingyun, Tang Yuehua, Li Hongji, Li Jianmin, Zheng Qinglan, Niu Shuhua, Zhao Yuehua, Song Huichan, Wang Huizhen, Li Shanshan, Liu Qiong, Yang Hong, Jiang Yahui, and 'Lu Jie' and 'Xiao Gao'—names that may be pseudonyms. Rights lawyers Tang Jitian and Cheng Hai both reportedly told the Epoch Times—a New York-based newspaper linked to Falun Gong and known for its critical coverage of China—that the Tianjin officials’ actions had no legal basis.”
This past year, authorities continued to harass, detain, and sentence family members, lawyers, and others who had contact or were affiliated with Falun Gong practitioners. For example, on April 15, 2015, the Qiaodong District People’s Court, in Shijiazhuang municipality, Hebei province, sentenced Bian Xiaohui, the daughter of Falun Gong practitioner Bian Lichao, and Falun Gong practitioner Chen Yinghua to prison terms of three years and six months and four years, respectively. On March 12, 2014, officials in Shijiazhuang detained Bian Xiaohui and Chen Yinghua on suspicion of ‘organizing and using a cult to undermine implementation of the law’ after Bian held up a sign that said ‘I want to see my father’ outside Shijiazhuang Prison where her father was serving a 12-year sentence. Chen took a photo of Bian’s protest and posted it online. Following those detentions, officials detained Bian Xiaohui’s mother Zhou Xiuzhen when Zhou went to report the disappearance of her daughter.”
Chinese State-sanctioned Organ Harvesting
The report states that the international community remains skeptical of the Chinese “voluntary” organ donation system.
“In December 2014, Huang Jiefu, a CPPCC Standing Committee member and head of the Human Organ Donation and Transplant Committee, reportedly announced that China would stop using organs from death row inmates for organ transplantation, a practice that international observers asserted continues to affect Falun Gong practitioners. State-run media reported harvesting organs from executed prisoners would end in January 2015 with a move to a fully voluntary organ donation system, but international medical professionals and human rights advocates raised doubts about the 'voluntary' nature of such donations, and emphasized the use of prisoners’ organs violates international ethical standards in transplantation.”
Crackdown against Human Rights Lawyers
The report gives several examples of the suppression of human rights lawyers.
“Since 2012 authorities have harassed, detained, or sentenced an increasing number of public interest lawyers, and efforts expanded this past year to disrupt rights lawyers’ activities. Lawyers who accept politically sensitive cases continue to face disbarment, physical violence, and the closure of their law firms. In July 2015, Chinese authorities took into custody more than 250 individuals in an unprecedented nationwide sweep. Many of those interrogated, detained, or 'disappeared' are self-described human rights lawyers and rights defenders. Several of the lawyers worked in one Beijing-based law firm. As of August 2015, 23 of those taken into custody were criminally detained, put under residential surveillance, or made a victim of enforced disappearance. Authorities engaged in a public smear campaign in government-run media to accuse the lawyers of ‘creating chaos’ and being part of a ‘criminal gang’ that engaged in plots in the name of ‘rights defense, justice, and public interest.’”
“In July 2015, authorities launched a crackdown against rights defense lawyers that resulted in the detention of multiple lawyers who had defended Falun Gong practitioners. Wang Yu and Wang Quanzhang, who had defended Li Guifang, Meng Fanli, Wang Yanxin, and Shi Mengwen in the case described above, were among those detained in the July 2015 crackdown.”
The report also mentions rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, targeted by the government for his defense of Falun Gong practitioners, “whom authorities held in extralegal detention, even after his release from prison, and prevented from leaving China to join his family.”