Amnesty International's Speech at Ottawa Press Conference
Zhao Jinhua, a 42 year old farmer and Falun Gong follower in Shandong province, was arrested by the police on September 27, 1999 while she was working in the fields. She was pressured to renounce her Falun Gong practice and repeatedly beaten with clubs and electronic batons when she refused to do so. On October 7 she was sent to the county hospital twice for emergency treatment but she was already dead before she arrived at the hospital the second time.
The family of 60-year-old Chen Zixiu, a Falun Gong follower, were asked to collect her body from a police station also in Shandong province, where she had been detained for four days in February of this year. Her body was covered with bruises, the teeth were broken and there was blood coming out of her ears.
Cheng Fengrong, a 42-year-old woman and Falun Gong follower, was detained by Shunyi police and reportedly slapped while being handcuffed to a tree, beaten with a broom which broke in two and then forced to stand barefoot in the snow; she was also punched and kicked and had two basins of cold water poured onto the back of her neck which froze under her feet.
During the past year, countless Falun Gong followers in China have been tortured in detention. At least 12 have reportedly died in police custody as a result of their injuries, including Chen Zixiu and Zhao Jinhua.
On July 22 1999 the Falun Gong movement was banned by the Chinese government. Chinese authorities claimed that the movement, which teaches a practice of meditation and breathing exercises (Note from Editor: Falun Gong does not involve breathing exercises), was a threat to social and political stability. The ban was imposed after the government reportedly became concerned with Falun Gong's ability to mobilize large numbers. 10,000 followers stood quietly in front of the leadership compound in Beijing on 25 April 1999.
In the year since the ban, Amnesty International has documented an extensive pattern of serious human rights violations. Tens of thousands of Falun Gong followers have been arbitrarily detained by the police. Some have been held for short periods, and pressured to renounce their beliefs. Many have been tortured or ill-treated in detention. As I've said, at least 12 have died as a result. Some have been held in psychiatric hospitals and forced to take drugs. Thousands remain in detention. Some have been charged with crimes and sentenced after grossly unfair trials. Others have been sent to labour camps without trial. New arrests and detentions continue to be reported every day. Anyone who dares to speak out about the persecution of Falun Gong followers faces harsh reprisals.
The campaign against Falun Gong is part of a massive crackdown on followers of religious and spiritual movements in China. The crackdown is politically motivated. The vast majority of its victims are ordinary people who merely exercised peacefully their fundamental rights to freedom of belief, association and expression.
It must stop. The arbitrary detentions, unfair trials, torture and deaths resulting from this campaign must come to an end.
It will be too late for Zhao Jinhua, Chen Zixiu and other Falun Gong followers who have died as a result of their beliefs. It is not too late for the many thousands who remain in detention. It is time for the Chinese government to ensure that the basic rights of Falun Gong practitioners are upheld. It is time for the Canadian government and other governments to insist that Chinese authorities cease this campaign.
Category: Rallies & Protests