US State Department Released Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1999 (2/25/00)

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks on the Release of Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 1999
February 25, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

(Part related to China)
China is perhaps the most prominent example of a country with which we have substantial and well-known differences on human rights, but with which we are also engaged on a wide variety of other issues.

Critics suggest that U.S. concerns about China's human rights record should be expressed by denying normal relations on trade. The Administration believes that approach would actually undercut the positive forces at work in China.

As the reports we release today reflect, we will continue to speak out on behalf of those in China who are systematically denied basic political and religious freedoms. And we will seek a Resolution focusing attention on such practices at the UN Human Rights Commission meeting this spring.

But we also see greater prospects for progress by pursuing our interests through our ties with China than by cutting those ties.

For example, the Administration has negotiated an agreement with Beijing on China's accession to the WTO. That agreement will benefit both countries economically. But it will also require China to follow international trading rules, open its regulations to public scrutiny and reduce the role of state-owned enterprises. This should expand the rule of law and hasten the development of a more open society.

The human rights situation in China will not be transformed overnight. But joining the WTO will add to the pressures welling up from within China for greater personal and political freedom. That is why democratic leaders such as Hong Kong's Martin Lee have expressed strong support for the WTO agreement on human rights grounds.

With respect to both human rights and trade, our policy towards China is the same: to engage on principle, to encourage China to participate in the international system, and to press China to observe international rules.

Harold Hongju Koh, Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Statement Regarding the Release of the 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Washington, DC, February 25, 2000

(Part related to China)

In China, the government's poor human rights record deteriorated markedly throughout the year, as the government intensified efforts to suppress dissidents, particularly organized dissent. In the weeks leading up to both the tenth anniversary of the June 4th Tiananmen Square massacre and the fiftieth anniversary of the October 1 founding of the People's Republic, the Chinese Government moved against political dissidents across the country, detaining and formally arresting scores of activists in cities and provinces nationwide and thwarting any attempts to use the anniversaries as opportunities for protest. China continued to restrict freedom of religion, and intensified controls on unregistered churches. Unapproved religious groups, including Protestant and Catholic groups, continued to experience varying degrees of official interference, repression and persecution. Some minority groups, particularly Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uighurs, were subjected to increased restrictions of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion, as the government clamped downed on dissent and "separatist" activities. Control and manipulation of the press and the Internet by the Government increased during the year. In our report we cite instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention, and denial of due process.

1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: China
(Part related to Falun Gong)

The Government's poor human rights record deteriorated markedly throughout the year, as the Government intensified efforts to supress dissent, particularly organized dissent. A crackdown against a fledgling opposition party, which began in the fall of 1998, broadened and intensified during the year. By year's end, almost all of the key leaders of the China Democracy Party (CDP) were serving long prison terms or were in custody without formal charges, and only a handful of dissidents nationwide dared to remain active publicly. Tens of thousands of members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were detained after the movement was banned in July; several leaders of the movement were sentenced to long prison terms in late December and hundreds of others were sentenced administratively to reeducation through labor in the fall. Late in the year, according to some reports, the Government started confining some Falun Gong adherents to psychiatric hospitals. The Government continued to commit widespread and well-documented human rights abuses, in violation of internationally accepted norms. These abuses stemmed from the authorities' extremely limited tolerance of public dissent aimed at the Government, fear of unrest, and the limited scope or inadequate implementation of laws protecting basic freedoms. The Constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights; however, these protections often are ignored in practice. Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention, and denial of due process. Prison conditions at most facilities remained harsh. In many cases, particularly in sensitive political cases, the judicial system denies criminal defendants basic legal safeguards and due process because authorities attach higher priority to maintaining public order and suppressing political opposition than to enforcing legal norms. The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press, and increased controls on the Internet; self-censorship by journalists also increased. The Government severely restricted freedom of assembly, and continued to restrict freedom of association. The Government continued to restrict freedom of religion, and intensified controls on some unregistered churches. The Government continued to restrict freedom of movement. The Government does not permit independent domestic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor publicly human rights conditions. Violence against women, including coercive family planning practices--which sometimes include forced abortion and forced sterilization; prostitution; discrimination against women; trafficking in women and children; abuse of children; and discrimination against the disabled and minorities are all problems. The Government continued to restrict tightly worker rights, and forced labor in prison facilities remains a serious problem. Child labor persists. Particularly serious human rights abuses persisted in some minority areas, especially in Tibet and Xinjiang, where restrictions on religion and other fundamental freedoms intensified.


Falun Gong (or Wheel of the Law, also known as Falun Dafa) blends aspects of Taoism, Buddhism, and the meditation techniques of Qigong (a traditional martial art) with the teachings of Li Hongzhi, who left the country in 1998. The Government estimates that there may be as many as 2.1 million adherents of Falun Gong; Falun Gong followers estimate that there are over 100 million adherents. Some experts estimate that the true number of Falun Gong adherents lies in the tens of millions. Falun Gong does not consider itself a religion and has no clergy or formal places of worship.

On April 25, more than 10,000 adherents of Falun Gong gathered in front of the Zhongnanhai leadership compound, where most of the country's top officials live and work, to protest the detention of some Falun Gong practitioners and to seek government acknowledgment of the legitimacy of their practice. The sudden appearance of such a large crowd of organized demonstrators caught the Government by surprise; however, it allowed the peaceful protest to continue for more than 12 hours and publicly stated that the organization was not illegal. Following the April demonstration, the Government decided that Falun Gong was a threat to stability. In June despite a government warning against disturbing social stability or holding large gatherings, Falun Gong practitioners continued to hold demonstrations in cities throughout the country. On July 22 the Government officially declared Falun Gong illegal and began a nationwide crackdown against the movement. Around the country, tens of thousands of practitioners were rounded up and detained for several days, often in open stadiums with poor, overcrowded conditions with inadequate food, water, and sanitary facilities. Practitioners who refused to renounce their beliefs were expelled from their schools or fired from their jobs. Some of those detained were government officials and Communist Party members. Some high-ranking practitioners were forced to disavow their ties to Falun Gong on national television. There also were reports that the Public Security Bureau forbade the renting of apartments to members of the Falun Gong, and that local government leaders and heads of institutions in the northeast were summoned to Beijing or fired if too many persons under their jurisdictions participated in Falun Gong demonstrations.

In addition to detaining Falun Gong practitioners, in July the Government also launched a massive propaganda campaign against the group and its leader (see section 2.a.).
As part of its crackdown on Falun Gong, the Government seized and destroyed Falun Gong literature, including over 1 million books, in well publicized sweeps of homes and bookstores. A Falun Gong website designed and operated by computer engineer Zhang Haitao of Jilin province was shut down by the Government on July 24 (see Section 1.f.); Zhang himself reportedly was arrested on July 29. Police in Dandong city, Liaoning province reported that they had arrested six workers and a factory boss for printing outlawed Falun Gong material. On October 28, several Falun Gong practitioners held a clandestine press conference for foreign reporters in which they described an increase in harassment and in physical abuse by the police. Many of the practitioners involved later reportedly were arrested; the authorities questioned some of the foreign journalists who attended the press conference and temporarily confiscated their press credentials and residence permits.

In spite of the harshness of the crackdown, Falun Gong demonstrations continued around the country throughout the summer and into the fall. Authorities responded quickly by breaking up demonstrations--at times forcibly--and detaining demonstrators. In September, the state-run press reported a raid on a gathering of 19 Falun Gong followers during which 5 were arrested formally. In mid-September, one NGO reported that at least 300 Falun Gong adherents were arrested in 9 cities over the course of 1 week. In late October, the pace of protests and detentions picked up as Falun Gong practitioners from around the country converged on Beijing and began a series of peaceful, low-key demonstrations in Tiananmen Square to protest a new anti-cult law being considered by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. Most of the protests were small and short-lived, as the police, who roamed the square in increased numbers, questioned persons and quickly arrested anyone who admitted to being or appeared to be a practitioner. On some days, scores of practitioners were arrested as they entered the square in small groups to protest. During the last week of October, a Communist Party official told the foreign press that 3,000 persons from other parts of the country were detained in police sweeps of Beijing for non-residents. On November 16, during a visit to Beijing by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, more than a dozen Falun Gong practitioners who unfurled a Falun Gong banner were detained forcibly in Tiananmen Square. On November 30, Vice Premier Li Lanqing reportedly stated in a speech to Communist Party members that over 35,000 detentions of Falun Gong practitioners were made by the authorities between July 22 and October 30 (the Government later clarified Li's remarks by stating that this figure represented the total number of confrontations that police had with adherents of Falun Gong, pointing out that many persons had multiple encounters with police.)

Authorities also detained foreign practitioners. For example, on November 24, four foreign practitioners of Falun Gong were detained along with other practitioners in Guangzhou. The foreigners were released a few days later and expelled from the country; the Chinese citizens arrested with them remained in custody. On December 15, three Chinese nationals with foreign residency were detained in Shenzhen for visiting other Falun Gong practitioners; they were sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.

There were credible reports of beatings and deaths of practitioners in detention who refused to recant their beliefs; according to Amnesty International, some adherents also were tortured by electric shocks and by having their hands and feet shackled and linked with crossed steel chains (see Sections 1.a and 1.c.). In October a Falun Gong website reported that a Falun Gong practitioner from Shandong province, Zhao Jinhua, died as a result of beatings received while in police custody. The official media reported that Zhao died of a heart attack while in custody. On October 27, police in Heilongjiang province stated that Chen Ying, an 18-year old practitioner of Falun Gong who died while in police custody in August, had jumped to her death from a moving train. Zhao Dong also allegedly jumped from a train while in police custody; he reportedly died in late September.

Although the vast majority of ordinary Falun Gong practitioners who were detained later were released, authorities acted more forcefully against practitioners it identified as leaders. On October 25, the official media reported that at least 13 Falun Gong leaders had been charged with stealing and leaking state secrets. On October 31, a new anti-cult law was passed, which specifies prison terms of 3 to 7 years for cult members who "disrupt public order" or distribute publications. Under the new law, cult leaders and recruiters can be sentenced to 7 years or more in prison. On November 3, the authorities used the new law to charge six Falun Gong leaders, some of whom, it is believed, were arrested in July. Also, on November 8, the Government confirmed that 111 Falun Gong practitioners had been charged with serious crimes including, among others, disturbing social order and stealing state secrets. The Government issued a warrant for the arrest of Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi, and requested Interpol's assistance in apprehending him. Interpol declined to do so, on the ground that the request was political in nature.

Many others not formally arrested reportedly were sentenced administratively, without trial, to up to 3 years in reeducation-through-labor camps. For example, on October 12, authorities reportedly sentenced 5 Falun Gong practitioners to a 1-year sentence in a reeducation-through-labor camp for "disturbing the social order." The exact number of persons sentenced in this manner is unknown, although the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported that at least 500 persons were sentenced to terms of reeducation- through-labor. Late in the year, according to some reports, the Government started confining some Falun Gong adherents to psychiatric hospitals.

Some of the leaders of Falun Gong were brought to trial by year's end. On December 26, four practitioners of Falun Gong were sentenced by a Beijing court for using a cult "to obstruct justice, causing human deaths in the process of organizing a cult, and illegally obtaining state secrets." Li Chang, a former official at the Public Security Ministry, was sentenced to 18 years in prison; former Railways Ministry official Wang Zhiwen was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Two other high-ranking Falun Gong members, Ji Liewu and Yao Jie, were sentenced to 12 years and 7 years in prison. According to one international human rights organization, the Ministry of Justice required attorneys who wished to represent Falun Gong practitioners to obtain government permission.

There were reports that Qigong groups not associated with the Falun Gong have experienced an increase in harassment, as well, particularly since the ban on Falun Gong was announced in July. Two leaders of such groups reportedly were arrested, and the Government banned the practice of Qigong exercises on public or government property. This has created an atmosphere of uncertainty for many, if not most, qigong practitioners.