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Violence against Women in China's Crackdown on Falun Gong Practitioners

April 09, 2000 |  

Statement by Freedom House

In 56th Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights

Mr. Chairman,

I am Feng Yuan speaking on behalf of Freedom House, I would like to read my statement in one of the Commission's official language, which is Chinese.

Freedom House is deeply concerned about the brutal crackdown in China against Falun Dafa practitioners. Please allow me briefly to outline the current situation, specifically focusing on abuses against women.

Two years ago, an official government survey showed that more than 70% of Falun Gong practitioners surveyed in Guangdong Province were women. Since the official count of Falun Dafa practitioners last year was 70- 100 million, the crackdown has directly affected tens of millions of women in China. Many of these are elderly women who originally came to the practice because they found that it improved their health and well-being. These women are just ordinary citizens from all walks of life.

Li Lanqing, China's Vice Premier, has admitted in a speech that between July and October of last year, of those who had gone to appeal to the government in Beijing, over 35,000 practitioners have been arrested, and many of them are women. To our dismay, as is so often the case, it seems that it is these female practitioners, as well as the elderly and the children, who tend to bear the brunt of the harsh suppression. They are being arrested for asking that they be allowed the most basic of human rights -- to hold their own beliefs about the world and quietly to pursue their personal spiritual faith.

Every day there are new examples of violence against female Falun Gong practitioners. In some instances, these women have approached government appeals offices to ask that Falun Gong practitioners be allowed a legal and safe environment in which to practice; in other cases, they have gone to Tiananmen Square to appeal, or have simply responded truthfully when asked by police authorities if they practice Falun Gong. In fact, the only "crime" they have committed was their attempt to exercise their right to freedom of belief, speech, and assembly, and these rights are enshrined in China's own Constitution and guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that China has signed.

In one of the more wrenching cases of abuse by the Chinese authorities, one young woman called Li Juhua was detained on July 25th, a few days after the crackdown began. She was taken by the Public Security guards and brutally raped. We hear that she still has not recovered mentally and emotionally from the trauma of the event.

Even pregnant women cannot avoid the inhumane torture. According to news reports, of the more than 800 practitioners detained in Changchun City on October 3rd last year, some were pregnant women and some had young babies with them. One eyewitness said: "A police officer kicked one pregnant woman's stomach. The pregnant woman's

face was twisted in pain, and the sweat covered her face from the pain" Even more shocking is the case of Lu Yunzhen, age 31 of Jiangsu Province, who was pressured to have an abortion just because the police wanted to keep her in detention for a longer period of time.

Since the crackdown began, there have been at least 11 confirmed deaths resulting from physical torture, abuse, or carbon monoxide gas poisoning in detention centers, and five of them have been of female practitioners.

Zhao Jinhua, a 42 year-old farmer, was arrested while she was working in the fields because police found out that she was a Falun Dafa practitioner. The police officers tried to force her and four other practitioners to read a book that denounced Falun Gong, and when they resisted, they were tortured for an entire afternoon. That night, they were tortured every time they fell sleep. On October 1st, they were practicing meditation in their jail cell when a group of police burst in and started beating them with a rubber club and shocking them with electric wires. The guards dragged Zhao Jinhua out to the office and kept asking her if she would stop practicing Falun Gong. Her answer was always "No," so they continued to club and electrocute her. She lost consciousness three times, but they just revived her and continued to beat her. Finally, she collapsed. She was taken to the hospital, given some injections, and was then returned to the detention center. Fellow prisoners who were later released said that Zhao Jinhua had blood in her urine and she was in constant pain as her body was covered in bruises from the neck down. On October 7, she collapsed again. She stopped breathing not long after she was sent to the emergency room. Foreign media have reported that the autopsy showed that she had died from being beaten with a blunt object, but the police guards told her family that she had died of a heart attack. They had her body cremated before her family members could retrieve her body from the detention center. Two practitioners who revealed this incident to the public were later sentenced to three years of forced labor.

There is also the case of a 60 year-old woman who was beaten to death by police because she was unable to pay a fine. Authorities in the eastern city of Weihai detained Mrs. Chen on February 17th, accusing her of protesting against the government. They demanded a large fine that her family could not pay. Five days later, her family was informed that she was dead.

Recently, a disturbing trend has come to light, and that is the detention and abuse of practitioners in mental hospitals. Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners have reportedly been detained in psychiatric facilities for periods ranging from seven days to three months. Most have been subjected to injections of anti-psychotic drugs and tranquilizers, and electric shock treatments. Because hospitals are not subject to internationally recognized legal procedures, those held in mental hospitals have even less legal recourse than those in the prisons.

One woman, Hong Jizhen, was arrested and beaten in Tiananmen Square and was put into the Nanjing Mental Hospital. Initially, the hospital refused to commit her, but finally had to bow to pressure from the local government. The doctor told the family that she didn't have any mental illnesses but was in the hospital only because she insisted on practicing Falun Gong. While in the hospital, she was forced to receive injections and to take pills that left her feeling sick and extremely weak. When the family requested her release, they were told: "We have no choice. As long as the police sent her here, we have to medicate her." As far as we know, she is still in the hospital.

Zhu Hang, a female professor at Dalian Polytech University, was arrested on August 30, 1999, while practicing the Falun Gong exercise in a park. She was tortured so badly that she was unable to move. When the photos showing her tortured body were reported overseas, she was charged with the crime of "leaking state secrets," and now not even her family members know where she is.

These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Many other practitioners have been sent to reform-through-labor camps, some have received harsh punishments for publicizing the facts of what is now happening in China, some have undergone show-trials sentencing them to long jail terms, and others have simply disappeared.

In detention, there is a real intent to humiliate and degrade Falun Gong practitioners. There have been first-hand accounts of police ordering female detainees to strip, beating them when they are naked, and subjecting them to sexual harassment.

All manner of physical tortures and psychological terrors once used at the height of the Cultural Revolution have resurfaced. The torture device known-as "Di-Lao" which literally translates as "Hell-on-Earth" is again being used to clamp prisoners in a vice-like grip that cuts into the flesh when they move or fall asleep. Police have also been resorting to using clubs and cattle prods. One woman said she could hear screaming and could detect the smell of burning flesh coming from the next prison cell as prison guards used a branding iron on the face of another female practitioner.

The social repercussions of this persecution cannot be predicted. It is not just a matter of 35,000 detainees or a few thousand in prisons and labor camps. Thousands of families have been displaced from their state-assigned homes or have lost their state-assigned jobs. In a tightly controlled society like China's, there is virtually no opportunity to find new employment, so their very livelihood is threatened. Students are even being expelled from schools. When mothers are detained, their children are left at home unattended, and some children have been sent to orphanages. Neighbors and family members are being forced to turn people in, breeding a climate of fear and distrust. Hundreds have reportedly been dragged from their beds in the middle of the night. Alicia Zhao, a US resident visiting Shenzhen, was pulled from her hotel room for the "crime" of meeting with a few local Falun Gong practitioners and was only released from detention after two weeks. In detention, she was forced to be bare-footed in the cold December weather and make 70 hair combs a day. She was told that these hair combs would be exported for foreign currency. The Chinese government has claimed that Falun Gong is a threat to social stability, but it would be more accurate to say that it is the government's brutal backlash that is the real threat.

It should be noted that despite the horrors inflicted on the Falun Dafa practitioners in China, they do not strike back. They do not believe in violence or retaliation because their practice is based on the universal principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance. Their only recourse has been peaceful appeals to both the Chinese government and to the international community.

Mr. Chairman, there appears to be no immediate end in sight to the tragedy occurring to Falun Gong practitioners in China, so we request that this Commission investigate the issue of violence against women in China's crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners and ensure that China complies with its own Constitution as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thank you.