(Minghui.org) The U.S. State Department published “2020 Report on International Religious Freedom” on May 12, 2021, highlighting the continuous religious persecution against the Chinese people.

Since 1999, the year when the Chinese Communist Party launched the persecution of Falun Gong, an ancient spiritual discipline, China has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a “Country of Particular Concern” every year.

Similar to last year’s religious freedom report, the State Department quoted the Minghui.org website for its daily reporting covering first-hand accounts of persecution against Falun Gong practitioners.

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said at the press briefing on May 12 that they have shared the report with the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. is working to hold human rights violators accountable for their crimes.

“The [Chinese Communist Party (CCP)] government continued to assert control over religion and restrict the activities and personal freedom of religious adherents that it perceived as threatening state or CCP interests ... There continued to be reports of deaths in custody and that the government tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, subjected to forced indoctrination in CCP ideology, or harassed adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices,” said the report.

Below are some highlights from the report.

Statistics about the Persecution of Falun Gong

The 2020 religious freedom report cited the annual summary reports compiled by Minghui.org, which documented 6,659 arrests and 8,576 harassment cases of Falun Gong practitioners in China in 2020, with Hebei, Heilongjiang, Shandong, Jilin, Sichuan, and Liaoning registering the most cases. The practitioners persecuted came from all walks of life, including teachers, engineers, lawyers, journalists, authors, and dancers.

The 2020 annual report included examples of 27 practitioners and three of their family members who were arrested on September 22-23 in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province, as well as the 46 practitioners in Gaomi County, Shandong Province who were arrested and had their blood samples taken on July 22. In another harassment case on August 2, the police shouted to a practitioner, “The law does not apply to you. We’re going to wipe you all out.”

The report also cited a report by Falun Dafa Information Center about the harassment of practitioners in Beijing prior to the major annual political meetings in May, including home-ransacking and brief detention.

Additionally, there were also 622 practitioners sentenced to prison, with terms ranging from three months to 14 years, with an average term of three years and four months.

Another 83 practitioners were confirmed to have been persecuted to death, with some tortured to death in custody and others passing away after being released.

In particular, two of the practitioners, including Ms. Zhang Zhiwen of Henan Province and Ms. Li Ling of Shandong Province, died in custody after four and sixteen days following their arrests in May and June, respectively.

Discrimination and Livelihood Affected

While no law ever criminalizes Falun Gong in China, “the CCP maintains an extralegal, party-run security apparatus [610 Office] to eliminate the Falun Gong movement and other organizations,” noted by the report.

After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the authorities used “facial recognition software and telephone tracking, to identify and arrest members of unregistered or banned religious groups.” A government employee in Shandong Province reported that his superiors ordered him to search for non-local tenants, particularly Falun Gong practitioners and members of other banned groups.

In addition to the arbitrary arrests, harassment, torture, and sentencing of the practitioners, the report found that the practitioners also faced severe discrimination in “employment, housing, and business opportunities.”

Zha Zhuolin, a police supervisor in Yuzhou City, Henan Province, was fired from his job for not renouncing Falun Gong. His supervisor Xu Wang said to him, “The first rule for a police officer is to be loyal to the [Chinese Communist] Party.”

Organ Harvesting

In recent years, more and more countries and organizations are stepping up to condemn the forced organ harvesting crimes perpetrated against prisoners of conscience in China, particularly Falun Gong practitioners.

In the report published by the U.S.-based NGO Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), titled “Organ Procurement and Extrajudicial Execution in China: A Review of the Evidence,” it stated that “Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghur Muslim prisoners of conscience were the most likely source of organs for sale in the country’s organ-transplant market.”

The religious freedom report also documented the final judgment of the China Tribunal, established by the Australia-based NGO International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, which confirmed the decades-long and ongoing state-run program of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, principally Falun Gong practitioners. The judgment was made based on “eyewitness accounts from Falun Gong and Uyghur individuals of involuntary medical examinations, including x-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, and DNA tests.”

Whereabouts of Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Remains Unknown

Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was targeted for seeking justice for Falun Gong practitioners, Christian groups, and other minorities, has remained “disappeared” since September 2017.

Jubilee Campaign, an NGO advocating for human rights and religious freedom, submitted a written document to the 45th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in September 2020, calling for the CCP to “release unconditionally and with immediate effect all political and religious prisoners of conscience, including lawyer Gao Zhisheng.”

While some media reported that lawyer Gao “remained in the custody of state security police,” his daughter submitted a video statement to the UN council, saying, “As of today, I don’t know if he’s alive or not.”

Tougher Stance from the U.S. in Condemning the CCP’s Deteriorating Human Rights Record

In recent years, the U.S. has been taking a tougher stance on the track record of human rights abuses by the CCP.

Mike Pompeo, the former Secretary of State, openly condemned the CCP’s persecution of religious freedom on multiple occasions. In a speech in October 2020 while visiting Indonesia, Pompeo said that “The gravest threat to the future of religious freedom is the Chinese Communist Party’s war against people of all faiths: Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners alike.”

Meanwhile, the Ambassador and other U.S. embassy and consulate general officials initiated more meetings to “advocate for greater religious freedom and tolerance, and for the release of individuals imprisoned for religious reasons.”

On the same day of the release of the 2020 report, Secretary Blinken announced the sanction of Yu Hui, former director of the 610 Office in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, for his “gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners.”

Yu is the second CCP official who has been sanctioned specifically for involvement in the persecution of Falun Gong. The first CCP official was Huang Yuanxiong, chief of the Xiamen Public Security Bureau of the Wucun Police Station, Fujian Province.

“Huang is associated with particularly severe violations of religious freedom of Falun Gong practitioners, namely his involvement in the detention and interrogation of Falun Gong practitioners for practicing their beliefs. Today’s action also applies to Mr. Huang’s spouse.” said a statement from the State Department.

Chinese version available

Category: Falun Dafa in the Media