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United Nations
Issue 36: 2010 UN Report Highlights Falun Gong Persecution in China  
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2010 UN Report Highlights
Falun Gong Persecution in China

U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, Mr. Manfred Nowak, met with a group of Falun Gong practitioners during the UN Human Rights Council's 13th Session, among them are Mei Xuan (first left), Ziyi Fang(second left) and Huimin Wang(third left). They were jailed and tortured in China because of their belief in Falun Gong

As in previous years, allegations of severe human rights violations in China were a significant component in reports presented at the 13th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, held in Geneva from March 1-26th. Three UN Special Rapporteurs detailed ongoing violations of Falun Gong Practitioners' human rights in their annual investigations and conclusions to the UN. The Rapporteurs included Manfred Nowak, whose mandate is to investigate torture; Asma Jahangir, whose mandate is freedom of religion and belief; and Margaret Sekaggya, who investigates the status of human rights defenders around the world.

All three Rapporteurs sent numerous appeals to the Chinese government concerning Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, Christians, Uyghurs and those who have sought to defend their legal and human rights. Their reports can be downloaded from the UN official web site: (Document Numbers: Manfred Nowak, A/HRC/13/39/Add.1, A/HRC/13/39/Add.5; Asma Jahangir, A/HRC/13/40/Add.1; Margaret Sekaggya, A/HRC/13/22/Add.1).

The persecution of Chinese lawyers was mentioned in several reports. Some lawyers were jailed for legally defending Falun Gong practitioners. On March 31, 2009, Ms. Sekaggya sent an urgent appeal, together with two other Rapporteurs, requesting information about Wei Liangyue, director of the Harbin-based Jiaodian Law Firm, and his wife, Du Yongjing. For over 20 years Mr. Wei provided legal aid to local people facing human rights violations, including Falun Gong practitioners who had been detained for their belief. According to information received, Mr. Wei and his wife were detained by authorities in February, 2009. It is feared that they have been psychologically and physically abused while in custody. "Both were reportedly warned by the authorities not to discuss the case publicly and not to hire a lawyer to represent them", the report stated.

Another human rights lawyer, Zhang Kai, "...was hung up with handcuffs in an iron cage" while in police custody. Before Zhang Kai and his colleague Li Chunfu were even arrested, at the home of their client - the family of deceased Falun Gong practitioner Jiang Xiqing - police officers "began pulling their hair, twisting their arms and beating them while pinning them on the ground". Ms. Sekaggya wrote that, according to the received information, during their interrogation they were both threatened not to represent any Falun Gong defendant. After being released, "their hands were covered with bruises and scars; Zhang Kai's hands were also numb and swollen and Li Chunfu had troubled hearing in one ear."

Mr. Nowak gave a similarly troubling portrayal of the violence China's security forces have visited on innocents, including "16 deaths of Falun Gong practitioners due to injuries allegedly sustained in custody in China." Mr. Nowak requested an explanation for the deaths, along with other cases of harassment, beatings, and torture from Chinese authorities. The 16 Falun Gong practitioners are: Hu Yanrong, Huang Fajun, Xiong Zhengming, Bai Heguo, Zong Xiuxia, Yu Zhou, Gu Jianmin, Gu Qun, Fan Dezhen, Liu Quan, Wu Xinming, Chen Yumei, Zhong Zhenfu, Yang Jingfen, Sun Aimei, and Hou Lihua.

Nowak's report included the cases of Zhou Xiangyang and Wang Yonghang. Mr. Zhou was sentenced to 9 years in prison in May, 2003. It is alleged that in prison he was brutally tortured for refusing to give up his belief in Falun Gong. He was then told that he would have to renounce his belief before being eligible for medical treatment. Mr. Wang Yonghang, a former lawyer from Dalian City, Liaoning Province, was reportedly beaten severely, resulting in a broken right ankle. In other reported cases victims were tortured to the point of death, put into solitary confinement for months or sent to forced labor camps for years because of their Falun Gong-related peaceful activities or beliefs.

Nowak wrote in his report, "China maintains the most institutionalized method of opposing political dissents that I have encountered. Political dissidents and human rights defenders, ethnic groups that are often suspected of separation (particularly Tibetans and Uyghurs), as well as spiritual groups such as Falun Gong are often accused of political crimes such as endangering national security through undermining the unity of the country, subversion or unlawfully supplying State secrets to individuals outside the country. Such individuals are not only at a high risk of torture when arrested, but the Reeducation Through Labor (RTL) Regime that is often used as a sentence for political crimes employs measures of coercion, humiliation and punishment aimed at altering the personality of detainees up to the point of breaking their will."

Recounting experiences from his fact-finding mission to China, Nowak stated, "In China, many detainees were simply too scared to engage in any conversation with me, even if it was of a rather general nature and did not refer to any compromising issues. The mere fact that they could possibly be perceived to have complained to the UN Special Rapporteur was a risk which many legitimately did not want to take on them. Other, more daring detainees agreed to talk to me only after I assured them confidentiality and not to include their accounts in the appendix on individual cases in my report. The possibility of reprisals against those who I interviewed strongly influenced the conduct of my fact-finding."

Regarding the 16 deaths of Falun Gong practitioners due to injuries allegedly sustained in custody, Ms. Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, wrote in her transmission to China, "While the circumstances under which the deaths occurred differ, all the victims were Falun Gong practitioners and they all died under the supervision of law enforcement officers or soon after their release from custody. Concern is expressed that the arrests and deaths of these individuals were solely connected with their activities as Falun Gong practitioners."

The Chinese government's typical response to such reports has been to ignore or flatly deny them.

The annual reports published by UN Special Rapporteurs' are among the most highly regarded documents on the status of human rights in the international community. They are based on formally received allegations and consequent communications with governments around the world as well as fact-finding investigations undertaken during the previous year.

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