The following statement by UK Member of Parliament Mark Lancaster was read at a press conference opposite the Chinese Embassy in London on Saturday April 28th 2007. The press conference was the start of a day of activities to commemorate April 25th 1999 when Falun Gong practitioners in China appealed to the government to release fellow practitioners who were wrongfully imprisoned. This appeal was used by members of the Chinese Communist Party as an excuse to publicly launch the persecution against Falun Gong, which had previously been happening clandestinely.
I believe that respect for human rights in China continues to be a matter of serious concern. The detention and harassment of democracy activists, religious practitioners and Falun Gong adherents runs contrary to international human rights standards, and I am aware that religious beliefs, freedoms of association, expression and of media are systematically curtailed in the People’s Republic. Since Falun Gong was declared illegal by the Chinese authorities in 1999, I know that large numbers of its practitioners have been detained and their leaders given punitive sentences. Whilst the government does not take a view on the nature of Falun Gong as an organisation, we are concerned by reports of human rights abuses against its members.
The case of Ms. Feng Yang has come to my attention, and her experience in one of the forced labour camps seems deplorable for this day and age. She was deprived of her standard rights such as moving, eating and washing, which is unimaginable. She spent two years at this camp and the aftermath of long term malnutrition and physical persecution have been severe. Various methods of torture were described in her statement, and yet, when an international human rights organisation came to visit the camp, all signs of persecution and torture were covered. This feeling of being trapped with no help is still being experienced today by many other prisoners and therefore it is essential that we raise public awareness.
The government has regularly urged the need for the fundamental rights of all Chinese citizens, particularly the most vulnerable, to be respected in accordance with international human rights standards. The suffering which Falun Gong practitioners have experienced over the past eight years is not what one would describe as civil or conceivable in the 21st Century. Mistakes of the past are in effect being repeated today in China and it is vital that this persecution is stopped. Books and tapes have been destroyed, internet websites prohibited and the public have been severely pressurised. Individuals are unable to stand against it alone; therefore it is necessary that we, who live in a privileged, democratic country, give our support to those who do not have freedom.
For us nations with democratically elected governments, freedom of belief appears to be the most basic of human rights, and I hope that something shall be done to help those in need.
Mark Lancaster MP
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