Yesterday, six [practitioners] of the Chinese Falun Gong movement, including a Belgian, filed a complaint against the former Chinese head of state Jiang Zemin and two other Chinese leaders. Jiang is sued for genocide, crimes against humanity and torture. It will be the first complaint that uses the new law on genocide.
Now the federal prosecutor has to investigate and decide whether the complaint can be accepted. The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Georges-Henri Beauthier, hopes for a conclusion around the middle of September. He stated that it is certain that the new Belgian law on genocide can be used in this case.
In China, Falun Gong was banned in 1999 and is being violently suppressed. By using propaganda, Jiang has tried to discredit the [practice] in other countries. But in the U.S., as well as in Europe, there are resolutions which protect the practitioners against the persecution.
Meanwhile, at least 800 people have been tortured to death. For the plaintiffs this was the most important reason to sue Jiang. The Chinese leader stepped down last year, but still has a lot of power behind the scenes, notably as the head of the military.
According to Matthias Slaats, the Belgian plaintiff, there is a lot of evidence. We could have involved thousands of cases in this complaint but we wanted to keep it clear. One of the plaintiffs is a Chinese woman with Australian nationality. In China, she was arrested and severely tortured in prison. She was only released because she is an Australian citizen. Another woman says that her husband was tortured to death in 2001. The evidence in these cases is very strong. We know what we are starting. Also, Mister Beauthier emphasised that the complaint is based on punishable facts.
The existence of the new law on genocide is favourable for the plaintiffs. According to the new version of this notorious Belgian law, the complaint must have a connection with Belgium. As a matter of fact it has to be a complaint that cannot be handled by international courts or by the courts in the respective country. In this case, that is no problem because there is a Belgian victim, Mister Slaats, amongst the plaintiffs. Moreover this complaint cannot be handled by the International Criminal Court in The Hague because China doesnt recognise this court. It is now up to the federal prosecutor to decide if the complaint is acceptable.
On Wednesday, in consequence of the complaint, around fifty adherents of Falun Gong held a demonstration in front of the Palace of Justice. They had banners and did Falun Gong exercises on little carpets.
1992-1998: Master Li introduces Falun Gong to the public. In a short time Falun Gong became popular with millions of people all over the world. Soon got world-wide recognition; moreover the Chinese government supported this way of life.
April 1999: Practitioners protest against an article in a state-run magazine in which the movement was slandered. The police disrupt the protest in an aggressive manner. The first arrests were made.
July 1999: Due to the large protests of the practitioners, the Chinese government feels threatened and decides to ban Falun Gong. The persecution begins.
2000-up to present: Falun Gong practitioners keep invoking human rights to exercise their freedom of belief and freedom of speech and to appeal to the government. More and more stories are coming to light of practitioners being tortured in labour camps. At the moment, there are already more then 400 cases whereby torture led to death. During an international U.N.-convention in Geneva in April 2001, a motion denouncing the human rights situation in China was vetoed.
Honesty, Forbearance, Goodness and regular relaxed exercises. In a nutshell, that is Falun Gong. Matthias Slaats (31) from Ghent began to practise three years ago and tells us how he became less selfish, nicer and healthier. But in Beijing, he ended up in prison for a short while because they assumed he was a danger to the state.
Slaats: Due to an article in this newspaper (De Morgen) in 2000 I began to learn Falun Gong. I read about the practice and about the persecution of practitioners in China, and I felt intrigued. Via a website, I began to search for the books.
Falun Gong is a cultivation practice of mind and body which is easy to learn on your own. You can download everything for free.
Since 2000, not much has changed in Slaats daily life: I especially try to live according to those three principles [Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance]. Some people compare it with what Ghandi lived for. I work for a software company. Of course there are sometimes conflicts. For example if I put a lot of energy into a project that is rejected without any reason, the anger wells up inside. With exercising Falun Gong I try to keep a distance from it. Call it a way of detachment.
This does not means that I am not involved and that I dont care, but I care less about my own gain. Most of the people live by the principle that they go after whatever they can in their life. We live from a kind of inner peace where you value your own gain less and pay more attention to [the wellbeing of] others. I admit, this is sometimes difficult and sometimes it fails, but it is catching. My wife saw how I gradually became more serene, so she also started Falun Gong. As a matter of fact it improves your health. During the last three years, I havent had to see a doctor, while in the past I went frequently. We do our exercises in a park, once a week, with approximately eight people. This also happens in other cities and in at least sixty other countries. Because we are not organised, I dont know exactly how many people practise Falun Gong in Belgium. I assume theres between 50 and 100 people.
In the beginning Falun Gong was encouraged in China. It saved people money on health care costs. Within seven years there were more than 70 million practitioners. That was more than the members of the communist party. That could have been the problem at the beginning. Of course, Jiang wanted there to still be some communists. From 1999, Falun Gong practitioners were treated with violence and the whole movement was officially forbidden. I began practising when that process had already started. And in fact we cannot do anything but speak out against this persecution that victimises our fellow practitioners.
In this regard, Falun Gong has changed Slaats life in a profound way. In Beijing, in February 2002, he was imprisoned for 24 hours when he was ready to go to Tiananmen Square to show a banner in support of Falun Gong. From the beginning I spoke out against this injustice. We really arent dangerous lunatics, but just the opposite. In Beijing, we wanted to hold a protest action at that moment which was already forbidden from the start. I was locked up for one day and one night in jail with the others. Because I am not a Chinese, they released me. But it also was an example of the suppression.
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