Does Chinas former leader Jiang Zemin have to stand trial for genocide and does it have to be in Belgium? The Chinese Falun Gong movement thinks so. Last week six members of this movement sued Jiang Zemin and two other party leaders in Belgium under the Belgian genocide law. One of these six Falun Gong members is a Belgian citizen Matthias Slaats. He is sitting in the studio in Ghent and I wish him a good morning.
Host: Good morning!
M: Good morning.
Host: For which alleged crimes do you want to have the former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, who stepped down last year, prosecuted?
M: For genocide, crimes against humanity and torture.
Host:Yes, because ?
M: Because the man is responsible for the persecution of millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China and also outside of China. This persecution has cost thousands of people their lives and threatens the existence of millions of people daily.
Host: Lets talk about the contents of the complaint in a minute, but now first about Falun Gong itself for those who dont understand completely what it is. What does your movement want, because you are a member of it yourself, what does the movement want?
M: Its what we call a cultivation method, a meditation method, a way of life, in which stand central the principles of Truth, Compassion and Forbearance. The people who practise Falun Gong try to express these three principles in everything they do in daily life also do a number of meditation exercises comparable with Tai-Chi or Yoga.
Host: Is it a political movement?
M: No, absolutely not. In Falun Gong there are no rules, except for two. Everything has to be free, no money can circulate within Falun Gong and the second rule is that one cannot get involved with politics in the name of Falun Gong.
Host: Yes. However, the Chinese authorities, the people in power, are really scared to death of Falun Gong. You yourself have been arrested in China once because of your involvement in Falun Gong. How did this go by the way?
M: Since the start of the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners from all over the world have made efforts to stop it. The Chinese government never wanted to listen to that. Then one day we made a plan to go to China to start a dialogue with the government. But when we went there, they crudely arrested and ousted us.
Host: What is crudely arrested?
M: In my case it was not that serious. I havent been beaten or mistreated myself, but others that were with me at that time did get a serious beating, so to say.
Host: Now you want to sue the Chinese leaders based on the current Belgian genocide law. Now this law has recently been altered. Its now only possible if among one of the plaintiffs is a victim with a clear link to Belgium, because it had previously created a lot of trouble for Belgian internationally. You are Belgian, are you the link?
M: Indeed, I am Belgian and there is also a lady who has been living in Belgium for seven years now and she is, together with me, the link so to say.
Host: Yes, but if I understand correctly, what has been done to you is not that serious. Doesnt the law say that you must have been victimised personally, or can you do it in the name of a whole group?
M: As we see the law, it says there has to be a link to genocide. The crimes that have been committed against the two Belgian people are certainly not the most severe crimes but it can be clearly evidenced that these crimes form part of a worldwide genocide and campaign of persecution.
Host: But it is not against you personally, and this law says to prevent all manner of processes beginning, that in fact belong to the International court, so to say.
M: I think it certainly is against us personally, because after all the definition of genocide says: any effort to destroy a group or a part of a group and we certainly form part of group that Jiang Zemin is trying to eradicate.
Host: Is it a sort of a test case?
M: A test case, no I wouldnt call it that. It really is a case in which one of the biggest criminals of all time
Host: No, thats not what I meant; a test case if this new law is indeed applicable.
M: For us, its not a test case. I think it falls completely within the aim of the law. This law serves to protect people against such crimes.
Host: Yes, I understand. You have filed a complaint against Jiang Zemin. He has been chosen because he was the head responsible at that time within the Chinese Politburo?
M: Yes, its like this: at the time Jiang Zemin wanted to start the persecution, not everyone in the Politburo agreed with it. But Jiang Zemin pushed his wishes out of jealousy or a desire for power. He has tried to create a kind of internal enemy of Falun Gong and in that way forced everyone within the Communist party to choose sides, for or against him and tried to increase their power in this way.
Host: Yes, he actually used it to get more or to consolidate his power.
M: Indeed. He is therefore indeed responsible for initiating and further implementing that persecution.
Host: Nonetheless, Falun Gong is very popular in China. Are there actually numbers of how popular?
M: Before the beginning of the persecution there were estimates of 70 to 100 million people who practised Falun Gong and that is more than there were members of the Chinese Communist Party at that time.
Host: And isnt that perhaps where the threat lies a bit? Or has the number grown so big only after the persecution started?
M: No, so many people were already practising Falun Gong before the persecution and it is certainly one of the reasons for that persecution. Its not only Falun Gong that is being persecuted in China. For instance the Catholic Church is persecuted as well. I imagine that if there were 70 million Catholics in China at one time, they would also be persecuted.
Host: Just because of the threat for the party, is there any organisation besides the Communist party in China?
M: Yes, like that. There were also people within the Communist party and the army practising Falun Gong. Again, not everyone wanted to persecute Falun Gong, but it was Jiang Zemin who saw an opportunity in it to try to increase his own power by starting the persecution.
Host:And how are things now in China?
M: At this moment, people are still being killed daily or weekly in this persecution, these people are being tortured to death in custody.
Host: So it continues, also under the new party leader?
M: Yes, but it is a fact that Jiang Zemin is still the leader of the army and as such is still the most powerful man in China.
Host: Ok. You have sued him together with a few other officials under the Belgian genocide law. When will you hear if it can actually come to be heard? If it can be served in court?
M: We dont know exactly. It is after all the first time under this new law. It will be the first time the prosecutor has to make such a verdict. According to our lawyer it could proceed quickly, within a month or a month and a half. But that is not certain.
Host: And then you will have the verdict, if it can be accepted as a case and if it can actually come to trial?
M: Yes, indeed.
Host: And then we are not at a conviction yet, that will be for much later. Mister Matthias Slaats, I thank you for this conversation and the little look into Falun Gong.
M: My pleasure.
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