France: Press Conference to Discuss French Judge’s Request for an Investigation into the Persecution Against Falun Gong

During a press conference on December the 16th 2004, members of the French Association of Falun Gong announced that Mrs. Faucherie, an examining magistrate at the Court of Justice in Paris, decided to send an International Letters Rogatory to China. This follows two complaints filed in December 2002 and January 2004 respectively, against the former Chinese Vice Premier Li Lanqing and the current Chinese Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng.

The investigation should be done by the Chinese authorities and provide explanations on the "6-10 Office", formerly headed by Li Lanqing, who is accused of ordering not only massive arrests but also the systematic torture of Falun Gong practitioners. The investigations should also reveal the role of Sun Jiazheng, the Chinese Minister of Culture, in the repression against Falun Gong since he is responsible for the anti-Falun Gong propaganda created to demonise Falun Gong and incite hatred against those who practise it.

Lawyer William Bourdon, who fights against impunity and was part of the legal action to bring Chilean dictator Pinochet to justice, says this is very significant. He recognises that in the short term the Chinese authorities may not cooperate, but he warns, "In the absence of an answer from the Chinese authorities, we will ask the French Minister of Justice, Dominique Perben, to take the responsibility to demand that the agreements on judiciary collaboration between France and Chine be respected."

Hélène Petit, a French plaintiff who was herself ill-treated by the Chinese Police because she practises Falun Gong, commented on the significance of the judge's decision: "In China, if you practise Falun Gong and you are persecuted, you don't have the right to ask for a lawyer. Indeed, the Party forbids anyone to defend practitioners. If you have been tortured or a member of your family has been killed you cannot even file a complaint. This means total impunity for those who torture and those who give orders against Falun Gong. But here in France justice works. This is why as a French citizen I wished to file a complaint for what I endured in China, together with Chinese plaintiffs who have been severely tortured – French resident Chen Zhumei, Irish resident Zhao Ming and Canadian resident Wang Yuzhi. And this International Letters Rogatory sent by the judge to China is the consequence of the complaints filed. It sends a strong message to China."

A question was raised about the nature of Falun Gong, which the Chinese regime wrongly branded a cult so that they could have an excuse to persecute the practice. Georges-Henri Beauthier, another famous human rights lawyer who also contributed to Pinochet's loss of immunity, answered that he belongs to anti-cult working groups in Belgium and often defends victims of sects. Therefore he would never consider defending a sect or cult. He insisted on the fact that no organ in any country has qualified Falun Gong as a cult. The practice presents no criterion of indoctrination or manipulation that would qualify it as such. Hélène Petit added, "The term "cult" can kill. It results from the strategic will of the Chinese regime to ostracise and demonise Falun Gong in China and abroad. This strategy is commonly used by the Chinese regime against all the groups that it considers as dissident, from the Tibetans to the democrats."

Falun Gong is a Chinese qigong practice and a philosophy of life. It became popular in China in the 1990s; in 1998 there were already around 100 millions practitioners. Forbidden in 1999 for "threatening the social order", it has been violently persecuted ever since, as Amnesty International reminds the world regularly through its well documented reports. To this day, several thousand practitioners have been tortured to death in China, and up to 100 000 are arbitrarily imprisoned in labour camps.

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