US State Department 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Chinese Communist Regime Continues to Persecute Falun Gong

The U.S. Department of State published its 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The report once again documented many cases of persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. Below is an excerpt of the report, highlighting its discussion on the persecution of Falun Gong. The full report is available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61605.htm

The [Chinese] government's human rights record remained poor, and the government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses. There was a trend towards increased harassment, detention, and imprisonment by government and security authorities of those perceived as threatening to government authority. The government also adopted measures to control more tightly print, broadcast and electronic media, and censored online content. Protests by those seeking to redress grievances increased significantly and were suppressed, at times violently, by security forces.

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After a November visit, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak concluded that torture remained widespread, although the amount and severity decreased. He reported that beatings with fists, sticks, and electric batons were the most common tortures. Cigarette burns, guard-instructed beatings by fellow inmates, and submersion in water or sewage were also reported. Nowak further found that many detainees were held for long periods in extreme positions, that death row inmates were shackled or handcuffed 24 hours per day, and that systematic abuse was designed to break the will of detainees until they confessed. Procedural and substantive measures to prevent torture were inadequate. Nowak found that members of some house church groups, Falun Gong adherents, Tibetans, and Uighur prisoners were specific targets of torture.

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Since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999, estimates of Falun Gong adherents who died in custody due to torture, abuse, and neglect ranged from several hundred to a few thousand. In October Falun Gong adherents Liu Boyang and Wang Shouhui of Changchun, Jilin Province, reportedly died in custody after being tortured by police.

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During the year there were reports of persons, including Falun Gong adherents, sentenced to psychiatric hospitals for expressing their political or religious beliefs (see section 1.d.). Some were reportedly forced to undergo electric shock treatments or forced to take psychotropic drugs.

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Foreign citizen and Falun Gong member Charles Lee staged a hunger strike to protest forced "reeducation" sessions he received in prison, where he remained at year's end.

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Sexual and physical abuse and extortion were reported in some detention centers. Falun Gong activists reported that police raped female practitioners, including an incident in November at the Dongchengfang police station in Tunzhou City, Hebei Province, in which two women were raped while in detention. Forced labor in prisons and reeducation-through-labor camps was common.

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A special form of reeducation centers was used to detain Falun Gong practitioners who had completed terms in reeducation-through-labor but whom authorities decided to continue detaining.

According to foreign researchers, the country had 20 ankang institutions (high-security psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane) directly administered by the Ministry of Public Security. Some dissidents, persistent petitioners, and others were housed with mentally ill patients in these institutions. Patients in these hospitals were reportedly given medicine against their will and forcibly subjected to electric shock treatment. The regulations for committing a person into an ankang psychiatric facility were not clear. Credible reports indicated that a number of political and trade union activists, underground religious believers, persons who repeatedly petitioned the government, members of the banned China Democratic Party, and Falun Gong adherents were incarcerated in such facilities during the year.

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In November the Beijing justice department closed the law firm of defense attorney Gao Zhisheng and suspended his license for one year. Authorities claimed Gao's suspension was due to his refusal to retract an open letter he wrote to Hu Jintao in October condemning abuse of Falun Gong practitioners.

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The government continued to wage a severe campaign against the Falun Gong movement, but there were no reports of public Falun Gong protests during the year. In many cases Falun Gong practitioners were subject to close scrutiny by local security personnel, and their personal mobility was tightly restricted, particularly at times when the government believed public protests were likely.

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The extent of public Falun Gong activity in the country remained negligible, and practitioners based abroad reported that the government's crackdown against the group continued. Since the government banned the Falun Gong in 1999, the mere belief in the discipline (even without any public manifestation of its tenets) has been sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment. Although the vast majority of practitioners detained have been released, many were detained again after release (see section 1.e.), and thousands reportedly remained in reeducation-through-labor camps. Those identified by the government as "core leaders" were singled out for particularly harsh treatment. More than a dozen Falun Gong members have been sentenced to prison for the crime of "endangering state security," but the great majority of Falun Gong members convicted by the courts since 1999 have been sentenced to prison for "organizing or using a sect to undermine the implementation of the law," a less serious offense. Among them, Yuan Yuju and Liang Hui in Luzhou, Sichuan Province, faced such criminal charges during the year. Most practitioners, however, were punished administratively. Liu Yawen of Beijing and Zheng Ruihuan and Liu Yinglan of Shandong Province were among those reportedly detained administratively for Falun Gong activity. In addition to being sentenced to reeducation-through-labor, some Falun Gong members were sent to detention facilities specifically established to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refused to recant their belief voluntarily after release from reeducation-through-labor camps. In addition hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners have been confined to mental hospitals, according to overseas groups (see section 1.d.).

During the year allegations of abuse of Falun Gong practitioners by the police and other security personnel continued to be made. Groups based abroad estimated that as many as two thousand practitioners have died in custody (see section 1.c.)

Police continued to detain current and former Falun Gong practitioners and place them in reeducation camps. Police reportedly had quotas for Falun Gong arrests and targeted former practitioners, even if they were no longer practicing. The government continued its use of high-pressure tactics and mandatory anti-Falun Gong study sessions to force practitioners to renounce Falun Gong. Even practitioners who had not protested or made other public demonstrations of belief reportedly were forced to attend anti-Falun Gong classes or were sent directly to reeducation-through-labor camps, where in some cases beatings and torture reportedly were used to force them to recant. These tactics reportedly resulted in large numbers of practitioners signing pledges to renounce the movement. During the year a former Chinese diplomat based in Australia publicly described how government operatives based overseas reported on the activities of Falun Gong practitioners.

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Members of underground churches, Falun Gong members and other politically sensitive individuals sometimes were refused passports and other necessary travel documents.

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