Denmark: Harbin Mayor Faces Protests During a Visit to Arhus

An eight member Chinese delegation headed by Harbin City Mayor Zhang Xiaolian, encountered a protest when they visited the city government of Arhus, Denmark’s second largest city, on July the 6th, 2008. The protest was organised by Danish citizens to expose the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in Harbin.

Banners are displayed at the rally An article published in the Arhus Stiftstidende dated July 7th bears the title, “Criticising dialogue in City Government”

Harbin was twinned with Arhus in 1984. For Zhang Xiaolian, the trip to Northern Europe was his first official foreign trip after he took Mayoral Office last year. Even though Zhang took the office just last year, he could not evade the fact that Harbin is one of the infamous cities where Falun Gong practitioners were brutally persecuted since 1999. Two years ago, citizens of Arhus had expressed their concerns about the human rights situations in Harbin and had serious discussions whether the twinned city relationship should be continued with a city where human rights are infringed.

As soon as the official visit of Harbin’s Mayor was published, various organisations and media in Denmark, ranging from Danish Government Information Office to local newspapers, mentioned the ruthless persecution of Falun Gong and other Chinese citizens in Harbin. The general public of Denmark paid close attention to ensure human rights issue was included in the official meeting agenda. Meanwhile, the demonstration also became a hot topic of news coverage and public interest.

The rally was coordinated by Danish Falun Dafa Association and China Human Rights Network. In the press release, it is stated, “According to statistics accumulated and published by the Clearwisdom.net, there have been 404 Falun Gong practitioners persecuted to death in Heilongjiang Province, ranking No. 2 in China. In Harbin City alone, 148 Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted to death and there are sixteen labour camps admitted by the local officials.”

At three o’clock in the afternoon on July 6th, Danish citizens, Falun Gong practitioners, members of the “Federation for a Democratic China” and other pro-democracy advocates displayed banners at the main entrance of Arhus city government. Written in Danish, English and Chinese, the banners read, “Harbin: Stop Persecuting Falun Gong” and “3.9 Million People Have Quit the CCP” (Chinese Communist Party). Aired in the speakers at the scene was the audio recording of “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party”. Laid on the ground were photos and graphs that illustrated the cruel persecution that the Chinese communist regime had been inflicting on Falun Gong practitioners. The characters put on these photos and graphs read, “Ongoing Persecution in Harbin a Twinned City of Arhus”. As the degree of brutality far exceeded people’s imagination, the photos and graphs shocked a lot of passers-by and drew several media to provide news coverage.

City Mayor of Arhus: “Human rights violation will be brought up during the meeting”

The people who were preparing for the rally in front of the city government caught the attention of the city mayor, Mr. Nicolai Wammen, who was waiting for the arrival of the Chinese officials. He walked out of his office and talked to the protesters. After understanding that the rally was organised for China’s human rights, he indicated his support immediately and said in an enthusiastic tone that he would set up another meeting with the protesters as soon as possible to thoroughly understand the persecution truth in Harbin and China. When he accepted an interview with Denmark’s TV Channel II later, Mr. Wammen told the reporter that when he met Harbin’s mayor, he would request Harbin to improve human rights and democracy.

Mr. Christoffer Brekne, Chairman of China Human Rights Network, who hosted the rally, said in an on-site interview with the TV Channel II, “We are here to urge Arhus city government to pay attention to the persecution in Harbin. The city government officials should express the voice of Denmark’s general public to the Chinese visitors that the persecution must be stopped immediately.” He continued, “The human rights situation in Harbin is very bad. It is much worse than that of other cities in China. Over there, many labour education stations and concentration camps are set up to imprison political dissidents and religious believers. The prisoners are coerced to provide forced labour. Some of them have to work for 20 - 24 hours a day. The output of the forced labour is sold for profit. The persecution against Falun Gong has been especially serious. Falun Gong practitioners are tortured or even killed. These are all documented in United Nations’ reports.”

Falun Gong practitioners distributed to passers-by flyers in Danish that were purposely designed for Arhus. The flyer revealed that a form persecution that did not happen in other parts of the world had been used in Harbin live Falun Gong practitioners’ organs are harvested and sold for profit.

Witness accuses the brutal persecution of the Chinese communist regime

At 16:30, the eight Chinese officials from Harbin quickly passed by the banners and entered the city government buildings. While the meeting was conducted inside the city hall, the rally outside the building began.

Ms. Bao Xuezhen, originally from Shianghai, was imprisoned for three and a half years because of practicing Falun Gong. She described the torture, brainwashing and forced labour she suffered during the imprisonment. She said, “In addition to physical torture and prolonged forced labour, mental torment was also applied on Falun Gong practitioners. It was even more painful than physical torture. As a form of brainwashing, we were forced to watch various video tapes and other materials that slandered Falun Gong and its founder for several hours in a day. The sound was broadcast with loud speakers, trying to force us to abandon practicing Falun Gong. Severe persecution would be inflicted upon those practitioners who dared to refuse abandonment. Due to the persecution, the illnesses that I had got rid of because of practicing Falun Gong before the imprisonment recurred. My body weight rapidly dropped.”

A former reporter associated with “Frontline” magazine, Mr. Yang Guang, who was born and grew up in Harbin, is also a witness of the persecution. He travelled from Copenhagen to attend the rally. He told the reporter about his painful suffering in the Cultural Revolution, he was persecuted for no reason and forced to spend twelve years in the jail. He said, “In the prisons of China, torture, physical and mental punishment is quite usual. Many people lost their lives because they could not endure the torture. Some succeeded in getting discharged from jail and became physically handicapped.”

He added, “For those years, did we see any progress of the Chinese Communist Party or Harbin? None. My former classmates told me that after Falun Gong practitioners were arrested, their organs were harvested and sold for transplant to rich people. The remains were cremated. The practitioners’ family members were not notified anything about these. While the family members considered the practitioners missing, the practitioners were actually murdered by the Chinese communist regime.” He continued, “There have been more than 80 million Chinese persecuted to death by the Chinese Communist Party and the persecution is still ongoing. As a Chinese person, I truly hope the autocracy of the Chinese communist regime can be terminated as soon as possible.”

Support from local people

Many local residents stopped their steps unwittingly when they passed by the rally. They listened sincerely to these miserable stories that had occurred in China. Some of them even sat down on the ground to listen. A Danish person understood the persecution truth while he walked by the scene before the rally started. After the rally began, he rode a bicycle and came back to the scene to watch and listen to the speeches. A couple from Norway asked practitioners what Falun Gong is and why the Chinese communist regime persecutes Falun Gong. An old lady signed her name to support practitioners’ appeal for stopping the persecution after she understood the truth. Many local residents said the degree of human rights infringement is too severe. They asked, “What can we do to stop the persecution?”

Several mainstream media, including newspapers and TV stations, provided news coverage about this event. According to a report on Aarhus Stiftstidende, when Zhang Xiaolian was asked about the human rights infringement in Harbin by a Danish reporter, Zhang refused to provide comment.

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