Falun Gong Spokesman’s Speech in Rome for Hands Off Cain's 2002 Report: THE DEATH PENALTY SITUATION WORLDWIDE

First of all, we would like to thank Hands Off Cain for holding this press conference, because it gives tens of millions of Chinese people an opportunity to speak out the truth here in Italy. While the freedom of press is available in countries of democracy, in China the voices of tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners cannot be heard in the state-run media.

On July 22, 1999, the Chinese government shocked the world and began massive persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Li Lanqing, China's vice premier, admitted in a speech that between July and October, of those who went to appeal to the government in Beijing, over 50,000 have been arrested. At least 100,000 have been sent to forced labour camps without trials. Millions of Falun Gong books, videotapes, and audiotapes have been confiscated and burned.

According to human rights groups and the world media, since December 1999, the Chinese government has started conducting show trials for over 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners, and it has handed out stiff sentences of up to 18 years in prison. In addition, hundreds of people have been sent to mental hospitals and drug rehabilitation centres where they have been treated with anti-psychotic or sedative drugs and electric shocks.

It is indeed sad that in this day and age, the Chinese government can still hold fake trials and deny these innocent people legal representation; or that they can detain innocent citizens for questioning, torture them to death, and then cremate their bodies to hide the evidence. 248 cases of death by torture have been reported thus far, and tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs, schools, pensions, and even their homes.

The only "crime" these people have committed was their attempt to exercise their right to freedom of conscience, expression, and association; yet such right is enshrined in China's own Constitution and guaranteed by the two treaties that China has signed in 1998 and 1997----the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In 1999, the Beijing Intermediate Court astonished the world by violating its own court order enacted in June 1998, which states that anyone over 18 years old with an I.D. can witness a court proceeding. Yet, the show-trial that sentenced four Falun Gong practitioners to between 12 and 18 years in jail was secretly held without the public witnessing it. This is how China is governed "according to the law." To cover up its human rights violations against Falun Gong practitioners, China has taken steps to shut down Internet access and jam or wiretap phone calls. Foreign journalists in China covering Falun Gong and the crackdown have been monitored, harassed, and even threatened. Above and beyond serving injustice in the legal sense, these events affront basic human conscience.

In a society where corruption and distrust are rampant, Falun Gong stood out as something pure and good. As a traditional spiritual discipline that has its roots in ancient Chinese culture, Falun Gong teaches people to hold themselves to the universal principles of "Truth, Compassion, Tolerance" and shows them a path to greater peace and wisdom. It has five sets of gentle-moving exercises and it is taught by volunteers for free. Aside from the obvious health benefits, it was the traditional values and spiritual aspect that proved the greatest attraction for many. Although it does not have any religious forms, it does share the same goal as the great religions of the world: to create a better, spiritually enlightened person. Simply because Falun Gong appeals to the general public (70-100 million people) and many who practice it are high-ranking government workers, the Chinese government has groundlessly felt threatened.

We are very pleased that the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and many other nations have forthrightly spoken out for the rights of Falun Gong practitioners in China, that the European Parliament and the US Congress have passed resolutions, condemning China's inhumane treatment of Falun Gong practitioners, and that many international organizations such as Hands Off the Cain, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed their condemnations over China's persecution of Falun Gong.

We also appreciate the great efforts made by the world media in reporting the truth and facts regarding the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Common sense tells us that massive human rights abuses cannot be treated as an "internal matter." China must be held to the same standards as all U.N. members. We appeal to the international community to continue speaking out on this important issue of human rights, defending the rule of law, and urging the Chinese leadership to reverse the persecution of its own citizens.

Falun Gong founder Mr. Li Hongzhi has, on many occasions, requested a direct dialogue with the Chinese government, and we welcome diplomatic initiatives in facilitating this effort. Falun Gong reiterates that it is not political and not against any government.

We call on the Chinese government to immediately free all those Falun Gong practitioners who have been arrested, imprisoned and detained. Further suffering and bloodshed must be averted. We also appeal to the media to continue helping us bring forth to the public the truth of this modern-day tragedy, one that is against the conscience of humanity and still taking place in China.

Again, thank you very much for your support and concern.

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