Bernard O'Hear, AI China Coordinator, reports on Escalating state persecution of the Falun Gong:
Members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement are a key target of the Chinese government's 'strike hard' campaign against crime. Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested. Several dozen have been convicted and imprisoned after unfair trials. Thousands have been assigned, without any judicial process, to 're-education through labour'. And several hundred may have died as a result of torture. Falun Gong originated in China in the early 1990's and has attracted millions of followers there and in other countries. It attempts, through a combination of meditation and Qi gong exercises, to improve physical health and moral wellbeing. Followers claim that their system is not a religion and has no political objectives.
The Chinese government was apparently alarmed by Falun Gong's increasing visibility and growing popularity, particularly among government employees.
Matters came to a head in April 1999, when 10,000 Falun Gong supporters turned up at the Communist Party headquarters in Beijing to demonstrate for official recognition [ed. note - the appeal on April 25 1999, came about because of the unlawful arrest of Falun Gong practitioners in Tianjin, near Beijing. Falun Gong pratitioners appealed to the government to release the detained practitioners. After a few practitioners met with Premier Zhu Rongji, everyone went home.]. On 22 July of that year, the authorities declared the movement a 'heretical organisation' and banned it. Falun Gong is one of many so-called 'heretical' organisations, including Christian and other religions and spiritual movements, banned by the Chinese authorities.
For further information contact: Bernard O'Hear 0141 649 2176 (evenings).
BOOKSTORE SISTERS JAILED
Li Xiaobing and Li Xiaomei are sisters and members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. Former owners of a Beijing bookstore, they were among 22 Falun Gong practitioners who were tried in secret in Beijing on 28 January 2000. They were sentenced to six and seven years' imprisonment respectively.
The two sisters were convicted of illegal trading - referring to the sale of Falun Gong publications in their bookstore. However, they were arrested on 20 July 1999, two days before the movement was banned. The sale of Falun Gong literature was not illegal before the ban [ed. note - in 1995, the Jiang regime banned the publication of Zhuan Falun, the main text of Falun Gong, after the book became a best seller in China]. Following their detention, they were held for more than three months without charge, and denied access to their family.
Reports suggest that Li Xiaomei was tortured by police at the Dongcheng detention centre in Beijing, where the two were held before during their trial. A fellow detainee says that she was kicked and beaten, handcuffed and suspended by the wrists, and forced to wear an instrument called zhu zui on her head. It tightened automatically, choking her if she tried to speak. AI has been unable to confirm these details, but is concerned at the widespread reports of serious abuse targeted at Falun Gong practitioners in China and believes such allegations should be fully and impartially investigated.
The current whereabouts and conditions of detention of the two sisters are not known:
Please write, requesting further information about the current whereabouts of Li Xiaobing and Li Xiaomei, raising concerns about the allegations of torture and ill-treatment, calling for their immediate and unconditional
Send appeals to:
Liu Qi Shizhang
Mayor of Beijing Municipal People's Government
Beijingshi Renmin Zhengfu
People's Republic of China