Falun Gong In the News

Throughout 2009, a range of American and international media outlets reported on Falun Gong, with article topics ranging from accounts of human rights abuses suffered by practitioners in China to editorials calling for increased support of technologies designed by Falun Gong engineers for circumventing internet censorship. The following are selected excerpts from such reports, listed in chronological order:

“April 25: 10th anniversary of the Falun Gong protests: when 10,000 members of the spiritual movement gathered outside Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the Communist Party, in a silent protest against beatings and arrests that had been doled out to some members in Tianjin… the Communist Party banned Falun Gong in July and began a campaign against [it], arresting thousands of members. According to Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture, Falun Gong members make up half the population of China’s prison camps.”

—London Telegraph: “Seven Key Dates for China in 2009,” January 2, 2009

“Cracking down on ‘ethnic separatist forces, violent terrorists, and … Falun Gong’ will top the list of major tasks for the security forces in 2009, according to a statement released on the ministry [of public security]’s Web Site today.”

Bloomberg: “China Vows Crackdown on Falun Gong, Tibet Separatists This Year,” February 11, 2009 

“A veteran Chinese intelligence officer who defected to the United States says that his country’s civilian spy service spends most of its time trying to steal secrets overseas but also works to bolster Beijing’s Communist Party rule by repressing religious and political dissent internally… Two groups in China that are a main focus of the MSS are unofficial Christian churches and the outlawed Falun Gong religious group, he said.”

Washington Times: “Chinese Spy who Defects Tells All,” March 19, 2009

“A musician dies in police custody, a lawyer is beaten, an aid worker abandons China after 10 years of persecution — these stories are the human toll behind China’s decade-long campaign to wipe out Falun Gong … Though less visible now that Falun Gong has been driven underground in China, the crackdown remains as vicious as ever, [U.S.-based spokesman Levi Browde] said.

In recent years, a handful of Chinese lawyers have begun taking Falun Gong cases. Cheng Hai, a self-trained Beijing lawyer represents [musician] Yu Zhou’s wife and family, as well as six other practitioners. He says he was beaten earlier this month while trying to visit the home of another Falun Gong client.”

Associated Press: “China Spiritual Group Endures Despite 10-year Ban,” April 24, 2009 

“In the decade since the Chinese government began repressing Falun Gong, a crusade that human rights groups say has led to the imprisonment of tens of thousands of practitioners and claimed at least 2,000 lives, the world’s attention has shifted elsewhere….But 10 years on, the war on Falun Gong remains unfinished.

In the past year, as many as 8,000 practitioners have been detained, according to experts on human rights, and at least 100 have died in custody. … In recent months, scores of practitioners have been given long prison terms, including Zhang Xingwu, a retired physics professor from Shandong Province who last week was sentenced to seven years after the police found Falun Gong literature in his apartment….

The continued crackdown highlights the difficulty of eradicating a movement whose adherents stubbornly cling to their beliefs, but it also provides a window into the psyche of an authoritarian government that, despite its far-reaching power, remains deeply insecure….

‘The excesses and the savagery have really lowered the quality of the government and harmed [China’s] reputation abroad,’ said Jerome Cohen, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on Chinese law. ‘They’re paying a high price for the cruelty to these people.'”

New York Times: “China Still Presses Crusade against Falun Gong,” April 27, 2009

“Chinese practitioners of the spiritual movement Falun Gong continue to be severely repressed in China. Tens of thousand of Falun Gong practitioners in China have been arbitrarily detained since the spiritual movement was banned. … Defenders of Falun Gong practitioners are also persecuted. Falun Gong members and their defenders should not be harassed, detained, or tortured by Chinese authorities for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and religion.”

Voice of America Editorial: “Falun Gong Adherents and Defenders Should Not Be Persecuted,” May 20, 2009

“Perhaps nothing today so exemplifies the totalitarian implacability of China’s rulers as their ruthless persecution of Falun Gong… By civilized standards, it is incomprehensible that anything so innocuous and peaceable could provoke bloody repression. But China’s uncivilized government fears any movement it does not control, and Falun Gong – with its uplifting values so different from the regime’s Stalinist ethic – has attracted tens of millions of adherents, independent of the Communist Party.

There is nothing subtle about Beijing’s decade-long campaign to suppress Falun Gong. … the Falun Dafa Information Center describes several of the torture techniques the government uses to break Falun Gong practitioners. Burning, for example. In hundreds of reported cases, police or labor camp authorities have used cigarettes, car lighters, or red-hot irons to sear Falun Gong believers on their faces, torsos, and genitals.”

Boston Globe: “China’s ‘Socialist Road’ to Misery” by Columnist Jeff Jacoby, June 3, 2009

“[T]he Iranian government is blocking certain Web sites and evicting foreign reporters or keeping them away from the action. … Yet a secret Internet lifeline remains, and it’s a tribute to the crazy, globalized world we live in. The lifeline was designed by Chinese computer engineers in America to evade Communist Party censorship of a repressed Chinese spiritual group, the Falun Gong.

Today, it is these Chinese supporters of Falun Gong who are the best hope for Iranians trying to reach blocked sites.…

Mr. [Shiyu] Zhou [a computer scientist and leader in the Chinese effort, called the Global Internet Freedom Consortium] said that usage of the consortium’s software has tripled in the last week. It set a record on Wednesday of more than 200 million hits from Iran, representing more than 400,000 people.”

New York Times: “Tear Down this Cyberwall!” by columnist Nicholas Kristoff, June 17, 2009

“‘One must wonder exactly why Falun Gong, a serene movement based upon traditional Chinese breathing exercises and meditation, has drawn such a frenzied response,’ Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told the rally. ‘The answer, my friends, is all too simple,’ the Republican said. ‘Falun Gong stands for the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. These principles represent the very antithesis of what the Communist Party of China stands for — lies, brutality and intolerance’…

[Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng’s] wife Geng He, who defected with their children to the United States in March, told the rally that Gao felt obliged to fight persecution that has gone ‘beyond anyone’s imagination.’ She said, ‘Gao has said that to end this nation’s sufferings, we need people with high morals. Falun Gong practitioners have done so, and we must also do our part.’”

Agence France Presse: “Falun Gong Rallies in US on Anniversary,” July 16, 2009

“Though I had feared that my family members in China could be victimized under this persecution, I had assumed they were safe. After all, my mother has Hong Kong residency, and my sister was a successful financial manager with a well-known international corporation. I thought this would give them some level of protection.

I was wrong.

On June 4, exactly 20 years to the day after the massacre at Tiananmen Square, my mother and sister were taken from their home in Shanghai and sent to jail for no other reason than the fact that they practice the Falun Gong faith.”

Los Angeles Times: “My mother and sister, prisoners of China’s Communist Party,” by Yi-Yuan Chang, Opinion page, October 13, 2009

“A new book says China is still harvesting organs from Falun Gong prisoners for medical transplants. The book by former Liberal MP David Kilgour and lawyer-activist David Matas, is an update of two previous reports they produced on the Chinese organ trade. It says Falun Gong practitioners are held in labour camps by the tens of thousands and killed for their organs.”

The Canadian Press: “New Book by Former Canadian Diplomat and Prominent Attorney Says Falun Gong Prisoners in China still being Used as Organ Sources,” November 16, 2009

“A Spanish judge wants to question former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and four other Chinese Communist Party officials over allegations of torture and genocide against the Falun Gong, a lawyer for the spiritual movement said Thursday.

Judge Ismael Moreno of the National Court made the decision after concluding a preliminary inquiry, Falun Gong lawyer Carlos Iglesias said.”

Agence France Presse: “Chinese Ex-President Sought in Spanish Probe: Lawyer,” November 19, 2009

“For two years Congress has appropriated funds to support groups that are developing ways to circumvent the Chinese firewall and those erected in Iran, Burma, Cuba and other repressive countries. The most prominent of the groups, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, says it has the capacity to host 1.5 million users daily.

Its technology works: Shiyu Zhou, the deputy director of the consortium, testified to the U.S. Helsinki Commission last month that at the height of opposition protests on June 20, more than 1 million Iranians used the system. He said that with $30 million of additional funding, capacity could be increased to 50 million users a day, making it ‘prohibitively expensive for any repressive government to counter our efforts…

A bipartisan coalition … has been trying to channel the necessary funding. … But State hasn’t passed the money onto the firewall-busters…The least [the Obama administration] can do is act on the president’s own words about the value of free information — and help give Chinese their chance to Twitter.”

Washington Post Editorial: “Twitter This!” December 5, 2009 

“An Argentine judge has ordered the arrest of … Jiang Zemin and another top official for “crimes against humanity” in the … persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. … Federal Judge Octavio de Lamadrid on December 17 asked Interpol to issue an arrest warrant against Jiang and former security chief Luo Gan after four years of investigating charges of torture and genocide against the Falun Gong group.”

Reuters: “Argentine Judge Asks China Arrests over Falun Gong,” Dec. 22, 2009

“Liu Xiaobo’s harsh sentence came as a surprise to many observers. But not to me. In October, my mother, Cao Junping, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Shandong province. The same day, my aunt was sentenced to nine years.

Unlike Liu, they are not high-profile dissidents. They are simply two older women who practice Falun Gong. They meditate in their free time and try to follow a moral philosophy centered on the values of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. They aren’t criminals, despite the Communist Party’s best efforts to label them as such. They were trying to peacefully follow the religious belief of their choosing. For that, shortly before the Olympics, security agents took them away. After being held illegally and tortured for more than a year, they were rushed through a sham trial and sentenced.

[…] Unfortunately, Liu’s sentencing — and the “rule of law” veneer surrounding it — is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Washington Post: “Falun Gong Practitioners Get Long Sentences in China,” by Jin Pang, Letter to the Editor, January 1, 2010. 

“The US House of Representatives on Tuesday urged China to end its ‘persecution’ of the Falungong and rejected Beijing’s charge that the banned spiritual movement is an ‘evil cult.’

In a nearly unanimous vote, the House called on China to free thousands of practitioners who are said to be imprisoned and to abolish an office tasked with fighting the Falungong.

The House expressed ‘sympathy to Falungong practitioners and their family members who have suffered persecution, intimidation, imprisonment, torture and even death for the past decade solely because of adherence to their personal beliefs.’”

Agence France Presse: “US House Presses China on Falungong,” March 16, 2010