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U.S. State Department: 2007 Country Report on Human Rights Practices

The following are excerpts from the 2007 U.S. Department of State’s Annual Human Rights Report on China.

Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

During the year the government and its agents reportedly committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. On February 27, Xu Hongmei and Shen Zili, two women who were arrested in January for Falun Gong activities, died after they were reportedly tortured by security forces.

Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

In March 2006 UN Special Rapporteur Nowak reaffirmed earlier findings that torture, although on a decline--particularly in urban areas--remained widespread, and that procedural and substantive measures were inadequate to prevent torture. Nowak reported that beatings with fists, sticks, and electric batons continued to be the most common forms of torture. He also found that prisoners continued to suffer cigarette burns, prolonged periods of solitary confinement, and submersion in water or sewage, and that they were made to hold extreme positions for long periods, were denied medical treatment, and were forced to do hard labor.

According to Nowak, officials specifically targeted for abuse house church groups, Falun Gong adherents, Tibetans, and Uighur prisoners. Nowak reported that Falun Gong practitioners accounted for 66 percent of victims of alleged torture while in government custody. Since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999, estimates of the number of Falun Gong adherents who died in custody due to torture, abuse, and neglect ranged from several hundred to a few thousand.

[Sexual abuse]

Sexual and physical abuse and extortion occurred in some detention centers. Falun Gong activists reported that police raped female practitioners, including in 2005 at the Dongchengfang police station in Tunzhou City, Hebei Province, where two women were allegedly raped while in detention.

[Psychiatric abuse]

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. Persons committed to these institutions had no mechanism for objecting to public security officials' determinations of mental illness. 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 to an ankang facility were not clear.

Political activists, underground religious believers, persons who repeatedly petitioned the government, members of the banned China Democratic Party (CDP), and Falun Gong adherents reportedly were incarcerated in such facilities during the year. Activists sentenced to administrative detention also reported they were strapped to beds or other devices for days at a time, beaten, forcibly injected or fed medications, and denied food and use of toilet facilities.

Arbitrary Arrest and Detention

The law permits nonjudicial panels, called labor reeducation panels, to sentence persons without trial to three years in reeducation-through-labor camps or other administrative detention programs. The labor reeducation committee is authorized to extend a sentence up to one year. Defendants could challenge reeducation-through-labor sentences under the administrative litigation law and appeal for a reduction in, or suspension of, their sentences. However, appeals rarely succeeded. […] Administrative detention was used to intimidate political activists and prevent public demonstrations.

Special reeducation centers were used to detain Falun Gong practitioners who had completed terms in reeducation-through-labor but whom authorities decided to continue detaining.

During the year human rights activists and defenders, Falun Gong practitioners, domestic and foreign journalists, unregistered religious figures, and former political prisoners and their family members were among those targeted for arbitrary detention or arrest.

Freedom of Religion

[…P]ractitioners based abroad reported that the government's crackdown against the group continued. In the past, the mere belief in the discipline (even without any public practice of its tenets) sometimes was sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment. Falun Gong sources estimated that since 1999 at least 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been sentenced to prison, more than 100,000 practitioners sentenced to reeducation-through-labor, and almost 3,000 died from torture while in custody.

Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in reeducation-through-labor camps, while Falun Gong sources overseas placed the number even higher. In the past, many practitioners were detained multiple times.

Over the past several years, Falun Gong members identified by the government as "core leaders" were singled out for particularly harsh treatment. More than a dozen Falun Gong members were sentenced to prison for the crime of "endangering state security," but the great majority of Falun Gong members convicted by the courts since 1999 were sentenced to prison for "organizing or using a sect to undermine the implementation of the law," a less serious offense.

Most practitioners, however, were punished administratively. Some practitioners were sentenced to reeducation-through-labor. Among them, Yuan Yuju and Liang Jinhui, relatives of a Hong Kong journalist working for a television station supportive of Falun Gong, were sentenced to reeducation-through-labor for distributing Falun Gong materials. Some Falun Gong members were sent to "legal education" centers specifically established to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refused to recant their belief voluntarily after their release from reeducation-through-labor camps. Government officials denied the existence of such "legal education" centers. In addition hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners were confined to mental hospitals, according to overseas groups.

Police continued to detain current and former Falun Gong practitioners and used possession of Falun Gong material as a pretext for arresting political activists. In March Chi Jianwei, a member of the CDP, was sentenced to three years in prison for using a cult to undermine implementation of the law, reportedly after authorities found Falun Gong material at his house.

Early in the year, authorities sentenced Cui Xin, an elderly resident of Harbin, to seven years' imprisonment for her involvement with Falun Gong. Police confiscated Falun Gong materials from Cui's home following her arrest in December 2006.

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.

Freedom of Movement

There were instances in which the authorities refused to issue passports or visas on apparent political grounds. Members of underground churches, Falun Gong members, and other politically sensitive individuals sometimes were refused passports or otherwise prevented from traveling overseas.

The law neither provides for a citizen's right to repatriate nor otherwise addresses exile. The government continued to refuse reentry to numerous citizens who were considered dissidents, Falun Gong activists, or troublemakers.

Full report: 

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