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U.S. State Department: 2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices

The following are excerpts from the 2004 U.S. Department of State’s Annual Human Rights Report on China.

[Arrest, Detention, and Prison Conditions]

The Government continued its crackdown against the Falun Gong spiritual movement, and tens of thousands of practitioners remained incarcerated in prisons, extrajudicial reeducation-through-labor camps, and psychiatric facilities. Several hundred Falun Gong adherents reportedly have died in detention due to torture, abuse, and neglect since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999.

Several hundred Falun Gong adherents reportedly have died in detention due to torture, abuse, and neglect since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999 (see Section 2.c). Some groups based abroad estimated that as many as 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners have died as a result of official persecution.

During the year, there were reports of persons, including Falun Gong adherents, sentenced to psychiatric hospitals for expressing their political or religious beliefs (see Section 1.d.). Some reportedly were forced to undergo electric shock treatments.

Foreign Falun Gong member Charles Lee staged a hunger strike to protest forced "reeducation" sessions he was given in prison.

A special form of reeducation center was used to detain Falun Gong practitioners who had completed terms in reeducation through labor, but whom authorities decided to detain further.

[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. 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 into an ankang facility were not clear.

Credible reports indicated that a number of political and trade union activists, "underground" religious believers, persons who repeatedly petitioned the Government, members of the banned China Democratic Party, and Falun Gong adherents were incarcerated in such facilities during the year.

[Arbitrary Detention and Lack of Fair Trial]

Since the Government banned the Falun Gong spiritual group in 1999, criminal proceedings involving accused Falun Gong activists were held almost entirely outside the formal court system. In December, a Beijing attorney sent an open letter to the National People's Congress highlighting issues of arbitrary detention and unlawful process in cases involving Falun Gong. The letter focused on the April detention and subsequent administrative sentencing of his client, Huang Wei of Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, who was released in 2002 from a 3-year reeducation sentence for Falun Gong activities. On April 13, Huang was detained again, his home was searched, and a security official signed Huang's name on a confession, according to the open letter. Huang was sentenced on June 3 to three more years of reeducation in connection with Falun Gong. When Huang tried to sue the Government in protest, his attorney was denied permission to see his client. According to the letter, court and prison authorities told the attorney that only the "610 Office" of the Ministry of Justice could address Falun Gong matters. In the process, the letter described how judges explained that courts are under strict orders not to accept Falun Gong cases and that, in such cases, the courts do not follow normal pretrial procedures. The attorney's letter concluded that such treatment of accused Falun Gong adherents was unlawful.

[Freedom of Speech]

The Constitution states that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are fundamental rights to be enjoyed by all citizens; however, the Government tightly restricted these rights in practice. […] The Government continued to threaten, arrest, and imprison many individuals for exercising free speech. […] The Government strictly regulated the establishment and management of publications. The Government did not permit citizens to publish or broadcast criticisms of senior leaders or opinions that directly challenged Communist Party rule. The Party and Government continued to control print, broadcast, and electronic media tightly and used them to propagate Government views and Party ideology. All media employees were under explicit, public orders to follow CCP directives and "guide public opinion," as directed by political authorities. Formal and informal guidelines continued to require journalists to avoid coverage of many politically sensitive topics. These public orders, guidelines, and statutes greatly restricted the freedom of broadcast journalists and newspapers to report the news and led to a high degree of self-censorship. The Government continued an intense propaganda campaign against the Falun Gong.

[Freedom of Religion]

The Government continued to wage a severe political, propaganda, and police campaign against the Falun Gong movement. The sustained government crackdown against the movement, which the Government banned in 1999, continued, and there were no reports of public protests during the year. In many cases, Falun Gong practitioners were subject to close scrutiny by local security personnel, and their personal mobility was tightly restricted, particularly at times when the Government believed public protests were likely.

[…] Practitioners based abroad reported that the Government’s crackdown against the group continued. Since the Government banned the Falun Gong in 1999, the mere belief in the discipline (even without any public manifestation of its tenets) was sufficient grounds for practitioners to receive punishments ranging from loss of employment to imprisonment. Although the vast majority of the tens of thousands of practitioners detained since 1999 have been released, many were detained again after release (see Section 1.e.), and thousands reportedly remained in reeducation-through-labor camps.

Those identified by the Government as "core leaders" have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment. More than a dozen Falun Gong members have been sentenced to prison for the crime of "endangering state security," but the great majority of Falun Gong members convicted by the courts since 1999 have been 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. In addition to being sentenced to reeducation through labor, some Falun Gong members were sent to detention facilities specifically established to "rehabilitate" practitioners who refused to recant their belief voluntarily after release from reeducation-through-labor camps. In addition, hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners have been confined to mental hospitals (see Section 1.d.).

Police in the past often used excessive force when detaining peaceful Falun Gong protesters. During the year, allegations of abuse of Falun Gong practitioners by the police and other security personnel continued. According to the foreign-based Global Mission to Rescue Persecuted Falun Gong Practitioners, 1,047 Falun Gong practitioners, including children and the elderly, have died since 1997 as a result of official persecution (see Section 1.c.). Other groups based abroad estimated that as many as 2,000 practitioners have died in custody.

 

During the 2003 SARS epidemic, the Government launched new accusations that Falun Gong practitioners were disrupting SARS-prevention efforts. State-run media claimed that, beginning in April, Falun Gong followers "incited public panic" and otherwise "sabotaged" anti-SARS efforts in many provinces by preaching that belief in Falun Gong will prevent persons from contracting SARS. Authorities detained hundreds of Falun Gong adherents on such charges, including 69 in Jiangsu ProvinceHebei Province during June 2003, according to state-run media. At year’s end, their whereabouts remained unknown. during May 2003 and 180 in Hebei Province during June 2003, according to state-run media. At year’s end, their whereabouts remained unknown.

As recently as 2003, the Government continued its effort to round up practitioners not already in custody and sanctioned the 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, where in some cases, beatings and torture reportedly were used to force them to recant.

Full report: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41640.htm

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