LONDON—On July 20 it will be ten years since the Chinese Communist Party officially started its crackdown on Falun Gong. To mark this anniversary, a panel meeting to discuss the continuing persecution of Falun Gong in China was held in the UK Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 15.
The MPs in attendance heard personal accounts of torture, estimates of tens of thousands stripped of their organs to be sold for profit, and how Falun Gong has achieved what no other group has ever achieved – the gradual disintegration of the Communist Party.
Chaired by David Howarth, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, the panel included Ethan Gutmann, an award-winning investigative reporter and expert on China issues, Peter Jahual, Chairman of the UK Falun Gong Association, Dr Yi Xu from the Federation of Saying "Good-bye" to CCP and Annie Yang, a Falun Gong practitioner who has suffered torture.
No one knew where I had gone or what had happened to me
Peter Jahual explained how the persecution began with the then head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Jiang Zemin. He went on to say “Jiang Zemin believed if the CCP could not defeat Falun Gong, the Party would become a laughing stock. He ordered it to be eradicated within three months.” Jahual stated that the official figure of Falun Gong practitioners who have been tortured to death in custody now stands at over 3,200.
“This figure is only the tip of the iceberg.”
The difficulties of estimating the extent of the persecution of Falun Gong were discussed in detail by Ethan Gutmann, an investigative reporter on China issues. He presented figures and the rationale from his own research. Mr Gutmann explained that based on the credible figures about the labour camp system provided by the Laogai Foundation in Washington DC that there were as many as 1.2 million Falun Gong practitioners in the Laogai system at any one time.
We pretend that we just don’t know
Mr Gutmann has been researching the phenomenon of organ harvesting where organs are stripped from the bodies of living Falun Gong practitioners to be sold for profit, killing them in the process.
Mr Gutmann suggests that up to 162,000 Falun Gong practitioners may have had their organs harvested with 13,500 being the low-end estimate, and 87,750 being the median. He made a comparison to the figures presented in David Kilgour and David Matas’s report on organ harvesting Bloody Harvest stating, “It’s remarkable that the two methodologies are completely different yet the discrepancy is quite minimal.”
Mr Gutmann suggested how Western governments could tackle this issue: “In Western political circles, it is argued – quietly of course – that we have no point of easy leverage on this problem, no ability to undo what has been done, no silver bullet that can change the Chinese regime.
“Perhaps not. But we could ban our citizens from getting organ transplants in China. We could boycott Chinese medical conferences. Sever medical ties. Embargo surgical equipment. And refuse to hold any diplomatic summits until the Chinese put in place an explicit, comprehensive database of every organ donor in China,” he said.
“The first step in that process is to drop the pretence that we just don’t know,” he emphasised.
Annie Yang described her first-hand experience of persecution in China.
She was taken away in March 2005. "Eight men burst in one night but only one of them was in police uniform," she recalled. "The rest were in normal clothes. I guess they were from the National Security Department.
"They took away my computer and my Falun Gong books. They took me from my 16-year-old son and put me in the local district detention centre. I didn't see a lawyer and there was no mention of court. Forty days later I was sentenced to two years in a labour camp in Beijing.
"I wasn't allowed to see my son or any family or friends. No one knew where I had gone or what had happened to me.”
"In the camp, they removed all of our basic human rights,” she continued. "We were not given enough food or water, only 500 ml of water and 30 grams of bread a day. All my hair turned white because of the pressure. I was not allowed to sleep for more than a few hours a day, or to shower or change my clothes and all because I refused to renounce my beliefs.
"I was forced to sit on a stool with my knees and feet together, my hands underneath and my back straight, and I was not allowed to close my eyes. I had to sit there for 20 hours at a time and was not allowed to move without permission. It was to break us down."
But Annie's faith never wavered. "Every day I thought about suicide," she says. "But my beliefs helped me through those difficult times."
She was freed on September 1, 2006. She says: "My body was swollen because of lack of nutrition. I couldn't walk because I'd been forced to sit for so long without moving. The police said if I continued to practise Falun Gong they'd arrest me again, sooner or later. So I came to England, leaving my son, my family and friends behind."
Tuidang campaign is most successful civil rights movement in China
Dr Yi Xu, a prominent Chinese dissident and regular spokesperson on the promotion of democracy within China, opened his speech expressing gratitude to Falun Gong practitioners for their efforts towards creating a democratic China.
He said: “The Chinese Communist Party is not just the greatest evil in China but also the world.”
Dr Yi Xu went on to cite the United Nations definition of genocide, saying that by this definition alone the persecution of Falun Gong within China should be defined as genocide. “Communism is a terrible, destructive force. It is polluting the environment and constantly creating ethnic tension.
“Communism is incapable of fixing itself and the active pursuit of its downfall is the only way to achieve real human rights within China.”
Dr Xu explained how the Tuidang movement – a campaign to help Chinese citizens quit and renounce the CCP which was initiated by Falun Gong practitioners – was having a huge impact within China and on the CCP itself. “The Tuidang campaign is the single most successful civil rights movement in China today.”
He said, “In ten years I have not been able to persuade a single one of my friends to quit the party but Falun Gong’s movement has seen 40,000 to 50,000 a day quitting.”
In these terms the Chinese Communist Party is defined not only as the main political party but also includes the Young Pioneers and the Communist Youth League. Using official CCP figures, the combined membership is approximately 263 million. Currently the figure of those who have quit through the Tuidang movement stands at 57 million.
“The resistance led by Falun Gong is really hurting the CCP," said Dr Xu, “but to my knowledge the Western media has not reported anything about it.
“It’s really important that the Western governments and media speak out because any explicit statement puts enormous pressure on the CCP and creates a positive cycle within China regarding democracy.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture estimates that as many as 50 per cent of the people in China's vast network of "re-education through labour" camps are Falun Gong practitioners.