Chinese Communist Party documents, issued this year from the central authorities and then redistributed by local committees, show that persecution of the traditional spiritual practice Falun Gong is still being carried out as official policy.
Some of the memos, available online, mention the traditional spiritual practice and websites associated with it, while the majority leave the matter at the continuation of efforts to fight “heterodox religions.”
Falun Gong was practiced by an estimated 100 million people in 1999 when it began to be persecuted with deadly force by Party leader at the time, Jiang Zemin. Tens of thousands are believed to have been murdered by Chinese authorities in the unconstitutional 16-year persecution.
One document marked as “confidential” and issued by the municipal Party committee in the city of Fuzhou, southern China, was obtained by Epoch Times by sources inside China. It concerns the “prevention and handling of ‘heterodox religions’ in 2015.” It explicitly mentions the influence of overseas Falun Gong websites and efforts to spread information about the persecution in mainland China.
In particular, the document introduces a Project 310 intended to “investigate and cut off” communication channels between practitioners of Falun Gong in and outside the country. It also called for the strengthening and proliferation of anti-Falun Gong propaganda into social media.
Other documents bearing hallmarks of the confidential one were found on local Party websites on the Internet. Often, only small parts of the language change, indicating that the policy was promulgated from a central authority, probably the 610 Office, which oversees the anti-Falun Gong campaign.
Jiang’s influence on Communist Party affairs continued long after the formal end of his time in power, but recent years have seen the ruthless dismantling of his political network by current Party boss Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.
Despite the fact that the persecution was Jiang’s pet project, the Chinese regime has continued to treat Falun Gong as a “heterodox religion,” if not with the same consistency or enthusiasm as in Jiang’s day.
Other Party materials report similar aims, but many omit Falun Gong and its official website, Minghui.org, entirely. In 2014, an official list of so-called “heterodox religions” issued by the General Office of the Communist Party Central Committee mentioned 14 spiritual groups, but did not include Falun Gong.
Persecution to Prosecution
The differing terminology in the newest spate of Party literature presents a subtle contrast to the early 2000s, when Jiang Zemin’s campaign against Falun Gong was at the height of its brutality and political fervor.
In the early years of the persecution, Communist Party-run media demonized Falun Gong in round-the-clock propaganda barrages. Having labelled the practice, which had once enjoyed broad public support, as a “heterodox religion,” the Communist Party then created an unconstitutional provision supposedly granting it authority to ban Falun Gong.
While Falun Gong, a meditative spiritual faith based in traditional Chinese values, has been repressed since 1999, the recent undoing of Jiang Zemin’s political allies as well as enduring peaceful resistance from Falun Gong practitioners themselves has taken some of the steam out of the persecution.
Since this May, when a Chinese legal reform relaxed the requirements for citizens to file criminal complaints to the highest judicial bodies, over 160,000 people have formally submitted requests for Jiang Zemin to be brought to justice in light of his crimes.
Many of the officials knocked out in Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, including deputy head of the People’s Liberation Army Xu Caihou and security czar Zhou Yongkang, had been promoted to their positions by Jiang Zemin in part due to their enthusiasm in persecuting Falun Gong.
Investigations done by human rights groups show that hundreds of thousands or millions of practitioners have been held in police custody. Others were outright tortured to death or killed for their organs, which are sold to high-paying transplant customers. According to American journalist Ethan Gutmann, tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been murdered this way.
Is the Party’s Stance Weakening?
Most of the 160,000-plus people filing criminal complaints against Jiang Zemin are Falun Gong practitioners, including those who suffered severe torture at the hands of the authorities. Similar to how the recent series of Party memos mention Falun Gong only sporadically, practitioners suing Jiang have encountered different reactions, ranging from support to indifference to violence from the civil and police authorities.
In contrast to Communist Party organs directly involved with the persecution of Falun Gong, neither the Ministry of Public Security (a civil police body) nor the two highest judicial bodies of the Chinese government—the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate—have referred to Falun Gong as an “heterodox religion” in official documents, according to a research report presented to the European Parliament by Yiyang Xia of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a human rights group.
Falun Gong has also never been condemned by the National People’s Congress, which forms China’s civil, as opposed to Communist Party, authority.
By and large, those filing complaints against Jiang Zemin have been unimpeded in their efforts, according to reports by the Falun Gong site Minghui,org, which documents information about the practice and related events in China.
Cases in which practitioners submitting their paperwork have been harassed or detained by the police have often involved the 610 Office, a Communist Party organization Jiang Zemin created in 1999 shortly before launching the persecution. This agency operated outside the law and has branches at all levels of Chinese authority.
According to Chinese human rights lawyer Guo Lianhui, the only justification for the “heterodox religion” label being applied to Falun Gong was the personal opinion of Jiang Zemin, who, as head of the Communist Party in the 1990s and early 2000s, impressed this view upon China’s governing bodies through unofficial notices.
This impression, maintained through propaganda and violence, has blinded Chinese officials, and its judiciary, into accepting Jiang’s and by extension the Communist Party’s stance on Falun Gong as legal, Guo told Epoch Times.
“In fact, there’s simply no legal basis [for the persecution,]” Guo said. “They have been kept in the dark.”