Hong Kong permanent residents Mr. Chu O Ming and Ms. Fu Xueying made history last Thursday when they filed a civil action in the High Court of Hong Kong SAR against three high-ranking Chinese communist officials for torture, illegal imprisonment, and persecuting Falun Gong.
This is the first time that high officials of the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) have been sued in Hong Kong, the area outside Mainland China housing the largest Chinese population, and which is within the jurisdiction of the P.R.C.
Theresa Chu, an international human rights attorney and Asia Director for Human Rights Law Foundation, believes this lawsuit is critical: “whether Hong Kong truly wants to uphold human rights and the rule of law and whether its courts truly want to maintain independence will be further tested and confirmed with this lawsuit against Jiang.”
Defendant Jiang Zemin is the former Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and initiated and directed the campaign to eradicate Falun Gong since 1999, using the resources of the Party. Defendant Li Lanqing is the former Premier of the P.R.C. who implemented and micromanaged the persecution. Defendant Luo Gan is a Standing Committee Member of the CCP Politburo and personally inspected the labor camps across China to ensure that all levels of government implemented Jiang's directive to destroy Falun Gong practitioners.
Mr. Chu, an entrepreneur from China now residing in Hong Kong, was arrested and imprisoned for five years after a secret trial in 2000 for filing a lawsuit with the Supreme People's Court against then head of state Jiang Zemin and Luo Gan. While in custody, Chu says he was shocked with an electric baton and tortured severely. His appeals to the prison chief and the P.R.C. went unanswered.
In 2003, Ms. Fu was arrested without charge and sentenced secretly to three years in Shenzhen Detention Center and the Women's Prison of Guangdong Province for distributing VCDs exposing the CCP's persecution of Falun Gong. While imprisoned, Fu says she was beaten, tortured, and forced to attend brainwashing sessions. To this day she suffers from a skin disease and cannot sit for extended periods of time.
She hopes her lawsuit will bring positive changes: “In order to put an end to the crimes against humanity, in order to safeguard our right to live, and our dignity as human beings, I sincerely hope … every peace-loving individual will participate in this effort, for our own benefit and for the benefit of the … world we live in.”
Owning to the agreement that Hong Kong would be governed according to the principle of “one country, two systems,” local Falun Gong practitioners can engage in lawful activities, which include taking legal action in accordance with the law, something unavailable on the Mainland.
Mr. Chu and Ms. Fu have applied for a writ and leave. The court issued the writ of summons on June 28, which allows the plaintiffs to directly serve process on the three defendants should they travel to Hong Kong. Should the court issue the leave, it would allow the Hong Kong court to send legal documents to Chinese courts to deliver to the three defendants outside of Hong Kong by means of international judicial assistance.
Since 2002, 18 lawsuits have been initiated against these three defendants in 17 countries and territories, making this, as Teresa Chu puts it, “arguably the largest series of international human rights cases in the 21st century.”