V. FALUNGONG IN CUSTODY: COMPETING ACCOUNTS
This chapter examines the available information about Falungong practitioners detained in prisons, reeducation through labor camps, psychiatric institutions, and other incarceration facilities. It looks at the demographic characteristics of those being held; the charges, if any, against them; and the kinds of rights violations they have suffered in custody. The analysis is necessarily provisional and far from complete. China does not allow independent monitors into prisons and reeducation camps and has made it too dangerous for family members, friends, or workmates to speak with journalists or other outsiders except under strictly controlled conditions.
Almost all the information available to Human Rights Watch comes from either official Chinese government or Falungong sources, both of which obviously have a stake in releasing data that supports their respective claims. Chinese government information is designed to show the numbers of people whose lives have been destroyed by Falungong practice; Falungong seeks to demonstrate the extent of government repression. There is no sure way of checking the information from either source, making it impossible to fully assess competing claims about the numbers of judicial sentences, reeducation through labor terms, deaths in custody, and so on.
As indicated above, only a small proportion of Falungong members in custody are prosecuted through the judicial system. Although Chinese government public relations materials have repeatedly alleged that Falungong leaders won converts through fraud, disturbed social order through public protest and rumor mongering, and compromised the health of the nation by campaigning against medical treatment, there is little evidence that more than a handful of Falungong adherentswere tried on the basis of such charges. Instead, until mid-2001, the focus of formal judicial prosecutions appears to have been concentrated on two groups, key Falungong organizers tried for organizing and using a cult organization to disrupt the law, organizing illegal assemblies, disseminating superstitious fallacies, and leaking state secrets; and followers involved in large-scale printing, publication, and distribution of Falungong materials for use within China and in publicizing abuses to an overseas audience. As such, the prosecutions, resulting in sentences ranging between three to eighteen years, directly violated Falungong members' basic rights to freedom of expression, belief, and association.
C August 19, 2001; a court in Beijing sentenced Zhang Xiongwei to thirteen years in prison in part for banding with others to print 98,000 leaflets and make 2,800 banners.170
C March 1, 2001: the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Xue Hairong to a seven-year term for downloading information off a Falungong web site, turning it into pamphlets, and organizing their distribution.171 He was in detention when he died of leukemia on March 22, 2001.172
C December 5, 2000: Beijing No.1 Intermediate Court sentenced Peng You, Mu Chunyan, Chen Suping, and Zhang Lixin to terms ranging up to eight years for "illegally printing publicity about the Falun Gong cult." They allegedly printed and distributed several hundred thousand fliers and 200 compact disks.173
C June 14, 2000: a court in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, secretly tried Gu Linna, one of the principal organizers of a clandestine press conference held with foreign journalists in October 1999. She was sentenced to a four-year prison term presumably the same day as she was tried. Until April 23, 1999, when Gu aired a program favorable to Falungong, she was a reporter as well as director of a program on the economy for the Shijiazhuang People's Radio Station.174
C January 26, 2000: Dongcheng District Court in Beijing sentenced two sisters, Li Xiaobing and Li Xiaomei, to six- and seven-year terms respectively for running an illegal business, the major location in Beijing for buying Falungong books, tapes, and related materials. Authorities claimed 1.8 million books had been sold from the shop.175
C January 6, 2000: Wuhan Intermediate People's Court sentenced a husband and wife team, Wang Hansheng and Xu Xianglan, to six-and eight-year prison terms in part for publishing, printing, copying, and selling some four million books, over a million pictures, and over half a million audio-video products.176
Reeducation through Labor; Transformation Centers
Chinese government persecution has not been limited to key organizers, big-time publishers, major distributors, or small-scale proselytizers. It has been directed against scores of low profile practitioners-rank and file followers-willing to publicly defend Falungong. Penalties for this latter group have typically been lighter, but its members have been subjected to grave mental and physical abuse including torture and mistreatment. At the start of the crackdown, most detained protesters were held for only a few days of "reeducation," in part because the government appears to have misjudged the depth of commitment, in part because there were insufficient permanent facilities for long-term incarceration of tens of thousands of practitioners. As it became evident that dismantling Falungong could not be accomplished quickly, and as demonstrations became daily occurrences, officials apparently grew impatient with briefly detained practitioners who, as soon as they were released, rejoined public protests in Tiananmen Square. In October 2000, China's policy changed. Instead of the Public Security Bureau rounding up protestors and escorting them home or detaining them for a few days or weeks, "relevant Beijing departments...decided to practice a `close style management' on stubborn Falungong members."177 In the hope of facilitating the permanent "transformation" of identified "recidivists," such individuals were to be immediately sentenced administratively to reeducation through labor, in some cases for as longas three years.178
Death in Custody, Torture and Other Ill-treatment
There is evidence of a range of serious abuses against Falungong members in custody, including beatings, electric shock and other forms of torture, forced feeding and administration of psychotropic drugs, and extreme psychological pressure to recant. Analysis of Falungong and government reports provides some insights about treatment in custody and about who is likely to suffer the worst abuses. However, as indicated above, it is difficult to verify practitioner accounts or the occasional official report.
Assessing how many Falungong members have been taken into custody and how they have been treated is further complicated by the Chinese government practice of treating or warehousing Falungong followers in mental institutions or psychiatric wards. According to a doctor with Beijing University's Mental Hygienics Institute, firm Falungong believers suffer from "delusion-like subcultural beliefs," that their state of mind is not "normal," and their "righteous choice is to seek help from psychiatrists in hospitals."199 Her statement had nothing to say about forced placement and medication in mental hospitals. In February 2001, a foreign ministry spokesperson said that allegations of misuse of psychiatry were "totally groundless."200 As of March 18, 2001, Falungong's website listed the names of 214 practitioners reputed to be in psychiatric detention and mentioned another fifty-two for whom no names were given. At the time, Falungong spokespersons were estimating that the total number of psychiatric detainees approached 1,000.201
166 Erik Eckholm, "4 Are Jailed for Falun Gong's Public Suicides," New York Times, August 18, 2001.
167 "Chinese official says 242 Falun Gong members prosecuted," BBC Monitoring, January 29, 2001, from Xinhua, January 15, 2001; "Shandong Court Jails Two for Publicizing Falungong," FBIS, February 13, 2001, from Xinhua, February 9, 2001; "China Jails 37 Who Spread Falun Gong Fliers," Reuters, March 2, 2001; "China jails 13 more Falun Gong activists," Reuters, March 13, 2001; "China jails 45 Falun Gong organizers," South China Morning Post, Reuters, August 20, 2001; "Five jailed for organising Falun Gong meetings," Associated Press, August 20, 2001; "Beijing Legal Times Reports Six Falungongers Sentenced to Up to Six Years," FBIS, August 10, 2001, from Agence France-Presse, August 9, 2001.
168 These statistics were compiled from two Falungong documents: "An incomplete list of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to prison," January 26, 2001, and an update on April 27, 2001. As of May 2, 2001, both could be accessed on http://hrreports.faluninfo.net/book4/CategoryIndex.htm.
169 "`Falungong' Illegal Publicity Materials Violate Law and Social Ethics," Xinhua, January 21, 2001, in "PRC Crackdown on Falungong Spreading Illegal `Publicity Materials' Viewed," FBIS, January 24, 2001.
170 "Five jailed...," Associated Press.
171 Vivien Pik-kwan Chan, "37 jailed in latest anti-Falun Gong drive," South China Morning Post, March 3, 2001.
172 "CHINA: Falun Gong follower dies in custody in China," Reuters, November 9, 2001.
173 "Beijing court rejects appeal of case on distributing Falun Gong material," BBC Monitoring, December 28, 2000, from Xinhua.
174 For Gu's defense statement, see http://www.clearwisdom.net/eng/2000/Aug/10/
175 Renee Schoof, "32 Falun Gong members get prison in secret trials," Associated Press Newswires, February 1, 2000.
176 "Sentenced Falun Gong members `displayed repentance,'" BBC Worldwide Monitoring, January 7, 2000, from Xinhua, January 6, 2000.
177 "HK Paper: Beijing Decides to Send Falungong Members to Labor Reform Camps," FBIS, October 16, 2000, from Hong Kong Ming Bao (Internet Version-WWW), October 12, 2000.
178 Hong Kong Ming Bao, "HK Paper: Beijing Decides...," FBIS, Oct. 12, 2000. It is unclear if the directive applies to those who are first-time offenders. In addition, there is evidence that in some places the practice persists of holding active proselytizers briefly, then handing them over to their work units for supervision.
179 "Falun Gong Practitioners' Life at Re-education Institute," People's Daily Online, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200102/18/print/20010218- 62663.html, February 18, 2001. In May 2001, foreign journalists were invited to tour the camp. See "Falun Gong Re-education Camp Exposed to Foreign Media," People's Daily Online, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/20010524/eng20010524_70866.html, May 24, 2001.
180 "Re-education Camp: Cult Addicts Transformed Heart and Soul," People's Daily Online, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200106.12/eng20010612_72452.html, June 12, 2001.
181 "Torture and Ill-treatment of Prisoners Prohibited in China," Xinhua, February 19, 2001; "Chinese Official Discusses Handling of Falungong Cult," FBIS, February 28, 2001, from Xinhua, February 27, 2001.
182 The list can be accessed through www.clearwisdom.net. (Click first on "Human Rights Violation Reports," then on "Reports and Name List Compiled After August 2000," and finally on "Labor Camp Cases.")
183 "Shanxi reports on re-educating Falun Gong members," BBC Worldwide Monitoring, March 5, 2000, from Xinhua, February 25, 2000; Charles Hutzler, "Beijing is Breaking Down Spiritual Group ---Newly Aggressive Assault on Falun Gong Follows Immolations in January," Wall Street Journal, April 26, 1001; John Leicester and Charles Hutzler, "Members of sect sent to camps," Associated Press, January 16, 2001.
184 "Provincial On-the-Spot Conference on Educating and Transforming `Falungong' Followers Stresses Need To Tighten Measures for Addressing the `Falungong' Issue Radically," Nanjing Xinhua Ribao, June 9, 2001, in "Jiangsu Deputy Secretary Speaks on Educating, Transforming Falungong `Diehards,' `Zealots,'" FBIS, June 22, 2001.
185 John Pomfret and Philip Pan, "Torture Is Breaking Falun Gong, China Systematically Eradicating Group," Washington Post, August 5, 2001.
186 "A List of Falun Gong Practitioners Who Have Died as a Result of the Crackdown," http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/special_column/death_list.html.
188 "Ms. Zhao Jinhua of Shandong Province was Tortured to Death for Practicing Falun Gong," http://www.clearwisdom.ca/eng/china/zhao_jinhua.html.
189 Ian Johnson, "China's Bureaucracy Stymies a Daughter in Search of Justice -- Mrs. Zhang Tried to Prove Police Killed Her Mother -- A Great Wall of Silence," Asian Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2000; Ian Johnson, "China Tells U.N. No Wrong in Death of Falun Gong Member," Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2000; Ian Johnson, "Ms. Chen Believed Falun Gong a Right -- To Her Last Day -- Cellmates Recall Her Screams Before She Died in Jail -- `No Measures Too Excessive,'" Asian Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2000.
190 "Sect member who questioned death of mother sentenced," Deutsche-Presse Agentur, May 10, 2001.
191 "Torture and Ill-treatment of Prisoners...," Xinhua, February 19, 2001.
192 John Leicester, "China likens crackdown on Falun Gong to war on drugs, assails Washington," Associated Press Newswires, February 27, 2001; "Work of Reeducation Through Labor Is To Be Strengthened, Not Weakened," Legal Daily (Fazhi Ribao), September 30, 1997, in "Vice Justice Minister Interviewed on `Reeducation Through Labor,'" FBIS, October 1, 1997.
193 "Responsible Official of the State Council Office for the Prevention and Handling of Evil Cults Answers Reporters' Questions," Xinhua, February 27, 2001, in "PRC's State Council Office for Handling `Evil Cults' Holds News Conference," FBIS, March 1, 2001; "Falun Gong Practitioners' Life at Re-education Institute," People's Daily Online, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200102/18/print/20010218-62663.html, February 18, 2001.
194 Paul Adams, "Canadian outcry helped Zhang avoid torture Falun Gong follower says Chinese jailers treated him better than other prisoners," The Globe and Mail, January 18, 2001; John Pomfret and Philip Pan, "Torture Is Breaking Falun Gong, China Systematically Eradicating Group," Washington Post, August 5, 2001.
195 "Civil and Political Rights Including Questions of Torture and Detention: Report of the Special Rapporteur, Sir Nigel Rodley, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1999/32," United Nations, Economic and Social Council, E/CN.4.2000/9, 2 February 2000, paragraph 219.
196 "Civil and Political Rights Including Questions of Torture and Detention: Report of the Special Rapporteur, Sir Nigel Rodley, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1999/32," United Nations, Economic and Social Council, E/CN.4/2001/66, 25 January, 2001, paragraph 321.
197 E/CN.4.2000/9, paragraph 220; E/CN.4/2001/66, paragraph 322.
198 E/CN.4.2000/9, paragraph 220-221; E/CN.4/2001/66, paragraph 327.
199 "Chinese doctor says Falun Gongers suffer `delusion-like subcultural beliefs,'" BBC Monitoring, February 4, 2001, from Xinhua, February 4, 2001.
200 "FM Spokesman Denies Report on Abusing Psychiatry for Political Reasons," FBIS, February 21, 2001, from Agence France-Presse, February 20, 2001.
201 For further discussion of forced placement of Falungong practitioners in psychiatric facilities, see Robin Munro, "Judicial Psychiatry in China and its Political Abuses," Columbia Journal of Asian Law, Vol.14, No.1, Spring 2000, pp. 106-120.
202 Interview reported in Erik Eckholm, "Psychiatric Abuse by China Reported in Repressing Sect," New York Times, February 18, 2001.
203 "Name list of Falun Gong practitioners who have been sent to mental hospitals," March 18, 2001, as of April 27, 2001 accessed at http://hrreports.faluninfo.net/book4/CategoryIndex.
204 Ian Johnson, "Death Trap: How One Chinese City Resorted to Atrocities to Control Falun Gong --- Pressured by their Superiors, Weifang's Police Tortured Members of Banned Sect --- The Makeshift Jail in Beijing," Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2000.