WASHINGTON DC-The Falun Dafa Information Center marked the release of its 2010 Annual Report on Monday with a press conference and panel discussion at the U.S. Capitol Building.
Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center, introduced the key findings of the report, including the observation that tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners continue to face "lawlessness and brutality" in Mainland China, and that they constitute "the largest group of prisoners of conscience" in the world. (read the executive summary)
"In the persecution of Falun Gong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is developing more effective and comprehensive mechanisms for brutal suppression and censorship," explained Browde. "We're already seeing the CCP unleashing these mechanisms onto other targets...using them against Tibetans, Christians and other persecuted groups, as well as for hiding incidents like SARS and poisonous products, the effects of which reach far beyond China's borders."
"In this sense, the persecution of Falun Gong is serving as the CCP's test lab for tyranny, and the longer it continues, the greater the threat to us all."
The annual report (full report
) includes details of 109 Falun Gong practitioner who died in 2009 as a result of torture and abuse in China, in addition to over 2,000 more who were sentenced arbitrarily to reeducation through labor or prison camps. Due to the difficulties associated with obtaining information from inside China, the actual numbers are believed to be significantly higher. The report also includes analysis of the origins, motivations, and tactics behind Falun Gong's peaceful resistance to persecution.
The presentation of the annual report's key findings were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institution's Center for Religious Freedom and commissioner with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. It brought together human rights scholars and authors David Matas, a Canadian human rights and immigration attorney and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, and Ethan Gutmann, author of a forthcoming book on Falun Gong.
Among the findings cited by Gutmann was his estimate, based on extensive surveys with former Chinese detainees, that there are between 450,000 - 1,000,000 Falun Gong prisoners of conscience in China at any given time. Gutmann also explored the history of China's online censorship, surveillance and denial of service attack capabilities, which he found originated as tools to be used against Falun Gong.
These findings, noted Ms. Shea, highlighted the intersection between human rights or religious freedom issues and U.S. national security concerns.
The panel also featured Dr. Shiyu Zhou, a leading Falun Gong activist for the cause of internet freedom in China, and Ms. Pang Jin, a young Washington DC resident whose mother and aunt were both sentenced in sham trials to long prison terms in 2009 for their belief in Falun Gong.
Ms. Pang referred in her speech to House Resolution 605 (news), which passed in March 2010 and which expresses "sympathy to Falun Gong practitioners and their family members who have suffered persecution, intimidation, imprisonment, torture, and even death" for their belief in Falun Gong.
"This kind of support from kind-hearted Americans really gives hope and light to all the people suffering in China," said Ms. Pang, who lost contact with her mother after she was sent in a show trial to 10 years in prison.