NEW YORK, June 14, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) – Dozens of individuals around the world were surprised this week to find that their travel plans to Iceland to take part in a peaceful appeal had been cancelled – by the Chinese communist regime.
Arriving at the gate to board flights on IcelandAir in cities throughout Europe and North America, many were told that their names were on “the black list” because they practice Falun Gong. According to a June 8 report in Iceland’s The Visir, this list – which has not been made public – was compiled by the Chinese government and supplied to Icelandic officials long before President Jiang Zemin’s scheduled arrival.
The list is known to identify both Chinese nationals as well as citizens of several Western democratic countries.
What startled the travelers this week, who include citizens of the United States, Canada, the UK, France, Sweden, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Australia, was that they were on such a list to begin with. Many did not have their names listed as volunteers on Falun Gong websites or in other materials that would identify them as practitioners of the discipline. Yet, somebody had identified them, and done so apparently from within the borders of Western democratic countries.
China’s Illicit Overseas Operations
There is significant evidence that China’s leadership has long held a keen interest in profiling and monitoring individuals outside China who practice Falun Gong.
In May, 2001, Hong Kong officials first denied, then admitted to employing a “blacklist” to block entry of such persons during Jiang Zemin’s visit. In the last two years, many cases of Chinese consulates denying passport renewals to Chinese nationals residing overseas and practicing Falun Gong have surfaced, such as in the US, Canada, and the UK.
In February, 2002, classified documents smuggled out of China and authenticated by renowned China expert Su Xiaokang revealed orders from China’s leadership that, “We should focus on building up data banks and further fulfill and complete the intelligence management systems on “Falungong”… and on religious organizations abroad that infiltrate [China], and bring the function of the systems to full display. We should set up intelligence and data portfolios… and constantly fulfill and complete these portfolios to make sure the data is accurate and updated.” These directives apparently follow orders from China’s Jiang to “strengthen the campaign overseas against those foreign forces, collect more information, and prevent protests” as reported last year by the Falun Dafa Information Center.
And in recent months such efforts by Chinese overseas agents have prompted legal action accusing China’s ministries, consulates and embassies of “engaging in a pattern of criminal acts and interfering with the right to practice their spiritual beliefs.”
Early signs of China’s overseas intelligence operations appeared as early as the first week following Jiang’s ban on Falun Gong in late July of 1999. At that time the apartment of New York Falun Gong spokesperson Gail Rachlin was forcibly broken into and her address book, filled with contact information of Falun Gong practitioners, was taken, but nothing else.
Questions Arise, Patterns Emerge
Yesterday, as reports came in from more and more Falun Gong practitioners stranded at airports in Boston, New York, Paris, London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, etc., some common questions arose.
“Was your name on the list?” many whose tickets were cancelled asked. And “How did they know?”
Practitioners of a peaceful spiritual discipline that has no membership, charges no money, and has no organizational structure are discovering that someone has been snooping. And not just snooping into the readily available list of volunteers on Falun Gong websites or flyers, but deep into the private lives of citizens in many countries and many backgrounds. The names of Falun Gong practitioners who quietly practice Falun Gong in the privacy of their own homes or in their local parks appeared on the lists as well.
“The very existence of such a list raises some very serious questions,” commented Gail Rachlin, spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Information Center. “Why is such a list maintained and who has the ability to maintain it? What did it take to compile such a list, and how many people are really listed? Is it limited to Falun Gong practitioners, or does it include other people of faith? Who is excluded... who is safe?”
“If Jiang Zemin can pressure a long-standing democracy such as Iceland to employ his own ‘blacklist’ to deny basic freedoms in airports and cities throughout the world, where will this stop?” asked Lili Xu, a university professor in New York City who was recently barred from a flight to Iceland. “If my name is on the ‘blacklist’ and I travel to China, will I, too, be interrogated, imprisoned, tortured, and killed? We’ve seen this happen to a number of China scholars and dissidents in recent years in addition to Falun Gong practitioners. This blacklisting tactic is extremely dangerous, and it’s hard to see why it is being tolerated, especially here in Western society.”
Through Persecution of Falun Gong, Icelandic People Recognize Threat to Democracy and Basic Freedoms
Iceland has become the stage where Jiang’s blacklist and the officials who wield it have come under scrutiny.
The Icelandic people, shocked to see their own government apparently buckle to pressure from the visiting Chinese leader, are voicing their distaste through a number of impassioned public protests. They have organized their own public demonstration during Jiang’s visit, as one Icelander describes, “not [only] to support Falun Gong, but to defend our own democracy from the world’s largest totalitarian state.”
Icelandic media, citizens, and human and civil rights groups have been quick to denounce the use of the blacklist while pointing out that the discrimination it has bred (including internment of over 60 Falun Gong practitioners in a school building for over 24 hours after their arrival in Reykjavik) violates Iceland’s own constitution and tradition of democracy.
“The Icelandic people have realized that the Falun Gong issue is one that affects them all,” states Joel Chipkar, a Canadian who has spent the past week in Iceland talking with people and the media about Falun Gong. “At its core, this isn’t an issue of one group’s rights being violated. It’s about whether or not people will condone such underhanded means as covert intelligence gathering on foreign soil and using that information to breed discrimination and violate individuals’ rights, which of course goes against the most basic principles of a democratic nation like Iceland.”
Chipkar added, “The ability of such lists to exist and the willingness of institutions to use them to persecute people constitutes a very real threat to people’s basic freedoms, and a very real threat to democratic institutions and policies more broadly. This is a wake up call.”