NEW YORK – Earlier this month, a 53-year-old woman from northeast China was taken from her home by police. Six days later, she was dead from torture. Her name was Wang Huilan.
Ms. Wang is one of thousands of people – regular Chinese citizens – who have met similar, tragic fates over the past ten years. They are housewives, students, military officers, judges, engineers, teachers, farmers, all of whom were taken from their homes or school or place of work, and were subjected to abuse and torture that lead to their untimely deaths.
In fact, sixty years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), millions of ordinary citizens across China remain in danger of arbitrary detention, torture, and death. For what? For doing nothing more than exercising the very basic rights to freedom of belief and expression.
When former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin ordered Falun Gong to be “eradicated” in 1999, tens of millions of ordinary Chinese overnight found themselves rendered “criminals” by virtue of their peaceful faith. A brutal state apparatus committed to proactively preventing them from pursuing a traditional Chinese path of physical self-improvement and spiritual fulfillment that had become a fundamental part of their identity. It was trying to change who they were.
Any avenue they might use to stop this assault was closed off—the state-run media would only spew horrific anti-Falun Gong propaganda claims, petitioning offices were turned into detention centers, and Party-appointed judges were under orders to hand down “guilty” verdicts.
Nearly a decade later, hundreds of thousands remain in labor camps—at least half of China’s gulag population, according to experts (report). Thousands more are in prisons following Party-controlled show trials. They are beaten, shocked with electric batons, and injected with various drugs, sometimes causing paralysis or death. Investigations in recent years have revealed evidence that practitioners have been killed so their organs could be sold for profit. (news) Untold numbers are left destitute, refugees in their own country, unable to return to their homes or jobs for fear that local police will take them away.
Branches of the 610 Office—an extra-legal task force created in 1999 to lead the campaign against Falun Gong—remain active across China, not only in security agencies and government offices, but also in private companies, universities, and neighborhood watch committees (report). The latest report by the Congressional Executive Committee on China found references to the agency across the country—from Nanjing to Yunnan to Jiangxi. Official accounts of a pre-Olympic crackdown on Falun Gong last year appeared on government websites in all of China’s 31 provincial-level jurisdictions. (report) The result? During the 16 days of the Olympics alone, eleven Falun Gong practitioners were confirmed to have died from abuse in custody.
The state-run propaganda, the arbitrary arrests, the beatings, the torture, the deaths…all continue to this day as is made tragically clear in the story of Ms. Wang.
And so we are here today with the hope that people and government representatives the world over may join us in remembering the millions still suffering persecution in China; that they not accept the reality of injustice simply because of the Chinese Communist Party’s seemingly tight grip on power; that they strive to see through the veil of Party propaganda and understand for themselves what Falun Gong is; that they lend their support to our peaceful efforts to restore hope, dignity, and basic rights to tens of millions in China.