|The Chinese government often persecutes
people who hold religious beliefs, as is the
case with these officials, who are beating a
Christian woman (center).
(Beijing—May 22, 2018) As reports of the illegal imprisonment and organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners pours out of China, the lawyers of Canadian citizen Sun Qian, who is languishing in a Chinese jail from her adherence to the spiritual practice, penned a desperate appeal to the Canadian officials and citizens on May 15.
Beijing law enforcement seized Sun on Feb. 20, 2017, and charged her with “using a cult organization to undermine the law” as part of a 19-year campaign to eliminate Falun Gong devotees.
According to her lawyers, Xie Yang and Xie Yanyi (no relation), “China’s biggest human rights crisis is the Falun Gong issue. The unlawful suppression of Falun gong practitioners has been going on for [almost] two decades and continues to this day. In terms of its scale and harm, the persecution of Falun Gong can be described as one of the biggest human catastrophes since World War II. The damage it has caused has surpassed that of some wars. Tens of millions of people suffer illegal discrimination and treatment, and hundreds of thousands (even millions) of people have been illegally sentenced, incarcerated, or made to do forced labor. Tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, have been persecuted to death, disabled, or had their organs harvested. In many cases, organ harvesting was carried out when the practitioners were still alive. Torture is commonplace and surveillance is omnipresent.”
Falun Gong blossomed in China in the 1990s as many gravitated towards its core principles of “truth, compassion, and tolerance.” The persecution began at its height in 1999 under the direction of then-President Jiang Zemin, a man who many regard responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Over the past two decades, people who practice Falun Gong have been systematically rounded up and imprisoned, and research from many prominent scholars indicates that a large number of these people have secretly died as officials harvest their organs and sell them to hospitals.
However, in recent years, China has begun throwing out Falun Gong cases before they go to court or handing the practitioners lighter sentences.
In order to fight for the rights of their client, Xie Yang and Xie Yanyi are appealing to the Canadian government and citizens to pay close attention to this “crime against humanity.” ChinaAid joins them in calling for the freedom of Sun and other Falun Gong prisoners and requests that lawmakers and citizens of the free world urge China for their unconditional release.
The petition can be read in full below.
ChinaAid exposes abuses, such as those suffered by Sun, in order to stand in solidarity with the persecuted and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.
A Letter to Canadian Members of Parliament and Citizens
Respected Canadian MPs and citizens:
We are professional lawyers from the People’s Republic of China. We are legal agents and defense attorneys representing Canadian citizen Ms. Sun Qian, a Canadian citizen who is currently being charged by the Beijing municipal judicial system for “using a cult organization to undermine the law.”
The Canadian Ms. Sun was arrested by law enforcement in Beijing on Feb. 20, 2017 because she practices Falun Gong. As a Falun Gong adherent, the predicament she faces is one typical to mainland China. To safeguard Ms. Sun’s basic human rights, it is necessary to fully comprehend the actual circumstances that she and the rest of the Falun Gong community in China face. The outcome of this case does not just concern her fate, but also directly impacts millions upon millions of people. Ms. Sun’s case also concerns the matter of human rights and rule of law in China.
Canadian MPs and citizens must know that the biggest human rights crisis on earth today is occurring in China. And China’s biggest human rights crisis is the Falun Gong issue. The unlawful suppression of Falun Gong practitioners has been going on for two decades and continues to this day. In terms of its scale and harm, the persecution of Falun Gong can be described as one of the biggest human catastrophes since World War II. The damage it has caused has surpassed that of some wars. Tens of millions of people suffer illegal discrimination and treatment, and hundreds of thousands (even millions) of people have been illegally sentenced, incarcerated, or made to do forced labor. Tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, have been persecuted to death, disabled, or had their organs harvested. In many cases, organ harvesting was carried out when the practitioners were still alive. Torture is commonplace and surveillance is omnipresent.
The origins of this persecution lie with the decisions of a few political leaders. Starting in 1999, tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to severe persecution just for keeping their faith in “truthfulness, compassion, tolerance.” Countless families have been destroyed and countless lives ruined in a political campaign that not only violates the United Nations charter and the International Human Rights Convention, but is also in contravention of China’s own constitution and laws. The use of Article 300 to charge and sentence Falun Gong practitioners for their faith and for appealing injustices is a misapplication of the law that blatantly violates the principles of criminal justice. While the persecution is neither the will of the law or the will spirit of the country, to this day there is little indication that the persecution will end. The authorities’ open trampling of beliefs and dignity has employed various means to twist and ravage human nature, bringing harm to humanity’s progress as a collective civilization. People have become acclimated to shamelessness and evil as they respond to the persecution with cold indifference. The persecution’s evil fruits are corrupting and subverting many aspects of life and society, and are poisoning the human spirit.
The arrests, prosecution, and sentencing of Falun Gong practitioners are flagrant abuses of the law and violation of the Chinese constitution. This point is not only overlooked internationally and in the civilized nations of the West; people in China do not know that practicing Falun Gong and demanding redress for injustice is entirely legal according to Chinese law. We hope that people of the world come to realize that this crisis of humanity is something that is completely possible to change. Opponents of the law and justice in China and the world are not any government or nation, but the few criminals and evil elements embedded in the authoritarian system.
Below is the basic content of the message we sent to the Chinese authorities regarding Ms. Sun Qian’s case.
Legal authorities in Beijing used the charge of “using a cult organization to undermine the law” to prosecute Ms. Sun Qian on the basis of her practicing Falun Gong. Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested simply for adhering to their faith, and are subsequently incur further persecution when they seek to redress or clarify the truth about their illegal detention. This sort of abuse is standard operating procedure in China. If at the beginning the ramifications of the persecution were not widely known, today the facts of the persecution are coming under greater scrutiny from both inside and outside the country.
This persecution violated the Chinese constitution and law from its very beginning and was not carried out by the will of the nation, the law, or the ruling party, but due to the wishes of a few individuals. Their agenda must be separated from the will of the nation, the law, and the ruling party. Not only do they not represent the nation or the law, but because of their unlawful acts, they can be said to be opposing the nation and the ruling party, as well as opposing society and humanity. We believe that our nation and people cannot pay the price for the errors of a few individuals. All of us citizens in this society, including Party members and government officials, should not only avoid executing the erroneous will of a few individuals, but also have the duty and responsibility to fight back against this erroneous will and acts. We have to safeguard the proper will of the nation, the law, and the ruling party, and not stand on the side of those who commit evil against the law, the nation, and humanity. Only in this way can the nation’s interests and rule of law be protected. As citizens, officials, or as Party members, we must earnestly study the constitution, the law, and the series of policies, documents, and decisions made since the Cultural Revolution. We must reflect on history and observe the steps humanity has taken on the path to civilization.
For over a decade, public security authorities around China have all but thrown out the conventions governing normal criminal justice when they handle Falun Gong cases. In case after case, judiciary principles such as presumption of innocence, no penalty without a law, or “in dubio pro reo” have been roundly neglected. Meanwhile, large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested with clear knowledge that there is no basis in evidence, reality, or the law to do so. Miscarriages of justice have been building up all the way to the present.
The persecution is a genocidal crime against humanity. Since the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th Congress, the cruel and depraved persecution has continued. However, we believe it is unlikely that Mr. Xi Jinping would like to shoulder the burden for this massive crime against humanity. We believe that Mr. Xi and others currently serving in the state institutions are coming to understand in greater clarity the true situation of the persecution. Whatever the situation in the past, from now on, this persecution must be taken to task and ended as quickly as possible. It requires collective action of the Chinese people inside and outside the political system to call attention to and rectify these actions of illegal persecution. We do not believe that any official working at various levels in the state institutions would willingly and gladly burden himself with the responsibility for this historic crime. Though for 19 years a small group of inhumane and wicked criminal elements used their power to create many cases of injustice for Falun Gong practitioners around the country, in recent years there is a trend in Falun Gong cases for lighter sentences or even acquittals to be passed instead of heavy sentences. The throwing out of Falun Gong cases before prosecution also suggests a gradual awakening of conscience.
Separation of church and state is an international standard of civilized government, and China’s constitution guarantees freedom of belief and speech in addition to other basic human rights. Secular authority, including legislative, judicial, and executive branches, cannot infringe on a citizen’s freedom of belief. Any legal policy targeting religious belief is inherently invalid since it violates the constitution. There is no legal basis or rational excuse for determining Falun Gong to be a cult, and using Article 300 to make arrests, bring charges against, and prosecute Falun Gong practitioners for supposedly “organizing and using a cult organization to undermine the law” is a misapplication of the law which violates the principles of criminal justice.
Prior to 1999, Falun Gong practitioners were only practicing meditation and reading their spiritual texts, and did not devote time to spreading materials to clarify the facts about the persecution. The practitioners only started talking about the persecution after 1999 when they were subjected to various forms of slander and suppression, such as the 2001 Tiananmen self-immolation event staged by CCTV and the round-the-clock propaganda barrage by all major state-run media outlets. Falun Gong practitioners were made to perform forced labor, received criminal sentences, were brainwashed, tortured such that they suffered injury, disability, or loss of life, or even had their organs harvested while they were still alive. No effort has been spared in the effort to eradicate Falun Gong. In order to appeal and resist the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners have had no choice but to engage with society and the public to make it known that they are not a cult, but rather are good people who have been subjected to slander and various kinds of injustice. The reason they spread literature and clarify the facts to society is because of severe and systematic persecution.
Former CCP general secretary Jiang Zemin launched a comprehensive campaign of suppression against Falun Gong in order to consolidate and continue his authority and position. He created the 610 Office and the so-called Anti-Cult Association to facilitate the suppression of Falun Gong from the central to local levels. Meanwhile, Jiang’s henchmen and many officials within the political system, acting out of fear, personal interest, or after accounting for political risks, used their power to overstep the constitution and law. They manipulated the public security authorities, propaganda apparatus, and other state institutions to arrest, persecute, and defame Falun Gong practitioners. Thus unfolded a battle between a savage persecution of unprecedented scale, and the resistance to it. (The 610 Office was formally dissolved at the recently concluded Two Sessions, but its functions were transferred to the domestic security apparatus.)
The Falun Gong community has faced wanton violation of their freedom of belief, as well as various forms of persecution and genocide in the past 18 years. Their grievance and resistance should be seen as natural human response. The injustice and persecution they have suffered as a result of holding firm to their belief in truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance has resulted in individuals and families being subject to extremely cruel and miserable circumstances. While facing massive hardships and cruel fortunes, Falun Gong practitioners have never taken inappropriate actions, such as undermining social order to take revenge for their unjust treatment, resorting to violence to resist the government or taking part in felonies, etc. They and their family members engage lawyers for representation and still harbor hope and faith in China’s judicial institutions and courts. They still have a certain degree of trust in the law, and have faith in humanity and good conscience.
Our fellow legal practitioners should be aware that in recent years, the incidence of violent crime across the country has been gradually increasing. In contrast, Falun Gong practitioners have been able to confront injustice and cruelty with peaceful, rational, tolerant, and restrained behavior. They have relied on the strength of faith in compassion and have consistently sought redress for their grievances in inspiring fashion. Even though they have suffered unspeakable atrocities, they have always remained steadfast in their faith and trusted that justice will prevail. They have never fought violence with violence to get revenge; there has been no case of Falun Gong practitioners using violence or illegal means to satisfy their suffering. This takes a special kind of selflessness.
The only way one can find “fault” with Falun Gong practitioners is for their having committed the “crimes” of free speech, thought, and expression to safeguard their faith, dignity, lives, and basic human rights. Clearly, Falun Gong practitioners are not criminals, but victims.
In perusing the material circulated by Falun Gong practitioners, it is plain to see that the group poses no threat to society or public order. Broadly speaking, these materials deal with three themes concerning Falun Gong and the persecution. First are the spiritual beliefs and worldview of Falun Gong. Practitioners believe that the world is layered into many dimensions ruled over by Buddhas and gods. These views on life and the world are matters of personal volition and do not directly concern the greater society. The second type of message responds to the injustices perpetrated against Falun Gong and the Chinese government’s demonization of the practice. Examples include literature explaining how the 2001 Tiananmen self-immolation incident was a hoax, or how Falun Gong practitioners are good people and do not run a cult — content that does not pose any harm to society. A third category includes criticism of the ruling party and government, along with derisive rhetoric and the judgment of history. The fact that such rhetoric is voiced, and whether it holds merit, is something that demands consideration in and of itself. Though one may consider these critical expressions extreme or emotional, they do not pose a threat to society, much less constitute a matter to be handled by law enforcement.
By ordering the persecution of Falun Gong, Jiang Zemin directed the Communist Party to commit the same sort of historical error that occurred during the Cultural Revolution. The leadership was fully capable of handling emerging social groups in accordance with the law instead of applying its philosophy of struggle. Even dealing with riots and protests did not necessitate struggle campaigns, as social disorder could be well taken care of within the confines of the law. Regrettably, the leadership chose not to follow legal protocol. Rather, they overstepped the constitution to launch a wholly unnecessary political campaign, causing not only great human tragedy, but also tarnishing the image of the authorities and saddling the state with a massive historical crime.
As early as 2010, Chinese lawyers have begun to stand out in defense of Falun Gong practitioners in increasing strength and with greater conviction. “The nation’s woes will not end until the injustice against Falun Gong is overruled,” they say. Year after year, systematic abuse of the law has affected not only countless Falun Gong adherents and their families; it also eroded the basic legitimacy of the entire Chinese judicial system and prevented it from implementing humane reforms.
In the last 19 years, legal staff at all levels of the Chinese judicial system had abused their power in applying Article 300 to punish Falun Gong adherents. The persecution against Falun Gong is nothing more than a war against compassion and humanity. At the same time, every society is witness to conflict between lawful and unlawful elements that test the moral compass of its individual members. The treatment of Falun Gong is a matter that affects this generation’s reforms and the future of the country.
In China, rule of law in the modern sense began development only in the 1970s and 1980s, and is still in a nascent stage. Throughout society, notions of law are still quite weak, while an authoritarian mindset remains deeply rooted. Further, the tendency of the leadership and vested interests is to hamper progress, which makes it even more difficult to establish checks and balances. Because of these historical and human factors, the persecution of Falun Gong has involved a large number of officials and judicial personnel who, whether as active or passive perpetrators, are anxious to keep their power, positions, and interests. They fear being held to account if the law is applied in its genuine spirit, which is a factor in preventing the countless Falun Gong cases from receiving redress.
Yet as the current trend shows, the injustices against Falun Gong will be redressed, even if there are still those attempting to politicize the issue and continue the illegal persecution against this spiritual community. As the persecution involves great numbers of government officials, it ties up the interests of both the state and the people with the burden of repression. Only by redistributing the responsibility for their historic wrong can the perpetrators feel secure.
We believe that the only rational course of action to rectify historic crime is by ending the persecution of Falun Gong. No longer should innocent people become cannon fodder for political struggle. Notwithstanding the eventuality that the current leadership would like to absolve itself of complicity, the fact remains that in the last decade and beyond, many Chinese officials and staff in public security have implicated themselves in the crime of persecution. The police, judiciary, as well as other state organs have endorsed miscarriages of justice in handling Falun Gong. The burden is so heavy that moving forward is barely possible.
In early 2017, the Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate released an updated “Interpretation from the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate Regarding the Application of the Law in Handling Cases Involving Heretical Religions.” This document explicitly overturned two previous judicial interpretations made in 1999 and 2001 by greatly increasing the requirements for arresting, charging, and prosecuting Falun Gong practitioners. This may represent a positive step for redressing the persecution, as close reading of the Interpretation shows an overall trend towards increased leniency.
Of course, the road to addressing this historic wrong is replete with resistance and challenges, which will require greater effort and perseverance to overcome. But in 40 years since “reform and opening up,” the concepts of human rights and rule of law have settled into the hearts and minds of many. Globalization and accelerated entry to the information age have facilitated the spread of universal values around the world. For the perpetrators who started and participated in the persecution of Falun Gong, they are now all too aware that their sins are hard to escape. To stop the persecution and completely redress the wrongdoing is not a mere act of justice or a move that can mend relations with the people. We may have underestimated the extent to which society is coming to awaken; the extent to which a spirit of compassion and justice has matured; and the power of the universal values that are growing among people in China and around the world. No doubt we live in an era of growing humanity and spirituality, where small groups of evildoers and lawbreakers are becoming ever more isolated. After all, most of those officials complicit in the persecution were pressured into participating by the powers-that-be. It would be apt to say that in the past, responsibility for the persecution lay with the original perpetrators in the higher rungs of power, while today, the choice lies with officials at the fundamental levels of administration. They must find the courage to renounce evil and return to justice.
For the current leadership, ending the persecution of Falun Gong and redressing the injustice done against it is the only way out. Only by giving up the philosophy of struggle and practicing love and compassion is it possible to avoid the abyss of chaos. All of Chinese society must step up to the challenge and prioritize human rights, peaceful democracy, rule of law, and take up its collective moral duty.
Of course, the coming reforms have been tempered throughout by a moral struggle. In this vein, the persecution of Falun Gong and the acts of resistance to persecution have taken on a universal moral significance for the whole of society and humanity. It is a battle between peace and violence; civilization and barbarism; freedom and slavery; and justice and evil. No one can stand on the sidelines in this matter. The tools to distinguish truth and sham, as well as compassion and malice, lie within each of us.
Canadian MPs and citizens, we thank you for reading this letter. Since the end of World War II, the struggle to guarantee universal human rights and freedom has not ceased. No step on this path is taken without hope in the wish for a better future, or without the will and courage to persevere. No gain is made without sacrifice or hardship. Whether in China or around the world, evil is often allowed to succeed because there are too few who stand up for universal principles.
Today, twenty years after the sudden transformations in the Soviet and Eastern European regimes, we have by no means reached the “end of history.” We must not forget the dark days at the beginning of World War II, when the forces of democracy rallied against the fascist invaders. We must remember the words of Winston Churchill: “we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. … We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” Today, that battle between good and evil continues to test us.