A Chinese man stands inside a job center on September 18, 2015 in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, China in 2015. China’s slower economy has left many desperate for work, making them vulnerable to pyramid schemes that are evolving into criminal syndicates. (Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)A Chinese man stands inside a job center on September 18, 2015 in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, China in 2015. China’s slower economy has left many desperate for work, making them vulnerable to pyramid schemes that are evolving into criminal syndicates. (Kevin Frayer / Getty Images)

A young college graduate was found dead in the northern port city of Tianjin. Police suspect the death involved foul play by a pyramid scheme gang. Such gangs have been connected to a number of suspicious deaths across China.

On July 14, the body of Li Wenxing, 23, was found near a suburban highway in Tianjin, floating faceup in a small pond. Autopsy results showed that Li drowned with no apparent injuries.

Li, a native of Shandong Province, had come from a rural family and joined the wave of young people leaving small-town homes to find careers in big cities.

Li Wenxing, seen on the day of his college graduation ceremony, thought he was taking a programming job but ended up in a pyramid scheme run by violent con artists. (Handout via EMG)

Li Wenxing, seen on the day of his college graduation ceremony, thought he was taking a programming job but ended up in a pyramid scheme run by violent con artists. (Handout via EMG)

Chinese media reported that a Li’s body was found with a book of notes apparently taken at a class connected to the pyramid scheme known as Diebeilei. Chinese state media said five Diebeilei associates have been arrested for Li’s death and have confessed to luring him into the scheme and forcing him to stay at their dormitory.

Sixth Tone quotes a post from Li’s sister that has since been taken down, in which she claimed the autopsy of her brother revealed he had been starved.

Syndicate-like pyramid schemes are prolific in China and feed on vulnerable and often poorly educated victims who are lured in by overnight rags-to-riches stories.

Public outcry over Li’s death has been directed at both pyramid scams—which are known to use aggressive recruiting practices, deception, and even violence—as well as at “Boss Zhipin,” a popular Chinese job hunting website that failed to screen employers posting ads on its site.

The job site has issued an apology for that failure and has promised changes will be made.

Li was a recent graduate who thought he was going to work as a programmer at a company he found on Boss Zhipin. He had to travel to Tianjin for the job, not discovering until later that it was posted by a member of Diebeilei posing as a software company.

A police statement revealed that shortly after Li arrived in Tianjin on May 20, he was taken to facilities controlled by members of the scheme, tricked into signing up as a recruit, and began borrowing money from friends.

Reports said Li’s family and friends had problems reaching him and he wouldn’t give clear explanations for why he needed the money.

What happened later is not yet entirely clear, but in what seems to have been Li’s last phone call to his family on July 8, han sa, “No matter who calls for money, don’t give it to them.”

Li’s death is not an isolated case.

Tidligere i år, a 24-year-old man named Qu Pengxu was found dead in a village fish pond in Tianjin.

Qu had also been a Diebeilei recruit.

Another recruit named Zhang Chao was found dead on July 13.

Zhang’s body had been abandoned by three men on the roadside in the middle of the night. Zhang died from a “heat stroke” under suspicious circumstances. And there have been other similar cases around China.

Another college student, Lin Huarong, 20, from Hunan Province, was found drowned in a river in Hubei Province on Aug. 4.

Lin got sucked into a pyramid scam by a classmate when she was searching for a part-time job in July.

Lin’s father said he lost contact with his daughter that same month.

Chinese media reported that Lin was forced to receive brainwashing lectures and her cellphone was confiscated.

Four recent victims who died after coming into contact with pyramid schemes in China. Large photo is Qu pengxu. Top right and down are Li Wenxing, Zhang Chao, and Lin Huarong. Behind them is a picture of the pond where Li's body was found. (Composite photo via EMG)

Four recent victims who died after coming into contact with pyramid schemes in China. (L) Qu Pengxu. (From Top R and down) Li Wenxing, Zhang Chao, and Lin Huarong. Behind them is a picture of the pond where Li’s body was found. (Composite photo via EMG)

Such cases reflect the severity of the problem, says China analyst Jason Ma.

Pyramid schemes are an ever changing menace, han sa.

“In the beginning, it was called ‘direct marketing.’ Since direct marketing was introduced to China thirty years ago, it has transformed into something completely unrecognizable today.”

Ma said that in China today, these pyramid schemes have become “a dangerous business.”

“A great many people have become victims of such scams again and again. Today in China, the so-called pyramid scheme has turned into something extremely complex and it is constantly evolving …”

Ma notes that there are an estimated 600-700 types of pyramid or similar scams now being used in China by more than 1,000 organizations.

“‘Pyramid scheme’ is an umbrella term that covers a lot of ground. In the case of Li Wenxing, he had lost his personal freedom and likely died from abuse. This is really not a pyramid scheme in the conventional sense, it is a gang-style kidnapping," han sa.

Public outrage is also being aimed at the police over why, after so many tragedies, authorities have failed to stamp out pyramid schemes.

Crackdowns on such groups flare up from time to time, with one currently underway, but the groups persist and evolve.

Some allege that authorities in China can’t stop such groups because they are sanctioned by corrupt officials within the regime.

“This is an extreme case of preying upon others. It is a form of corruption that stems all the way from the top of CCP leadership,” said China news analyst Heng He.

“The authorities are unable to touch the largest pyramid scheme organizations because the government has got their backs. CCTV even helps promotes some of them,” said He, pointing to the pyramid scheme known as ‘Shanxinhui’ as an example.

The group claims to be a women’s foundation and is affiliated with the CCP’s All-China Women’s Affiliation.

“These organizations get public financing but the money they get will not be repaid, or paid out to investors at the bottom. Those at the top are the ones that get the money,” said He.

He compares that scenario to the endemic corruption in China that sees Party officials profit at public expense.

It’s routine in China for the children of highly place Communist Party cadre’s to be placed at the helms of state-owned enterprises that dominate China’s economy, and for officials to manipulate land sales and other business dealings to line their own pockets.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has earned political capital by carrying out a massive anti-corruption campaign that aims to stifle such practices but there are questions over whether that is possible without regime change and real rule-of-law.

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Boxers Wen Yinhang, from Hubei, and Uyghur Tangtilahan compete at the 13th National Game in Tianjin, Kina, on Aug. 13. China has ordered the dissolution of the current National boxing team amidst complaints that the competition was rigged. (Sohu)Boxers Wen Yinhang, from Hubei, and Uyghur Tangtilahan compete at the 13th National Game in Tianjin, Kina, on Aug. 13. China has ordered the dissolution of the current National boxing team amidst complaints that the competition was rigged. (Sohu)

China has dissolved its national boxing team amidst complaints about rigged boxing matches in the recent China’s premier National Games, the country’s top sports’ governing body announced on Sept. 7.

The qualifications of certain judges who were allegedly involved will be terminated.

The boxing competition that took place in Tianjin between Aug. 3 og 13 ended in an uproar as several boxing athletes, indignant of the ruling that they deemed unfair, refused to leave the site in protest. Subsequent matches were delayed as a result.

The two boxers under spotlight are Wen Yinhang from Hubei Province in central China and his opponent, Tangtilahan, an ethnic Uyghur from Xinjiang, who competed in the men’s 75-kilogram final on Aug. 13. Wen was given a score of 5 til 0 despite many onlookers being certain of his defeat, leading to broad speculation that the match was rigged in Wen’s favor.

Wen Yinhang and Tangtilahan at the boxing match on Aug. 13. (WeChat)

Wen Yinhang and Tangtilahan at the boxing match on Aug. 13. (WeChat)

Wen, an athlete in the national boxing team, was set to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In an online recording of the live broadcast on state-run Central China Television, the narrator can be heard jeering at Wen, who wears a red outfit, as Tangtilahan punches him in the face. “Such an overwhelming victory," han sier.

But hearing the announcement of Wen’s victory, the narrator appears baffled, saying it “made no sense.”

The Chinese Boxing Federation rules deny athletes the chance to appeal for a review of the results if the score is 0:5 eller 1:4.

Similar questions were raised on Aug. 4, when Sichuan athlete Wang Gang defeated Yilanbieke, also a Uyghur, during the 64-kilogram match.

“An investigation has been launched and umpires who are found to have seriously violated discipline will be banned,” the Boxing and Taekwondo Center of the State General Administration of Sport said in a statement, according to the English Xinhua.

“The incidents exposed the loopholes of the boxing and taekwondo center in selecting, managing, and employing referees,” the administration said in the statement. “The boxing and taekwondo center must take responsibility for it.”

In an earlier notice, the sports administration criticized the boxing and taekwondo center for not handling the issue in a sufficient and timely manner, and ordered an investigation.

i mellomtiden, Chinese have taken to the internet to express their amusement or discontent.

“Wen Yinhang was punched four or five times every round, but he still got crowned with a score of 5 to 0,” one spectator wrote on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media site.

Another commented: “I can’t claim myself a veteran boxing fan, but I have watched some matches. This National tournament is simply ridiculous… My wife, who has never watched boxing match, joined me today and she asked, ‘how can this [Wen] win? What exactly is the standard for the competition?’ I had no good answer for her.”

Others directed their comments towards the apparently rigged results. “Such insufficient work. At least you should inform the host or narrator, this is way too awkward.”

Professional sports in China have long been plagued with corruption, doping, and fixed results. Wang Jing, the former champion in female 100 meter in the 2013 National Games, got a lifetime ban from running events for alleged doping. I 2009, acclaimed diving coach Ma Yanping quit months before a scheduled competition, stating that the champions had been pre-arranged behind closed doors.

A notice issued by the State General Administration of Sports on Sept. 7, 2017 states that the national boxing team will be disbanded.

A notice issued by the State General Administration of Sports on Sept. 7, 2017.
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Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong on trial at Changsha Intermediate People’s Court on Aug. 22, 2017. (Screenshot via Youtube/China Hot Video)Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong on trial at Changsha Intermediate People’s Court on Aug. 22, 2017. (Screenshot via Youtube/China Hot Video)

Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was put on trial Tuesday, Aug. 22 for “subversion of state power.”

Jiang Tianyong’s wife told the Chinese language version of NTD TV that she thought it was a show trial and that Jiang had been tortured into pleading guilty.

Jiang disappeared last November after visiting another human rights lawyer, Xie Yang, who had been detained in what has come to be called the 709 Crackdown, so-named because the roundup of lawyers began two years ago on July 9.

Six months after his disappearance, Jiang’s father received a letter from the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau that his son had been charged with “subversion of state power.”

Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong and his wife Jin Ling Ling, at time before he was arrested by the Chinese regime.  (NTD.tv)

Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong and his wife Jin Ling Ling, at time before he was arrested by the Chinese regime. (NTD.tv)

Jiang had a history of defending persecuted groups such as underground Christians, Tibetans, and Falun Gong practitioners, and had taken on high-profile cases such as that of the Nobel Peace Prize nominated rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, and blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng.

Before Jiang’s trial, his parents were taken into custody, a common tactic in China used to pressure those who refuse to toe the Party line.

Jiang’s wife, Jin Bianling, decried Chinese authorities for not telling her if her husband was assigned defense lawyer or not, and if so, what his or her name might be.

The trial was held at Changsha Intermediate People’s Court. Videos posted by Chinese netizens show the wife of human rights lawyer Li Heping and the wife of human rights activist Zhai Yanmin being taken away by security for attempting to attend the trial.

Reuters reported an anonymous Western diplomat saying that a handful of diplomats who also tried to attend the trial were told that the room was full and were turned away.

The court released a video of the trial on Chinese social media Weibo.

In the video, Jiang can be seen reading parts of a written statement in which he admits to using social media to criticize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and seeking to “overthrow the socialist system” after going abroad and attending legal training sessions.

Jin Bianling, who fled with her daughter to the United States in 2013, told NTD Television that Jiang must have endured unbearable torture to have pleaded guilty.

“You can see at the beginning of the trial, when Jiang Tianyong was brought into the court, his face was red the whole time,” she said. “Either he was tortured or he was force-fed drugs.”

If true, this wouldn’t be unprecedented.

Other human rights lawyers and activists who were arrested during the 709 Crackdown have told the media that they were tortured during detention, and some were injected with nerve-damaging drugs.

Jin demanded that the court acquit her husband and refused to recognize any verdict that declared him guilty.

Joint Statement

aug. 19, Jiang’s wife and family members of two other persecuted activists, released a joint statement saying that the CCP’s attempts to intimidate them into pressuring their loved ones were “laughable.”

“You are using harassment, deception, and violence on those who show support for their loved ones, then you will definitely receive harassment, deception, and violence as retribution in the future,” the statement reads.

“Regardless of what tricks you use, we will firmly adhere to one principle: If all of our 709 family members don’t come home, we will never give up.”

The eight family members were calling attention to Jiang, human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, and the father of human rights activist Wu Gan who was abducted by police shortly before Wu Gan was to go to trial.

Wang was arrested in the 709 Crackdown, and has been held in detention on charges of being a “threat to national security.”

Wang Quanzhang, with his wife Li Wenzu and son. Wang was detained in August 2015, and hasn't been seen since. (Courtesy of Wang Quanzhang's family)

Wang Quanzhang, with his wife Li Wenzu and son. Wang was detained in August 2015, and hasn’t been seen since. (Courtesy of Wang Quanzhang’s family)

Despite the Chinese regime’s distaste for his activities, Wang was recently nominated for the Dutch government’s Human Rights Tulip award for his advocacy work.

He has defended persecuted groups such as underground Christians and Falun Gong practitioners, and has worked with self-taught paralegals, or “barefoot lawyers,” and human rights activists to defend the disenfranchised.

His wife has tried to sue Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court for not following legal procedures in his case. She says the court had six months to try him or ask for a postponement, and has done neither.

But after 14 tries to enter China’s Supreme Court, she hasn’t been successful in filing the lawsuit.

A day before releasing the joint statement, she posted a video on Twitter of herself trying to get past a Supreme Court bailiff. In the video, the bailiff blocks her way, denying her access to the building.

Wang Quanzhang’s lawyer, Yu Wensheng, said attempts to meet with officials from the Tianjin court have also been unsuccessful, and said he wasn’t even able able to finish filing his defense papers at the court.

“They are not being reasonable at all," han sa.

In their joint statement, the families called for justice for all the lawyers and activists who were rounded up in the 709 Crackdown, and demanded their release.

NTD China News reporters Yi Ru, Li Yun, and Li Peiling contributed to this article.

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Falun Gong practitioners exercise in Chengdu, China's Sichuan Province before the persecution began in 1999.  (courtesy of en.minghui.org)Falun Gong practitioners exercise in Chengdu, China's Sichuan Province before the persecution began in 1999.  (courtesy of en.minghui.org)

Over the past year, an increasing number of Falun Gong practitioners have been released without charge, according to Minghui.org, a clearinghouse for information on the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong in China.

This differs starkly from standard procedure in the Chinese regime’s 18-year-long persecution campaign, in which millions have been thrown into various forms of detention for practicing the traditional spiritual discipline.

For eksempel, a Falun Gong practitioner in Tianjin City, Li Zhenjun, was told of his sentence—three years in a forced labor camp—by a police officer reading from a piece of paper. There was no judge and no jury. Faktisk, no legal basis exists that would justify the banning of Falun Gong.

Nylig, there have been signs that the persecution is abating—not because of an official change in policy—but because some local authorities sympathetic to Falun Gong have chosen to disobey official directives, instead releasing or simply not arresting adherents in the first place.

Since the beginning of 2017, at least 54 Falun Gong practitioners have been released without charge after the court, procuratorate, or police decided to throw out their case. Another 90 have not yet been released, but their prosecution has been halted after a court rejected the case or a higher court ordered a retrial.

A local procuratorate in Henan Province returned the case of four Falun Gong practitioners to the police in late July, citing “insufficient evidence.” Their families, lawyers, and fellow Falun Gong practitioners in China and abroad had pressured the authorities, demanding their immediate release after they were arrested in March.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline combining five slow exercises with a moral philosophy rooted in the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

First introduced to the public in 1992, the practice proliferated across China, attracting 70 til 100 million adherents by 1999, according to official and practitioner estimates.

Falun Gong’s popularity and independent moral beliefs drew the ire of then-Party chief Jiang Zemin, who ordered its eradication. “Destroy their reputation, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically,” Jiang ordered.

The persecution has continued for the past 18 år. Minghui reported 78 cases of Falun Gong practitioners being sentenced to prison in May 2017 og 117 cases in April. According to a February 2017 report by Freedom House, a US-based NGO, the severity of the persecution remains “very high.”

Besides being imprisoned, brainwashed, and tortured into renouncing their beliefs, Falun Gong practitioners have also been harvested and killed for their organs, which fuel China’s lucrative transplant industry.

China performs between 60,000 og 100,000 transplants every year, with organs mostly sourced from Falun Gong practitioners as well as other prisoners of conscience, according to a nearly 700-page report published in June 2016.

But at the same time, many top officials who spearheaded the persecution have been ousted for corruption in the past few years, including Zhou Yongkang, China’s former security czar, and Li Dongsheng, the former head of a Gestapo-like agency tasked with persecuting Falun Gong.

Back when former Party chief Jiang Zemin was in power, he specifically promoted officials who actively suppressed Falun Gong.

Siden 2013, current leader Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign has disciplined over 1 million officials, including many of those responsible for persecuting Falun Gong adherents.

And as a result of the extensive grassroots efforts of Falun Gong practitioners in China and abroad—from flyering around cities in the middle of the night to phoning Chinese officials—more and more local officials have chosen to disobey official policy on suppressing adherents.

Freedom House estimates that millions and even tens of millions continue to practice Falun Gong in China and speak out against the persecution.

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Former Chongqing boss Sun Zhengcai, 53, was put under investigation on July 24. (bowenpress.com)Former Chongqing boss Sun Zhengcai, 53, was put under investigation on July 24. (bowenpress.com)

A number of Chinese officials from several provinces have hastened to show their support for the investigation into Sun Zhengcai, a powerful cadre who headed the Communist Party organization in the city of Chongqing before his recent ousting.

Sun is one of the highest-ranking officials to be purged by Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign. At 53, Sun was one of the youngest members of the Politburo, the Chinese regime’s 25-person ruling body, and he was seen by observers as a potential successor to Xi Jinping as China’s next leader.

On July 15, Sun was removed from his position and a week later, put under investigation for “severe violations of discipline,” a phrase synonymous with corruption.

In ousting Sun Zhengcai, Xi Jinping has strengthened his position, evidenced by the multitude of officials—including from the cities of Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai and the provinces of Jilin and Hunan—who have eagerly “demonstrated loyalty” to Xi and his anti-corruption campaign.

Their eagerness to distance themselves from Sun suggests that Sun’s crimes, although unclear, are particularly grave.

On July 26, an emergency meeting of provincial officials was held in Zhongnanhai, the Beijing compound that hosts the Communist Party leadership. Observers believe this meeting was convened as a means of weakening internal opposition to Xi Jinping.

The fall of Sun and the expressions of support for his investigation indicate that Xi is gaining the upper hand against the powerful opposing faction helmed by former Party chief Jiang Zemin, in the months leading up to a major Party reshuffling later this year.

During his time in power from 1993 til 2003, Jiang fostered a culture of kleptocracy, corruption, and abuse of power in China. He maintained strong informal networks in the communist regime even after being superseded by Party head Hu Jintao, and many officials remain tied into Jiang’s faction.

Chongqing, a provincial-level city with a population of some 30 million, is a major commercial and industrial hub. Prior to Xi’s ascension to power in 2012, it had been run by Bo Xilai, a prominent Jiang ally. Bo was sentenced to life in prison in 2013.

Sun Zhengcai was once the top aide to two allies of Jiang Zemin and succeeded Bo as Party boss of Chongqing. Before this assignment, he had been a Party secretary of Jilin Province in Northeast China, where the Jiang faction also enjoys influence.

I februar, the Party’s disciplinary agency, which carries out the anti-corruption campaign, reprimanded the Chongqing administration for failing to thoroughly cleanse itself from the corrupt influences of its former boss, Bo Xilai, and his right-hand man, Wang Lijun.

“When Sun Zhengcai came to office in Chongqing, he was supposed to purge the ‘residual poison’ of Bo Xilan and Wang Lijun, but he not only failed to do so but also colluded with the ‘residue poison’,” said one Beijing princeling—a term for the children of revolutionary Party leaders—in an interview with the Epoch Times. He asked to remain anonymous to protect his identity.

“Sun’s wife set up a lady’s club in Beijing and had close relations with Gu Liping, the wife of Ling Jihua,” he added. Ling Jihua is part of the Jiang faction and the former top aide to the Chinese Communist Party. He was purged for corruption in July 2015.

The Beijing princeling added that Sun also sought to gain personal profits from the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative that has been marketed as a cornerstone of Xi Jinping’s foreign policy.

The timing of Sun’s purge notably coincides with an annual gathering of top Party leaders at Beidaihe, a seaside resort town a few dozen miles away from Beijing. They will delineate future plans for the Party and configure the roster of the new Party leadership, which will be determined at the 19th National Congress at the end of this year.

“Sun Zhengcai was basically Jiang Zemin’s designated, cross-generational successor,” said the Beijing princeling. “Sun Zhengcai’s fall cuts the Jiang faction off from their escape route. It is impossible for him to succeed Xi Jinping in the future.”

Xi Jinping decided to oust Sun to avoid a replay of a 2012 coup attempt by Bo Xilai and security czar Zhou Yongkang, said independent political commentator Hua Po.

A Xi loyalist, Chen Min’er, has taken Sun’s place as Chongqing’s chief. Chen worked with Xi Jinping when Xi was Party chief of Zhejiang Province from 2002 til 2007 before being sent to lead the impoverished province of Guizhou. As Chongqing chiefs typically sit on the elite Politburo, Chen’s placement gives Xi the opportunity to nab another seat on the 25-member body during the 19th National Congress.

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juli 24, 2017

Hundreds of Falun Dafa practitioners hold a candlelight vigil in Washington on July 20, 2017 to remember the victims of the Chinese regime’s persecution of the practice that began on July 20, 1999. The candles in the front form the Chinese characters for truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, the three main tenets of Falun Dafa. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)Hundreds of Falun Dafa practitioners hold a candlelight vigil in Washington on July 20, 2017 to remember the victims of the Chinese regime’s persecution of the practice that began on July 20, 1999. The candles in the front form the Chinese characters for truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, the three main tenets of Falun Dafa. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Holding the corner of a banner under the intense midday sun on a 100-plus-degree day, Chinese-American medical scientist and Falun Gong practitioner Hu Zongyi shared his understanding of where the Xi Jinping leadership might be headed on the Falun Gong issue.

"[Xi] doesn’t necessarily have any intention to persecute Falun Gong,” said the middle-aged scientist, speaking before the start of a parade in Washington commemorating the 18th anniversary of the beginning of the persecution of Falun Gong in China.

“If those officials, who have blood on their hands, are cleaned out, it will be easier for Xi to end this,” Hu added. “If he really wants to resolve this problem, well, doesn’t he talk about reviving traditional Chinese culture? If he thinks he needs to disband the Communist Party in order to end the persecution, he can take this step first, or do both at the same time.”

Hu’s assessment might seem overly optimistic in light of the continued suppression in China. The website Minghui.org, which serves as a clearinghouse for information about the persecution of Falun Gong, identified nearly 400 practitioners who were sentenced to prison between January to May this year. On July 11, Yang Yuyong, one of about 20 practitioners from Tianjin who were arrested as part of a local security effort, died in a hospital seemingly from the injuries he sustained from torture and abuse, according to Minghui.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping attends the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 17, 2017. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping attends the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 17, 2017. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Yet the Xi leadership has overseen several policies that suggest that Xi is at least considering future reconciliation. The labor camp system has been shuttered. Some practitioners have walked away mostly unpunished after lodging criminal complaints against former Party leader Jiang Zemin, or have received no punishment at all. Xi has made unusual gestures (such as stressing the importance of helping lawful petitioners, which includes those complaining about Jiang) near the anniversaries of dates related to the persecution. The”610 Office,” which coordinates the persecution, has received an official rebuke and its leadership has been (figuratively) decapitated. Local courts are throwing out practitioner cases, citing lack of evidence to prosecute.

There appears to also be a correlation between Xi’s anti-corruption campaign and a gradual weakening of the persecution. Aside from being linked with Jiang’s political faction, many of the officials arrested for corruption happen to be involved in persecuting practitioners, according to Minghui.org and the World Organization to Investigative the Persecution of Falun Gong, which closely tracks the persecution.

It is still unclear whether Xi Jinping will eventually end the persecution. But if he does bite the proverbial bullet, it is tough to imagine that the Party can survive the scandal of the persecution—including grisly, large-scale crimes like forced organ harvesting.

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Falun Gong practitioner Yang Yuyong passed away on July 12 after eight months of being detained for his spiritual beliefs. His body was covered with wounds and bruises. (Radio Free Asia)Falun Gong practitioner Yang Yuyong passed away on July 12 after eight months of being detained for his spiritual beliefs. His body was covered with wounds and bruises. (Radio Free Asia)

Yang Yuyong and nearly 20 other Falun Gong practitioners in the Chinese port city of Tianjin were arrested and detained by local security forces last December. After eight months in police custody, Yang passed away in a hospital on July 11, seemingly from the wounds he sustained from torture and abuse.

But even in death Yang hasn’t escaped the control of Chinese authorities. Tianjin police are restricting access to his grave, and the hospital’s head doctor appears to have listed a bogus cause of death. Yang’s family is now demanding an investigation.

Practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual practice, have been targeted for suppression by the Chinese authorities since July 1999 when former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin launched a persecution campaign. I dag, hundreds of thousands of practitioners continue to be held in some form of detention, where they suffer vicious abuse. Researchers say that the Chinese regime is profiting from the forced live organ harvesting of practitioners.

Yang Yuyong, who was 56, had been arrested multiple times since the start of the persecution. On Dec. 7, he and his wife were again arrested, this time as part of a large sweep of Falun Gong practitioners in Tianjin, and were held in Wuqing District Detention Center.

In early January, Yang went on hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. His jailors responded by shackling his ankles and wrists together, forcing him into a painful bent position. Two heavy metal balls were also attached to the shackles around his feet.

In another incident, Yang’s jailors instructed thirteen detention center inmates to beat him unconscious. One of Yang’s lawyers said that the inmates had also cursed at and sexually abused him.

Then on July 11, the Tianjin authorities notified Yang’s family of his death at 3:40 p.m. that day. The hospital’s head doctor said that Yang had sustained a lung infection and a very high fever, implying that he had died of illnesses.

Yang’s family, derimot, believes that the official medical account of Yang Yuyong’s death was falsified. Yang had no history of illness, and had appeared healthy when Yang’s lawyers visited him a fortnight ago.

Også, when Yang’s family arrived at the hospital, they found his body covered in wounds and bluish-purple bruises as well as cuts on his toenails that suggested his feet had been stabbed with bamboo sticks or needles. They also noticed grotesque wounds on the back of his ears, according to Minghui.org, a clearinghouse for information on the Chinese regime’s ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.

Further, a friend of Yang’s said that his body was already rigid by the time his family saw him at the hospital at 6:00 p.m., which suggests that Yang had passed away much earlier than 3:40 p.m. as the Tianjin authorities had claimed. Yang’s friend wishes to remain anonymous out of safety concerns.

Over 100 policemen came to the hospital in the early morning of July 13 to take the body of Falun Gong practitioner Yang Yuyong against the wishes of his family. They formed a human wall to the entrance of the hospital. (Minghui.org)

Events quickly took an alarming turn. At about 3:00 a.m. the following day, 14 police cars pulled into the hospital’s parking lot. Nearly a hundred police officers, including special forces dressed all in black, swarmed out and surrounded the hospital, forming two rows to make a human wall extending to the entrance, according to Minghui.

Ignoring the family’s wishes, the newly arrived security forces took Yang’s corpse to a cemetery near the hospital and tried to block anyone from taking pictures. The police are monitoring the entrance to the cemetery, as well as registering names and videorecording visitors to Yang’s grave.

Yang’s family is demanding an investigation into the cause of his death as well as the release of Yang’s wife and fellow Falun Gong practitioner Meng Xianzhen. Meng was imprisoned in the same detention center as her husband.

“The first thing we need to do is make them release my mother since she did not commit any crime in the first place. After what happened to my father, I worry about her safety,” said Yang’s daughter in an interview with Radio Free Asia. “The next step is to seek justice for my father.”

Yang’s two children have asked the detention center to release their mother, but they were told to fire one of their lawyers, Wen Donghai, because of his alleged “anti-China” background.

Yang’s children met with authorities on July 14 without their lawyers, who had been denied entry. The authorities then used their mother’s safety to threaten them to privately settle the matter of their father’s death and to stop publicizing the incident on the internet. Yang’s children, derimot, declined.

Yang’s lawyers have tried to file criminal complaints against the head of the Wuqing District Detention Center and a guard surnamed Liu for torturing him. The Wuqing District Procuratorate has refused to accept the complaint, while the Tianjin Procuratorate and the Tianjin Police Department have not responded.

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Wang Yu, the lawyer of late Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli, poses during an interview in Hong Kong on March 20, 2014. The 52-year-old Cao, who died in police detention on March 14, 2014 i Beijing, was said to have dark marks all over her body, her lawyer disclosed, citing Cao's relatives. Cao was set to travel to Switzerland to take part in a UN Human Rights Council review last September but police detained her at Beijing's international airport, her lawyer Wang Yu told AFP on March 14. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)Wang Yu, the lawyer of late Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli, poses during an interview in Hong Kong on March 20, 2014. The 52-year-old Cao, who died in police detention on March 14, 2014 i Beijing, was said to have dark marks all over her body, her lawyer disclosed, citing Cao's relatives. Cao was set to travel to Switzerland to take part in a UN Human Rights Council review last September but police detained her at Beijing's international airport, her lawyer Wang Yu told AFP on March 14. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Beijing-based human rights lawyer Wang Yu was released on bail last August, but she continues to languish under house arrest at her parents’ home in Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia.

Over ten internal security agents monitor Wang and her family around the clock, restricting their communication with the outside world and barring them from returning to their home in Beijing, according to Chinese human rights lawyer Wen Donghai, who recently visited Wang on June 23.

“Their every move is being watched, and at least two security agents follow them whenever they leave home. There are surveillance cameras everywhere in the house, even in their bedroom,” Wen told Radio Free Asia. “Indeed, surveillance of Wang Yu is at an intolerable level.”

Wang, 46, was among the first human rights lawyers to be arrested as part of the nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in 2015. The Chinese authorities have questioned or detained over 300 lawyers, activists, and legal personnel, including Wang and her activist husband, Bao Longjun.

Wang was one of China’s leading rights defenders, having championed dissidents and prisoners of conscience. She advocated for the Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti, the activist Cao Shunli, as well as several practitioners of Falun Gong, the traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that former Communist Party boss Jiang Zemin marked for brutal persecution in 1999.

The Chinese regime reacted to Wang’s best legal efforts by slandering her reputation and squashing her defense of China’s downtrodden.

I juli 2015, a week prior to her arrest, Wang was dragged out of a court in Hebei Province and “tossed out like a bag onto the street,” for trying to attend the cross-examination of a Falun Gong practitioner, according to an eyewitness.

After months of being held incommunicado, Wang was officially charged in Jan 2016 with “subversion of state power,” a major offense often levied upon human rights defenders.

Prior to Wang’s supposed release on bail in August 2016, she gave a confession—likely coerced—that was aired widely on state media. In the footage, Wang said she wouldn’t accept a human rights award from a United States professional organization, denounced her colleagues, and suggested “foreign forces” had used her firm to smear the Chinese regime.

Wang and her family remained under constant surveillance after her release. In a statement published on human rights blog Weiquan.net, Bao Longjun, Wang’s husband, said that his family was accompanied by internal security agents during the entire duration of their trip to Tianjin to visit family on June 25.

After the Wangs returned to Inner Mongolia on June 30, they realized that their travel bags had been searched by the security agents at some point in their travels. Some of their personal belongings in the bags has also gone missing, Bao said.

Bao had demanded that the security agents produce paperwork justifying the surveillance of his family, but received no response. The agents also refused to explain why the Wang family was kept under house arrest in Inner Mongolia, and not allowed to return to their home in Beijing.

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Beijing Party secretary Cai Qi attends a meeting of Beijing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Jan. 12, 2017. (Reuters)Beijing Party secretary Cai Qi attends a meeting of Beijing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Jan. 12, 2017. (Reuters)

Cai Qi spent 14 years in several modest official positions in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang. Endelig, i 2013, Cai became a deputy to the provincial number two.

In the past four years, derimot, Cai has enjoyed career progression somewhat similar to a multinational company employee in middle management being made chief executive officer overnight—with an additional offer to join the board of directors.

Cai was first plucked from Zhejiang to be deputy director of the Chinese regime’s national security organ in 2014. Then Cai was made acting and full Beijing mayor, and later landed the top job in Beijing municipality—Communist Party secretary of Beijing—in a span of six months between 2016 og 2017.

As Beijing boss, Cai, 60, also seems locked in for a seat in the Politburo—a 25-member elite decision making body—come the 19th National Congress, a key Party conclave, near the end of the year.

The Xi Jinping leadership’s recent appointment of Cai and over a dozen others to senior provincial positions has turned heads because they are technically non-elites—none of the newly promoted officials are in the Central Committee, a collection of over 300 ministerial-level officials.

Xi has likely chosen to elevate Cai and others, who are either Xi’s former work colleagues or academicians and technocrats, to more fully consolidate his control over the Chinese regime.

Political Deathmatch

On paper, general-secretary Xi Jinping already appears to be very powerful, being “core” leader of the Chinese regime, the top military overseer, and head of several key policy-making groups.

But in actuality, Xi is less influential than his many titles suggest.

Even before taking office in 2012, Xi was forced to contend with a powerful political faction helmed by former Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin. Jiang’s faction has previously been dominant for about two decades, and is responsible for perpetuating corruption, kleptocracy, and persecution in China.

Jiang faction elites had originally planned to dispose of Xi, a compromise candidate between Jiang and then outgoing Chinese leader Hu Jintao, in a coup, according to sources inside the Party and an account by an Obama administration official to Washington Free Beacon reporter Bill Gertz. Xi Jinping himself appeared to allude to the attempted coup in official speeches where he accused disgraced Jiang elites of forming “cliques and cabals” to “wreck and split” the Party.

Over the past five years, Xi has sought to shift the balance of power through an anti-corruption campaign, which has led to the downfall of many Jiang allies and supporters in various governing organs and the military. More than a million officials have been investigated for corruption since 2013, of which over 200 are Party elites, according to Chinese state media.

Officials, possibly unhappy with being unable to make an easy fortune through corruption, have recently been found to be passively resisting the Xi leadership by refusing or poorly carrying out orders from Party central, according to Chinese scholars or indirect allusions in reports by the Party’s anti-corruption agency.

The result of the “deathmatch” between the Xi leadership and Jiang’s faction is stagnation in the Chinese regime—in the past five years, Xi hasn’t been able to push through substantial economic, legal, or security reforms.

Reshuffling the Provinces

In light of the current political situation in the Chinese regime, the Xi Jinping leadership’s recent elevation of Beijing boss Cai Qi and several other officials to top provincial positions despite their non-elite status seems to be born out of dire necessity rather than a willful attempt to break with the regime’s convention.

If Xi were to promote officials from among the current pool of Central Committee members, or within many important provincial-level administrations like Beijing, Chongqing, or Xinjiang, he runs the risk of entrenching the Chinese “deep state” that comprises lines of officials whose political patronage can be traced to Jiang Zemin’s faction.

Xi will unlikely want to go another five years being unable to properly push through his policies. Stacking the number one and two offices in key provinces with loyalists or capable academicians and technocrats with no political alignment is one way to break the impasse.

Xi’s efforts at political reshuffling is best seen in Beijing.

Beijing Party chief Cai Qi worked with Xi in the southern provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang. New acting mayor Chen Jining was president of the prestigious Tsinghua University until 2015 before serving as Minister of Environmental Protection. Two new Beijing municipal Party committee members, the political advisory organ chief, and the legislature chief were all brought in from outside Beijing.

Xi has either replicated or appears to be in the process of effecting similar political appointments in the other key provincial-level administrations such as Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Xinjiang, and Shanghai, long the base of operations of Jiang Zemin.

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Several hundred of 200,000 pro-democracy student protesters face to face with policemen outside the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 22, 1989. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images)Several hundred of 200,000 pro-democracy student protesters face to face with policemen outside the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on April 22, 1989. (Catherine Henriette/AFP/Getty Images)

Twenty-eight years ago, China—along with the Soviet bloc—seemed on the cusp of political change.

Beginning with college students and university staff around the country, millions of people joined the nationwide demonstrations—for human rights, an end to corruption, and democratic reform—that had been sparked off by the death of Hu Yaobang, the liberal Chinese Communist Party former leader, in April 1989.

Despite widespread sympathy for the movement, and nearly a decade of economic change and social openness, the CCP declared martial law in Beijing; juni 4, 1989, soldiers and tanks of the People’s Liberation Army entered the capital and killed hundreds, maybe thousands of unarmed protesters in Tiananmen Square—the “gate of heavenly peace.”

Crowds of Beijing residents watch the military block access  to Tiananmen Square  in Beijing on June 7, 1989. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)

Crowds of Beijing residents watch the military block access to Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 7, 1989. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)

In the final days before the imposition of martial law, Zhao Ziyang, Hu’s successor to the Party leadership, spoke to the students in Beijing, “We came too late. We are sorry. You talk about us, criticize us, it is all necessary.”

Twenty days after the Tiananmen Massacre, Zhao Ziyang was forced out of office and placed under house arrest. According to the Tiananmen Papers, a scholarly reconstruction of events during the demonstrations and massacre, while Zhao was never formally accused of any crime, he was blamed by Party hardliners for supposedly engineering the pro-democratic demonstrations.

In Zhao’s place the remaining Party leaders installed Jiang Zemin, a man whose deleterious influence in Chinese politics and brutal legacy in the suppression of human rights lingers to this day.

The Paradox of Reform

Following the death of chairman Mao Zedong in 1976, China had begun its “reform and opening up” era, unleashing the entrepreneurial potential of hundreds of millions of Chinese. The crazed fanaticism, state terror, and starvation of the chairman’s rule appeared a thing of the past.

Marx, Lenin, and Mao seemed to take a backseat in the tide of market prosperity and budding political reform. General secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Hu Yaobang, took an opening and went so far as to say that none of Mao’s ideas were relevant in modern China’s economic modernizations.

Chinese Communist Party Secretary General Zhao Ziyang (C) addresses the student hunger strikers through a megaphone at dawn 19 May 1989.  (AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese Communist Party Secretary General Zhao Ziyang (C) addresses the student hunger strikers through a megaphone at dawn 19 May 1989. (AFP/Getty Images)

Og i 1987, the mantle of leadership passed to Zhao Ziyang, a disciple of Hu’s political reforms. Though a high-ranking bureaucrat and a dedicated Party member, Zhao, in the words of scholar Julian B. Gewirtz, “prioritized substance over style” and envisioned a China both rich and democratic. In one of the more radical proposals, he called for the independence of the government from the Communist Party.

Under Zhao’s continued leadership, Gerwitz said in a statement published on the commentary website ChinaFile, “it’s not at all hard to imagine that Chinese society would be much more pluralistic, democratic, law-abiding, fair, and open to the outside world.”

But the Party had its own logic, one that could be seen even before the death of Hu Yaobang and the tragedy at Tiananmen.

Hardliners in the CCP, including Deng Xiaoping, the real source of power and political patronage in the China of the day, had previously acted—as in the example of the campaign to rid China of western “spiritual pollution”—to curb political liberalization. Hu Yaobang was a controversial figure, and the latter half of the 1980s saw his downfall.

Triumph of Party Character

The concept of “Party character”—”dang xing” in Mandarin—was a constant throughout CCP rule, and has proved a formidable tool ensuring cohesion of the communist regime and enlisting cooperation from its individual members.

Class struggle and materialist dialectics, the philosophical core of the Marxist-Leninism enshrined in CCP doctrine, informed the mass murders and unprecedented famine under Mao, and remained unchanged in the years following. Economic development, legal modernization, and loosening of social norms could make Chinese richer and more materially satisfied, but the Communist Party retained its basic ideological character.

At a time when political reforms in the Soviet Union led to the wholesale collapse of eastern European communist regimes, the strength of Party character doomed Hu and Zhao even in their capacities as general secretary—the highest rank in the CCP.

A poster displayed in late 1966 in a Beijing street shows how to deal with a so-called ‘enemy of the people’ during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. (Jean Vincent/AFP/Getty Images)

Zhao Ziyang was not the first Party leader to be disgraced. In the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, brought on by Mao Zedong in the 1960s, General Secretary Liu Shaoqi was hounded by Red Guards as a “capitalist-roader” and brought down as attempts to defend himself with a copy of the Chinese constitution were simply ignored. He was tortured and held in inhuman conditions until his death two years later.

Chen Duxiu, founder of the CCP, was opposed to the use of violence and favored cooperation with the republican Chinese government in power at the time. He was squeezed out of his position and eventually expelled from the Party as a “right-wing opportunist.”

After Tiananmen

I dag, little trace remains of the social movement that swept through Beijing, Harbin, Shenyang, Guangzhou, Hefei, Chengdu, and other Chinese metropolises in the spring of 1989. Zhao Ziyang lived under house arrest until his death in 2005.

With Zhao’s successor Jiang Zemin, China continued its march into capitalism without democracy. The aims of reform—transparent government, rule of law, greater democratization and growth of civil society—reversed course as money and patronage became the caustic lubricants of an affluent China’s political economy.

Chinese policeman approach Falun Gong practitioners who traveled across China to Tiananmen Square to stage peaceful appeals against the persecution in 2001.  (Courtesy of Minghui)

Chinese policeman approach Falun Gong practitioners who traveled across China to Tiananmen Square to stage peaceful appeals against the persecution in 2001. (Courtesy of Minghui)

While clad in western suits and enjoying the fruits of crony capitalism, the Party organization under Jiang retained the machinery of communism from Tiananmen—and the ideological culture for its use. This time, the offense was not a matter of politics, but a clash of faith.

I 1999, Jiang Zemin ordered a comprehensive campaign to destroy Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual practice taken up by over 70 million people since its first public teaching in 1992.

And like in 1989, the persecution was foreshadowed by signs of mounting CCP pressure—the slanderous articles of communist pundits like He Zuoxiu, the banning of Falun Gong books in 1996—culminating in the arrests in April 1999 of over 40 Falun Gong practitioners in Tianjin, northern China.

Falun Gong adherents protested, gathering before the CCP leadership compound at Zhongnanhai in Beijing. Premier Zhu Rongji received several representatives inside the building, but his actions, as those of Zhao Ziyang ten years earlier, meant little.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin (L) together with Premier Zhu Rongji during a departure ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing 03 juni 2002. (Goh Chai Hin / AFP / Getty Images)

Chinese President Jiang Zemin (L) together with Premier Zhu Rongji during a departure ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing 03 juni 2002. (Goh Chai Hin / AFP / Getty Images)

Jiang Zemin, who had risen to power in the wake of the bloody resolution of events on June 4th, saw a similar situation in the rise of Falun Gong in the 1990s. He called Falun Gong “the most serious political incident since June 4” in a Politburo meeting, according to scholars.

The 2000s and beyond would see the development of the most brutal persecution campaign in contemporary China—complete with dehumanizing propaganda, labor camp sentences, and the surgical murder of hundreds of thousands for their organs.

Communism is estimated to have killed at least 100 million people, yet its crimes have not been fully compiled and its ideology still persists. The Epoch Times seeks to expose the history and beliefs of this movement, which has been a source of tyranny and destruction since it emerged. Read the whole series at ept.ms/DeadEndCom

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Li Heping (høyre), a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer, was released last week after nearly two years in prison. (Radio Free Asia)Li Heping (høyre), a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer, was released last week after nearly two years in prison. (Radio Free Asia)

After nearly two years behind bars, Li Heping, a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer, was released from prison last week.

Both his friends and his wife said he was barely recognizable—once robust and healthy, he is now thin and emaciated, his hair turned white, a radical transformation for someone only in his mid-forties.

On July 9, 2015, he was taken away by Tianjin public security officers and sentenced with “subversion of state power.” His arrest was part of a nationwide crackdown in 2015—known colloquially as the “709 Incident”—which targeted over 250 human rights lawyers and activists.

After two years of painstaking advocacy on his behalf, Wang Qiaoling, Li’s wife, was finally able to secure his release. Li was given a four-year suspended sentence, which means he still cannot practice law as before.

Human rights lawyer Li Heping, formerly youthful and robust, looked markedly different and almost unrecognizable after being imprisoned and tortured. (Radio Free Asia)

Representing the Vulnerable

Li Heping garnered prominence for defending political dissidents and vulnerable groups in China, including underground Christians, victims of forced evictions, as well as practitioners of the persecuted Falun Gong spiritual practice.

He also sought to appeal on behalf of blind activist Chen Guangcheng and fellow rights attorney Gao Zhisheng. I 2006, he defended environmental activist Tan Kai, founder of the environmental group “Green Watch.”

I 2007, along with five other Beijing-based human rights lawyers, Li represented Wang Bo, a Falun Gong practitioner, in a prominent case in Shijiazhuang City. In their defense of Wang Bo’s innocence, they jointly published “The Constitution is Supreme, Freedom of Religion”—the first time Chinese lawyers applied Chinese law to systematically defend Falun Gong practitioners as innocent. The defense statement would be frequently referenced by rights lawyers later on when representing Falun Gong practitioners.

As he continued to take on high-profile cases, Li was subjected to increasing harassment, surveillance, and threats by Chinese security forces. In Sep. 2007, he was abducted by plainclothes police and shocked with electric batons for several hours before being left in the woods in the suburbs of Beijing. I 2009, Chinese authorities refused to renew his law license, thus depriving him of his right to practice law and forcing him to turn to legal consultation work instead.

Mounting tensions culminated with his arrest in July, 2015 along with numerous other human rights defenders.

From Defender to Persecuted

According to Li’s wife, Wang Qiaoling, Li was subjected to constant surveillance while detained—with people guarding him even as he used the bathroom—and tortured with beatings and electric shocks.

Furthermore, while imprisoned, Li was regularly forced to consume unknown drugs, ostensibly for high blood pressure, a condition he did not have.

The drugs resulted in bodily weakness, pain in his muscles, and blurry vision. Other human rights defenders released from prison, including Li’s younger brother, Li Chunfu, have discussed similar experiences of being force-fed unknown medication while detained. After being released in January 2017, Li was soon diagnosed with symptoms of schizophrenia.

According to Heng He, a senior political commentator at New Tang Dynasty Television (a sister media company of Epoch Times) the use of drugs as a form of torture is not an isolated occurrence. I 2001, the American Psychiatric Association began drawing attention to forced administration of psychotropic drugs on Falun Gong practitioners detained at mental hospitals.

Heng says that the force-feeding of drugs was “used at a large scale on Falun Gong practitioners before being used to persecute human rights lawyers.” The purpose, he says, is to “break their will” and to threaten those around them by highlighting the consequences of opposing state policy.

In response to mounting evidence of forced administration of drugs, members of Chinese Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights penned an open letter on May 14 calling for an independent investigation into the use of drugs to torture rights lawyers imprisoned as a part of the 709 Incident.

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Hongyan Lu speaks at a rally in front of the Chinese embassy on April 25, 2017, to mark the 18th anniversary of Falun Gong practitioners’ large-scale appeal for freedom of belief in China on April 25, 1999, and to call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong. To her right is Falun Gong practitioner Joanna Qiao holding a sign seeking help to call for the release of Lu’s mother, Huixia Chen, from detention in China and facing three years to life imprisonment for her belief. (Donna He/The Epoch Times)Hongyan Lu speaks at a rally in front of the Chinese embassy on April 25, 2017, to mark the 18th anniversary of Falun Gong practitioners’ large-scale appeal for freedom of belief in China on April 25, 1999, and to call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong. To her right is Falun Gong practitioner Joanna Qiao holding a sign seeking help to call for the release of Lu’s mother, Huixia Chen, from detention in China and facing three years to life imprisonment for her belief. (Donna He/The Epoch Times)

OTTAWA—The largest appeal for freedom of belief in Chinese history was commemorated in front of the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa on April 25, 2017.

On April 25, 1999, mer enn 10,000 people gathered peacefully in Beijing to appeal for their freedom to practice Falun Gong and the release of arrested fellow practitioners. Forty-five or so practitioners had been beaten and detained in the nearby city of Tianjin.

De 45 practitioners were released that evening, so those who had gathered to appeal left quietly and went home.

derimot, just three months after the unprecedented appeal, then-Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin launched a nationwide campaign of persecution to “eradicate” Falun Gong that continues today.

“We are honouring the spirit of peace, justice, and compassion with which that appeal was held 18 År siden,” said Xun Li, president of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada.

“I am here to honour the April 25th peaceful appeal. Meantime I also hope to draw attention to my mother’s case,” said Hongyan Lu, a Falun Gong practitioner living in Ottawa.

Hongyan recounted how her 60-year old mother Huixia Chen suffered from hepatitis B, cirrhosis, stomach problems, and endometriosis in 1998 when she began practicing Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa.

“Just a few months into practicing Falun Gong that year, all her illnesses miraculously went away and she became good-tempered,” said Hongyan.

derimot, Huixia was arrested in June 2016, together with other fellow practitioners.

In the first 20 days after the arrest, Huixia “was tortured and locked in a chair made of metal bars and not allowed to move,” said Hongyan. “This destroyed her health and made it hard for her to walk or stand up. She’s very weak. She has also been forced to endure brainwashing sessions.”

Huixia is detained in Shijiazhuang Second Detention Center.

“My relatives in China are still struggling to get any updates on my mother and unfortunately have made little progress,” Hangyan said. “We have no idea what’s happening or what may happen to my mother under a regime without an independent or effective legal system.”

Hongyan noted that her mother’s experience is typical of the tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

“I call for the end of the persecution and the release of my other and all other incarcerated Falun Gong practitioners,” she said.

“It’s time to end this evil crime.”

Falun Gong is a traditional spiritual discipline of the Buddhist school. It consists of meditation, qigong exercises, and moral teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The practice spread quickly due to the profound benefits experienced by practitioners in their physical health and mental and moral wellbeing.

By the late 1990s Chinese government surveys estimated that 70–100 million people had taken up the practice. Due to paranoia over the immense popularity of the practice, which was not under state control, Party leader Jiang officially launched the brutal persecution in July 1999.

I 2006 the United Nations stated that 66 percent of reported victims of torture were Falun Gong practitioners. The U.N. and other groups have also reported growing evidence of rape, torture, widespread hate propaganda, deaths, and even state-orchestrated forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners to supply China’s booming transplant trade.

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april 25, 1999april 25, 1999

EDMONTON—”It was a day when goodness truly triumphed.”

That’s how Michael Cooper, MP for Edmonton-St. Albert, described the april 25, 1999, event in which an estimated 10,000 Falun Dafa adherents gathered in Beijing to peacefully protest the hardening tone of state-run media against their practice and the wrongful arrest of their fellow practitioners in nearby Tianjin.

Cooper was speaking at a rally held in Edmonton’s Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Gazebo on April 22 to commemorate the anniversary of the appeal. The rally also heard from Garnett Genuis, MP for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, and adherents of Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong) who experienced persecution in China.

It was the largest peaceful pro-democratic demonstration in China since the Tiananmen Square pro-democratic demonstrations of 1989. It was a remarkable feat.

— MP Michael Cooper

The protest was the largest appeal for freedom of belief in China’s recent history, and the last time Falun Dafa adherents were able to gather before the brutal persecution against the practice was launched in July 1999 by then-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin.

‘A Remarkable Feat’

“It’s an honour to be here to stand with [Falun Dafa adherents] for truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, to stand in solidarity to commemorate the brave 10,000-plus men and women who [gathered] in Beijing on that fateful day of April 25, 1999,” Cooper said. Truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance are Falun Dafa’s guiding principles.

april 25, 1999

Garnett Genuis, MP for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, talks at a rally in Edmonton’s Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Gazebo on April 22, 2017 to mark the 18th anniversary of the April 25, 1999 appeal in Beijing by Falun Dafa adherents. (Omid Ghoreishi/The Epoch Times)

“Men and women, who stood up for justice, who stood up for freedom, who stood up for human rights, who stood up for the dozens of Falun Gong practitioners who days earlier had been rounded up, arrested, and beaten. It was the largest peaceful pro-democratic demonstration in China since the Tiananmen Square pro-democratic demonstrations of 1989. It was a remarkable feat," han sa.

But the response of the Chinese regime was typical of a “brutal communist dictatorship,” Cooper noted.

Just three months later, Jiang’s regime launched a campaign of persecution against Falun Dafa, which in the past 18 years has resulted in thousands of families being destroyed, many sent to labour camps, many tortured to death, and many more losing their lives in China’s illicit state-sanctioned organ transplant trade.

april 25, 1999

Dr. Minnan Liu from the Falun Dafa Association of Edmonton talks at a rally in Edmonton’s Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Gazebo on April 22, 2017 to mark the 18th anniversary of the April 25, 1999 appeal in Beijing by Falun Dafa adherents. (Omid Ghoreishi/The Epoch Times)

“In the face of some of the most egregious human rights abuses and crimes committed in the modern world by the communist dictatorship of China, how have Falun Gong practitioners responded?” asked Cooper.

"[They’ve] responded peacefully, through education, through a campaign of awareness, to shine light on the evil—the evils that are perpetrated on a day-to-day basis in China against Falun Gong, and the tens of millions of practitioners right across China.”

Forced Organ Harvesting

Cooper told the crowd that he and fellow MP Genuis and others in the House of Commons will continue to press the Canadian government to compel Beijing to stop the persecution and promote “freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

Canada can play a strong role, standing up for universal human rights. We have a responsibility to do that, especially when the government talks about increasing our engagement with China.

— MP Garnett Genuis

Genuis, who recently introduced a private member’s bill to combat forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China, said persecution against all faith communities in China is on the rise.

“As China does its best to whitewash its international image, the persecution is escalating, it’s getting worse, and it requires a strong response from those of us in the West and throughout the world committed to justice and human rights,” he told the rally.

Genuis’s bill C-350, which revives a bill tabled in the last parliament by former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, amends Canada’s Criminal Code and Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The bill seeks to make it a criminal offence for someone to acquire an organ that they know was obtained without consent, and to make those involved in forced organ harvesting inadmissible to Canada.

Luo Zehui (R) recounts through a translator how her father fainted under torture and then cremated while still alive in China for practicing Falun Gong at a rally in Edmonton’s Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Gazebo on April 22, 2017. The event was held to mark the 18th anniversary of the April 25, 1999 appeal in Beijing by Falun Dafa adherents. (Omid Ghoreishi/The Epoch Times)

According to investigations by former Canadian secretary of state David Kilgour, Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas, and American investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, up to 90,000 organ transplants take place in China on a yearly basis, with the majority of them being Falun Gong prisoners of conscience who are killed for their organs.

“Canada can play a strong role, standing up for universal human rights. We have a responsibility to do that, especially when the government talks about increasing our engagement with China,” Genuis said.

Persecution

The rally heard from two Falun Gong practitioners who personally experienced persecution while in China.

Calgary resident Luo Zehui relayed in an emotional speech through a translator that her father, Jiang Xiqing, was put in a forced labour camp and tortured for practising Falun Gong.

april 25, 1999

Zhang Ping (R) recounts through a translator how she was imprisoned multiple times in China for practicing Falun Gong at a rally in Edmonton’s Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Gazebo on April 22, 2017. The event was held to mark the 18th anniversary of the April 25, 1999 appeal in Beijing by Falun Dafa adherents. (Omid Ghoreishi/The Epoch Times)

Jiang fainted under torture, and was then cremated while he was still alive, a tearful Luo said.

Zhang Ping, also from Calgary, talked about how both her physical and mental state improved with the practice and how she was able to harmonize her relations with family members and those in her community, thanks to Falun Gong.

derimot, due to the CCP’s campaign of persecution, she was arrested and detained on multiple occasions. She finally escaped China to come to Canada in 2015.

“After leaving my hometown, within less than a year I heard about three more fellow Falun Gong practitioners who died of persecution,” she said.

“There were 43 confirmed death locally and 989 in my province since the persecution started.”

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Pan Yiyang, attends a 2013 meeting in Beijing. (REUTERS/Stringer)Pan Yiyang, attends a 2013 meeting in Beijing. (REUTERS/Stringer)

BEIJING—A court in northern China on Tuesday jailed for 20 years a former senior provincial government official who bribed a now disgraced former aide to retired leader Hu Jintao, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The court in Tianjin found that Pan Yiyang abused his positions as vice governor of the northern region of Inner Mongolia and Communist Party boss of Ganzhou in the eastern province of Jiangxi and took bribes, the agency said.

Between 2000 og 2013, Xinhua said, Pan “many times” offered bribes totaling 7.6 million yuan ($1.10 million) to Ling Jihua, a close aide to former president Hu, who retired in 2013, to be succeeded by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Ling was jailed for life last year after being found guilty of taking bribes, illegally obtaining state secrets and abuse of power, at a secret trial, where his wife testified against him.

The Tianjin court found that Pan had cooperated in the investigation against him, admitted his guilt and had repented, meaning he was given a lighter sentence, Xinhua added.

It was not possible to reach a legal, or family, representative of Pan for comment. Courts are controlled by the party and generally do not challenge party accusations of corruption against senior former officials.

Xi has launched a sweeping war against deep-seated corruption since taking office more than four years ago, warning, like others before him, that the problem is so bad it could affect the party’s grip on power.

Dozens of senior officials have been jailed, including the feared former state security chief, Zhou Yongkang.

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Falun Gong practitioners gathered around Zhongnanhai to silently, peacefully appeal for fair treatment on April 25, 1999. (Photo courtesy Clearwisdom.net)Falun Gong practitioners gathered around Zhongnanhai to silently, peacefully appeal for fair treatment on April 25, 1999. (Photo courtesy Clearwisdom.net)

A safe environment to do slow motion exercises and meditate. That was all the 10,000 practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese spiritual practice, were asking for when they gathered near the Chinese leadership headquarters at Zhongnanhai on April 25, 1999.

The peaceful appeal, derimot, was seized upon by then Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Jiang Zemin as an excuse to eventually launch the Party’s latest, and possibly most savage, persecution campaign.

Official policy hasn’t shifted since Jiang’s call to “defeat” Falun Gong 18 År siden, though the Party’s campaign is widely thought to have failed.

Horrors of Persecution

The Chinese regime had initially endorsed Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, after it was first introduced to the public in 1992 by founder Mr. Li Hongzhi. MR. Li received awards from several state organizations, including the Ministry of Public Security, for the efficacy of his “qigong” (energy practice) in helping the Chinese people stay healthy and uplift their morals.

The practice involves doing meditative exercises and living according to teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. After it was first taught by Mr. Li, the practice spread rapidly by word of mouth. Av 1999 det var 70 til 100 million practitioners in China by 1999, according to official and practitioner estimates.

With the numbers practicing Falun Gong becoming greater than the membership of the communist party, support turned into surveillance near the end of the century.

Trouble had to be manufactured.

The April 25 appeal at Zhongnanhai was sparked by the sudden arrest of 45 Falun Gong practitioners in the coastal city of Tianjin, Beijing’s port city.

In a letter circulated to the Politburo on the evening of April 25, Jiang Zemin framed the event as a “siege” and the “the most serious political incident since June 4,” the pro-democracy student protest in 1989 that the regime suppressed in a bloody massacre. Jiang expressed the fear that the “Marxism, Materialism, and Atheism” promoted by the CCP could not win against the teachings of Falun Gong.

Three months later, Jiang initiated a highly oppressive campaign to eliminate Falun Gong.

In the early years of the persecution, the entire population was bombarded with hate propaganda against the group. School children faced expulsion if they refused to go along with the demonization of the practice. Chinese officials were promised wealth and promotion if they got their hands bloody.

Practitioners have been arrested for refusing to give up their faith or for telling their fellow citizens about what Falun Gong is and how it has been persecuted. Arrested, they have been sent to extralegal labor camps or other detention facilities.

Most have been detained without the formality of legal proceedings. Those who were hauled to court were prosecuted for distributing or possessing Falun Gong materials using a criminal law that Chinese lawyers consider vague and unconstitutional.

According to human rights reports, practitioners are usually subjected to the worst treatment among prison or labor camp inmates. Minghui.org, a clearinghouse for firsthand information about the persecution, is replete with reports of practitioners enduring medieval-style tortures, brutal beatings, and sleep deprivation. Female practitioners face rape or gang rape by other prison inmates or guards.

Practitioners in detention also form the bulk of prisoners of conscience being harvested alive to fuel the Chinese regime’s profitable organ trade, i henhold til en 2016 report by journalist Ethan Gutmann, former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour (Asia/Pacific), and international human rights lawyer David Matas. That report estimates that between 60,000 og 100,000 Chinese have had their organs forcibly harvested each year in the period 2000-2015.

De United States House of Representatives and the European Parliament recently passed resolutions strongly condemning the Chinese regime for organ harvesting.

‘Cracks in the Crackdown’

In a recent report on the state of religion in China, Freedom House, a United States-based human rights nongovernmental organization, considers the Chinese regime’s degree of persecution of Falun Gong today to be “very high.”

But the Chinese regime hasn’t succeeded in wiping out the practice. Drawing on official Chinese documents and data from Minghui, Freedom House estimates that there are between 7 til 10 million Falun Gong practitioners still active in China, while Falun Gong sources suggest the figure is between 20-40 million.

“The simple fact that Falun Gong has survived the CCP’s onslaught is impressive and amounts to a genuine failure of the party’s repressive apparatus,” the report says.

The report also notes that since Chinese leader Xi Jinping took office in 2012, several factors have caused “cracks in the crackdown” of Falun Gong.

Xi’s anti-corruption campaign has resulted in the purge of key officials overseeing the persecution, such as former security czar Zhou Yongkang, and Li Dongsheng, formerly the head of the “610 Office,” the Gestapo-like, extralegal anti-Falun Gong agency created by Jiang Zemin.

Institutions running the persecution have been weakened. For eksempel, de 610 Office has undergone several changes of leadership since the fall of Li Dongsheng, and was inspected for the first time by the anti-corruption agency in 2016. Også, no new anti-Falun Gong campaign has replaced the most recent one from 2013 til 2015.

A confluence of the above factors appears to be the reason that the regime’s legal apparatus has thrown out cases against arrested practitioners. This phenomenon, which began in late 2016, has resulted in over 17 dismissed cases by local procuratorates and courts.

‘A Little More Space’

The situation in the northeastern province of Liaoning, one of the most severely persecuted regions, is a case in point.

Key Liaoning official, Wang Min, the former Party chief of Liaoning, and Su Hongzhang, head of Liaoning’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission, were purged in 2015 og 2016 respectively. Wang and Su were identified by the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, a U.S.-based NGO, as being involved in cases of persecution.

Direct outreach to legal officials appeared to have played a part in the the local procuratorate rejecting the case against Li Shijin and Lin Youyan, two female practitioners from Liaoning’s Tieling County who were arrested for handing out calendars with information about Falun Gong.

Lawyers representing Li and Lin explained to legal officials that there the regime has no law banning Falun Gong, i følge Minghui. Family members of the practitioners gave testimonies about the benefits of the practice to the Chinese officials. The officials then suggested the family members file a legal appeal, which later led to the case being dismissed.

When the two practitioners were in detention, they talked about Falun Gong to other inmates and the guards. According to Minghui, “everyone in the cells and guards said farewell and wished them well” after they were released on Feb. 17.

At least three other practitioners from Liaoning have had cases against them dismissed and have been released as of April 2017, according to reports on Minghui.

Yet the instances of reversal remain overshadowed by the greater incidence of persecution. Liaoning tops the list of regions where practitioners were prosecuted in mars 2017, med 31 out of 110 reported cases.

Heng He, a senior political commentator with New Tang Dynasty Television, believes that the contradictory situation that has emerged in Liaoning and other areas of China boils down to politics.

“The persecution of Falun Gong saw the rise of a huge persecutory interest group,” Heng said. “The group’s political, financial and other benefits totally depend on whether the persecution can continue or not.”

On the flipside, officials in the anti-Falun Gong machinery have “a little more space to make their own choices” in the absence of continued top-down political impetus, Heng He said. And some, perhaps sensing a shift in the wind under the Xi leadership, have chosen to instead exercise their humanity.

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