July 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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  • Author: <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/larry-ong/" rel="author">Larry Ong</a>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</a>
  • Category: General

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. Today, 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, however, 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.

Also, 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, however, 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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  • Author: <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/irene-luo/" rel="author">Irene Luo</a>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</a>
  • Category: General

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 in 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 in 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.

In July 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. Finally, in 2013, Cai became a deputy to the provincial number two.

In the past four years, however, 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 and 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; on June 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)

And in 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

Today, 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.

In 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 June 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 June 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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  • Author: <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/leo-timm/" rel="author">Leo Timm</a>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</a>
  • Category: General

Li Heping (right), a prominent Chinese human rights lawyer, was released last week after nearly two years in prison. (Radio Free Asia)Li Heping (right), 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. In 2006, he defended environmental activist Tan Kai, founder of the environmental group “Green Watch.”

In 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. In 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. In 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, more than 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.

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

However, 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 years ago,” 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.

However, 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.

In 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,” he said.

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.

However, 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 and 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, however, 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 years ago, 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. By 1999 there were 70 to 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, according to a 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 and 100,000 Chinese have had their organs forcibly harvested each year in the period 2000-2015.

The 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 to 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 instance, the 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. Also, no new anti-Falun Gong campaign has replaced the most recent one from 2013 to 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 and 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, according to 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 March 2017, with 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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Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng in Beijing on January 12, 2017. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng in Beijing on January 12, 2017. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

Yu Wensheng, one of the few active human rights lawyers in China not to have been swept up in the spate of arrests in July 2015, recently gave an interview to the Chinese edition of Epoch Times. Following is the second part. Part one was published last month.

***

Epoch Times (ET): Where do you typically get your daily news from? Do you watch television?

Yu Wensheng (YWS): I get most of my daily news from the internet. I first look at Chinese news sources to obtain some information. Non-political news is still somewhat accurate. Otherwise, I need to circumvent the internet firewall for more information. I also formulate an understanding of what’s happening elsewhere through social media such as WeChat or other foreign chat applications.

I do not watch much TV. In my opinion, Chinese television is either entertainment programs or brainwashing programs.

Take anti-Japanese sentiment programs as an example. It was clearly the Kuomintang [Chinese Nationalist government, now on Taiwan] rather than the Chinese Communist Party who resisted the Japanese, yet the Party says they opposed the Japanese themselves. That is clearly fake, so why watch it? Some things are not true to historical facts. Many brainwashing programs have obliterated historical truth. It is complete deception.

ET: Wasn’t the education you received as a child part of communist propaganda?

YWS: Yes. The education we received was indoctrination and the history we learned was fake. When I was young, I was truly determined to dedicate my life to this country and to the Party, fight against their enemies, liberate Taiwan, and liberate America because Americans were in the abyss of suffering.

Only when I was 11 or 12 years old did I feel that I had been deceived. I lived in a rather upper class household. My father was in the travel agency and could read newspapers from Hong Kong and Taiwan. He was busy during the day, so he brought them home to read. He did not let any of us read it, but when he went to sleep, I would get up and start read those newspapers. I got exposed to foreign democratic ideas. I slowly began questioning the education I was receiving. This resulted in me not focusing on my studies in middle school and high school. I knew that everything that was taught in school was nonsense.

When we were young, the Chinese authorities told us to wear red scarves and give everything for the Party. At that time I did not consider: Why did we have to give them anything? Why should we sacrifice for them? What is the reason? If you believe in me, then you must die for me; if you do not believe in me, then I will kill you. Isn’t this creating a sort of terror? This is the behavior of a totalitarian regime.

The authorities controlled the media and did not allow others to run newspapers or TV shows. No one else had the right to speak up. The authorities say whatever they wanted to say. If they said one mu of land [about a sixth of an acre] produced thousands of pounds of grain, then one mu produced thousands of pounds. It’s all lies and forgery. The official media cannot be trusted. Furthermore CCTV has become the authorities’ political tool. If they told you to lie, you had to lie as if it were the truth. They often broadcasted on TV people confessing at public trials and media trials, before the real trial. This violates basic laws of due process.

My own media sources were a little better. You could speak freely, but now even that is not allowed. Many people have been arrested for publishing their opinions, and their words were deleted. My publication was deleted. Only I can see it. The Chinese constitution provides freedom of speech, but we do not even have the freedom to say what we want, so why call it freedom of speech?

ET: How do you think the status quo of China can be changed?

YWS: First of all the people need to wake up. Chinese people today are numb. They only care about protecting themselves. They do not care about others and only consider themselves. They do not consider that Nie Shubin, Jia Jinglong, and Lei Yang [individuals who died at the hands of the authorities for standing up for their rights] were people by our sides. One day we could become the next Nie Shubin, Lei Yang, or Jia Jinglong. At that time, who will help you? If no one speaks up, how can one person face a powerful regime? That is impossible. Only if everyone truly awakens can there be a change in the social system.

There are not many people who have awakened. I would consider myself awakened. Despite not having rushed to the forefront, I was still arrested. The authorities motivated me to rush to the forefront of human rights lawyers, to become a human rights defender.

People must care about politics. Most Chinese people do not care about politics. Many people who are overseas are actually on the periphery. Chinese people in American society have no status. Why? They only care about making money. They do not care about others. If they do not involve themselves in politics, then politics will not care about or consider them, so they will not have any status. Only if everyone cares about politics, cares about others, and protects their own rights can they change society and their own statuses.

People must also learn to think. Why should they give their lives to the Communist Party? Why should they love the Party? Why should they love and thank the government? The government and Party should be thanking the people! The Party did not raise us, give us food to eat, or give us clothes to wear. We gave them food to eat and clothes to wear. If we did not plant crops and manufacture various products, what would they eat and drink? They would have nothing. In the current situation, for every ten pounds of food we produce, they take nine pounds and give us one. Then they say they fed us. How does that make sense?

ET: Can you discuss your relationship with the July 9 incident?

YWS: You mean the July 9 lawyer hunt. I was also caught. On the night of August 6, police broke into my house and arrested me. I was abused within the first 24 hours of being arrested. They limited me from using the restroom, which was very inhumane. I was handcuffed from the back for the first 10 hours. Being handcuffed from the front for the next 14 hours was similar to torture.

Not long after my release, I found out that the two defenders of lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who was caught in the July 9 Incident, were pressured into declining the case. I searched for Wang’s wife Li Wenzu and told her that I was willing to be his agent. I thus became Wang Quanzhang’s defense lawyer.

I went to Tianjin a dozen times. During the investigation stage I asked to meet Wang. They refused to let us meet using the excuse that it would be endangering national security. However, the police did accept my status as a defense lawyer.

On Aug. 7, 2016, the case was transferred to the Procuratorate, which no longer recognized me as being Wang’s defense lawyer. They forcefully dismissed me with the excuse that Wang Quanzhang had issued statement that he no longer needed a lawyer. According to the law, there must be a written notice in order for the defense lawyer to be forcefully dismissed. We did not see any written notice forcefully dismissing me or lawyer Cheng Hai. The so-called oral statement had no legal effect.

The July 9 Incident could be called a small-scale cultural revolution. In a few days, they began suppressing lawyers and human rights defenders. This kind of thing only ever occurs in fascist countries, yet it happened in China in the 21st century.

Through the efforts of lawyers and their families, the July 9 Incident received international attention. I greatly admire those who “reinforce the fallen” in this line of work. As Wang Quanzhang’s proxy, I made an effort. I need to continue making an effort for Wang to come home earlier. His wife, Li Wenzu, is a strong woman and has received approval from various people in all walks of life around the world. I support and respect everything she does. I am also very happy for Wang Quanzhang for having such a good wife.

ET: Did you look for lawyer Wang Yu?

YWS: In October 2014, I was arrested for supporting the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. Wang Yu and her husband Bao Hongjun were my defense. They did a lot for me. Without their effort, I might have been sued just like the others. There were 33 people arrested at the time. I was the only person who was released after three months.

The authorities say Wang Yu has now been released, but no one has seen her. I think she may have lost her freedom and may be under house arrest. My wife and I decided that we must go see her and find out what her situation is. We went to her old home in Inner Mongolia but did not find her, which confirms that Wang Yu’s freedom has not been truly restored.

ET: Are you currently being monitored?

YWS: When I was released, the authorities strictly monitored me. There were eyeballs all around. Sometimes I was followed. Now I am used to it and am no longer afraid of being followed or monitored.

I sent this over WeChat: “Two people die within seven steps.” What is there to be afraid of? This is really what I think. Maybe I’m a bit too brave or preoccupied with death for my own good. At least it expresses my mental state: I am fearless and not afraid. However, I really must consider others’ safety. I do not care as much about my own safety.

I once went somewhere to eat with some friends when a police called one of my friends to ask where he was eating and whether he was with sensitive people. The police then told my friend to leave. My friend looked up and saw a camera, so they could clearly see I was eating here. That’s when I realized how many cameras could be mobilized by the authorities. As long as the authorities want to use them, they can, and it’s hard to prevent. There is nowhere safe in China.

ET: How do you protect your wife and children in your current state?

YWS: Before the July 9 Incident, many friends told my wife and children to travel abroad because many lawyers’ family members were often affected. However, my wife did not want to leave me. If I could not escape, she would not accept separation. She wanted to be with me, so she never left.

I did not want to leave either. Staying in China I could still do some things and contribute to the cause of human rights. I would try my best to avoid risks and reduce the danger and worrying brought upon them. My wife and I used special phones so that she could always find me and I could inform her in a timely manner.

However, in today’s China, no one can guarantee true safety. In the face of the authorities, I could not protect my wife and children with my own power. No one can protect anyone else. Thinking back to the so-called “famine” of the 1960s, tens of millions of people starved to death. Who could protect whom? One could not save oneself, let alone one’s family members. Anyone could die of hunger.

Last time, the police broke our house’s lock to arrest me without reason right before my wife and children. Their thinking was if you don’t listen to them, then they will arrest you. They have guns, and in order to maintain their rule, they can kill anyone. They may even take away our lives one day. In the past few decades, there have been too many innocents killed. They are too many to count. It is a number in the tens of millions. They do not care if there are a few more. In their eyes, people’s lives do not matter. Only power matters.

Under the Communist Party’s rule in China, many people who call for democracy would be killed. There are too many: Zhang Zhixin, Lin Zhao, etc. all gave their lives this way. When they first came to power, they killed millions of “counter-revolutionists.” The so-called “famine” starved more than 40 million people to death. The Cultural Revolution killed another few million. After governing for over sixty years, how many unnatural deaths have there been? There is no way to acquire accurate figures.

Due to internal and external efforts, today’s society seems to have improved compared to the past society. However, ever since the 18th Party Congress in 2012, the rule of law in China has deteriorated more and more severely. The authorities can arrest anyone at any time.

Still, the authorities proclaim that there is democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. They wear a democracy as a coat and are afraid to take it off. If that is so, then we should demand it to be fundamentally democratic and protect us with those laws, and we should do things to awaken more people. If everyone awakens, then democracy will naturally appear. Of course, those who walk at the front may pay various costs, up to and including their lives.

As far as I know, all lawyers in the July 9 Incident suffered various kinds of torture in secret, which is the authority’s conventional means for dealing with political prisoners. In order for the authorities to maintain their rule, once you are caught, they force you to yield. Not following their demands will lead to brutal torture. Not yielding will result in a situation where life is worse than death.

If they arrest me again one day, I will calmly face it. If I give up my life, I hope that the international community and citizen defenders will take good care of my wife and children.

Leo Timm contributed to this article.

 

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A young Chinese worshipper prays during the Christmas Eve mass at a Catholic church in Beijing on Dec. 24, 2014. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)A young Chinese worshipper prays during the Christmas Eve mass at a Catholic church in Beijing on Dec. 24, 2014. (Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)

A report from a Christian charity has found that Christians are being persecuted at rates not seen since the Cultural Revolution, which lasted from 1966 until 1976.

The Cultural Revolution, launched by dictator Mao Zedong, attempted to eliminate the “Four Olds,” which were defined as “Old Customs,” “Old Culture,” “Old Habits,” and “Old Ideas.” The campaign, carried out by organized groups of students Mao called the Red Guards, targeted the adherents of religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and others. Countless temples, historical sites, books, and priceless historical artifacts were destroyed. Religious expression, which permeated the culture in China during that time, was essentially banned, and it could have dire consequences. Millions of people were persecuted, tortured and killed.

Now, China Aid’s Annual Persecution Report for 2016 found that incidents of Christian persecution rose about 20 percent on the previous year, while the number of Christians imprisoned went up by nearly 150 percent. Officials with the Chinese Communist Party, which is officially atheist, also called for the forced demolition of churches and removal of church crosses.

The report also noted that Christians may have been killed for their organs—a grisly practice used mainly on adherents of Falun Gong, a form of traditional meditation that, during the 1990s, made up approximately one twelfth of the population, according to some estimates, and has been targeted for elimination by Chinese Communist authorities since 1999. Last June, a report said up to 1.5 million organ transplants may have taken place in China since 2000—most of which were harvested from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience.

The Tianjin First Central Hospital. (Hospital files)

The Tianjin First Central Hospital. (Hospital files)

“I believe it’s ideology, mass murder, and the cover-up of a terrible crime where the only way to cover up that crime is to keep killing people who know about it,” said investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann, who helped release last year’s report on organ harvesting in China, aptly titled, “Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update.” China has “built a juggernaut,” Gutmann added, referring to the statewide network of hospitals used for organ harvesting.

According to China Aid, Christians are still forced to worship in houses or underground churches, adding that China ranks 39th out of the 50 worst countries in the world for persecuting Christians.

“The key findings of what happened last year and the reports from these first two months of 2017 have shown the situation of religious freedom is rapidly deteriorating,” Bob Fu, head of China Aid, said in the report, as Premier.org.uk reported.

After the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949, protestant missions in China were expelled.

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  • Author: <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/jack-phillips/" rel="author">Jack Phillips</a>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</a>
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This news summary was originally dispatched as part of Epoch Times China email newsletters. Subscribe to the newsletters by filling your email in the “China D-brief” box under this article, or sign up here.
One of the most important developments in recent history for China’s military took place last month, and it was easy to miss.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered its military to abandon its business ventures over the next three years. The order applies to the People’s Liberation Army and the People’s Armed Police.
Those who follow Epoch Times reporting know the implications of this run deep. As my colleague Matthew Robertson pointed out, this will notably close the military-run hospitals which carry out the CCP’s forced organ transplants of prisoners of conscience—most markedly Falun Gong practitioners.
Robertson profiled the operations of one of these hospitals, Tianjin First Central, in an investigative piece in February, and noted “Epoch Times found sufficient evidence to throw into great doubt, if not demolish entirely, the official narrative of organ sourcing in China. This is simply due to the number of transplants: they are far too high.”
But the implications of the new order for the Chinese military run deeper still, as the order will very likely also impact the Chinese military’s use of cyberattacks for financial gain.
I’m not talking about the state-sanctioned cyberattacks, but instead the cyberattacks military commanders run to feed business ventures they have ties to, and the cyberattacks individual military hackers carry out to stuff their own pockets.
I mapped out China’s military-industrial complex in a September 2015 investigative report, and noted that until recently the Chinese military was expected to find external ventures to fund its operations.
I also detailed in March the DarkNet marketplaces that Chinese military hackers run to make money on the side. The hackers have been carrying out the state-run cyberattacks on behalf of the Chinese regime, but have also been stealing additional information they can sell personally.
Under the new orders, it’s likely these external ventures will gradually lessen, and we could see a significant drop in Chinese cyberattacks.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the state-sponsored cyberattacks will stop. It just means the military-led cyberattacks the Chinese regime doesn’t have a direct hand in could be coming to an end.
This process has actually been underway for some time. In September 2015, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, announced he would cut 300,000 troops from the Chinese military. This was accompanied by a planned restructuring of the Chinese military.
I reported in November 2015 that there was more to this restructuring than meets the eye. A proposal for the new structure shows that it would move the military units that carry out the cyberattacks out from under strict military control, and put them under joint command between the Central Military Commission and the State Council.
In other words, the restructuring would give the “government” side of the Chinese regime–the state council–more oversight over the types of cyberoperations being carried out by the military.
Read MoreAgreement on Cyberattacks Will Not Stop China’s Economic Theft
On May 16, the Chinese regime also deployed “anti-graft” squads to different theater commands and “key military departments,” according to the state-run Global Times. Under the oversight of these 10 anti-graft squads, it states, these targeted commands and departments will “for the first time be accountable to top military authorities.”
This won’t all happen overnight, however. The state-run China Daily reported on May 10 that the People’s Liberation Army and People’s Armed Police have started by selecting 17 units to close their commercial activities.
With plans to complete this process within three years, it notes the 17 units are “tasked with exploring effective ways to shut down businesses.”

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Ling Jihua, the former chief of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party and top aide to former Party leader Hu Jintao, was recently indicted by the regime’s top prosecuting body.
According to report by state mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency on May 13, Ling, 59, was charged with taking massive bribes, abusing his office, and illegally obtaining state secrets. The No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin, a port city in eastern China, will adjudicate Ling’s case.
Ling could be due for a lengthy stint in jail is he’s proven guilty, which is almost a certainty in communist China. The greatest punishment he faces is the death sentence on the charge of misappropriating state secrets, but execution is unlikely. Overseas Chinese language news website Bowen Press said that the trial is likely to be held sometime in June, referencing an insider in Beijing.
MORE:Keepers of the Chinese Regime’s Secrets Quietly PurgedHere is the California Mansion of Ling Wancheng, Brother of a Purged Top Chinese Official
Formerly one of the most influential Party cadres in China, Ling quickly fell into disgrace after a failed attempt to cover up the death of his son, who was killed in a high-profile Ferrari accident in 2012. From heading the Party’s secretive General Office—a Party agency that handles highly classified paperwork and provides logistical support for the Politburo and Party Secretariat—Ling was moved to the United Front Work Department, which handles political warfare. In December 2014, Ling was formally investigated by the Party’s internal disciplinary bureau, and was expelled from the Party nearly seven months later.
During Ling’s incarceration, Hong Kong and overseas Chinese media revealed the extent of his corruption—investigators retrieved six truck-loads of valuables worth about $13.4 billion from his luxurious homes in China and abroad—and even carried rumors of his feigning insanity while being subject to “shuanggui,” the Party’s infamous process of interrogating Party members, in which torture is often used to extract confessions.
Earlier this year, Ling was one of five purged top cadres fingered by Party leader Xi Jinping in a speech as a political conspirator who had sought to “wreck and split the Party.” Importantly, the other figures denounced are allies of Jiang Zemin, the former Party boss and the primary political force that has obstructed Xi Jinping from gaining control of the levers of power in China. Key to Xi’s efforts in uprooting Jiang’s political network and cleaning up the Party organs that have been deeply infiltrated by Jiang’s clients is the anti-corruption campaign.
Recent reports in the Chinese media, however, suggest that Xi could be employing gentler methods to cleanse the General Office of Ling Jihua’s remaining influence. Earlier this year, many top officials at the General Office were quietly transferred out, or have opted for early retirement.

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News analysis
The Chinese Communist Party has a lengthy list of “sensitive” days, or the dates of events that the regime deems politically threatening. On those sensitive days and in the lead up, the Party’s security apparatus becomes unusually vigilant, and often conducts round-ups and crackdowns on those associated with the events.
Targets include democracy activists on the anniversary of June 4, when tanks crushed student activists in Beijing in 1989, and practitioners of Falun Gong on April 25. This year, however, the 17th anniversary of Falun Gong’s peaceful appeal in Beijing on that date, Xi Jinping, the leader of the Party, deviated from the script.
Through a number of unusual political gestures, Xi Jinping appears to have hinted at a departure from the policy of his predecessor toward the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline, a large group that was targeted for elimination in 1999 shortly after they mounted that appeal to the central government.
Xi Jinping’s recent actions—which include moderate remarks on how to treat petitioners, the purge of some particularly rough security officials, demands that the security forces conduct themselves with probity, and what border on conciliatory remarks about religion in China—while subtle, indicate, in part due to their sequence and timing around such a sensitive anniversary, a potential shift in stance and emphasis to the Party’s status quo policies.
Beijing, 1999
On April 23, 1999, 45 practitioners of Falun Gong were assaulted and arrested by police in Tianjin, a city about 90 miles from Beijing, as they engaged in a peaceful protest at Tianjin Normal University. The practitioners were demanding that the academician He Zuoxiu retract an article defaming Falun Gong, a practice of self-improvement that involves slow exercises and teachings of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
He Zuoxiu, by then a committed enemy of Falun Gong, is the brother-in-law of Luo Gan, the then-head of public security, who had for years sought to target Falun Gong. The practice had spread freely in China throughout the 1990s, most of the time with the tacit or explicit support of various state entities; large numbers of Communist Party members counted themselves practitioners, and were excited at the revival of ancient traditions in modern China.
All this was seen by some hardliners, Luo Gan prominent among them, as a threat to the ideological and political security of the regime.
After news of the April 23 arrests spread, large numbers of practitioners decided to petition the central authorities in Beijing, which is done at the Office of Letters and Calls, adjacent to the Party leadership compound of Zhongnanhai. On April 25, Beijing police blocked the road to the Office, and marshalled the arriving practitioners—over 10,000—to surround Zhongnanhai, the official residential and office compound of the Party’s top leadership and a sensitive location in Beijing.
In the early afternoon, premier Zhu Rongji emerged and agreed to speak to representatives. The matter seemed to be resolved after nightfall.
The Party chief, Jiang Zemin, however, was furious, and soon declared the appeal “the most serious political incident since June 4.”
In a letter issued to the Politburo that night, Jiang Zemin declared: “Can it be that we Communist Party members, armed with Marxism, and a belief in materialism and atheism, cannot defeat the Falun Gong stuff? If that is so, wouldn’t it be the greatest joke on earth?”
That summer, on July 20, Jiang ordered the regime’s security and legal apparatus to suppress Falun Gong. “Ruin their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically,” were the orders given to police, according to numerous reports by Falun Gong practitioners who say the police told them this.
According to Minghui.org, a clearinghouse for information about the persecution, over 3,900 practitioners have been persecuted to death, and hundreds of thousands others languish in detention since July 20, 1999, the formal start of the anti-Falun Gong campaign. Researchers estimate that hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been killed for their organs as part of a grisly state-run organ transplantation industry.
Ever since 1999, the anniversaries of April 25 and July 20 have often seen police across China break into the homes of practitioners and make arrests.
Petitioning and the Security System
It is this background that undergirds the significance of Xi Jinping’s recent gestures, subtle they may be.
Petitioning—that is, delivering complaints to higher levels of government—quickly became the primary means with which Falun Gong practitioners appealed to the regime. Once it became clear this method would be met with violent reprisal, they largely ceased. Petitioners now are still a large body of disenfranchised Chinese who are treated often lawlessly by the Party’s security forces.
On April 21, Xi Jinping said that it is in the Chinese regime’s interests to “amicably settle reasonable and lawful appeals by the masses” who submit petitions, according to a statement carried by state mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency. Chinese premier Li Keqiang added that the regime should “strive to dispel conflicts and protect the legal rights” of petitioners.
Closer to the April 25 anniversary, Xi Jinping took aim at regime’s security apparatus.
Under former security czar Luo Gan, the Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC)—a small but powerful Party organ that controlled the police, the prisons, and the courts—had played a crucial part in staging the so-called “siege of Zhongnanhai,” and the persecution of Falun Gong. The Beijing police had deliberately directed Falun Gong practitioners to the streets around Zhongnanhai, and the 610 Office, an extralegal organization set up specifically to oversee the persecution, came under the purview of the PLAC.
On the eve of this April 25, four top security officials, including Hebei provincial PLAC Party Secretary Zhang Yue, were purged. Zhang is considered responsible for the torture of Falun Gong practitioner Liu Yongwang, who was tied to a board, whipped with leather belts and shocked with electric batons. The following day, the PLAC chief Meng Jianzhu told the public security head, the chief justice, the procurator-general, and other security apparatchiks gathered at a national-level meeting, that Xi Jinping was once again demanding that the security apparatus remain a professional and disciplined outfit—an implicit contrast to the corrupt, personal fief

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  • Author: <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/larry-ong/" rel="author">Larry Ong</a>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</a> and <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/author/don-tse/" rel="author">Don Tse</a>, <a href="http://www.theepochtimes.com/" title="Epoch Times" rel="publisher">Epoch Times</a>
  • Category: General