Lawyers subjected to beatings and torture as they sought to defend victims of these same abuses[Photocaption: Jiang Tianyong, Zhang Junjie, Wang Cheng and Tang Jitian in an undated photograph of the lawyers held. (SCMP)]
April 3, 2013
NEW YORK — Four prominent human rights lawyers representing Falun Gong practitioners illegally detained in a Black Jail, officially called a “Legal Education Center,” have been detained and beaten in northeastern China.
Lawyers Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jitian, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were abducted by police after being followed to their hotel on March 22. Several relatives of the illegally-detained Falun Gong practitioners were also abducted with the lawyers.
Zhang Junjie was released March 27 and revealed in an online statement that beatings from police resulted in three broken ribs, raising concerns about the safety of others abducted with him.
The detentions and subsequent mistreatment illustrate two important trends that warrant more in-depth coverage by the media.
First, an increasing number of Chinese, from all walks of life, are risking their well-being by publicly challenging the Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong. A growing number of lawyers have filed lawsuits against Party officials, police officers and various public security bodies. Since 2010, tens of thousands of signatures have been collected on petitions calling for the release of illegally detained Falun Gong practitioners. These actions were virtually unheard of several years ago, and indicate a growing number of Chinese people are no longer manipulated by the vilifying propaganda attacking Falun Gong.
Second, the recent closure of the Reeducation Through Labor (RTL) system has not improved human rights conditions for Falun Gong practitioners nor any other victimized population in China. On the contrary, “black jails” and brainwashing centers may be on the rise amidst a renewed campaign targeting Falun Gong practitioners (news). According to Minghui.org, a US-based website with an extensive network of sources throughout China, the number of practitioners sentenced to brainwashing centers in the second half of 2013 was four times that of the number in the first half — precisely the time during which the doors of forced labor camps were being shuttered.
“Abductions of Falun Gong practitioners, their family members and even their legal representatives are a daily reality in China today,” says Levi Browde, Executive Director of the Falun Dafa Information Center. “While the Xi Jinping administration has touted reform through an anti-corruption campaign and abolishment of the widely-scorned RTL system, the abduction and subsequent beating of four of China’s prominent human rights lawyers clearly suggests that, in reality, there has been no fundamental change.”
The Falun Dafa Information Center calls for the immediate release of all Falun Gong practitioners in China as well as the lawyers and ordinary citizens illegally detained for supporting them. The Center also calls on journalists and diplomats stationed in China to press for the welfare and safety of lawyers Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, Tang Jitian, reportedly still in custody, and Zhang Junjie, reportedly still under summons by a provincial-level justice bureau.
In July of 1999 China’s autocratic Communist Party launched an unlawful campaign of arrests, violence, and propaganda against Chinese citizens practicing Falun Gong (or “Falun Dafa”) with the intent of “eradicating” the apolitical practice. Since then, the Falun Dafa Information Center, based in New York, has reported over 3,000 deaths from abuse (news). The United Nations, Amnesty International, Chinese human rights lawyers, and foreign media have also documented Falun Gong torture and deaths at the hands of Chinese officials (news). Hundreds of thousands of Chinese who practice Falun Gong remain in captivity, rendering them the single largest group of prisoners of conscience in China (news). Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is an advanced practice of self-cultivation — a way to improve wellness and attain spiritual wisdom. The practice is from the Buddha School and is based on easy-to-learn exercises, meditation, and the universal values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance. It is believed certain Communist Party leaders launched the suppression of Falun Gong fearing the practice’s growing popularity (70 to 100 million) and influence as a spiritual movement outside the Party’s control. (report)