(Minghui.org) The United States Department of State (DOS) issued the 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom on May 15, 2023. “Minghui reported that 172 Falun Gong practitioners died during the year as a result of persecution suffered because of their faith, compared with 132 in 2021,” wrote the report. In addition, organ harvesting by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “may amount to crimes against humanity.”
“The People’s Republic of China seized, imprisoned, and banished predominantly Muslim Uyghurs to re-education camps,” remarked Rashad Hussain, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, during the press conference. “They continue the repression of Tibetan Buddhists, Chinese Christians, and Falun Gong practitioners – many of whom are fleeing the PRC’s abuses.”
“The United States will continue to stand with and support these brave advocates for religious freedom. We’ll keep advocating for religious freedom in countries where the rights are under attack, both publicly and directly in our engagement with government officials,” said Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, adding the U.S. will keep working to defend and promote religious freedom here domestically.
Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator for Florida, issued a press release on the same day. “The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has mastered the art of religious persecution, as evidenced by its acts of genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic groups,” he wrote. “In addition to its persistent harassment of Falun Gong practitioners, the CCP has recently implemented bans on domestically generated online religious content and prohibited overseas organizations from operating virtual religious information services in China.”
446 Practitioners Sentenced to Jail
In addition to 172 deaths in 2022, the report cited information from Minghui and stated “during the year authorities sentenced 446 Falun Gong practitioners from 28 provinces and regions for their faith and gave them penalties ranging from six months to 15 years in prison. It also reported authorities arrested 3,488 practitioners and harassed 3,843 others.”
Furthermore, the CCP maintains an extralegal, Party-run security apparatus to eliminate the Falun Gong and other suppressed groups. According to the NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers, the CCP imprisoned 2,649 individuals for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief in 2022, including 2,102 Falun Gong practitioners.
Citing documents from Falun Dafa Information Centre, the DOS reported, “The targeted practitioners came from all walks of life, including former government employees, professors, company managers, teachers, doctors, engineers, and accountants.”
“Minghui stated police often used violence during arrests of Falun Gong practitioners and that individuals died under mysterious circumstances while in custody during the year. In multiple instances, authorities reportedly refused to release the bodies of the deceased to the families, instead cremating them without the families’ consent,” the report continued.
Bodies Cremated without Consent
The DOS report also listed numerous examples of mistreatment Falun Gong practitioners received. “On February 1, authorities arrested practitioner Ji Yunzhi in her home. They beat and physically abused her while in custody and she died in a hospital in Chiefeng City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, seven weeks later,” wrote the report. “When Ji went on a hunger strike to protest this treatment, authorities reportedly force-fed her and repeatedly slapped her in the face. Upon her death, authorities transferred her body under armed guard to a crematorium against the family’s wishes.”
A similar situation happened with 88-year-old Cui Jinshi from Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province. Police arrested her and six other practitioners on April 3 when they studied Falun Gong teachings at home. “A few hours later, police told her son she had been taken to an emergency room, where a doctor pronounced her dead. After seeing her body, the son said Cui’s throat had been cut,” wrote the report.
Such tragedies also happened in other provinces of China. Police in Zhoukou City, Henan Province, arrested Li Guoxun and his wife on July 18 for distributing Falun Gong materials. “Police raided their home and confiscated their books, computer, mobile phones, and other belongings. The next day, police released Li’s wife and told her that Li was seriously ill; they later told Li’s son that his father died from a stroke. The family was unable to confirm this claim because police had Li’s body cremated without releasing it to the family,” wrote the report.
Torture and Forced Drug Injection
After practitioners’ health deteriorated because of mistreatment, officials often refused their request for medical parole.
“Authorities arrested Liu Hongxia of Dalian City, Liaoning Province, in 2021 for putting up Falun Gong posters. She went on a hunger strike in February and authorities reportedly tied her to a bed, force-fed her, and injected her with unknown drugs,” explained the DOS report. “When her condition became critical in October, her family applied for medical parole on her behalf, but the Ganjingzi District Court and Dalian City Detention Centre denied it. Liu died in prison on November 8.”
Another example was Teng Yuguo, arrested in 2020, died in prison of late-stage colon cancer on December 2. “…authorities neglected his medical care for months and then denied him medical parole because he refused to renounce his faith in Falun Gong. Upon his death, they refused to release the body to the family, instead ordering it cremated,” wrote the report.
The Falun Dafa Information Centre stated authorities often physically abused and tortured Falun Gong practitioners in custody. “In July, authorities handcuffed a former university professor, forced wasabi water into her nose, and sexually assaulted her. In August, authorities tied a photography studio owner to a metal chair for three days. On October 9, Minghui reported staff at the Heilongjiang Province Women’s Prison physically mistreated incarcerated Falun Gong members and recruited other prisoners to take part,” wrote the DOS report.
Crime Against Humanity
The American Journal of Transplantation published an article on April 4 titled “Execution by organ procurement: Breach of the dead donor rule in China.” “The authors stated that having conducted a forensic review of 2,838 papers drawn from a dataset of 124,770 Chinese-language transplant publications, they found 71 instances nationwide in which brain death during organ procurement “could not have properly been declared. In these cases, the removal of the heart during organ procurement must have been the proximate cause of the donor’s death,” wrote the DOS report.
In addition, the author of the paper believed, “Identity of all prisoner donors is also unknown, and controversy has long centered on whether non-condemned political prisoners like Falun Gong practitioners and Uyghur Muslims have been used as an organ source.”
According to Minghui, authorities continued to collect blood samples and biometrics from Falun Gong practitioners against their will during the year, with some practitioners suspecting that this was part of a continued effort by the government to collect medical information for an organ-matching database. “In one case, on October 4, police in Jinan City, Shandong Province, arrested Falun Gong practitioner Xu Wenlong and his cousin. According to the cousin, whom they released a few days later, police placed heavy shackles on Xu, drew a sample of his blood, and threatened to kill him. His cousin said police also forcibly took a blood sample from her,” continued the DOS report.
The international society has paid attention to this. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on May 4 finding that “whereas the organ transplant system in China does not comply with the World Health Organisation’s requirements for transparency and traceability in organ procurement pathways, and whereas the Chinese government has resisted independent scrutiny of the system.”
The European Parliament expressed serious concerns about “the reports of persistent, systematic, inhumane, and state-sanctioned organ harvesting from prisoners in the People’s Republic of China, and, more specifically, from Falun Gong practitioners.” This resolution stated that this practice “may amount to crimes against humanity, as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
Suppression of Elderly Practitioners
According to Minghui, the authorities convicted several elderly practitioners during the year.
For example, the Zhangqiu District Court sentenced 82-year-old Liu Chunping from Jinan City of Shandong Province on September 9 to one year in prison and a 5,000 yuan ($730) fine for “promoting superstition and undermining law enforcement with a cult organization.” Officials arrested Liu in October 2021 for distributing informational materials concerning Falun Gong.
Moreover, officials in Weifang City, Shandong Province, arrested Wang Zhigeng, an 82-year-old retired teacher, at his home on August 15 for putting up Falun Gong posters Falun Gong in 2019. Officials sentenced him to three years in prison and a RMB 5,000 ($730) fine.
Persecution Before the CCP’s 20th Party Congress
According to Minghui, in the two months leading up to the 20th Party Congress in October, the Party “intensified its harassment of Falun Gong practitioners” in an attempt to ensure “stability” for the congress.
“Minghui stated that police, officials from the CCP’s Political and Legal Affairs Committee, and officials from other government agencies and neighborhood committees surveilled Falun Gong practitioners’ homes and attempted to take their pictures, collect their fingerprints, confirm their telephone numbers, and interrogate them as to their practice,” wrote the DOS report. “In one instance, police in Jiuzhou Town, Cang County, Heibei Province, told a Falun Gong practitioner, ‘Higher officials ordered us to do this. They ordered us to take pictures to show that we have been here to visit you.’ Minghui reported similar incidents occurred in other parts of Hebei, as well as Shandong, Liaoning, Shanxi, and Heilongjiang Provinces, between July and October.”
The DOS has taken a series of actions to counteract the human rights abuse in China. “On December 9, the Department of State announced sanctions and visa restrictions against three current and former officials for serious human rights abuses in Tibet, including particularly serious violations of religious freedom, and the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners in Chongqing,” explained the report. “The officials were Wu Yingjie, party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region from 2016-2021, Zhang Hongbo, director of the Tibetan Public Security Bureau, and Tang Yong, former deputy director of the Chongqing Area Prisons.”
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