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Freedom House Report: “The Worst Instance of Religious Persecution”

In a recent report from Freedom House, the persecution of Falun Gong in China was highlighted and analyzed in detail. Twenty two pages of the 142-page document focused on this severe, large-scale, human rights violation.

“The Battle for China’s Spirit,” published by Freedom House on February 28, 2017, has a 22-page section on Falun Gong with 118 third-party references.
“The Battle for China’s Spirit,” published by Freedom House on February 28, 2017, has a 22-page section on Falun Gong with 118 third-party references.

“[The Communist Party initiated] the worst instance of religious persecution since the Cultural Revolution, with the clampdown against Falun Gong,” cited in the report remarks from André Laliberté, a leading scholar from Ottawa University on religion in China.

With a title of “The Battle for China’s Spirit,” this report was published by Freedom House on February 28, 2017. A press conference was held in the morning of that day, hosted by Carolyn Bartholomew, chair of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Founded in 1941, Freedom House is a U.S. Government-funded non-governmental organization with a mission of a “clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world.”

Both the full report and a 40-page overview are available for download on the organization’s website. It is considered one of the most comprehensive reports from a major human rights organization.

Seventeen-Year-Long Ban

Starting with a group exercise photo from the Minghui website, the report reviewed the popularity of Falun Gong in 1990s, as well as the close tie between its principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance and the Chinese tradition. “In the 1990s, Chinese people from every stratum of society—including Communist Party members—began taking up Falun Gong,” wrote the report.

Nonetheless, Jiang Zemin, then the CCP general secretary and state president, decided to ban Falun Gong in 1999. “…once Jiang made the arbitrary and arguably illegal decision to ban Falun Gong, and asserted his will over other members of the Politburo Standing Committee, there were few institutional or legal obstacles to stop what came next.” This includes the launch of the 610 Office, which then drove the nationwide suppression and demonizing propaganda.

Despite 17 years of ban, tens of millions of people still practice Falun Gong in China today.

New Developments

Two developments were identified by the report related to the persecution. One of them is the harsh penalties against detained practitioners under Article 300 of the criminal code. At least 933 practitioners were imprisoned between January 2013 and June 2016, according to the report. “… 45-year-old Gao Yixi died in police custody in April 2016, just ten days after he and his wife were taken from their home under apparent suspicion of practicing Falun Gong.” In addition, practitioners were held at extralegal “legal education centers,” “black jails,” and pretrial detention centers. Many of them were sentenced to imprisonment.

The other development is the suppression of human rights lawyers who defended Falun Gong practitioners. For example, “In July 2015, Chinese security agencies launched an aggressive assault on the country’s contingent of human rights lawyers and the broader ‘rights defense’ movement, detaining over 300 lawyers and their assistants.”

On the other hand, evidence of cracks in the systemic repression has been observed. The report attributed this to several factors such as purge of key officials involved in the persecution, decade-long efforts from practitioners to raise awareness of the brutality, and others. In fact, after the Chinese Supreme Court eased filing procedures in May 2015, practitioners inside and outside of China have filed a large number of criminal complaints against Jiang Zemin, holding him responsible for the crimes.

Omnipresent Repression

In addition to detention, imprisonment, and torture, various methods and techniques were adopted by officials to mistreat practitioners. One example is electronic surveillance. “Falun Gong practitioners have been jailed for leaving voicemail recordings, posting messages to WeChat or QQ, or circumventing censorship to access blocked websites.”

Another strategy used by officials to “eradicate” Falun Gong is forcing practitioners to give up their belief. Citing a report from U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) in 2008, it was undertaken through “transformation,” “a process of ideological reprogramming whereby practitioners are subjected to various methods of physical and psychological coercion until they recant their belief in Falun Gong.”

To control information flow, Chinese officials heavily restricted online terms related to Falun Gong, punished behaviors of transmiting such information online or offline, and confiscated printed materials. Furthermore, officials employed many strategies to discourage potential supporters from helping practitioners.

“Taken together, these repressive activities seep into every corner of life and society—schools and workplaces, supermarkets and public transportation, passport requests and hukou residency registrations, laptops and smartphones,” wrote the report.

A large amount of resources have been expended to sustain the persecution. “… the estimated annual budget for all 6-10 Office branches nationwide is 879 million yuan ($135 million). And this is only for one part of the Party-state apparatus involved in the suppression of Falun Gong.”

Forced Organ Harvesting

Under the context of dehumanizing propaganda, these extralegal custodial abuse and economic inducements were later escalated to a new form—the killing of detained Falun Gong practitioners and sale of their organs for profit. After reviewing evidence from other investigators, doctors, hospital employees, and released practitioners, Freedom House “found credible evidence suggesting that beginning in the early 2000s, Falun Gong detainees were killed for their organs on a large scale.”

And such an atrocity continues. Based on the investigation work published in 2016 by David Kilgour, Ethan Gutmann, and David Matas, “…publicly available data on the number of transplants being conducted at medical institutions in China found that the scale is many times greater than the 10,000 transplants per year often cited by officials.” This highlights the increasing risk of Falun Gong practitioners and other prisoners of conscience.

Path Forward

“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,” said the report.

Through consistent, non-violent efforts from Falun Gong practitioners to raise awareness of and oppose the persecution, a large number of people chose to support practitioners. “Orders for arrests continue to come down from high-level authorities, but sometimes the Public Security Bureau agents will say no, they are only exercising to be healthy,” quoting the report remarks from a Chinese human rights lawyer in 2013.

After the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party was published in 2004, many people joined the efforts to sever ties with the Party. “As of November 2016, the overseas website tracking the tuidang movement claimed that over 255 million people inside and outside China had published statements,” wrote the report.

Nonetheless, as long as the persecution policy remains in effect, “Falun Gong practitioners throughout China continue to be detained, imprisoned, tortured, and sometimes killed in what is still a massive campaign of religious persecution,” concluded the report.

Chinese version available

Hong Kong Government Encouraged to Invite Premier Classical Chinese Dance Company

Shen Yun dancers perform a classical Chinese dance. (Courtesy of Shen Yun Performing Arts)
Shen Yun dancers perform a classical Chinese dance. (Courtesy of Shen Yun Performing Arts)

For the past decade, Shen Yun Performing Arts, a classical Chinese dance and music company, has played to full theaters in over a hundred cities worldwide. Yet, the New York-based Shen Yun cannot perform in China, where the ancient art of classical Chinese dance originated.

The Chinese regime hasn’t allowed Shen Yun, a show that has dazzled and moved millions of theatergoers, to perform in the country because the show includes acts that portray the persecution of Falun Dafa. Practitioners of Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, have been brutally persecuted in China for the past 17 years, on the orders of former Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin.

Each year, the communist regime tries various means to disrupt Shen Yun performances around the world. In 2010, Shen Yun was forced to make a last-minute cancellation in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city, after its government withdrew visas from six key production techs with just under a week to go before the company’s debut.

Six years later, the Hong Kong branch of New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD), an independent Chinese-language station and member of the Epoch Media Group, is encouraging the Hong Kong government to bring the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company to the city in 2017.

The odds of Shen Yun being allowed to perform one step away from Mainland China have become somewhat promising.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been public about his love and reverence for traditional Chinese culture. Xi also appears to be distancing his administration from Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong.

Xi has closed the labor camp system, where hundreds of thousands of practitioners were incarcerated at any time; he made what appear to be reconciliatory gestures on the anniversaries of key persecution dates; and investigators for his anti-corruption campaign recently criticized the 610 Office, an extralegal security force that oversees the persecution.

The ball is now in the Hong Kong government’s court.

Below is a translation of the letter that NTD sent to the Hong Kong government’s cultural department.


Encouraging the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to Invite Shen Yun Performing Arts to Hong Kong

Founded in 2006 in New York, Shen Yun Performing Arts is a cultural miracle appearing on stages throughout the world.

Comprised mainly of elite Chinese-American artists, Shen Yun’s performances of dance and music have over the past decade become a global phenomenon. Each year, Shen Yun brings several hundred shows to the world’s top venues. The mostly sold-out performances are attended by Western audiences in North America, South America, Europe, and Oceania, as well as Asian audiences in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

Shen Yun revives and celebrates China’s glorious 5,000-year-old culture and history. Around the world, Shen Yun receives high accolades from elites in the arts and culture community, and substantially raises the cultural recognition and confidence of Chinese people around the world.

Shen Yun has performed at world-class venues around the world, including Lincoln Center and Radio City Musical Hall, two of New York City’s most renowned theaters; John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; Royal Festival Hall in London; Palais des Congrès in Paris; Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto; National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei; the Dolby Theatre (formerly known as the Kodak Theatre) in Hollywood, California; and more.

According to The New York Times, Shen Yun tours over 100 major cities worldwide annually. Each of Shen Yun’s five touring companies includes more than 80 members consisting of award-winning dancers, famous singers, accomplished musicians, a live orchestra combining Western and Chinese instruments, choreographers, composers, masters of ceremony, costume designers, stage designers, and computer artists who design and project the 3-D backdrop. Great artists from all over the world frequently give Shen Yun performances a five-star rating.

Below are testimonies from high-profile individuals:

David H. Koch

“I have come to this theater for over 45 years.” said David H. Koch, executive vice president of Koch Industries, after he saw Shen Yun Performing Arts in 2013 in the theater at Lincoln Center named for him. “I love the costumes, the athletic dancing, the combination of classical Western music with Chinese music. That’s very soothing, pleasing. And the athletic skill of the dancers is quite something. I love the backdrops, the beautiful painted scenes of China. … I certainly loved this tonight.”

Robert Zemeckis

Academy Award-winner Robert Zemeckis is a celebrated director, producer, and screenwriter. His list of film credits includes “Forrest Gump,” for which he won an Oscar for best director; the “Back to the Future” series; and the “Polar Express.” Of Shen Yun, he said: “It’s exciting and moving—moving in a compelling way. It makes you want to watch. … It’s very good, and the story lines are very interesting.”

His Majesty King Fuad II

The last king of Egypt and the Sudan, His Majesty King Fuad II, said of Shen Yun: “I congratulate the wonderful [performance] company I saw tonight, [with its] costumes, exceptional dancers, [and] the music. … I spent a wonderful evening and I thank them from my heart.”

Franceska Aeschlimann

International songwriter, composer, lyricist, and publisher Franceska Aeschlimann said of Shen Yun: “It is very touching to see such a giving—because they are giving so much—this is a lot of work to arrive to this point to do such a dance and to be able to present such a fantastic piece of art.”

Alessandra Sabet

Italian film actress Alessandra Sabet said of Shen Yun: “I could not imagine the perfection in dance, it is magnificent! I found it very, very beautiful.”


Shen Yun performances are always met with overwhelming acclaim and heartfelt praise from audiences from different countries around the world. They praise the authentic Chinese culture and arts showcased by Shen Yun, and express great admiration for traditional Chinese civilization. The achievements of Shen Yun highlight the profoundness and inclusiveness of Chinese civilization, as well as the depth of its history and culture.

In recent years, China has been gradually returning to the center stage of the world. However, restoring the Chinese people to the center of civilization will take a cultural renaissance. In this process, the power of art is an irreplaceable force. In fact, world history has demonstrated that the rise and prosperity of a nation is preceded by a rise in spirituality, often heralded by an artistic renaissance.

Shen Yun Performing Arts perfectly combines Chinese and Western, traditional and modern artistic expressions, in various ways. Ancient Chinese instruments combine with a Western orchestra. Traditional Chinese dance and state-of-the-art, dynamic backdrops blend masterfully, to create perfect harmony, expressing the beauty of traditional Chinese culture.

On one hand, this kind of innovation is one of the key elements of Shen Yun’s success. On the other hand, Shen Yun’s success is vivid proof that humanity shares a yearning for traditional Chinese virtues such as kindness, sincerity, and tolerance—virtues recognized by various countries and civilizations throughout history. As a matter of fact, Shen Yun performances in many major cities around the world win the hearts of people of all nationalities and create an unsurpassed theatrical experience.

As the starting point of the modern Silk Road, Hong Kong is a unique city which introduces China to the West. It is also the city’s responsibility to showcase Chinese civilization to the world. Situated at the junction of East and West, and North and South, Hong Kong should do more to promote Chinese culture and art, truly connecting China to the world, as well as presenting to the world these artistic masterpieces that combine the best of East and West.

The Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department has invited world-renowned performing arts companies to Hong Kong, such as Berliner Philharmoniker and other top orchestras, as well as the production of “La Traviata” by San Carlo Theatre, Naples, and the Wells Cathedral Choir. Their performances in Hong Kong were met with enthusiasm and critical acclaim.

We earnestly encourage the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department to invite the world-renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts to perform in Hong Kong. Not only will it be an artistic phenomenon in Hong Kong, it will also facilitate China’s further integration into the world.

New Tang Dynasty Television Hong Kong
November 7, 2016

Australia: Falun Gong Practitioners Appeal to Stop Organ Harvesting

Mr Craig Kelly, member of parliament for Hughes, speaks at Capital Hill spoke to the rally about "why I have been proud to be co-chairmen of the Parliamentary group against forced organ harvesting.” Canberra, Australia, Nov. 21, 2016. (Linda Zhang/Epoch Times)
Mr Craig Kelly, member of parliament for Hughes, speaks at Capital Hill spoke to the rally about “why I have been proud to be co-chairmen of the Parliamentary group against forced organ harvesting.” Canberra, Australia, Nov. 21, 2016. (Linda Zhang/Epoch Times)

On November 21, hundreds of Australian Falun Gong practitioners rallied in front of Capital Hill in Canberra to raise awareness of the ongoing human rights abuses perpetrated against their fellow practitioners in China since 1999. The rally put focus on murder for organs in China, and called for Australian politicians to support bringing an end to forced live organ harvesting and the persecution of Falun Gong by Chinese Communist Regime.

Banners calling for support from the Australian public and displaying the principles of the practice, Truth, Compassion and Tolerance, lined both sides of Commonwealth Avenue through the city centre and around Capital Hill.

Speakers at the rally included Fan Huiqiang from Australian Falun Dafa Association, MP Craig Kelly, former Canadian cabinet minister David Kilgourand Winnipeg international human rights lawyer David Matas. The two co-authored a new report which documents the killing of Falun Gong practitioners to supply China’s lucrative organ trade.

The report concludes that as many as 60,000 to 100,000 transplants have been taking place in China from the year 2000 to the present with the source being non-consenting prisoners of conscience; primarily Falun Gong. This puts the likely death toll of Falun Gong practitioners from forced organ harvesting in the region of 1.5 million over the past 15 years.

The emcee of the rally, Mr John Deller said: “What Falun Gong practitioners are doing is not protesting; they are only trying to tell the truth.

MP Craig Kelly spoke at the rally, sharing about a business trip he took to China a decade ago. He explained how most of the tourist brochures in his hotel contained a leaflet inside defaming Falun Gong in poor English. It took him 10 years to work out why the Chinese communist Government did this. Once he understood the truth of Falun Gong, he said: “I’ve always stood with you since then. That’s why I have been proud to be co-chairmen of the Parliamentary group against forced organ harvesting … doing something to stop it.”

Mr Kelly told Epoch Times that David Kilgour had held a briefing inside parliament house, introducing new evidence and explaining some of the latest findings on this human rights abuse.   “We want people to donate their organs freely. But having a system where people are forced to have their organs harvested without consent … truthfully, this goes against everything we believe in. It is something we need to speak out against in our free and democratic parliament.”

Kelly said the introduction of a motion to the House of Representatives is underway. “We will make sure that it will go to parliament, and we will make sure it is bipartisan.”

Kelly said the motion condemning forced organ harvesting will be introduced early in the New Year.

David Kilgour also spoke at the rally outside parliament, “David and I have met with Falun Gong practitioners in over 50 countries; we have a great respect for you, what you believe, and what you do. There is never been an act of violence committed by any Falun Gong practitioner anywhere in China or anywhere else, you should be really, really proud of that. “

He also mentioned that he had a good hearing with parliamentarians that morning, but he said there are a lot of members of parliament who have yet to learn the truth of the matter before the Australian government will place a ban on Australians going to China for organs.

“What happened to the Jewish community is different from what’s happening to Falun Gong community. Not even Adolf Hitler would murder people and sell the organs to wealthy residents from Germany or China.” He said.

“A lot of people know what’s happening now, it’s better to stop it. Australia, Canada and all who believe in human dignity have to get this stopped. Please continue what you’re doing.”

Renowned international human rights lawyer David Matas also addressed the crowd, highlighting the total lack of transparency, accountability and traceability from China’s organ transplant industry.

“The Chinese communist regime cannot explain the organ source,” he said.