NEW YORK – With one month to go before the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony, Chinese security agencies continue to arrest Falun Gong adherents throughout China in large numbers. In Beijing alone, hundreds have been arrested and dozens sentenced to labor camps without trial.
In recent months, the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDI) has received regular reports from adherents and their families inside China of door-to-door searches and arrests. According to statistics compiled from these reports, there have been at least 8,037 arrests of Falun Gong adherents across 29 provinces, major cities and autonomous regions since December 2007.The largest monthly total of 1,819 known arrests occurred in June, followed by 1,799 known arrests in May.
In Beijing alone, there have been at least 208 arrests across all 18 of the municipality’s districts and counties since December 2007. The majority of those arrested in Beijing are currently being held in detention centers in the city’s various districts. However, 30 are known to have already been sentenced without trial to “re-education through labor” camps for up to 2.5 years.
“The long terms show that these arrests are not about ensuring a ‘harmonious Olympics’ as Party officials claim,” says FDI spokesperson Erping Zhang. “Falun Gong adherents pose no threat whatsoever to the games. The Olympics are being taken as an excuse to put them behind bars for years.”
The Center released today a list of names and details of 141 newly reported cases of individuals detained in Beijing since January 1, 2008 (list). Those detained include lawyers, accountants, retired workers, and parents of young children. There are dozens of others not listed here because the Center was unable to obtain sufficient details to allow for full verification.
The Center also released an update on the status of 67 individuals who were detained between December 2007 and March 2008 and whose arrest the Center had previously reported. (news) Since their detention, 16 individuals—almost one quarter of this group—have been sentenced to labor camps without trial. (list)
In addition to the large percentage sentenced to labor camps, other features of the campaign include:
- Door-to-door arrests: More than half of the 208 individuals in Beijing were arrested either from their homes, the homes of acquaintances, or from their workplaces. Local police or security agents typically detained the person unannounced and then, without a warrant, conducted a search of their home for any Falun Gong-related materials. The systematic nature of the arrests suggests the authorities are using a previously compiled list of local adherents. Many of those arrested had been detained previously for practicing Falun Gong.
- “Olympic” geography of arrests: 36 adherents were arrested from Chaoyang District, home to the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, set to host the soccer and swimming events among others; 28 were detained in Haidian District, location of the headquarters of the Beijing Olympic Committee as well as events such as basketball and volleyball. These two districts alone accounted for more than half of those sentenced to labor camps (16 out of 30).
- Short timeline: While the exact date at which a person was sentenced to a labor camp is not always known due to the lack of formal procedure, it is evident that the authorities are following a short timeline in doing so. In one case, a woman was arrested in mid April and sentenced to a labor camp for 2.5 years by mid-May; however, her family was only informed of the decision in June.
“A large percentage of people have already been sent to labor camps. The dozens currently filling Beijng’s detention centers are at grave risk of wrongful sentencing and torture,” says Zhang. “It is now imperative that the international community leverage real pressure and stop these deplorable actions. The legacy of the 2008 Olympics must not be thousands of Chinese citizens languishing in labor camps.”
The Center is demanding the immediate release of all Falun Gong adherents, and calling upon foreign media stationed in China, particularly Beijing, to investigate these arrests.