02/20/2006, 00.00
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Gao's first challenge: government must stop anti-Falun Gong persecution

In his first open letter to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, Gao Zhisheng, lawyer and human rights activist, denounced the brutal repression of the Falun Gong and called for its immediate halt.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – "Based on the belief in universal values and respect for the rule of law, I solemnly urge you to immediately stop persecuting believers of freedom, to improve the relationship with Chinese citizens and to implement the policies of 'rule of law' and 'the rule of constitutional law'.

With these words, written on 18 October last, Gao Zhisheng launched his first head-on attack against Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, China's president and prime minister, and their policy of persecution of Falun Gong members. Falun Gong is a practice of meditation and physical exercises inspired by Buddhist and Taoist traditions, which uses gymnastics and breathing as means in the quest for health, immortality, peace and harmony.

On 25 April 1999, more than 10,000 adherents of the movement demonstrated peacefully in Beijing against violations of their rights. In July of the same year, a ferocious persecution campaign was launched against the movement, at the suggestion of the then-president Jiang Zemin. The movement, which had some 100 million followers in China, was labeled as an "evil cult" and a "threat to social and political stability". Since then, there has been no let-up in charges, imprisonment, torture (more than 38,000 recorded cases) and even murders.

Gao recorded all this and – in his capacity as lawyer and also as eye witness – he wrote his first open letter to the leadership about what he saw and heard. We report the most moving testimonies here below:

15 October 2005, meeting with Xu Chengben in Wendeng, Shandong

"My wife He Xiuling's corpse has been in the police's refrigerator chamber for nearly two years, waiting to be buried. They tortured her for a long time until she eventually died. It is ridiculous that they have been unable to close this case after two years. I just caught a short glimpse of her before she was tortured to death. When I saw her, she was out of her mind. She was tied to a bed and handcuffed, wearing nothing on the lower part of her body. My heart almost broke seeing my loved one having been tortured so cruelly. They were so inhumane as to push me out of the room after just a few minutes. She was only in her 40s at that time. This is what I saw when the police told me to look at her.

"My wife was arrested five times before her death. She was once imprisoned in Liaoning Province's Jinzhou City for three months. After being arrested for appealing in Beijing, she was confined in the restroom of a hotel in Zhifou District. It was rented with a long-term lease exclusively for holding arrested Falun Gong practitioners. The restroom was less than three square meters, yet sixteen people were detained there. Many of them could hardly breathe. After my strong demands, my wife's corpse underwent an autopsy after she died, but they refused to give me the report. Every time I asked they simply told me, 'She died of practicing Falun Gong.'"

The story of Lin Jixiao, aged around 40, Dachuang village in Songcun township of Wendeng:

After being apprehended on September 28, she was sent to a detention centre. She went on hunger strike there. When her family wanted to see her, they said that she was transferred to the Wangcun Forced Labour Camp. But according to those who had just been released from the camp, she was still inside the camp and on the verge of death.

When we rushed to the Wangcun Brainwashing Centre, my family members were told that she was not there. We then came to the '6-10 Office', but they said my wife had been transferred to Qingdao City. Even now we do not know whether she is dead or alive, and even anything about her whereabouts.

Yang Kemeng, second-year student in the Automobile Engineering Department of the Harbin Institute's of Technology Weihai Branch.

He was such a good student and was liked by everyone at the Institute, all the way from students to the president. His public withdrawal from the Communist Youth League (CYP) on a website became of particular concern for an official on the Central Standing Committee of the CCP.

Since he didn't specify the name of the Institute in his statement, the "6-10 Office" launched a nationwide campaign to filter all the websites of colleges and universities. He was identified by the personnel at the "6-10 Office" in Weihai in May. When asked if he practiced Falun Gong and if he had in fact quit the CYP, he replied, "I'm able to quit whatever I want." When school started on August 20, personnel from the "6-10 Office" came to the Institute to interrogate him again. He was arrested on August 29, but his parents didn't know about it until they made a phone call to his dormitory, and no one answered.

On September 7, his parents, Yang Pinggang and Chang Lijun, and a couple, Wang Shengli and Ms. Wang in Jining city, were arrested at the same time. Nobody knows their whereabouts to date.

The last testimony was about the "inhuman torture experienced by Falun Gong practitioner He Xiuling, before her death", which, wrote Gao, "will be forever imprinted in the memory of all who saw or heard her".

The woman was kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured, far from her family, to who the police denied any access or visit. After her death, her family was called to see her in the mortuary after she was considered dead, and they noticed that tears were dripping down from the corners of her eyes. They called the doctor for an emergency rescue. The doctor stood still, as if he had heard nothing; his indifference "drove the family members into despair".

With the help of one of their fellow villagers who happened to know the doctor, they managed to make him carry out a medical inspection. Exam results showed He Xiuling still had a heartbeat. Instead of rescuing his patient – as any doctor would have done in such a case – the immediate reaction of the doctor was to tear the electrocardiogram printout into pieces, and he escaped from the scene murmuring, "I didn't see anything. I know nothing." He Xiuling then died, her hopeless family members surrounding her in tears.

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See also
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Gao Zhisheng and his group, "the hope of post-Communist China"
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