<!-- IMAGE -->
Chinese practitioners of the spiritual movement Falun Gong continue to be severely repressed in China. Tens of thousand of Falun Gong practitioners in China have been arbitrarily detained since the spiritual movement was banned as a "threat to social and political stability" in July 1999.
Falun Gong sources estimate that at least 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been sentenced to prison, more than 100,000 practitioners have been sentenced to re-education-through-labor, and almost 3,000 have died from torture while in custody.
Defenders of Falun Gong practitioners are also persecuted. This month, 2 defense lawyers, Zhang Kai and Li Chunfun, were reportedly violently beaten by police while visiting their client’s home. The lawyers were then taken to the police station, where police reportedly continued to beat and abuse them.
The 2 lawyers had been hired by Jiang Hongbin to investigate the death of his father Jiang Xiqing, who died suddenly in a labor camp. Jiang Xiqing had been sentenced to one year forced labor in 2008 for being a member of Falun Gong.
Gao Zhisheng is perhaps one of China’s most outspoken and fearless defenders of the rights of Falun Gong members and other religious minorities. In 2004, shortly after defending a Falun Gong member, his law offices were closed and he was disbarred.
Eventually his human rights work led authorities to detain and severely torture him. Mr. Gao has been detained repeatedly, and he has reported being a victim of torture. On February 4th, 2009, Gao disappeared, reportedly after being taken away by security officials. He has not been heard from since.
Falun Gong members and their defenders should not be harassed, detained, or tortured by Chinese authorities for exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and religion.
As President Barack Obama said, "Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state. ... An enduring commitment to the rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for all people."