CESNUR - Center for Studies on New Religions directed by Massimo Introvigne

"Argentine judge asks China arrests over Falun Gong"

(Reuters, December 22, 2009)

Buenos Aires, Argentina - An Argentine judge has ordered the arrest of China's former President Jiang Zemin and another top official for "crimes against humanity" in the alleged persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Falun Gong hailed it as a historic human rights ruling on Tuesday, although a lawyer for the group acknowledged it is largely symbolic.
Federal Judge Octavio de Lamadrid on December 17 asked Interpol to issue an arrest warrant against Jiang and former security chief Luo Gan after four years of investigating charges of torture and genocide against the Falun Gong group.
The judge ordered the arrest of the two "over crimes against humanity committed in China" including genocide and torture, according to a copy of the ruling. Jiang was president from 1993 to 2003.
De Lamadrid made the ruling based on sections of Argentina's 1994 constitution that allow Argentine courts to address human rights issues in other countries.
In his ruling, the judge said "if universal jurisdiction is not admitted we would find ourselves allowing impunity, which is what the international community wants to avoid."
Alejandro Cowes, an Argentine lawyer representing Falun Gong, said: "It's a historic ruling because for the first time we're opening a universal jurisdiction to investigate crimes committed abroad."
However, a second lawyer for the group acknowledged that the ruling was mostly symbolic since it is unlikely that the arrests would be carried out. Falun Gong has pushed for such rulings without results in France, Spain and elsewhere.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is scheduled to travel to China in January to discuss bilateral trade and business. Fernandez has pushed for human rights trials in Argentina against former military officers accused of abuses during the 1976-1983 "dirty war" against leftists.
A decade-long government crackdown drove Falun Gong underground in China but it has flourished abroad, where it has moved from a spiritual movement into a vehicle against Chinese Communist Party rule.
Thousands have been jailed since China declared Falun Gong a cult in 1999.
The Falun Dafa Information Center, which documents suspected abuses against practitioners in China, says 104 Falun Gong adherents died of abuse or neglect in custody last year, bringing to 3,242 the number of deaths documented over 10 years.
"I think this lawsuit is such great news because if (people in China) see that somebody is saying that this is wrong, even here in Argentina, they will be able to think that maybe what the government is telling them is not right," said Liwie Fu, president of the Falun Gong Group in Argentina, who brought the lawsuit.

"Religious sect sues Chinese official in Taiwan court"

("EarthTimes," December 15, 2009)

Taipei, Taiwan - Buddhist meditation group Falun Gong filed a criminal complaint with a local court Tuesday against a visiting Chinese official, accusing him of persecuting the sect. The complaint against Xu Chunguang, former Communist Party secretary-general of Henan province, was filed in Taiwan's High Court by Falun Gong spokesman Chang Ching-hsi and lawyer Teresa Chu.
Xu, party chief of Henan from 1999-2008, arrived in Taiwan Monday for a week-long visit as head of a provincial trade delegation.
"Xu was deeply involved in the persecution of Falun Gong members. We demand the court investigate, arrest and prosecute him while he is in Taiwan," Chu told reporters.
Falun Gong members in the United States filed a lawsuit against Xu at a San Francisco court in 2007, she said.
The sect has filed suits in 11 countries, accusing the Chinese officials of torturing Falun Gong practitioners and taking organs from them for medical transplants.
It is also pushing Taiwan to enact laws against genocide, torture and hate crimes.
"When these laws are enacted or revised, Taiwan can deny entry to Chinese officials who have persecuted Falun Gong members, and prosecute them if they have entered Taiwan," Chu said.
Falun Gong was founded in China by Li Hongzhi in 1992 as a meditation group. China banned it in 1999, triggering protests by sect members, which resulted in crackdown by authorities.
China accused the group fomenting social unrest. Li, now living in exile in the United States, insists that it only preaches meditation.

"Parsippany man says his daughter-in-law's only crime is Falun Gong activism"

by Eugene Paik ("The Star-Ledger," November 16, 2009)

Parsippany, USA - What 80-year-old John Shen knows is this: His son is dead and his daughter-in-law is imprisoned because of their activism with the Falun Gong.
In the nearly eight years since they were arrested in China, Shen has labored to free Luo Fang from a Chinese jail cell while he grapples with his son’s death.
Shen says Luo and his son Shen Lizhi are some of the thousands of prisoners who have been arrested over the past decade for being a practitioner of Falun Gong, a lifestyle that has its roots in an ancient Chinese tradition but is considered a cult by Chinese authorities.
“We are a peaceful people. We’ve done nothing wrong,” said Shen, also a Falun Gong follower, through an interpreter.
Now, he says, Luo’s salvation rests on the U.S. Department of the State and President Barack Obama, who is in China this week
The struggle to free Luo has been a long and frustrating one, a fight that’s been slowed by what Shen believed was politics between the two nations.
The paperwork on Luo is sparse, though she was included in a 2005 United Nations civil and political rights report that described the reports of her imprisonment as “reliable and credible.”
China started its crackdown on the Falun Gong in 1999, when the movement began to spread across the country and beyond its boundaries.
The Chinese Consulate in New York City last week declined to comment for this article, but the website for the Chinese embassy described the sect as an “anti-humanity, anti-society and anti-science cult.”
According to the Chinese government, thousands of practitioners have died because they refused medical treatment for illnesses and committed self-mutilation or suicide, orders that it claims come from its charismatic leader. Also, the Web site states, “innocent people” have been killed by practitioners.
Rick Ross, a Trenton-based expert on cults, supports that view.
“In my opinion, the Falun Gong is a destructive cult,” Ross said. He called some of their claims “highly exaggerated and made-up stories.”
Shen said those charges aren’t true and maintained that his story is very real. Repeated at street fairs and to elected officials, it’s a tale he’s told to anyone willing to listen.
He’s managed to get the support of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who have each written letters to China about the treatment of Falun Gong prisoners.
In 2002, authorities arrested Luo, then 31, and Shen Lizhi, then 33, in Chengdu after they were reportedly caught on a bus with Falun Gong fliers. They were taken to a Chengdu detention center, according to the United Nations report.
The couple, who ran an English-language test tutoring business, had been active in promoting the Falun Gong and dispelling misconceptions about it, John Shen said.
Shen Lizhi - his youngest son - had only been jailed a few months before he died from “general organ failure,” according to the Global Mission to Rescue Persecuted Falun Gong Practitioners, a nonprofit group that lobbies for the release of Falun Gong prisoners.
The doctor’s report on the death did not reveal any clues about what caused the organ failure, he said. Li Li, the executive director of the Falun Gong rescue group, said her organization was unable to learn how he died.
Stricken with grief, John Shen then focused his attention on his imprisoned daughter-in-law, who was reportedly sentenced in August 2003 to 12 years in prison.
“It was an unusually harsh sentence, even for Falun Gong practitioners,” said Henry Wang, Shen’s friend and fellow Falun Gong believer.
Li said any attempts to see Luo have been rebuffed because she refuses to wear prison garb
But she said that sources in China have spoken of the horrific treatment of Luo.
For Ross, who has not investigated the Luo case, the dearth of documented evidence is a red flag. He said the rumors of torture are consistent with “exaggerated” claims that he believes are made by Falun Gong practitioners.
Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for the nonprofit Human Rights Watch, disagreed
“Arbitrary detention is a serious problem in China,” she said. “It can be very difficult to document what happens to the practitioners.”

"Nat'l Security Director critical of Falun Gong founder visit"

("RTI," October 12, 2009)

Taipei, Taiwan - National Security Bureau Director Tsai Der-sheng said on Monday that it would be inappropriate for the founder of Falun Gong to visit Taiwan. Tsai was speaking in response to the opposition legislator Tsai Huang-liang who said that a civil group has extended an invitation to Li Hongzhi, the leader of the religious group, to visit Taiwan.
Director Tsai said that inviting any politically-sensitive figures to Taiwan has to take into consideration the country's security and best interests. He said that Li's visit will have a negative effect on Taiwan-China relations. Opposition legislator Tsai Huang-liang however criticized the bureau for succumbing to pressure from China.
Falun Gong is a system of beliefs and practices that started in China in 1992 influenced by Buddhism and Taoism. It has been termed an "evil cult" by the Chinese government, which suppresses its followers.

What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
"Falun Gong 101. Introduzione al Falun Gong e alla sua presenza in Italia" (in italiano), di Massimo Introvigne