The International Religious Freedom Report claimed that authorities made local officials, family members and employers responsible for preventing known practitioners from engaging in Falun Gong-related activities 26 Oct. If the practitioners refused, they were to be turned in to the local police ibid. Grace Wollensak, a representative of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada FDAC , commented that because employers were not allowed to have Falun Gong practitioners among their workforce, many were compelled to fire practitioners or send them to "transformation" centres 29 June a.
Wollensak commented that "there are many cases [of] practitioners [having] lost their jobs" but she did not provide any examples 29 June a. The US Department of State reported in June that "[t]housands of individuals may still be undergoing criminal, administrative, and extra-judicial punishment for engaging in Falun Gong practices, admitting adherence to it, or simply refusing to condemn it" US June , According to Dajiyuan , the Chinese-language version of The Epoch Times , in late , the vice-president of Chongqing University admitted at a meeting of university presidents in Philadelphia that known Falun Gong practitioners within the student body could be suspended for their beliefs 5 Dec.
Subsequently, the vice-president retracted his statements Dajiyuan 5 Dec. Falun Gong sources claim that, beginning in , students and instructors in certain universities who continued to practise Falun Gong have been forced to leave their place of study or work Australian Falun Dafa Information Centre 2 Aug. Grace Wollensak noted in that employers might be required to pay a "re-education tuition" fee to send practitioners, who themselves were unable to pay, to re-education classes 4 Apr.
Wollensak pointed to the case of Zhang Kunlun, a prominent researcher and sculptor from Shandong Art University, whose employer allegedly paid his "re-education tuition" 4 Apr. Sources state that usually authorities can send people to RTL camps for up to four years without providing them a trial or legal representation The Age 16 Oct.
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A Chinese book of guidelines on handling RTL cases concluded that the RTL camp sentencing procedure does not meet the requirements outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in but has not ratified, nor is it in accordance with the country's judicial system The Economist 21 Dec. However, according to the head of the Masanjia RTL camp in Liaoning Province, "strict legal procedures" had to be followed when authorities were deciding whether to detain someone at the camp Xinhua 23 May These included seeking the approval of a regulatory committee made up of representatives from the police, the judiciary, the labour department, the women's federations and the youth leagues before someone is sent to an RTL camp ibid.
However, according to The Economist , the process was "open to abuse" 21 Dec. According to those detained, conditions and treatment inside the camps vary The New York Times 9 May While all inmates are expected to do some manual labour or factory work, some have reported "mild" treatment and others harsher conditions ibid. There are an estimated RTL camps in China ibid.
According to Xinhua, "those who have disturbed social order, refused to break their ties with the cult, or committed minor cult-related crimes will be sent to labour camps for transformation" 15 Jan. Foreign journalists who visited the Masanjia RTL camp in Liaoning province in were told that no detainee had been brought to the camp merely for being an adherent of Falun Gong Xinhua 23 May One detainee who was interviewed told journalists she had been brought to the camp for distributing Falun Gong pamphlets ibid.
The Falun Gong claimed in June that more than , practitioners had been sent to labour camps since the official ban on Falun Gong took effect in July Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 13 June However, HRW cautioned that "Falungong's own list of those administratively sentenced is dependent on leaked information, and is often missing crucial data, such as dates of detention, length of terms, and home towns, making corroboration difficult" Jan.
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One former university lecturer who had been fired for adhering to Falun Gong and later arrested for continuing to hand out Falun Gong pamphlets reportedly died in August while incarcerated in an RTL camp The Age 16 Oct. Suicides have also been reported in labour camps. However, the government reported only three deaths in the incident ibid.
Besides being interned in RTL camps, Falun Gong practitioners have also reportedly been incarcerated in psychiatric institutions, although the criteria for this type of detention are unclear HRW Jan. Alan Stone, the Harvard University professor who was part of a task force investigating allegations of misuse of psychiatry in China, reported no uniform government policy in his analysis of hundreds of accounts of psychiatric incarceration of Falun Gong practitioners Stone Nov.
In his judgment, the psychiatric facilities were being used by provincial authorities as "one disposition for stubborn Falun Gong practitioners" ibid. Many appeared to have been sent to psychiatric hospitals from labour camps, not at the initiation of psychiatrists, but by local authorities, including security officials ibid.
There were other accounts of roundups of practitioners, some from protests, and others as they attempted to make their way to Beijing to protest ibid. Some practitioners had been brought to psychiatric facilities by family members ibid. HRW commented in its report that based on information available about practitioners held in psychiatric institutions, "more than 75 percent of those whose sex is listed are women, a profile which fits with reports that the majority of resolute protestors [are] women" Jan.
Falun Gong alleges that thousands of practitioners have been confined to psychiatric hospitals since the official ban on the practice in Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 13 June However, Stone reported that "hundreds" of practitioners had been sent to psychiatric hospitals and that there was a decline in the number of reports of psychiatric incarcerations of Falun Gong practitioners in , compared with previous years Stone Nov. The FDI claimed in a 22 April article that Chinese Communist Party authorities had recently unleashed the "largest" campaign of mass arrests of practitioners since the July ban.
According to the FDI, the "Nine Commentaries" prompted the Chinese authorities in March to issue internal documents instructing police to raid the homes of Falun Gong practitioners and arrest anyone affiliated with the practice FDI 22 Apr. Stacy Mosher stated that Human Rights in China had not received any information about mass arrests resulting from the publication of these essays Mosher 22 June , and no information corroborating the FDI's claim could be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
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While the paper denies any official connection with Falun Gong, links have been made between The Epoch Times and Falun Gong practitioners ibid. Falun Gong claims that statistics it has compiled indicate that since July , six thousand practitioners have been "illegally" sentenced to imprisonment Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 13 June Furthermore, Falun Gong practitioners maintain that more than 2, adherents have been "tortured to death in over 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities" across China ibid. For its part, the Chinese government has denied responsibility for deaths of those held in police custody, claiming instead that Falun Gong practitioners have died of natural causes, or by committing suicide Chang , 25 or as a result of hunger strikes HRW Jan.
Gao Zhisheng, a Beijing lawyer who advocates changes to China's legal system, told The New York Times that practitioners were still being imprisoned in 9 May Based on information provided by Falun Gong, the treatment of practitioners varies by region, with the northeastern provinces characterized by treatment of a "particular harshness" Mosher 30 Mar. Falun Gong alleges that the greatest number of deaths resulting from the government crackdown on the practice have occurred in the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning while Guangdong and Fujian in the southeast have experienced significantly fewer deaths Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 13 Mar.
However, HRW reported in January that efforts at controlling Falun Gong had been most extensive in the central eastern province of Shandong Stacy Mosher at HRIC stated that thepattern of variance province to province in the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners is consistent with the variance in the treatment of political dissidents and Christians, among others 22 June Maria Hsia Chang stated that when the ban on Falun Gong was implemented in July , local and provincial authorities were given "carte blanche" by the central government to carry out its directives against Falun Gong practitioners 29 Mar.
The discretion exercised by local and provincial officials resulted in varying treatment at the provincial level Chang 29 Mar.
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Likewise, Stacy Mosher noted, local officials may choose tactics they consider to be the most "effective" or "suitable" in handling Falun Gong practitioners 22 June In , Human Rights Watch argued that the case of Zhang Kunlun, a Falun Gong practitioner from Shandong who was detained and released several times between June and January , showed that local authorities had to continually respond to changes in instructions from the central government in Beijing and that sentencing practices had been arbitrary Jan. Stacy Mosher at HRIC, in response to a question about variance in treatment of practitioners among provinces, commented that "[s]outhern provinces such as Guangdong and Fujian have always been much more relaxed [than the northeast] in every respect" 22 June However, Falun Gong reported in that the Guangdong provincial government had sent "thousands of armed policemen" to the capital, Guangzhou, and other areas of the province to "round up and arrest Falun Dafa practitioners" Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 28 June Among other detention centres in Baiyun District, the Baiyun Mental Rehabilitation Centre was reportedly "established as a charitable organization under the supervision of Guangzhou City" but used to detain Falun Gong practitioners Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 3 May Falun Gong alleged that Falun Gong detainees were subjected to beatings by "drug addicts" who were also detained there ibid.
Falun Dafa Clearwisdom claimed in March that 37 Falun Gong practitioners had died as a result of the "persecution" in Guangdong between July and March 13 Mar. Scant information on the situation of Falun Gong practitioners specifically in Fujian Province could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
According to Falun Dafa Clearwisdom, nine practitioners had been reported killed in the province as a result of the crackdown between July and March 13 Mar. According to Gail Rachlin, "[t]his fact is not lost on China's top leaders and so they, it would be safe to assume, concentrate persecutory efforts more in the northeast region" Rachlin 23 June Asia Times Online reported in a 10 April article that the northeast region of China — called the rustbelt due to the decline of its once thriving heavy industry — was "a breeding ground for Falungong practitioners" because of its slow economy.
The north has been particularly prone to violent labour agitation, and Asia Times Online claimed that in such an environment, government action against Falun Gong practitioners risked turning adherents into "militant[s]" 10 Apr. According to China Daily , Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning began suffering from a sluggish economy in the s as market reforms were implemented throughout the country 13 Oct.
Stacy Mosher, the communications director at HRIC, noted that "it's possible that the economic problems of the Northeast create a climate of general unrest that local officials seek to suppress by oppressive tactics on all fronts" 22 June The Dalian City Center in Liaoning Province, described by Falun Dafa Clearwisdom as a "forced-transformation Center," was reportedly founded in for the purpose of "suppress[ing] Falun Gong even before the large scale arrest[s] on July 20th, " Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 17 Dec.
Falun Dafa Clearwisdom alleged that the Center was located in the backyard of an RTL camp in the city and that it housed detained practitioners who were released upon writing a "guarantee letter" promising to abandon the movement 17 Dec. Falun Dafa Clearwisdom alleged in that approximately 5, Falun Gong practitioners were being held in various detention centres and mental hospitals throughout Liaoning Province 30 Nov.
The same Website reported that, from July to 13 March , practitioners had died in police custody in Heilongjiang, in Jilin and in Liaoning Falun Dafa Clearwisdom 13 Mar. According to one news source, detained practitioners are usually not released until they have agreed to renounce their belief in Falun Gong Atlanta Journal-Constitution 14 Jan.
However, the Australian newspaper The Age reported that a former Falun Gong detainee who was purportedly sent to a Guangdong labour camp and then to a psychiatric facility in Guangzhou was released without having signed a letter of renunciation after she carried out a hunger strike that reportedly "brought her close to death" 16 Oct.
Furthermore, some former detainees have been pressured into helping authorities "'convert'" known Falun Gong practitioners in their area Rachlin 23 June The communications director of HRIC indicated that those former detainees who show an inclination for "causing further trouble" are particularly targeted for monitoring Mosher 22 June According to Rachlin, monitoring is "especially strict" for former detainees whom authorities suspect of holding information they may wish to send overseas or post on the Internet Rachlin 23 June The practitioner profiled in The Age , who had refused to sign renunciation letters and had held a hunger strike, reported that, upon her release, she was "under constant watch" of the local Office in Maoming, Guangdong 16 Oct.
The extent of monitoring of former detainees also varies according to region and the number of released practitioners in a particular locale Mosher 22 June ; Wollensak 29 June a. According to Grace Wollensak, depending on the region, some former detainees are required to report to police on a daily or monthly basis 4 Apr. Wollensak also maintained that practitioners released from re-education may face difficulties obtaining a work promotion due to the perception that they are troublemakers 4 Apr.
Both Gail Rachlin and Stacy Mosher stated that their respective organizations were aware of some former Falun Gong detainees who have been able to leave the country Mosher 30 Mar. In particular, it is possible for those with family members overseas to leave China on family reunification grounds Mosher 30 Mar. In contrast, the former detainee from Guangzhou profiled in The Age claimed to have been told by police that she would be unable to obtain a passport to leave China 16 Oct. According to Country Reports , some Falun Gong practitioners allegedly had difficulty obtaining passports that year 31 Mar.
Grace Wollensak stated that there was a high likelihood that practitioners who had undergone re-education would face difficulties in obtaining passports, as well as securing state housing or pensions 4 Apr.
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What is the goal of practicing Falun Gong? What are the benefits of it? Can it cure things like cancer? Who practices Knowing the democratic West to be a tolerant, pluralistic, and diverse place, Chinese authorities have sought to brand Falun Gong as contrary to these basic values.
Is there an apocalyptic bent to the practice, as a few journalists have suggested? Certainly not, and not really.