Falun Gong Calls On U.N. Commission To Condemn Human Rights Abuses In China

On the eve of a vote on a resolution before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights against China, Falun Gong, a spiritualist group, that has practitioners in China, the United States and elsewhere, called on the international community to join the United States at the Geneva meeting and condemn China.

Falun Gong contends that since that Geneva conference began earlier this month, China has killed 14 of the group's practitioners by brutally torturing them to death. Among the recent deaths were women and an eight-month-old baby. The death toll, according to Falun Gong has risen to 193 of its practitioners.

"The United States has advanced a resolution to condemn China for its widespread and systemic abuses. China, as it has done at past commissions, is trying to block discussion of its human rights violations by issuing its own motion for 'no action.' We are here to appeal to the international community and all of the U.N delegates to support the vote to proceed with this debate and join with the United States to condemn China's actions," Keith Ware, a Falun Gong practitioner told a Washington news conference.

Ware added, "President Jiang Zemin has issued an order 'to eradicate Falun Gong by all means'. We urge China to stop the killing and torture. President Jiang has ordered that police who beat practitioners to death are not to be held accountable. The Falun Gong practitioners in China have chosen to stand up against Jiang's forces of evil. China cannot hope to become a truly respected member of the world community unless it is willing to take steps to improve its human rights record."

Falun Gong plans a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at the Chinese Embassy in Washington to protest its human rights record. Other vigils are set for Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago and Honolulu. The group also has candlelight vigils set in many Asian and European capitals as well.

The group also released its latest report on what it called "Extensive and Severe Human Rights Violations in the Suppression of Falun Gong." It documents more than 600 previously unpublished cases of detention, torture, brutality and harassment that Falun Gong practitioners and some local governments have suffered both inside and outside of China.

Falun Gong styles itself as individuals that conduct a "meditation practice for mind and body" as well as teaching the "practice of truthfulness-compassion-tolerance in everyday life."

Ware said Falun Gong is not a 'political group,' has no 'political agenda,' and had no comment on the recent reconnaissance plane incident between the U.S. and China. If President Bush goes to China in October, Ware hopes he "will keep our [Falun Gong] wishes in mind."

"We hope that they [the Bush administration] stop the persecution in China. The Bush administration has supported us pretty strongly to this point," Ware said.

Later in the press conference, a reporter identifying himself from China's official Xinhua news agency asked if Falun Gong was a "cult", Ware heatedly denied that it is.

"Here in America, 200 years ago, we had to fight for our freedom. Patrick Henry said 'Give me liberty or give me death'. You used a word that is not what we are. We know what we are, and we are defining what we are. We are not a cult. We are practitioners of Falun Gong. In no way are we related to anything that resembles a cult. If you would like to define what a cult is, we would certainly engage in a debate on that. We are fighting for our freedom to be able to do our exercises," Ware said.

Meanwhile, China's People's Daily, the official government newspaper published a commentary in its Tuesday edition condemning the "Falun Gong cult" for doing what the newspaper called "its evil deeds against innocent people."

"As with other evil cults in the world, Falun Gong not only incites its followers to commit suicides, but also instigates them to kill or injure others, thus bringing disasters to the victims and deep sorrow to the victims' families. Today, evil cults have become very harmful to the world, they create heretical ideas, apotheosize cult leaders, exert mental control of people, collect money by playing tricks, break laws, undermine social stability and kill people," the People's Daily editorial said.

"The Chinese government," the editorial continued, "has made great efforts to put down the Falun Gong cult. So far, most Falun Gong followers in China have realized the cult's nature. Thanks to the government's help, many innocent people, especially women, children and the elderly, have been well protected and have returned to normal life."

The editorial concluded with a call for the "Chinese people to wipe out Falun Gong from the society."