Trial of China’s Former Education Minister Can Go Forward, Tanzanian Judge Rules

On August 3, 2004, a preliminary judgment by a judge in Tanzania’s capital, Dar Es Salaam, cleared the way for a criminal trial of Chen Zhili, China’s former Minister of Education. The affidavit, brought forward by Falun Gong practitioners in Ethiopia and supported by practitioners in many other countries, charges Chen Zhili with murder and torture of Chinese teachers and students who practice Falun Gong.

The judge’s decision concludes the civil action and paves the way for the criminal trial of a woman believed to be instrumental in extending the persecution of Falun Gong to the educational system in China.

Chen appeared in court on July 19th. This is the first time any Chinese official has appeared in person to respond to the legal actions filed in countries around the world.

Dana Cheng, a spokeswoman for Falun Gong practitioners, said in an interview with The Epoch Times, “In China, those who would not give up Falun Gong cannot teach or study. Furthermore, anti-Falun Gong slogans have been put in text books and critical exams. In this way, students are forced to choose between their future and their supportive standing of Falun Gong. Students are asked to bring anti-Falun Gong material to their homes. This helps to spread hatred towards Falun Gong to a much larger group in society. I have a few friends who are outstanding Ph.D. students. They cannot get their degrees, nor can they come to the United States even with research fellow positions offered by universities here. One of my friends, Yu Jia, a teacher from top university Tsinghua, was illegally arrested and secretly sentenced.”

John Nania, part of the team that filed the lawsuit against Chen, said in an interview after the verdict was delivered, “This case is taking place in a developing country far from China. It serves notice that justice knows no geographic boundaries and no economic boundaries - there’s no escape. Those Chinese officials responsible for persecuting Falun Gong should think long and hard about how they can renounce the persecution and how they can make up for their inhuman actions while they still have the chance.”

The suit against Chen comes less than a month after a Falun Gong practitioner, David Liang, was shot in South Africa. Two Chinese officials, Vice President Zeng Qinghong and Commerce Minister Bo Xilai, who were visiting South Africa at the time, are speculated to be covertly involved in the shooting.

Chen is a close ally of both Jiang Zemin, the man who instigated the persecution of Falun Gong, and Zeng Qinghong. In 1989, she worked closely with Jiang, then mayor of Shanghai, and Zeng, his right-hand man, in shuttering the Shanghai Economics Guidance newspaper because it published the views of the rising democracy movement in China.

More recently, between 1999 and 2003, in her capacity as Education Minister in China – a post she received under Jiang Zemin’s auspices – she launched a campaign throughout China’s educational system ordering teachers and students to undergo “political shaping of thoughts” that incited hatred against Falun Gong and those who practiced it.