Trend: Key Events Spur Persecution

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Opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Beijing, 2008.

Chinese authorities escalated security sweeps: In addition to continued attempts to thwart any reporting about COVID-19, Chinese authorities are using new measures to wipe out Falun Gong. Local Chinese government websites are awash with references to cracking down on Falun Gong practitioners, including as part of the annual work plans[1] of the Public Security Bureau or budgets[2] of the Political-Legal Committee.[3]

 

Amid broader campaigns to suppress Chinese citizens surrounding sensitive dates or events, the crackdown on Falun Gong is an essential component to ensure “social stability.” In recent years, these efforts have been significant in contributing to increased persecution. They include the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic; the CCP’s Centennial Anniversary, and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. When the CCP is afraid of news getting out, it clamps down on Falun Gong hard because it knows the Falun Gong network is the one of the most effective in exposing the reality on the ground in China.

 

CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY

In preparation for its centennial celebrations on July 1, 2021 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) orchestrated large-scale arrests of Falun Gong practitioners in the pretense of “maintaining social stability.”[4] The arrests were part of a larger Centennial public security campaign dubbed “Safety July 1”. Beginning in late May, there reports emerged of practitioners being arrested, their homes being raided by local police, private property being seized, and even detention of nonpractitioner family members.[5]

 

On June 10, 2021, the Mudanjiang Municipal Police Department in northeastern China’s Heilongjiang Province ordered police from across the city’s six counties and four districts to arrest Falun Gong practitioners from their homes. Reports from Minghui.org indicate that within a 36-hour period, police detained 28 Falun Gong practitioners, harassed another six practitioners, and seized assets including cell phones, computers, printers, books, cash, and bank cards from practitioners’ homes.

 

In Dalian city of northeastern China’s Liaoning Province, 29 Falun Gong practitioners and at least six of their non-practitioner family members were detained from their homes between June 1 and June 3 as part of the regime’s “Safety July 1” campaign. Police in eastern China’s Shandong Province conducted their own home raids on Falun Gong practitioners as part of the campaign.

 

In Chaoyang, also in Liaoning Province, 26 practitioners were arrested in one fell swoop. Authorities even told practitioners and their families that the arrests were a “Centennial gift” from the CCP.[6] Similar arrests happened in the cities of Beijing and Tianjin, as well as in Sichuan, Guangdong, Gansu, Hebei, Yunnan, and about a dozen other provinces.

In 2021, the crackdown against Falun Gong intensified in the months leading up to the CCP's centennial celebrations. April, May, June, and July were marked with over a thousand confirmed reports of harassment per month, composing the largest cluster of persecution in the reporting period.

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WINTER OLYMPICS

  • Practitioners residing near the Winter Olympic Zones rounded up

  • 2022 mirrors heightened numbers from 2008 Beijing Olympics

 

The Chinese Communist Party also launched a round of campaigns of what the Party calls "maintaining social stability" right before the Winter Olympics Games that began on February 4, 2022. As a result, Falun Gong practitioners in the three Olympic Games zones of Beijing, Yanqing (a rural district in Beijing), and Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province were targeted by police to prevent them from speaking out about Falun Gong during the games.

 

The circumstances surrounding the 2022 Olympics mirror trends seen in the 2008 Olympics. That year, over 8,000 Falun Gong adherents were arrested for their faith and at least 100 died.[1] As filmmaker Caylan Ford and human rights lawyer David Matas noted in a recent Macdonald Laurier Institute report [2], the crackdown had long-lasting implications even beyond the Falun Gong community:

 

“In 2008, the Communist Party was in the 10th year of an expansive eradication campaign against Falun Gong, a Buddhist spiritual practice that was once estimated to have 70 million adherents. Human rights monitors cited reports from practitioners and families that in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing games, over 8000 Falun Gong adherents were detained in a pre-Olympic crackdown, and at least 100 reportedly died as a result of ill-treatment in custody. This occurred sometimes within walking distance of Olympic venues and major landmarks.

 

Most Canadians know little to nothing about the repression of Falun Gong in China. Political leaders in Canada only rarely acknowledge it. Few events in recent Chinese history have had as profound an impact on the country’s political, security, and psychic landscape, and few events are as little studied or as poorly understood.

 

The persecution of Uyghur Muslims and, to a lesser extent, faithful Christians, was carried out by many of the same people, with the same tactics, that the Falun Gong have endured for decades: mass imprisonment, torture, forced labour, religious de-conversion and, perhaps, organ harvesting.”

The Zhangjiakou Police Budget for 2020 was 481 million yuan (US$72.3 million), a 5.1% increase from the previous year. In the estimated expenditures, Falun Gong was listed as the primary target for the security bureau. In practice, the Falun Dafa Information Center saw this funding make a tangible impact. For example, the Wei County Police Department in Zhangjiakou City held community events to defame Falun Gong practitioners and even offered financial rewards to citizens for reporting practitioners.

For 2021 and 2022, the Zhangjiakou Police budgets were likely much higher due to Winter Olympics preparations. As a result, communities of practitioners were censored heavily in the time leading up to the Olympics opening ceremony on February 4, 2022. This correlation is supported by the rise in persecution reports from 2021 and the beginning of 2022, especially during the months of January and February 2022.

During the Olympics, the Falun Dafa Information Center found that nearly a dozen re-education facilities, prisons, and detention centers were within 30 minutes from many Olympic venues.[3] These persecution sites were in stark contrast to the sports competitions within the same city. Prisoners of conscience were routinely tortured there, even as the games began in February, with reports of several Beijing-residing Falun Gong practitioners being abused to death.

[1] “2008 Beijing Olympics: Unveiling the Hidden Story,” Falun Dafa Information Center,  https://faluninfo.net/hidden-costs-behind-the-2008-beijing-olympics/

[2] “Keeping Our Eyes Open to China's Machinery of Repression: Caylan Ford and David Matas for Inside Policy.” Macdonald Laurier Institute, January 27, 2022, https://macdonaldlaurier.ca/keeping-eyes-open-chinas-machinery-repression-caylan-ford-david-matas-inside-policy/

[3] “Persecution Hotspots Amidst Beijing Olympics,” Falun Dafa Information Center, https://faluninfo.net/olympic-map