Eleven NZ citizens and residents filed a lawsuit in the Auckland High Court today against Jiang Zemin, the former president of China.
“It’s part of the biggest human rights case in the world since WWII… In the end, we plan to bring Jiang Zemin to the International Tribunal,” says Theresa Chu, a lawyer who brought a similar case to court in Taiwan and also the director of International Advocates For Justice. “Twenty-seven lawyers from 21 countries are working to bring Jiang and his cohorts to justice across the world.”
The group’s barrister, Chris Lawrence, a former Proceedings Commissioner of the NZ Human Rights Commission, as well as a past delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, said that the case was unusual because the plaintiffs sue over events in China. “The Chinese legal system, controlled as it is by the defendants, is unable to provide my clients justice. So we are seeking to bring Jiang Zemin to justice in NZ. This case will explore the extent to which New Zealanders who have been subjected to gross human rights abuses in other countries can seek justice in our courts.”
Also named as defendants in the suit are Jiang Zemin’s primary primary accomplices in the persecution of Falun Gong: Luo Gan and Li Lanqing. Together with Jiang, they stand accused of directing a systematic campaign of genocide over the past five years.
The group held a press conference outside the Auckland High Court this morning followed by what they called “The Great Wall of Courage.” The hundred-plus collection of Falun Gong practitioners lined up along eight blocks of Queen St. holding banners and handing out flyers in an effort to raise the public’s awareness of their plight.
Falun Gong describes itself as an ancient Chinese meditation practice, in which practitioners adhere to the principles of “ Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance” in their daily lives. The practice grew exponentially during the 1990’s at a grass roots level, and a Chinese government survey in 1999 estimated between 70-100 million people practiced it.
A government policy of harassment began as early as 1996, and culminated in a full out persecution in July 1999. Since then human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, in addition to the UN, and the US State department, have documented serious human rights abuses, including systematic torture, rape, killing, brainwashing, and mental institutionalization of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners.