Manik Mehta, Taipei Journal: Normally imperturbable New Yorkers have recently been visibly shaken by simulated scenes of religious persecution in China staged in bustling areas of New York such as Times Square and Grand Central Station.
Followers and friends of the Falun Gong movement, which professes only to teach traditional Chinese methods for improving psychic and physical wellness involving simple exercises, meditation and development of xinxing–or heart-mind nature–enacted scenes dramatizing Beijing’s brutal suppression of the movement. They replicated the torture chambers purportedly used in China to punish Falun Gong members who refuse to renounce their beliefs and practices.
Amateur actors dressed as Chinese prison guards pretended to administer electric shocks to chained female Falun Gong practitioners, with faces contorted in agony and bodies covered with torture marks. Another simulation showed a woman prisoner in chains hunched over in a cramped “birdcage.” “Eeeek!” screamed a female passerby upon seeing the birdcage and its bruised and bloodied occupant. “Don’t tell me this is really happening in China?” Similar anti-torture tableaux, in tandem with petition and letter-writing campaigns, have been staged in cities and on university campuses the world over since November. The disgust and horror of onlookers, be they in New York, Munich, Taipei or Lima was proof that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
According to data provided by the Friends of Falun Gong organization, more than 1,600 followers have been tortured to death in China, while hundreds of thousands continue to languish in jails without formal charges or legal recourse. More than 100,000 have been sent to labor camps and another 1,000 have been tortured in mental hospitals, it is claimed.
Worldwide sympathy and support for the Falun Gong can only mount if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership persists in its knee-jerk reaction to even loosely organized groups that it perceives as posing a threat to its authority. Already, virtually every democratic society in the world is highly critical of Beijing for its violation of human rights on a vast scale. It is notorious for its suppression of religious groups, its complicity in driving farmers off their land, its backsliding on its legal commitment to allow Hong Kong to function as a free and autonomous entity, or its calculated annihilation of the Tibetan people’s cultural and linguistic heritage.
China’s embassies and consulates around the world are regularly bombarded with petitions pleading respect for Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans and other abused religious, ethnic and social groups.
For its part, the U. S. Congress has expressed its strenuous objection to the Chinese government’s treatment of Falun Gong members. On July 24, 2002, by a vote of 420-0, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed resolution H.R. 188, urging the Beijing authorities to cease such persecution.
The resolution reads, “The campaign of persecution [against the] Falun Gong has been carried out by government officials at all levels, and has permeated every segment of society and every level of government in the People’s Republic of China.” An issue of particular concern to U.S. politicians is the fate of an American citizen of Chinese origin, Charles Li, who is languishing in a prison in Nanjing and, according to Falun Gong sources, being beaten and subjected to brainwashing because of his association with the organization. When he refused to attend a brainwashing session in July at the behest of prison guards, it is said, another inmate knocked Li to the ground and dragged him down a staircase.
According to Falun Gong members taking part in anti-torture street presentations, Li has gone on hunger strikes and been confined to the prison clinic. It has been reported that when a U.S. consular official traveled from Shanghai to Nanjing to pay him a visit, prison officials refused him entry.
The Beijing authorities have categorically denied that Li’s arrest was related to his personal beliefs or association with the Falun Gong. The movement’s supporters point out that they deny such a connection because, otherwise, it would be tantamount to admitting that they are engaging in religious persecution–this, despite their insistence that freedom of religion is well-protected in China.
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