BLUEPAGES (IRELAND): A lone vigil for justice

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By Siobhan Maguire
August 28, 2001

ZHAO Xiaolin is in good spirits despite the damp and dull weather. She has been sitting outside the Chinese Embassy since August 8 and has another week or so left of her sit-in protest to let passers-by know what is happening to her friends and colleagues who practice Falun Gong in China. One person in captivity is Zhao Ming, a computer science post-graduate student at Trinity College. Since May of this year, Ming has been detained without trial by the Chinese Government in a Beijing labour camp. His friends and family fear for his life and Irish campaigners say their latest information on his case is that he has been brutally tortured and forced to renounce his faith.

Xiaolin says her friend is in grave danger. She claims that Ming, like thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners in China, is looking death in the eye. She, like other members of the Falun Gong Irish Group, are calling on the Irish public to take notice of what is happening to Falun Gong people in China.

"All we can do is raise the awareness of the brutality these people are suffering," she says. "Imagine being gang raped by the police and prisoners if you are female. Imagine if your eight month-old baby was hung upside down with his ankles shackled and imagine the mother of this child being forced to watch this happening and being tortured at the same time. This is what Falun Gong people are suffering."

The Falun Gong movement was outlawed in China in July 1999 after [...]a large demonstration outside Government headquarters in Beijing. The Chinese Government, under President Jiang Zemin, became concerned about the popularity of the group, [...].

Since 1999, the group has maintained a high profile worldwide highlighting the alleged atrocities being carried out against its members in China.

According to the 2001 Amnesty International Report, at least 93 adherents of Falun Gong are believed to have died in police custody since 1999.

"Some of the deaths were a result of [...] injuries inflicted during forcible feeding, but most were reported to have died as a result of torture," the report reads. "New arrests and detentions were reported daily throughout 2000. Thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of practioners were believed to remain in detention at the end of the year. Many were assigned without trial to "re-education through labour" and some were detained in psychiatric hospitals."

The horror stories exposed by the Falun Gong Irish Group, who launched the SOS campaign to rescue the Trinity student, suggest that: at least 263 practioners have been tortured to death; over 10,000 sent to labour camps; over 500 sentenced up to 18 years in prison; over 600 sent to mental institutions; and tens of thousands of people losing their homes, jobs and right to education.

Over the last two years, the Jiang Zeming regime has used every possible means to defame Falun Gong in order to destroy it completely. The persecution escalated after Beijing won the Olympics bid because Jiang Zemin's regime regards this as the approval of the world to their brutality, the group claims. [...]

The group believe that people like Zhao Ming have been held in "hell-like" labour camps for over 15 months where they are tortured on a regular basis.

Members of the Falun Gong Irish Group started a seven day walk across Ireland last week to raise awareness for their campaign. A letter is also to be handed to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern asking him to raise their concerns with Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji, who is due a visit to Ireland in September.

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