The Persecution of Falun Gong Outside China: Phone Tapping

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The U.S. House of Representatives recently unanimously passed Resolution 304, calling for an investigation of Chinese consular officials committing illegal acts against U.S. citizens and residents who practise Falun Gong, and U.S. elected officials supportive of Falun Gong. The resolution cited cases in which agents from the Chinese government targeted U.S. officials, residents, and citizens whom they suspected of association with Falun Gong, and calls upon the regime to immediately stop interfering with basic freedoms in America. It states that the Chinese government should "cease using the diplomatic missions in the United States to spread falsehoods about the nature of Falun Gong." In this article we will look into phone tapping of Falun Gong practitioners that occurred outside China.

Not long after the persecution of Falun Gong began in 1999, a spokesperson for Falun Gong, Ms. Gail Rachlin of New York City, had her residence of 16 years broken into several times. Her apartment had never been broken into previously. What were stolen the first time were only her income tax statements, and the next time only her address book was taken. The detective investigating the case told Ms. Rachlin that her phone had been tapped.

In July of 2001, Terri Wu, a Falun Gong practitioner from Washington D.C., returned from a month-long trip overseas, during which time she had turned off her cell phone. When she turned it on after arriving back at New York's JFK Airport, she found that a message had been left on her voice mailbox only a couple of hours previously. It was a conversation between Falun Gong practitioners that took place in the Washington D.C. metro area that someone had recorded without their knowledge. Ms. Wu was shocked by this and felt that someone was trying to threaten her, especially because she had postponed her return date many times, and the person that left the message apparently was tracking her and knew when she would be back.

Tapping the phones of Falun Gong practitioners outside of China by Chinese embassies is a common practice, as there are numerous cases to prove this, some of which are evidence in lawsuits against the former president of China Jiang Zemin and the Chinese embassies. The persecution of Falun Gong is obviously not limited to China; there are officials and staff of the Chinese embassies and consulates putting a large amount of effort into the monitoring of Falun Gong practitioners' phone conversations outside of China.

Phone tapping equipment is easy to come by and often inexpensive, running as little as only a few dollars. There are numerous types of phone-tapping mechanisms, many of which do not even need to be connected to the phone. Phone tapping is of course illegal, as stated in the federal document, "Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968," 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2510 et seq., prohibits the wilful interception of telephone communication by means of any electronic, mechanical, or other device without an applicable exemption. In the absence of more restrictive state law, it is permissible to intercept and record a telephone conversation if one or both of the parties to the call consents. Consent means authorisation by only one participant in the call; single-party consent is provided for by specific statutory exemption under federal law. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2511(2)(d).

Phone tapping by the Chinese embassies in the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners outside of China has two major functions: Intimidation and information collecting. As in the above example of Terri Wu, those who taped her conversations wanted her to know that they were watching her, and they even knew where she was, and at what time. Phone tapping for information collecting is far more common though, as seen in the example of Gail Rachlin. According to reliable sources inside China, as early as October 2000, Jiang Zemin had given the order to implement a policy to "intensify the campaign [against Falun Gong] overseas, collect more information and prevent protests." By tapping the phones of Falun Gong practitioners overseas, much information can be gained and used in the persecution. From the surface, the Chinese embassies will know the details of when and where Falun Gong activities will be held. Though Falun Gong is open to the public with nothing to hide, there have been many cases where Chinese embassy officials have gone to activities held by practitioners for the purpose of informing the public about Falun Gong and the persecution in China, and then disrupted these activities, often by using physical violence towards the practitioners. Cases like this have been documented in many major cities across North America. By tapping phones, the Chinese embassies will also easily track down the Falun Gong practitioners in China who have contact with practitioners outside China. In China, where the persecution is most severe, these people will often be immediately arrested and subjected to imprisonment and torture.

What is most disheartening about this phone tapping is that a foreign government is spying on the peaceful, law-abiding citizens of another country. In many countries in the West we have Constitutions protecting our basic human rights. The systematic collection of information by a foreign government on citizens in their own country is a serious threat. This threat can be seen in two ways; one is that with the Jiang regime's setting up of these methods for monitoring people in other countries indicates that they have the means to access nearly anyone they desire. The Jiang regime is most likely monitoring a variety of groups that they oppose, not just Falun Gong, and who is to say that they are not monitoring the families of American citizens in China, the phones of people doing business with China, and our own elected officials making policies about China; the list can go on and on.

The second threat that the tapping of phones possesses is the threat to the freedoms that democratic countries have fought so hard to acquire and maintain. Though they may not yet be perfect, our laws are being constantly refined, ideally so as to more effectively allow every resident to enjoy the basic human rights that every person deserves. The Jiang faction is directly undermining these rights of our own citizens in our own homes. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, " Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere ." In these times of heightened national security, let us not overlook the threat that the Jiang faction possesses in destroying the freedoms that so many of our fellow citizens have fought for and given their lives for.

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