By Stephen Gregory & Helena Zhu. The main text of the spiritual practice Falun Gong is studied in 114 countries around the world, has been translated into 30 languages, and was a runaway best seller in Beijing, but last week a regional appeals court in Russia banned it. Human rights activists and Falun Gong practitioners say the ban is due to pressure on Russia from the Chinese regime.
The main Falun Gong text, Zhuan Falun, along with two Falun Gong leaflets, and human rights investigations – two reports and one book – detailing the forced, live organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China were banned nationwide by a court in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar in October. On December 22nd, an appeals court decision upheld the ban.
This case was first decided in Krasnodar in August 2008. At the time, Falun Gong practitioners appealed the decision successfully, objecting that though they were concerned in the case they were never notified.
After the original 2008 decision was made public, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Sakharov Prize laureate, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, denounced the court case as unlawful.
“The decision was made only because Falun Gong practitioners are persecuted in China and leaders of our country have good relations with China. And clearly, for political reasons, to get approval from the Chinese leaders, these decisions were made,” Alexeyeva said at the time.
Falun Gong practitioners in Russia also say the Chinese regime is behind last week’s decision.
In a report on Monday, Human Rights Without Frontiers International (HRWF), a nonprofit based in Brussels, Belgium, suggested that the court decision was influenced by China. The report said that Moscow has been helping Beijing in its fight against Falun Gong on the basis of two treaties: the 2001 Treaty of Friendship between Russia and China, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a mutual-security organization founded in 2001.
The harassment of Falun Gong practitioners in Russia has included the forced repatriation to China of Chinese nationals who practise Falun Gong, banning public activities by Falun Gong practitioners, and the refusal by authorities to register new Falun Gong organisations.
In an action in 2005 that presaged last week’s court decision, the newspaper Falun Gong Today was denied registration, preventing its publication, with authorities citing the Treaty of Friendship, according to HRWF.
Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that involves practising meditative exercises and living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. First introduced to the public in China in 1992, it rapidly became very popular, with 100 million having taken up the practice by 1999, according to Chinese state officials.
In July 1999, the then head of the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, ordered a campaign to “eradicate” Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa). According to the Falun Dafa Information Centre, hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are detained at any one time, with those detained subjected to torture and abuse.
The most severe form of abuse is that of forced, live organ harvesting. Former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) David Kilgour and the Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas published two investigative reports and a 2009 book, Bloody Harvest, that make the case that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners are unwilling victims of live organ harvesting throughout China to contribute to the booming market of organ transplants.
The appeals court, in part of the decision relating to the ban of the Kilgour-Matas reports, explicitly noted that their publication in Russia “can create for the readers a negative image of China”.
Even though neither Kilgour nor Matas have ever been to Krasnodar, were informed of the trial, or were represented in court, the two men are now subject to criminal prosecution if they ever enter Russia to discuss their investigations. At the same time, their writings are subject to confiscation by police.
“The law becomes abusive when it is used this way,” Matas said, commenting on the ban by the Russian court. “It tells us that the Russian court and prosecution system does not respect human rights.”