The U.S. Department of State has taken a disapproving position on the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of a group of Falun Gong practitioners ahead of the coming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The statement is in reference to the regime’s recent sentencing of a group of 11 practitioners who independently investigated and documented the earliest days of the Wuhan Pneumonia pandemic in early 2020, providing photos of the situation in the mainland to Dajiyuan, the Chinese language version of The Epoch Times.
The group was arrested on July 19, 2020 the day before the 21st anniversary of the persecution of the practice.
One of the arrested citizen journalists, Xu Na, a 54-year-old artist in the Beijing area, was sentenced to eight years in prison and a 20,000 Yuan ($3,155 USD approx.) fine during a Jan. 16 show trial.
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Xu’s case is especially notable in light of the Olympics because her husband, Yu Zhou, was killed by CCP police while in detention 14 years ago, only two weeks after being arrested in advance of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
In the run up to the previous Games, CCP officials worried that practitioners would use the event to raise awareness of the now-22-year-long persecution of the practice.
Although the Biden administration’s State Department did not dare to issue a formal press release criticizing the Party for its actions, it nonetheless authorized a spokesperson to give comment to The Epoch Times on Jan. 21, where they stated via email, “Since 1999, the Communist Party of China (CCP) has sought to eradicate Falun Gong, a spiritual practice originating in China, and its peaceful practitioners and human rights defenders who have fought for their right to practice their beliefs.”
Secretary Blinken’s department called on the communist regime to “immediately end its depraved abuse and mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners, release those imprisoned due to their beliefs, and address the whereabouts of missing practitioners.”
Johnnie Moore, formerly Commissioner for the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, told ET he was unambiguous in his assessment of what the sentencing of the 11 citizen journalist practitioners was about, “Let’s be crystal clear what’s happening here: the CCP is rounding up people right before the Olympic Games.”
“Democrats and Republicans, and allies of the United States, need to draw their line in the sand. This also applies to all those businesses who’ve been waving their social justice flags: they now face a test.”
Executive Director for the Falun Dafa Information Center, Levi Browde, was similarly firm in his characterization of the motivation of the sentencing as revolving around the Games in comments to ET, “[T]his brazen sentence is handed down as a message to the world.”
“Think about it: the CCP chose to sentence Xu at the most visible time possible—three weeks before the Olympics start as all eyes are trained on Beijing…It’s as if the CCP is intentionally flaunting to the world that it will imprison Falun Gong practitioners at will, and there’s no one to stop them. We can’t let that be true.”
In December of 2021, Beijing revoked the law license of Liang Xiaojun as retaliation for representing the group in their legal battle.
According to ET, Liang has practiced with a strong sense of justice since at least 2016 when he told the New York Times, “People’s rights are being trampled on. … I can’t ignore [this]” in response to a question about why he defended dissidents against the regime.
The Beijing Judicial Bureau markedly cited Liang’s representation of Falun Gong members in its formal disciplinary action, “You are the director of Beijing Daoheng Law Firm and a professional lawyer. But you publicly denied that Falun Gong is a cult, and kept on supporting Falun Gong,”
The primary pretext that former Politburo Standing Committee Chairman Jiang Zemin utilized to launch his nationwide, Cultural Revolution-esque suppression of the practice on July 20 of 1999 was rhetoric characterizing the practice as an “evil cult.”
Falun Gong, however, is a simple set of five qigong meditative exercises based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance (真善忍 – Zhen, Shan, Ren), improving an individual’s character through the cultivation of traditional moral values, is completely free to learn and study, and is without religious tenets, worship, or central administration.
In early December, the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Although Washington feigned it would not send officials to Beijing to attend the event, it decided it would not interfere with U.S. athlete’s ability to participate.
In a Dec. 6 press conference, Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated, “U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that…As the president has told President Xi, standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans, we have a fundamental commitment to promote human rights.”
Only a few weeks later on Dec. 28, the White House announced it would nonetheless send 18 officials to provide “consular and diplomatic security services” for American athletes during the event.
“We intend to provide consular and diplomatic security services to ensure our athletes, coaches, trainers and staff are secure and have access to the American citizen services that we provide to all US citizens overseas,” said a State Department official.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijan confirmed the Chinese government had “received the visa applications from relevant US personnel” during a press conference the same day.