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Cisco May Be Sued for Aiding and Abetting CCP’s Persecution of Falun Gong: US Appeals Court

Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: July 13, 2023
The CCP raped a Changchun resident with an electroshock baton in the persecution campaign of Falun Gong
Falun Gong practitioners hold a vigil memorializing victims of the Chinese Communist Party and former Chairman Jiang Zemin’s 23-year-long persecution in Taipei on July 22, 2012. (Image: Mandy Cheng/AFP/GettyImages)

A 12-year-old lawsuit alleging that tech company Cisco assisted the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in its suppression of human rights has been revived by decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on July 7.

According to the plaintiffs, whose case was initially dismissed in 2014, the San Jose-based Cisco played an instrumental role in helping the CCP regime advance its persecution of Falun Gong and its tens of millions of adherents in China.

In the early 2000s, the CCP established a vast network of internet censorship and digital surveillance, known as the “Golden Shield” project. What would become the vast system of online censorship informally called the Great Firewall was in large measure originally created to stop Falun Gong practitioners from spreading information about their faith or the persecution they were being subjected to. Falun Gong-related search terms were and remain some of the most heavily censored in China.

In 2011, Falun Gong adherents filed the initial lawsuit against Cisco, as well as two former executives, CEO John Chambers and Fredy Cheung, Cisco’s then-vice president for the greater China region. According to the plaintiffs, Cisco not only supplied key technologies to help the CCP with the Golden Shield project, but also specifically worked with officials to target Falun Gong practitioners for surveillance and arrest.

The plaintiffs argued their case based on the Alien Tort Statute, a law that has been on the books since the 1700s but is rarely used. According to this law, foreign nationals — in this case Falun Gong practitioners — have the right to sue other foreign nationals while in the United States for violations of foreign law.

“All 13 plaintiffs, including a U.S. citizen, said they were identified via Golden Shield technology as participants of Falun Gong-related activities online and suffered detention for months to years at a time, during which they were subjected to torture,” a July 7 article by The Epoch Times reports.

The Appeals Court’s opinion reverses the 2014 ruling, which dismissed the case on account of its being beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. law.

U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon wrote in the majority in the 2–1 opinion that the “Plaintiffs’ allegations, accepted as true, are sufficient to state a plausible claim that Cisco provided essential technical assistance to the ‘douzheng’ of Falun Gong with awareness that the international law violations of torture, arbitrary detention, disappearance, and extrajudicial killing were substantially likely to take place.”

The term douzheng is the Mandarin Chinese word for “struggle,” particularly in the context of communist political campaigns.

Should Cisco’s actions be as the plaintiffs claim, they would constitute “aiding and abetting” the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong, Berzon stated.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa (法輪大法), is a traditional Chinese spiritual practice incorporating meditation with moral cultivation according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance (真善忍).

While Falun Gong is banned by the CCP regime as a supposed “cult,” there is no law prohibiting its practice in China, and the national constitution guarantees freedom of speech, expression, and belief. Falun Gong practitioners have long pointed out the illegality of the Party’s campaign against their faith, which has seen millions of people imprisoned, many of whom are sentenced to slave labor.

Thousands of deaths have been confirmed from torture and other forms of abuse by the authorities, and experts believe that Falun Gong practitioners have been the main source of forced organ transplants in China since the early 2000s.

The July 7 decision by the Appeals Court reflects a growing acknowledgement of the persecution of Falun Gong by U.S. officials, who have sanctioned a number of CCP cadres in relation to the campaign, and prosecuted Chinese nationals for targeting Falun Gong on U.S. soil.