Beijing Mayor Served with Lawsuit for Persecutions

Silver Spring, Maryland [IRLA]… In what many see as a necessary, but "bold" move by the Center for Justice and Accountability, Liu Qi, mayor of Beijing and president of the Beijing Olympic Committee, was served with a lawsuit on February 8, 2002, for his involvement in overseeing human rights abuses against the Chinese, in particular the Falun Gong practitioners. Mayor Qi was boarding a plane at San Francisco International Airport to attend the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, an event that seeks to promote good will among nations.

The charges against the mayor include "torture, cruelty, arbitrary detention, crimes against humanity, inhuman or degrading treatment, and interference with freedom of religion and belief." The U.S. based Center for Justice and Accountability, an organization that represents victims of grave human rights abuse, filed the civil complaint with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"When a regime does not respect its own constitution and violates the declaration of human rights, sooner or later justice will be served and leaders will be made to answer to violations of international laws," commented Erping Zhang, spokesperson for the Falun Gong International Committee for Human Rights. Zhang added that "past statistics from various human rights organizations reveal that over 1,600 citizens have been killed while under police custody, 100,000 detained, 25,000 sent to labor camps under inhumane conditions, and about 1,000 sent to mental hospitals."

Falun Gong uses "traditional Chinese meditative techniques to channel energy for physical improvement and spiritual salvation," according to its leaders. Founded in 1992 by Li Hong Zhi, Falun Gong practitioners say they advocate three principles: truth, compassion and forbearance.

"China's attitude and hostility toward members of the Falun Gong does not speak well of a commitment to human rights," said Dr. John Graz, secretary-general for the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). "It's important that organizations like IRLA raise such matters of reported abuse and violations of the recognized international norms that relate to freedom of conscience and the free expression of belief."

On February 13, 2002, IRLA officers attended a hearing on Capitol Hill regarding China and Vietnam, organized by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. "According to testimonies presented and a report given by the U.S. Commission, the situation in China has declined in the past two years," noted Graz. Non-registered religions, churches, or religious groups are seen as a threat to the Chinese government. "This recent development is sad now that China has joined the World Trade Organization and has won the right to hold the Olympic Games, at a time when Chinese government officials have clearly violated human rights and religious freedom," Graz concluded.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Liberty has requested President Bush to raise this issue with China during his trip at the end of February.

Founded by the Adventist Church in 1893, the IRLA is a non-sectarian organization that promotes religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all people. For more information on IRLA, visitwww.irla.org. [Viola Hughes]