The regime’s persecution of spiritual group Falun Gong may be ebbing
The persecution of Falun Gong used to be the highest priority for the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, when it started the campaign under the orders of Jiang Zemin, a former head of the Party, in 1999.
Now, over 14 years later, the campaign appears to be entering a new phase as the political clout of Jiang, who saw the persecution as a personal crusade, has waned significantly and his control over key positions in the security apparatus has been undercut by political infighting.
According to statistics produced by Minghui.org, a major Falun Gong website that tracks the persecution, the number of Falun Gong practitioners sentenced to labor camps and prisons has been decreasing steadily over the last 18 months.
Minghui has also documented that a number of labor camps in different regions of China appear to be shutting down. In some cases the Falun Gong practitioners detained there are being released.
This trend is a break from the past, where “eradicating” the peaceful spiritual discipline was the foremost political priority for the Chinese Communist Party, mass book burnings were held in the streets, and state television stations conducted 24-hour propaganda marathons.
Even so, the changes over the last year do not mean the persecution has stopped, according to experts. But they indicate that the campaign is not being given the intensive political emphasis it was once given, and that in certain regions of China it is unable to be sustained.
Labor Camp Closures
This year the new Chinese Communist Party leadership, under Xi Jinping, announced that it would halt or reform the labor camp system. The claim was initially met with some skepticism, but human rights groups said that some changes are taking place, with particular labor camps being shut down. In other cases they are simply renamed as drug rehabilitation centers, while the same abuses inside them take place.
In mid July two forced labor camps in southern Beijing released a number of Falun Gong practitioners who were detained there, according to Minghui, the Falun Gong website.
The Beijing Women’s Forced Labor Camp began releasing Falun Gong practitioners since May, and the Xin’an Forced Labor Camp released a large number of Falun Gong practitioners on July 5, according to Minghui.