Student Imprisoned for Falun Gong Activities Becomes Eligible for Parole

June 30, 2006

Imprisoned Falun Gong practitioner Wang Xin becomes eligible for parole between July and October 2006, after having served half of a nine-year sentence in relation to downloading, printing, and distributing Falun Gong materials.

Imprisoned Falun Gong practitioner Wang Xin becomes eligible for parole between July and October 2006, after having served half of a nine-year sentence in relation to downloading, printing, and distributing Falun Gong materials.

According to Amnesty International and the Dui Hua Foundation, Wang was a 22-year old doctoral student at Qinghua University in Beijing when the university suspended him in 1999 for practicing Falun Gong. Between January and April 2001, Wang, four other Qinghua University academics and employees, and one student from a Shanghai university were detained for Falun Gong-related activities. Officials accused the six Falun Gong practitioners of using the Internet to download materials from foreign Falun Gong Web sites and printing leaflets for posting and distribution on Beijing streets. During proceedings on December 13, 2001, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court found Wang and the others guilty of using a heretical sect to undermine implementation of the law, a crime under Article 300 of the Criminal Law, and sentenced Wang to nine years in prison. After the trial, officials held the six at Beijing Public Security Bureau Prison No. 7. Dui Hua reports that Wang Xin currently is imprisoned in the Huazi Prison in Dengta city, Liaoning province. According to Amnesty International, Wang has received ill treatment and torture.

Under Article 81 of the Criminal Law, officials have discretion to grant parole to a prisoner after he or she has served half of a fixed term of imprisonment. A prisoner has a strong case for parole if he or she has observed prison regulations, accepted education and reform through labor, showed repentance, and will no longer cause harm to society. Under Article 44 of the Criminal Law, the prison term is calculated from the date of detention if the prisoner has been held in detention before the court judgment takes effect. As a result, Wang becomes eligible for parole between July and October 2006.

Chinese government persecution of Falun Gong practitioners violates Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). China has signed the ICCPR and has an obligation, under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to refrain from acts that would defeat the purpose of a treaty while its ratification is pending. Article 18.1 of the ICCPR guarantees everyone "the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion...[and] to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance." Article 18.3 specifies that "freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights or freedoms of others." The official General Comment 22 to Article 18 (available via the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library) states, "The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (which includes the freedom to hold beliefs) in article 18.1 is far-reaching and profound; it encompasses freedom of thought on all matters, personal conviction and the commitment to religion or belief, whether manifested individually or in community with others."

The UN has previously commented on Chinese government persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. In a 2006 Opinion, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) concluded that the November 2004 detention of Falun Gong practitioner Qiu Minghua was arbitrary. The Chinese government justified its restrictions on Falun Gong on the grounds that this is necessary to protect public safety, order, and morals:

The Falun Gong organization has repeatedly engaged in destructive activities of every kind, violating public morals and seriously endangering public security. The action the Chinese government is taking against it is designed to protect the rights and freedoms of the population at large. As the rule of law prevails in China, however, the steps taken to counter the Falun Gong organization are strictly legal.

Article 300 of the Criminal Law and Article 27 of the newly enacted Public Security Administration Punishment Law (PSAPL) provide the legal basis for penalizing Falun Gong activities. The government broadly represses Falun Gong in China, but distinguishes between those who practice Falun Gong and those who seek to organize or spread information about the group. In an October 1999 Decision, the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee pointed out a need to separate the small number of "criminal offenders" who organize and use heretical sects to engage in illegal activities from the majority of practitioners who are "cheated" into following the sect. The former should be punished according to the Criminal Law, whereas the latter should receive education, which is provided for under the administrative punishments system. In an Interpretation issued in October 1999, the Supreme Peoples’ Court (SPC) and the Supreme Peoples’ Procuratorate (SPP) defined what activities constitute "organizing and using a heretical sect." The SPC and SPP included "publishing, printing, reproducing, or distributing publications that publicize heretical content, and printing heretical sect insignias" as activities that should be punished under Article 300 of the Criminal Law.

The UNWGAD found that the Chinese government insufficiently justified its restrictions on the practice of Falun Gong. In the 2006 Opinion regarding Qiu Minghua's detention, the UNWGAD said that the Chinese government:

...failed to adduce any argument explaining why and how Ms. Qiu's affiliation with, or profession of, the ideas or principles of Falun Gong was or could have been detrimental to the society as a whole, or to other individuals. A general reference to the dangers of practicing Falun Gong did not convince the Working Group that in the context of this particular case the deprivation of liberty imposed on Ms. Qiu is necessary and if so, is proportionate to the aim pursued.

Wang Xin and the five other practitioners convicted with him were tried under the criminal justice system and sentenced to lengthy prison terms because they downloaded materials from Falun Gong Web sites and printed leaflets to post and distribute on the streets of Beijing. Officials applied Article 300 of the Criminal Law to justify both their convictions and the detention of Qiu Minghua. When officials detained Qiu, they seized a computer, a printer, and toner cartridges as well as phones and telephone directories. For more information on limits of freedom of religion or belief in China, see CECC analyses on restrictions on religious publishing and the 2005 CECC Annual Report, Section III(d): Freedom of Religion.