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Human Rights Violations: Manmade Disasters That Need Our Help

Reenactment of persecution of Falun Gong members

January 18, 2005
by William C. Walsh

In the wake of the tsunami disaster, it has been truly inspiring to see the outpouring of world solidarity expressed not only through monetary donations but also through the hordes of volunteers and experts who have answered the call to aid and to serve. They have made a difference.

We need to apply the same spirit of service and action not just to natural disasters but to ones that are manmade: the systematic deprivation of human rights that plague certain countries and continents leading to thousands of deaths daily with no end in sight.

Case in point: the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Falun Gong is an ancient form of qigong, the Chinese term for practices of mind and body refinement through special mental and physical exercises. Practitioners of Falun Gong devote themselves to the cultivation of their inner selves and the improvement of their mental and moral quality.

Since 1999, hundreds of thousands of individuals have been detained illegally without trial as prisoners of conscience in Chinese labor camps simply because they practice Falun Gong. Millions of innocent people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, almost all under inhumane conditions. Thousands have been tortured to death; as you read this, tens of thousands are undergoing torture and are at risk of a custodial execution.

Thousands of practitioners have also been illegally detained and severely tortured with drugs designed to damage the mind and body in mental hospitals. Currently, no one knows the true toll of lives lost or persons subjected to extreme torture due to the crackdown against Falun Gong in China, but preliminary data indicates that this is one of the most devastating events in modern history.

In December 2004, the Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group announced the publication of The 2004 United Nations Reports on China's Persecution of Falun Gong. It is the second collection of reports by the Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Commission on China's violence against Falun Gong practitioners. This book graphically illustrates the gravity of the human rights abuses that occur daily in China.

As the Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions notes: “The Special Rapporteur continues to be alarmed by deaths in custody in China. Reports describe harrowing scenes in which detainees, many of whom are followers of the Falun Gong movement, die as a result of severe ill treatment, neglect or medical attention. The cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture defy description.”

While manmade disasters do not lend themselves to dramatic scenes captured on camera that galvanized the world around the tsunami disaster, the suffering of human beings and the loss of life is even more severe - and more preventable.

The time has come for us to approach these manmade disasters with the same spirit, sentiment and resolve that we show to natural disasters. If the world responded to massive persecution and genocide of targeted groups based on their race, ethnicity, religion or philosophy the way it has responded to aid victims of the tsunami, no government could withstand the pressure. Victims of human rights violations deserve no less.

William C. Walsh is a Washington D.C.-based human rights attorney who specializes in religious freedom issues.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Church of Scientology International Human Rights Department, which publishes articles in the News Forum to provide a means for organizations to express their views and to advance the cause of human rights around the world.

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