Falun Gong internees get student help

Petition Drive: A group has collected some 15,000 signatures to send the message that what Beijing is doing is wrong and such actions must come to an end
Taipei Times (Taiwan), Feb. 27, 2003

University students from across the nation yesterday banded together to launch a petition to demand the Beijing authorities release more than 300 Chinese university students and faculty members illegally imprisoned for being Falun Gong members.

Students from 29 universities yesterday launched a signature-collection campaign aimed at saving their Chinese counterparts who have been arrested and imprisoned for belonging to the Falun Gong movement.

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Students plan to forward the petition, which contains more than 15,000 signatures, to the UN Scientific, Education and Cultural Organization and other international human rights organizations to raise awareness of the continued need to exert pressure on the Chinese government for the release of those detained for religious reasons.

Chang Ta-shan, a student at Taiwan’s Tsinghua University, told a press conference yesterday that “this has been the most serious persecution of student human rights in China after the Tiananmen Square Incident … When Taiwan is going to commemorate the 228 Incident and celebrate the end of political suppression of human rights, its neighbor, China, is rampant with political persecution of peaceful Falun Gong practitioners.”

Chang said there have been 15 Chinese students who were persecuted to such a severe degree that they died. He also said that 20 detainees are still missing, 129 have been kidnapped or illegally interned and more have been expelled from schools, or in the case of teachers, have been discharged from their faculty positions.

“The students and faculty members arrested were illegally imprisoned at labor camps and suffered from brutal forms of torture, hard labor and brainwashing,” Chang said.

Zhao Ming, a graduate of China’s Tsinghua University and a once-persecuted Falun Gong practitioner, attended the press conference to share his own experiences of being tortured in the labor camps.

“I was tortured with brutal beatings and electric shocks until I accepted the [government’s] principles,” Zhao said.

“I was lucky to be rescued by the efforts of organizations from the international community, but there are still numerous students whose lives are still in extreme danger in China,” he said .

Zhao was detained between 2000 and last year. He is now studing for a masters in computer science at Trinity University in Ireland.

Taiwan Association for Human Rights president Lin Feng-jeng urged Taiwanese to show support for the campaign, and not to look the other way.

“Some people might think that China and Taiwan are each separate countries on either side of the Taiwan Strait. They use this as an excuse to say that what happens across the Strait is not their business. But remember, China wants to unite with Taiwan. In that case, the plight of the Chinese people living under a totalitarian regime might also happen to Taiwanese,” Lin said.

About 33 universities have Falun Gong student organizations, totaling about 100 members. National Taiwan University has the greatest number of students and faculty practicing Falun Gong.

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