- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

China's communist government, working with the explicit approval of top leaders including the likely next president, is orchestrating a brutal crackdown on unauthorized religious groups, says a report released yesterday by the human rights group Freedom House.
The report's release comes just days before President Bush makes his first state visit to China.
"These documents are irrefutable evidence that China remains determined to eradicate all religion it cannot control, using extreme tactics," said Nina Shea of Freedom House, who also serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
"President Bush, who has repeatedly voiced concern for religious oppression in China, must speak out forcefully and publicly in support of religious freedom during his state visit to China next week," she said.
Based on secret documents obtained in China by a Christian human rights group, the report said state-sponsored violence against underground Protestants, Roman Catholics, members of Falun Gong and members of a dozen other unorthodox religious sects is state policy and is increasing.
The human rights group called the Committee for Investigation on Persecution of Religion in China, Freedom House also released the documents yesterday in Beijing.
The group told reporters there that the government had killed at least 129 worshippers and arrested some 24,000 others, but it offered no supporting documentation.
The documents released by Freedom House indicate that the brutality, which includes rape, beatings and electric shock, has been approved by Vice President Hu Jintao, who is widely expected to become China's president when Jiang Zemin steps down this year.
Mr. Hu was well-known in the human rights community for his suppression of Tibetans from 1988 to 1992, when he was Communist Party chairman in Tibet.
He also was accused of being one of the hard-liners who called for the use of Chinese troops in the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Human rights advocates protested in European cities during Mr. Hu's recent visit to the continent.
One document, distributed throughout the state security apparatus, said Mr. Hu ordered that Falun Gong be put under police scrutiny "before striking it down by law."
A minister in public security, Jia Chunwang emphasized the need for gathering intelligence and working undercover. "We need to work more, talk less to smash the cult quietly," he is quoted as saying.
In a conciliatory gesture during the weekend, China released a Hong Kong businessman who had been jailed since May for bringing Bibles to a banned church. Li Guangqiang was sentenced to a two-year prison term three weeks ago, but he was released in an abrupt turnaround.
China, which asserts that it has freedom of religion, says it does not detain people for their religious beliefs, only for breaking Chinese law. It rejects international condemnation as a matter of course, saying human rights issues are internal matters.
Calls to the Chinese Embassy in Washington yesterday were not returned as officials there prepared to celebrate the Chinese lunar new year.
Mrs. Shea said the United States had lost what little leverage it had on human rights in China when it "delinked" human rights from U.S.-China relations, granted Beijing normal trade relations and did not object to Beijing's hosting the Olympics in 2008.
China has been dealing with the explosive growth of new religious movements. Some scholars say as many as 60 million Chinese have joined the groups, while official Christian groups have some 15 million members.
Falun Gong, an exercise and meditation group, was banned in 1999 after thousands of its members came to Beijing in a quiet show of strength.

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