China’s highest judicial bodies released a new legal interpretation on Jan. 25, in what appears to be directed at the long-persecuted Falun Gong spiritual practice.
The document gives a definition of the term “evil cult” and stipulates that citizens may be sentenced for activities such as distributing pamphlets.
Ever since July 1999, when China’s communist regime began its persecution of Falun Gong, the authorities have been hard-pressed to reconcile the brutal campaign with basic rights guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.
Adherents of Falun Gong are usually sentenced on the pretext of being part of an “evil cult” organization, despite the practice’s non-violent and apolitical teachings. The persecution was also accompanied by a heavy state-run propaganda campaign to vilify Falun Gong and strip it of public support.
But over the years, a growing number of Chinese lawyers have risked their careers and personal safety to defend Falun Gong practitioners in court. These include the famed lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was tortured and is now under house arrest.
Yiyang Xia, senior director of research and policy at the Washington D.C.-based Human Rights Law Foundation, told Epoch Times that the new Interpretation is “not the enforcing of laws, but the perpetuation of a suppressive political campaign.”
Human rights researchers estimate that millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been detained in jails, brainwashing centers, and labor camps. Mounting investigations suggest that they make up the largest group of Chinese prisoners murdered for the harvest and sale of their organs.