Zhang Zhaosen, a Falun Gong practitioner from the province of Hubei, handed a criminal complaint against Jiang to a representative from the state prosecutor in the middle of his trial (for “disseminating information about Falun Gong on the Web”) in Hubei’s Xiangyang Intermediate Court.
The court received the documents and Zhang went home unharmed.
Inspired by Zhang’s success, Falun Gong practitioners across the country sent their own legal complaints to the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. These complaints include accounts of persecution that individual practitioners or their kin had suffered; a list of crimes that Jiang had perpetrated; and the specific Chinese constitutional and criminal laws that Jiang had violated while executing his persecution campaign.
To date, over 209,000 Falun Gong practitioners and Chinese citizens have lodged complaints against Jiang with the regime’s highest legal authorities, according to incomplete data compiled by Minghui.
The courts appear to be accepting the lawsuits, under a legal reform passed in May 2015 that requires the regime’s top legal bodies to accept and acknowledge all criminal complaints.
It took Zhu Keming and Wang Jie’s failed effort in August 2000 to spark a very gradual change in the mindset of both the Chinese rights defense community and Falun Gong practitioners toward challenging Jiang’s persecution on legal grounds, according to Hugo Peng, a former human rights lawyer in China.
“They were the first ones to eat the crab,” Peng told Epoch Times, using a Chinese idiom to describe a difficult activity when performed for the first time. “Without what they did, perhaps there wouldn’t be so many others who thought of using the law to scrutinize the suppression, as well as the crimes Jiang and others committed.
“After all, someone needs to take initiative, and history chose them.”
Physical DestructionIn the evening of Sept. 6, 2000, Zhu Keming and Wang Jie were arrested in Duan Wei’s Beijing home. Duan later learned through her personal network that Jiang Zemin and his security chief Luo Gan had issued the order to seize her husband and nephew.
Zhu and Wang were first taken to a secret detention facility in Beijing’s Fangshan district, then later to Beijing No. 1 detention center, an infamous jail that held political prisoners during the Cultural Revolution and after the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Zhu and Duan had presumed that Wang would be treated better in detention because his parents were high-ranking Party members. But Wang’s minders in the secret detention center, and later in the jail, were more interested in obeying Jiang’s instructions to physically “destroy” Falun Gong practitioners.
In the secret detention facility, the prison guards stripped off his clothing and secured him under a dripping faucet, during fall in the frigid mountainous Fangshan area west of Beijing. They then, at their pleasure, delivered savage kicks to his back and chest. The internal injuries received from this abuse later contributed to his death, according to Duan, a medical doctor.
In Beijing No. 1 detention center, the ankle cuffs that were put on Wang wore away his skin and exposed the bone. Wang later told Duan that he was put through many of the mind-bending torture methods administered on Falun Gong practitioners, as documented by Minghui at the time: terrible beatings, branding with cigarettes, toothpicks rammed under fingernails. At one point, Wang was beaten into a monthlong coma.
When Wang was released on bail on Nov. 30, 2000, his body had been nearly destroyed—he required dialysis every other day and had no control over his bladder or bowels. In April 2001, some friends smuggled Wang out of China to Indonesia, where his aunt Duan was then residing. A little over a month later, he collapsed on the cold tiles of her bathroom floor and died.
Duan found an Indonesian hospital to perform an autopsy to determine the exact cause of her nephew’s death. After conducting the autopsy, but before writing the report, the doctor told her: “The heart is twice the normal size … an injury like this isn’t sustained in a day.” The doctor said the kidneys had shrunk, too. All that was left was to collect the official report at the end of the week.
But when they went to the hospital, Duan found the doctor had unexpectedly taken an overseas trip. They made multiple visits to the hospital, until the doctor finally returned a month later. Then, he delivered a report with the unexpected conclusion that there was nothing wrong with Wang Jie’s body. “We knew that they’d been bought off,” Duan said.
Zhu spent five years in prison and was put through similar tortures—the prison guards shocked his head, armpits, and groin with high-voltage electric prods, beat him, and deprived him of sleep by forcing him to sit atop a small plastic stool for six days straight. He was released in 2006.
Waiting for ChangeSome of those who bring legal complaints against Jiang Zemin today still face arrest and detention, but no cases of abuse have been recorded that parallel what happened to Zhu Keming and Wang Jie.
“The persecution against those who sue Jiang has noticeably softened,” said Zhang Zanning, a law professor at Southeast University in Nanjing City and a practicing lawyer, to Epoch Times in a telephone interview. “Even if arrests are made, it’s not on the pretext of suing Jiang.”
The case of Sheng Xiaoyun, the mother-in-law of YouTube celebrity Ben Hedges, is an example.
Last October, security officers in northeast China barged into Sheng’s home and arrested her after she had mailed a criminal complaint against Jiang. A number of Falun Gong practitioners in Daqing City in Heilongjiang, a province that ranks among the most severely persecuted regions in China, were also imprisoned with Sheng.
However, while in detention, Sheng and the other practitioners were allowed to perform Falun Gong exercises and recite Falun Gong’s teachings. When Sheng was released 10 days later, the police even returned the computer that they had seized.
“Police treat Falun Gong practitioners better these days. They know that practitioners are good people who have been mislabeled,” she said in a phone interview.
Zhang Zanning, the law professor, thinks that officials in the public security and the legal system are slowly recognizing that the persecution of Falun Gong was a mistake, and are waiting to see how the political winds change.
“For instance, in many of the recent Falun Gong cases I’ve handled, the courts used various excuses to postpone the prosecution of practitioners,” Zhang said. “I reckon that they’re waiting for policy changes from above.”
Xi has recently been “making all these moves that are at least ambiguous,” such as the “displacement of the Jiang Zemin faction” and the “taking over of the 610 Office leadership,” said Andrew Junker, a sociologist at the University of Chicago who is writing a book about Falun Gong, in a previous interview.
“I see no benefit for Falun Gong to polarize its relationship with Xi Jinping; it makes total sense to open the door as much as possible, to encourage him to make a step in the right direction,” Junker added.
By placing sole responsibility of the persecution on Jiang Zemin in their criminal complaints, Falun Gong practitioners could have unwittingly presented current Party leader Xi Jinping an opportunity to end the persecution and not immediately implicate his leadership.
Meanwhile, Jiang Zemin and his sons are said to have had their movements restricted in March, and could now be held under some form of soft detention, according to sources familiar with the circumstances who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
In an earlier interview with Epoch Times, Zheng said that many residents of Shanghai and human rights lawyers support the movement to bring Jiang to justice, and he volunteered to be the chief prosecutor when Jiang’s case goes to court.
In light of the lawsuit wave, Zhu Keming decided to mail another legal complaint.
“Falun Gong practitioners are not suing Jiang Zemin for the sake of suing Jiang Zemin … So many practitioners’ families have, due to the persecution, been broken up; some have been killed for their organs, so how can we remain indifferent?” he said.
“I hope this wave of lawsuits against Jiang Zemin will grow from strength to strength,” Zhu continued. “We will bring Jiang Zemin to justice, and then we can resume our normal lives.”