Falun Gong denies mass suicide at prison camp

BEIJING, Reuters

Mainland China’s Falun Gong spiritual movement alleged on Wednesday at least 15 of its followers were tortured to death in a prison camp in northeastern China last month and denied reports of a mass suicide.

A local government official denied both accounts and said three Falun Gong followers at the camp had tried to commit suicide, but nobody had died.

The Falun Dafa Information Center said in a statement 15 female practitioners were killed and several seriously injured at Wanjia Labor Camp in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, on around June 20.

However, a Hong Kong human rights group said on Tuesday 16 Falun Gong adherents tried to hang themselves at the camp that day after their sentences were extended for staging a hunger strike.

The Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy said 10 people may have died.

The local official told Reuters a report had been submitted to the Ministry of Justice on the incident. Ministry officials denied any knowledge of it.

The Falun Dafa Information Center said authorities at the labor camp claimed the women had all committed suicide despite 24 hour surveillance.

It said provincial and central government officials had gone to inspect the site and staff at the camp had not been allowed to go home in an attempt to stop news of the deaths leaking out.

Falun Gong followers overseas say the movement does not sanction killing of any sort, including suicide.

They say more than 200 Falun Gong adherents have died in mainland Chinese police custody since Beijing banned the movement in July 1999.

Beijing says the group is an “evil cult” responsible for the deaths of 1,660 people by suicide or refusing medical treatment. It says a handful of Falun Gong followers have committed suicide or died from illnesses while in police custody. Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, combines meditation and exercise with Buddhist and Taoist teachings. The group has disavowed any political aims.