"This lawsuit was filed not to embarrass China, but to persuade the defendants to end their persecution of Falun Gong...it is highly consistent with the goals set forth in [U.S. Department of State's] annual review of human rights."
See Members of U.S. Congress Urge U.S. Court to Proceed with Lawsuit against Former Chinese Communist Leader
Q. Why does the lawsuit target Jiang Zemin?
Jiang personally ordered the persecution of Falun Gong,
and did so without the support of the Premier or of the Politburo
Standing Committee [the committee of high ranking Communist Party
members who effectively run the country], many of whom were supportive
of Falun Gong before it became illegal to admit such support publicly.
Letters and speeches by Jiang himself explicitly ordered the
persecution of Falun Gong. We also have personal testimonies from
hundreds of individuals in China, including some high-level Chinese
officials, that tell exactly how and why Jiang did this. Of course,
Jiang has gone to great lengths to blur the line between his personal
will and the policies of the Chinese Government. To this day, many
believe the Falun Gong issue to be a struggle between the Chinese
Government and Falun Gong. This perception is no accident. It is the
result of carefully calculated steps taken by Jiang to use the
government for his own purposes, and to deceive others as to what he is
Q. How about other Chinese officials?
We have made clear from the beginning that these
lawsuits are not targeting the Chinese Government nor Chinese
Government officials overall. Many Chinese officials who travel abroad
are not served with lawsuits filed by Falun Gong practitioners. We only
sue those whom we know are responsible for the international crimes
related to the persecution.
Q. How has Jiang and/or the Chinese government responded to the lawsuit?
Outside of the courtroom, the Chinese government on
behalf of Jiang has threatened nothing less than an international
crisis between the United States and China should this case be
permitted to go forward, pretending not to understand the integrity of
the judicial process nor the separation of powers in this country. I am
told there have been nearly daily phone calls and letters to the U.S.
Department of State by P.R.C. officials, pushing to have this case
dismissed. In fact, Jiang has made this lawsuit a priority in
U.S.-China relations, attempting to coerce our country into violating
one of our fundamental principles, the separation of powers.
Inside the courtroom - actually, the Chinese government
has yet to appear inside a U.S. courtroom to respond to this or any
other lawsuit. The U.S. Justice Department has appeared in court at the
behest of the U.S. State Department and argued on Jiang's behalf that
he is immune to the charges we have presented. U.S. District Court
Judge Kennelly, however, correctly ruled that the U.S. government could
not be a party to this lawsuit against Jiang. In fact, there is no
head-of-state immunity for former heads of state with respect to the
crimes of torture and genocide. Article IV of the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which, by the way,
both China and the United States have ratified, states "Persons
committing genocide or other acts enumerated in article III shall be
punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public
officials, or private individuals."
Precedent also precludes immunity for former (and
sitting) heads of state as well as other public officials. For
instance, the Nuremburg Court recognized a necessary exception to any
form of immunity when international law has been violated, stating:
"The principle of international law, which under certain circumstances
protects the representatives of a state, cannot be applied to acts
which are condemned as criminal by international law. The authors of
these acts cannot shelter themselves behind their official position,"
and one "cannot claim immunity while acting in pursuance of the
authority of the State if the State in authorizing action moves outside
its competence under international law." (Opinion and Judgment, I.M.T.
at Nuremberg (1946) , reprinted in 41 AM. J. INT. LL. 172, 221 (1947) )
As the Nuremberg Opinion affirms, acts taken in violation of
international law are beyond the lawful authority of any state, are
ultra vires, and cannot be covered by immunity. Speaking more
generally, I think the argument on behalf of immunity should be very
troubling to us all. The principles of Nuremburg uphold a fundamental
moral principle: no one should be permitted to commit acts of torture
and genocide, no matter what their position. The principles of
Nuremburg assert that no man is above the law. The argument on behalf
of immunity for someone like Jiang stands opposed to these principles.
Q. What crimes has Jiang committed?
Jiang has violated the Convention against Genocide and
the Convention against Torture, among others.
The Convention Against Genocide states that genocide
includes, but is not limited to, the following acts committed with
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or
religious group, as such: Killing members of the group; Causing serious
bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting
on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part.
Under Jiang's personal direction, officials conducting
the campaign of persecution against Falun Gong have committed
substantial violations of the Conventions against Genocide and against
Torture. The death toll is exceedingly high. Brutal torture is
state-authorized and commonplace, including subjecting practitioners to
severe beatings, electric shocks, water dungeons and sleep deprivation;
branding and burning them; horrific forms of sodomy; and other forms of
torture. There are over 30, 000 documented cases of persecution.
Furthermore, Jiang's regime has sent large numbers of perfectly healthy
practitioners to mental hospitals, injecting them with mind-altering
drugs and causing severe and often irreversible psychological damage.
Q. How is this legal effort being funded?
The costs of the case are being absorbed by individuals
who believe in it. No funds whatsoever come from any government or
commercial sector. It's all just people who know about the persecution
and want the case to go forward. The costs, however, are very low
thanks to a lot of pro-bono work on the part of many attorneys.
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Q. Are other legal channels being pursued, such as the ICC, the UN,
Yes, there are five attorneys who practice Falun Gong
involved in these lawsuits. Two others have submitted lawsuits against
Jiang Zemin, Theresa Chu of Taiwan, and Carlos Iglesias of Spain. The
five of us have visited the ICC and shared with them the severity of
the persecution. We also discussed the possibility of filing a petition
to the ICC and we are investigating the establishment of an ad-hoc
tribunal and/or some other already established channel for redress.
Jiang's crimes against practitioners of Falun Gong are of the most
serious order and highest magnitude. Until he pays for his crimes in a
court of law, we will continue to sue him in civil, criminal and
international courts around the globe. That is my personal promise to
Jiang and those who help him in his ill-conceived campaign.
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Q. The case you filed in Chicago was dismissed at the District level
and is now on appeal. Do you think the outcome of the appeal will be
The Judge's ruling is of course not what we had hoped
for or anticipated. However, this case is far from over. Indeed it is
The moral and legal issues raised by this case are of
paramount importance to the future of human rights litigation here in
the United States. How we resolve these issues will affect our proud
tradition of defending the universal principles necessary for justice
and freedom, as well as determine the place of the United States in the
world. We will present a strong case to the Seventh Circuit panel of
Judges. The law is on our side. We can only hope that they will accept
the challenge of history and do the right thing.
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Q. What are Falun Gong practitioners hoping to accomplish with these
The lawsuits help educate people around the globe about
the religious persecution of Falun Gong in China. These lawsuits also
tell those who are responsible for the persecution that they cannot
commit genocide and torture with impunity, and in doing so we believe
they will help contribute to the end of the persecution of Falun Gong
in China and abroad. Indeed, we have heard encouraging stories of
officials in China who are now beginning to walk away from involvement
with the persecution because their previous notions of impunity has
been shattered by the reality of lawsuits filed against them around the
We have all seen images of holocaust victims,
half-starved skeletons gazing at us from behind barbed wire fences.
Those images moved the world in the wake of World War II to vow "never
The images of the victims of the persecution of Falun
Gong are no less horrifying. I have two photographs. In the first is a
professor smiling happily and picking flowers in her garden and then in
the second just months later she has been tortured to death... these
photos still bring tears to my eyes when I look at them. A mother is
forced to observe police officers hang her eight month old son upside
down and torture him to death before her very eyes. Women are raped,
forced to abort their babies, hung from ceilings, tortured with devices
that ravage the human body to the point where they are driven insane or
"transformed" into dark shadows of their former selves. The very old,
the very young - no one is immune from the daily torture and brutal
In this lawsuit we see humanity's continuing effort to
rise above our capacity for atrocity and to order our lives according
to higher principles.
I believe this desire to live according to higher
principles is ineradicable in humanity. History will show that the
persecution of Falun Gong was not only a persecution of one hundred
million individuals in China, it was also a persecution of the
universal, moral principles of Falun Gong. The principles of
truthfulness, compassion and tolerance are constitutive of our very
humanity. No persecution could succeed against those principles without
extinguishing who we are.
By suing Jiang we are affirming what is best in all of us.
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