Chinese prisoner of conscience Bu Dongwei - released

Prisoner of conscience Bu Dongwei was released on 23 July 2008, roughly four months before the end of his term of re-education through labour. Amnesty were asked not to make this news public until Bu Dongwei and his family were happy to dislose it.

Background Info

Falun Gong practitioner Bu Dongwei, also known as David Bu, was detained at his home in the Haidian district of Beijing, where police had found Falun Gong literature, on 19 May 2006. He was assigned to two-and-a-half years' Re-education through Labour (RTL) on 19 June 2006 for "resisting the implementation of national law and disturbing social order". He was held at Tuanhe RTL facility in Beijing where he carried out packaging work on a daily basis. His family only received official confirmation of his whereabouts three months after he was detained. Bu Dongwei had been working in Beijing for a US aid organization, the Asia Foundation.

The evidence against him included a verbal confession he made to police and being in possession of 80 pieces of Falun Gong literature that the police found in his home. Bu Dongwei's family say that in fact the police found no more than eight Falun Gong books when they came to detain him.

Sources suggest that Bu Dongwei was first taken to Qinghe detention centre, Haidian district, and transferred to Tuanhe RTL facility in Beijing on 21 August 2006. Officials from Tuanhe RTL facility have reportedly asked Bu Dongwei's family to contribute money towards his living expenses around 400 Yuan per month (approx. US$52).

Bu Dongwei had previously served a term of 10 months RTL from August 2000 to May 2001 in Tuanhe RTL facility for "using a heretical organization to disrupt the implementation of the law" after he petitioned the authorities to review their ban on Falun Gong. During this period, he was reportedly subjected to measures of torture and ill-treatment aimed at forcing him to renounce his belief in Falun Gong. He was deprived of sleep, beaten and forced to sit all day in a small chair.

Re-education through Labour(RTL)

RTL (laodong jiaoyang or laojiao) has been used extensively in China since the 1950s as a form of punitive administrative detention. Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been held in China?s RTL facilities. RTL differs from "Reform through Labour" (laodong gaizao or laogai) which is prison labour carried out during sentences imposed by courts within the formal criminal justice system.

The decision to assign a person to RTL or to prosecute under the provisions of the Criminal Law is based on an assessment by police of whether the person has "behaved illegally" (hence liable to RTL without charge, trial or judicial review) or committed a "crime" (and therefore liable to prosecution through the courts). The vaguely defined behaviours and acts which can incur RTL allow police to punish those peacefully exercising their fundamental human rights.

There are regular reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in RTL facilities. Detainees can be held in an RTL facility for up to three years, which can be extended by a further year. The unchecked power of the police when imposing these punishments is a serious concern raised also by Chinese legal reformist, as the periods are longer than the minimum penalties issued under formal Criminal Law.

Illegal Behaviour Correction Law

Attempts by the authorities to replace RTL with new legislation known as the "Illegal Behaviour Correction Law" (IBCL) have stalled. The law is reported to remain in draft stage within the legislative committee of the National People?s Congress.

Other forms of punitive administrative detention (detention without trial)

Police in China can impose two other forms of punitive administrative detention: "Custody and Education" (shourong jiaoyu), used to punish alleged prostitutes and their clients with between six months and two years? administrative detention, and "Enforced Drug Rehabilitation" (qiangzhi jiedu), which punishes alleged drug addicts with between three and six months? detention. The Deputy Director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau has stated that the police may extend periods of Enforced Drug Rehabilitation from six months to one year, in an attempt to compel all drug abusers in the capital to give up their addictions before the Olympics.

Falun Gong

Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been arbitrarily detained in China since the spiritual movement was banned as a "threat to social and political stability" in July 1999. Those accused of being Falun Gong leaders or organizers have been sentenced to prison terms, while others have been held in psychiatric hospitals. The majority have been held in RTL facilities where torture or ill-treatment of detained practitioners has been widespread, particularly of those who refuse to renounce their beliefs.

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