Swedes to sue ex Chinese president

Swedish members of the banned Chinese spiritual movement Falungong said Friday they plan to press criminal charges against China's former president Jiang Zemin and other senior officials for murder, torture and kidnapping.

“The persecution of Falungong members is extensive and has been going on for several years. It is directly inspired by the Communist Party and is led by a special body that was created by Jiang Zemin,” the group’s Swedish lawyer, Peter Bergquist, said in a statement from Falungong.

The group said it would file the complaint with Swedish police on Monday, and it would then be up to the prosecution service to decide on whether to pursue the case.

In November 2001, a group of Westerners, including eight Swedes, took part in a demonstration at Tiananmen Square in Beijing to call for “an end to the persecution” of Falungong.

“They were arrested, beaten, threatened and held against their will. The treatment of these Swedes meets, in several cases, the criteria for torture and kidnapping in the UN convention on torture,” the statement said.

“More than 2,300 people who practice Falungong have in recent years been tortured to death in Chinese prisons. And these are only the documented cases,” Bergquist said.

Bergquist said Sweden has an “obligation to try to take legal proceedings against these crimes and to punish the perpetrators”, noting that “China lacks an independent justice system where lawyers can represent their clients without being punished.”

According to Falungong, similar legal proceedings have been undertaken against Jiang Zemin and other Chinese officials in Australia, Belgium, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States among others.

“These proceedings around the world could hopefully lead, in the long term, to demands for human rights on China,” it said.

Falungong, which combines exercise with meditation, once claimed millions of followers in mainland China but has been outlawed as an “evil cult” by Beijing since 1999.

Beijing views Falungong as the biggest threat to Communist Party rule since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.