Why June 10 is a solemn and horrific anniversary in China
By Thomas Sterling
“Gestapo” means “secret state police.”
The death-dealing, above-the-law Gestapo of Nazi Germany has a modern-day cousin: the 610 Office, a Chinese secret police force flying below the radar with its plain-vanilla name.
This 610 Office kills, terrorizes, and takes away the liberty of millions of Chinese people in China.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is increasingly under the microscope worldwide during the turmoil over current events such as the CCP virus pandemic, controversial moves toward Hong Kong, and friction with the U.S. government.
Shedding light on the origin and continued existence of this Chinese agency can shed light on the true nature of the CCP.
The Secret 610 Office Is Born
Twenty-one years ago in China, a storm was brewing—a storm that would change the world for millions of people directly, and indirectly for many more.
Ten years after the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre, the regime plotted a campaign that would have consequences even more deadly than that brutal slaughter in 1989.
The top leader of the CCP at the time, Jiang Zemin, was agitated and jealous of a group in Chinese society consisting of 70 million to 100 million people. Were these people plotting against the Party? Were they outspoken dissidents? Were they advocating something dangerous for the health and stability of society?
They were none of the above. They were meditators who were aspiring to live every day by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. They were practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong. They were asking only that they be allowed to practice peacefully, and continue to improve their health, their families, their schools, and their workplaces as they lived according to those principles.
In the twisted logic of Jiang, tens of millions of law-abiding, peaceful, healthy meditators posed a threat. So he ordered the formation of a leading group of top CCP officials to handle this “problem,” and along with it a secret office to implement a devastating campaign of persecution.
The secret office was formed on June 10, 1999, and thus its name: 610 Office.
Jiang said about Falun Gong, “Destroy their reputation, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.”
Since then, Falun Gong practitioners have endured what some scholars have called a “cold genocide.”
“The 610 Office is just like Hitler’s Gestapo,” said Guo Guoting, a Chinese human rights lawyer in exile, in an interview with the Falun Dafa Information Center. “They are powerful and they got enough financial support from the government so … they secretly control all the Falun Gong practitioners in their local areas.”
Like the Gestapo, the 610 Office is tasked with eliminating people belonging to groups undesired by the reigning dictator.
Like the Gestapo, the 610 Office gives orders to institutions to administer brutal psychological and physical torture. 610 Office personnel also sometimes administer torture themselves.
Like the Gestapo, the 610 Office is not a police force that protects, serves the people, or provides security for people. It is a “security” force that uses violence and cruelty only to destroy people.
Like the Gestapo, the 610 Office is responsible for killing without accountability to any recognized authority. They can, and do, make people disappear without a trace.
Like the Gestapo, the 610 Office operates outside legal and judicial structures. It sometimes actually controls the legal and judicial structures, so it is truly above the law.
Eliminating and Torturing Innocent Groups
“The models of political and religious repression in China have evolved over the last two decades,” said Sarah Cook, senior research analyst for China at Freedom House, a U.S.-based NGO.
“The persecution of Falun Gong has helped the CCP create a new playbook to persecute other groups.”
Surveillance tactics initially employed by the 610 Office—such as databases of targeted individuals—are also now used on other specific segments of the Chinese population, or even foreigners visiting China.
The CCP’s creation of the 610 Office in 1999 is an example of the same kind of “political and legal maneuvering” currently being directed at Hong Kong, Cook said.
The Chinese regime most recently enacted a national security law for Hong Kong—bypassing the city’s own legislature to punish activities Beijing considers related to secession, terrorism, and subversion.
Also, the 610 Office was one of the first entities in China to systematically carry out spying on Falun Gong practitioners in other countries, thus extending the persecution and harassment of Falun Gong practitioners outside China.
The 610 Office oversees torture of unknown numbers of Falun Gong practitioners in jails, prisons, hospitals, labor camps, and other detention facilities. It draws upon all known methods of torture, both ancient and modern. Pulling out fingernails, force-feeding of human excrement, forcing people to squat for hours or days on end while having cold water poured on them, sexual abuse of many types, injections with psychotropic drugs—these are just a few torture methods wielded by the 610 Office or those under their control.
No one knows the true number of people killed by torture and abuse, but it is certainly many times the 4,363 deaths confirmed and cataloged at Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that tracks the persecution in China. Based on interviews with survivors and their family members, the website documents methods of torture and many individual cases of torture.
Death by Forced Organ Harvesting
Perhaps the most shocking of the ways that Falun Gong practitioners and others have been systematically killed—orchestrated behind the scenes by the 610 Office—is via the removal of transplant organs while they are still alive. Kidneys, lungs, hearts, corneas and other organs are taken from prisoners and sold on demand to wealthy recipients and foreign “transplant tourists.” The 610 Office is among those who take their cut of the profit from the gruesome commerce.
Independent investigators have confirmed that this organ harvesting is still occurring, despite CCP denials.
The China Tribunal, an independent people’s tribunal convened to investigate allegations of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China, held evidentiary hearings in London in 2018 and 2019. The Tribunal’s final report was issued on March 1, 2020, noting that “forced organ harvesting has happened in multiple places in the PRC and on multiple occasions for a period of at least 20 years and continues to this day.” It also concluded that Falun Gong practitioners were the main source of organs for the state-sanctioned practice.
An Office Above the Law
The 610 Office has “branches all over China down to the tiniest village,” said Cook. As such, its influence and control at all levels in China is unprecedented.
The number of staff at the 610 Office is unknown, due to its secretive nature and the fact that 610 staff may have multiple roles, serving in other departments simultaneously. But the number is relatively small compared to other CCP agencies.
The source of its power is not its size, but that it is accountable only to a few top-level CCP officials, and that it has power over every other bureaucratic structure.
“The 610 Office has the leeway to run rampant over the rights of Chinese people,” said Cook.
The 610 Office tells the police what to do with targets, such as Falun Gong practitioners. Arrest them? Torture them with electric-shock batons? Allow visitors? Release them? All can be done only with the approval of 610 officials. The police and prisons have their hands tied.
Is there any legal recourse? In general, in China, there is no such thing, as courts are told what verdicts to give in advance, regardless of the evidence presented. In the case of Falun Gong practitioners, their fates are determined by the 610 Office, with judges merely passing on the orders they receive, according to many accounts documented by Minghui.org.
The ramifications of this reach far beyond the lives of tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners and members of other targeted groups persecuted by the Chinese regime.
“The existence, creation, and functioning of the 610 Office fundamentally undermine the rule of law in China,” said Cook.
“The 610 Office is the elephant in the room if you’re talking about the rule of law,” she added. “You can’t have the rule of law in China as long as something like the 610 Office continues to exist.”
If the rule of law in China cannot be relied upon, Cook said, it has broad implications. Food and product safety, investments, intellectual property, rights of foreigners, and joint ventures are just some of the areas that are compromised, that cannot be relied on. Without the rule of law, living in China or transacting any kind of business with Chinese entities are fundamentally high-risk endeavors.
The Epoch Times has reported that the 610 Office may have been disbanded. In reality, the names have changed, but the players are the same. The CCP is playing a sophisticated shell game, a ruse to distract or throw people off track.
It is clear that, whatever names or titles have changed, the functions of the 610 Office continue at full force.
The same groups of people continue to be persecuted.
Funds are still being allocated to persecution activities.
The same above-the-law status of the persecutors continues.
As we can see with the tightening of the screws in Hong Kong and the so-called re-education camps for Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the legacy of China’s Gestapo continues to be built.
Perhaps one day, the extent of the 610 Office’s murderous misdeeds will become as well-known as the Gestapo’s.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.