Qi Liu was born in November 1942, in Wujin, Jiangsu Province (China). An engineer, he graduated from the metallurgical department of the Beijing Institute of Iron and Steel Engineering, majoring in iron smelting. He joined the Communist Party of China in September 1975, and is still a member. In February 1999, he became the Mayor of Beijing (Peking), a position he held until 2003.
In 1998, Li Hongzhi, founder of the Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa), a spiritual discipline based on Buddhism, was forced to leave China under the threat of an arrest. Following this episode, a national crackdown began in China against practitioners of Falun Gong, a discipline finally declared illegal by Chinese President Jiang Zemin on 22 July 1999. The campaign against Falun Gong practitioners was violent and characterized by its lack of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. On 30 October 1999, the National People’s Congress of China enacted an anti-cult law (Article 300, Criminal Act), effective retroactively, to remove a thousand religious sects in the country, including the Falun Gong.
Since July 1999, practitioners of Falun Gong expressed their disagreement concerning the prohibition of their discipline. On 20 November 2001, they stage a peaceful demonstration in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Many demonstrators were arrested, held without charges and without access to their families or legal advice. The demonstrators were violently interrogated, and allegedly beaten and deprived of sleep, to force them to reveal the names of other practitioners of Falun Gong and renounce their beliefs. Some inmates were allegedly sexually abused or tortured by the use of electric shocks and other prisoners were allowed to beat detained practitioners in exchange for a pardon or reduced sentences. These events took place under the supervision of the Mayor of Beijing Qi Liu.
Still a member of the Communist Party of China at present, Qi Liu presided over in 2007 the Chinese Olympic Committee and the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games in 2008. On 31 October 2007, he gave a speech in the framework of the debate on Sport for Peace and Development at the United Nations, despite the accusations existing against him.
On 7 February 2002, the plaintiffs (victims Jane Doe I, Jane Doe II, Hélène Petit, Martin Larsson, Leeshai Lemish, and Roland Odar) filed a joint indictment against Qi Liu before the District Court of Northern California (USA). This charge takes the form of a civil action for compensatory and punitive damages for torts committed in violation of international and domestic law. The plaintiffs are foreign victims (Chinese, French, Canadian, German, American, Australian and Swedish nationals). The proceedings were instituted on the basis of the violation of international law, namely the Convention against Torture, incorporated into US law through the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Claims Act. On this basis the US Legislation allows American and foreign victims to bring proceedings before Federal Courts for the violation of this law (including the scope of crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, torture, rape and summary executions).
The plaintiffs had been present at the peaceful gathering in support of Falun Gong which took place in Tiananmen Square on Novermber 2001 and each of them were allegedly subjected to arbitrary detention, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and/or torture by the Beijing police.
According to the indictment, Qi Liu, as the Mayor of Beijing at the time, had planned, organized, authorized and encouraged the police to commit abuses during the arrests of Falun Gong practitioners. These actions would result in violations of the freedom of religion, belief, expression and assembly. Qi Liu is also accused of crimes against humanity and of incitement to torture. Because of his position as Mayor, he would have been aware of the acts committed , and because of his executive control over the police, he would have commanded and organized such acts.
The Chinese government, in a statement to the attention of the Court, dismissed the charges against the Mayor of Beijing, ensuring the proper treatment of detainees. It also claimed immunity of Qi Liu because of his status as Mayor at the time.
The District Court of Northern California issued a declaratory judgement on 8 December 2004, recognizing Qi Liu responsible for illegal detention and torture of two Chinese nationals involved in the trial and the sexual assault of the French victim. The motions of the other victims were rejected.