On the afternoon of March 20 or 21, 2000, my colleague Ouyang Wen and I were forced to watch a three-or-four-hour-long video recording. In the video, Ye Xiaowen, Director of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, was addressing many high-level officials in China’s central government. From the content of the video, the speech was given in August or September of 1999, right after the crackdown on Falun Gong was launched in July of 1999.
Ye spoke on the mission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the state policy on religion and concluded with the “reasons” for eliminating Falun Gong. I was stunned and appalled to hear his blatant confession of the CCP’s history of manipulating China’s Constitution, controlling religion and suppressing freedom of belief. Prior to witnessing this video, I had believed in the Chinese Constitution. I had believed it was Jiang’s personal will to suppress Falun Gong, and had often forced myself to forgive the CCP for their crimes of bringing suffering to the country and the people. But Ye’s speech completely shattered my illusion on CCP.
The background of the speech was that the then-President Jiang Zemin’s arbitrary order of launching the suppression of Falun Gong encountered opposing opinions in his Politburo. Even the secretaries of the Party Committees in the audience didn’t understand the reason for the suppression. In order to smoothly implement Jiang’s order, those officials were called on to study together and have a unified thought among the Party.
Because I was a well-known and respected researcher in the our institute, the leaders believed that if I could give up Falun Gong, it would serve the purpose to “educate” others as an example. The purpose of sending me to listen to the video was to convince me that I had no chance to “win” the battle because it’s the CCP’s policy to eliminate Falun Gong.
Ye’s speech focused on the “theoretical basis” and “great significance” of banning Falun Gong. According to Ye, the ultimate goal of the CCP, as the representative of the Chinese proletariat, was to realize communism and eradicate capitalism. Ye also emphasized that the elimination of religion and any concept of gods and higher beings was a fundamental duty of the Party. In the ideological battle, the Communist Party was to ensure the triumph of Marxist atheism.
But why would the Chinese Constitution grant freedom of religious belief when the Communist Party fought for the ultimate eradication of religion? Ye concluded that it was because China’s religious issues were closely related to its ethnic issues. At the time of the Cultural Revolution, there were more than 50 ethnic minorities spread out over large segments of the country. Most of them had their own religions. Even though they didn’t have large populations, they were spread over a vast area, including Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and others. Most of these minority groups had religions. Any problem with religion could easily trigger conflicts between ethnic groups. Ye therefore saw it as a hidden danger that such conflicts could disrupt the state. The religious policy of China at the time needed to fit the situation. In order to prevent religious issues from triggering conflicts between ethnic groups, to rope in minority groups, and to convince people in religious circles to join the “united front,” the CCP included the freedom of belief clause in the Chinese Constitution to accommodate the religious situation in China.
It was, however, only a temporary measure taken for convenience. Ye was careful to emphasize that the freedom of religious belief didn’t mean the freedom for religions to grow. The aim of the CCP’s religious policy was to eliminate religion in the long run, and so this principle had to be followed: Those who had a religious belief could continue their belief, but the overall number of people in any religion could only decrease, not increase.
This was the mission of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs. It weakened religions while recruiting religious leaders to serve the Party’s agenda of regional stability. Ye boasted about the CCP’s “wisdom,” that is, how the Party used the velvet glove. It bribed and coerced key religious leaders by giving them high ranking official titles, money, privileges, and fame. It relocated them to desirable homes or even to the central government compound, while at the same time, using ruthless measures against religious dissidents. Ye stressed that disobeying the CCP’s religious management was an act of disrupting the state. Religions that followed the CCP’s leadership would be recognized as “patriotic religions.” All others were considered secessionist.
To erode people’s belief in religions, the CCP devoted major efforts to spreading Marxist atheism and strengthening the education of science in ethnic regions. Once the youth of the next generation recognized science as the only truth and trashed religions as spiritual opiates and superstition, the religious beliefs of these ethnic groups would gradually be wiped out.
The above-mentioned policies and measures were highly successful. The Party accomplished the goal of allowing religious freedom in name while imposing restrictions in reality. All religions became part of the “patriotic unified solidarity,” with the CCP appointing religious leaders. Every religious leader held an administrative position and served the socialist ideology. When talking about this issue, Ye was so excited about his achievement that he specifically talked about his close relationship he had with the leader of Buddhist Association .
When the topic turned to Falun Gong, Ye said: “Falun Gong was a different story. It had quickly spread nationwide since it was introduced in 1992. The number of people who practiced Falun Gong had soared in the past few years.” According to Ye, it was a serious problem that Falun Gong was able to gather eighteen thousand people overnight at the April 25 Event. Ye continued that Falun Gong’s philosophy sounded like religions such as Buddhism and Taoism. Ye also vilified Falun Gong was spreading superstition (in CCP’s vocabulary, superstition is a synonym of believing in the existence of God.)
Ye argued that acknowledging Falun Gong would waste all of the effort the CCP had made on religious affairs over the past few decades. The rapid spread of the practice revealed that not all people accepted the Party’s ideology and that there were loopholes in the Party’s system of political “education.” Many senior intellectuals, including scientists, believed in Falun Gong. Worse yet, some Falun Gong followers were even CCP members.” According to Ye’s rhetoric, “Falun Gong was fighting for the people in the ideological field with our Party, allowing Falun Gong the freedom to grow would ruin the CCP.” He claimed that the struggle with Falun Gong was a significant political struggle, a contest of life or death concerning the future survival of the Party and the state.
It has been four years since they attempted to indoctrinate me using this video. Although I don’t remember every word in this speech, much of it has been burned into my memory. Hearing a high-level government official admit the lies and manipulation the Party had used since being in power, their attempts to control the people, I was totally shocked and suddenly see the real face of the CCP.
He Lizhi was a senior scientist at Beijing Central Engineering and Research Institute of lron and Steel Industry. He was detained in China during the Spring of 2000 and underwent a “transformation” regimen in order to force him to renounce his belief of Falun Gong. He was eventually imprisoned for three-and-a-half years. Mr. He currently resides in Canada.