The Spreading of Falun Gong
Falun Gong—also known as Falun Dafa, the Great Way of Law—Wheel Cultivation Practice-is an ancient form of cultivation practice.
From its earliest establishment, Chinese culture has embraced the concept of the "Oneness of Heaven and Man." The way for man to achieve the Oneness, or his true self, is cultivation practice. Chinese literature is filled with legends of people achieving the status of deities, becoming enlightened, or obtaining the Tao through cultivation, and there have existed thousands of different schools of cultivation over the course of Chinese history. Cultivation practice, therefore, is a generic term for the practice of mind and body transcendence.
Cultivation practice has left its imprint on almost every aspect of Chinese culture. The teachings of Lao Zi and Confucius, for example, were originally for guiding the cultivation of their respective disciples. A great number of historical figures who contributed to shaping Chinese history were practitioners of cultivation. In fact, cultivation of moral character was a prerequisite for students of any serious study, and the ethical values derived from teachings of cultivation played an essential role in establishing and maintaining social morality.
Cultivation has also long been recognized for its effects on physical health and supernormal abilities. The health benefits of Tai Chi and martial arts, for example, are well known. Many famous doctors and physicians throughout Chinese history were practitioners of cultivation. Some of them had developed abilities to visualize meridian channels and points in the human body, some could see through the human body to detect illnesses, some could see how components of herbs function in the human body, and some could emit energy to cure diseases. These practitioners of cultivation were entirely responsible for establishing the theory and practice of Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine that we know today.
Communist rule of China brought an abrupt end to this rich tradition of cultivation. The Communist Party’s atheist ideology and totalitarian power precluded any other ideas. Cultivation was branded as "superstition" and brutally persecuted. In the first two years of communist rule, approximately two million people were executed in the name of "suppressing counter-revolutionary superstitious sects and secret societies." For the next four decades, no one dared to mention cultivation in public.
Political repression cannot suppress illness, however, and repeated political persecution caused severe physical and psychological trauma to Chinese citizens. In the 1970s, feeding citizens’ need for healing and fitness, some unique exercises were quietly introduced to the public under a novel name — qigong — and gained instant popularity for their remarkable health benefits. The term qigong, however, had never existed before, and no one knew the real origin of qigong.
In 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi began to give lectures on Falun Gong. Mr. Li revealed that qigong was really the physical aspect of cultivation practice, that the term qigong had been coined to avoid political persecution, and that to receive the full benefit of cultivation one must pay attention to the mental aspect — improving one’s moral and mental quality. By introducing Falun Gong to the public, Mr. Li brought thousands of years of cultivation practice tradition back to the Chinese people.
Awakened to the tradition, practitioners of Falun Gong followed the principle of Truth-Benevolence-Forbearance and devoted themselves to the cultivation of their inner selves and the improvement of their mental and moral quality. This, combined with five sets of gentle exercises of proven efficacy in health improvement, has enabled practitioners to achieve purposeful living, morality, improved health, and inner peace. As a testament to its superior benefits, Falun Gong had become a global phenomenon encompassing over 100 million practitioners across more than 60 countries by 1999, just seven years after its introduction to the public.
The Authorities’ Escalating Hostility
At the beginning, various levels of the Chinese government recognized and commended the benefits of Falun Gong practice to people and to society, and their support facilitated the spread of Falun Gong in the early 1990s. In fact, one third of the 60 million Communist Party members and a large number of high-ranking government officials practiced Falun Gong.
A few Party ideologues, however, were affronted by the increasing popularity of Falun Gong. These atheist Party vanguards could not accept the fact that after more than 40 years of Marxist indoctrination, so many people, including Communist Party members, would look elsewhere for moral and spiritual guidance. They also had vested interest in finding fault with Falun Gong as an excuse to mount ideological strikes against those more open-minded and supportive officials and to cleanse the Party to their liking. Turning a blind eye to Falun Gong’s positive impact on the people and society, these power-seeking figures busied themselves with wave after wave of witch-hunting and discrediting of Falun Gong.
Among them was Luo Gan, Secretary-General of the State Council, and a close follower of Jiang Zemin, the Party’s General Secretary at the time. From very early on, Luo Gan instructed the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security to plant agents as Falun Gong practitioners. The clandestine investigations found no evidence to implicate Falun Gong; instead, many of these agents ended up practicing Falun Gong. The inquisitors then resorted to framing. In December 1994, a joint letter by "over 100 Falun Gong practitioners" was fabricated, accusing Mr. Li of falsifying his date of birth, amassing wealth, evading taxes, and so on, and was used as the basis for the Ministry of Public Security’s order to ban Falun Gong.
The ban was to be announced on February 3, 1995. Fortunately, a Falun Gong practitioner working in the Ministry of Public Security learned about this one week before its announcement. He and other Falun Gong practitioners submitted three reports to dispel the false accusations, and were able to head off the crisis at the last minute.
In 1996, a concerted media campaign against Falun Gong began with an article published on June 17, 1996, in the Guangming Daily, the mouthpiece of the State Council. Many state-controlled newspapers around the country followed with slanderous articles. On July 24, 1996, the Communist Party’s Department of Propaganda issued an internal notice, banning books authored by Mr. Li.
In early 1997, Luo Gan instructed the Ministry of Public Security to conduct a nationwide investigation of "Falun Gong’s illegal religious activities." However, early reports from many places indicated "no problems discerned so far," and Luo Gan had to call off the investigation. Many agents who participated in the investigation began practicing Falun Gong.
At the end of May 1998, the Beijing TV Station broadcast a program featuring He Zuoxiu, a self-proclaimed physicist. He Zuoxiu’s wife and Luo Gan’s wife are sisters. In the program, He Zuoxiu made many false accusations against Falun Gong. Following suit, on July 21, 1998, Luo Gan once again resorted to the tactic of "trumping up charges and finding the evidence later" and instructed police departments around the country to "uncover and collect evidence of Falun Gong’s spreading of heresy and conducting of criminal activities." Many cities then banned the Falun Gong practice, and arrested and fined Falun Gong practitioners for holding group practices on the charge of "participating in illegal gatherings."
These incidents represent only a small fraction of the authorities’ discrimination against and repression of Falun Gong. They are typical tactics of the Party to scare people off from something that it does not sanction. Later on, the Chinese government claimed to be startled by the sudden appearance of a large following of Falun Gong. Many observers thus rationalized the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong as a reaction to feeling threatened. The fact is, the authorities had been monitoring the situation of Falun Gong at all times, and had made various attempts to suppress and intimidate Falun Gong practitioners.
The Tianjin Incident
The suppression failed to deter or provoke Falun Gong practitioners, however. Adhering to Mr. Li’s teaching of "Other people may treat us badly, but we do not treat others badly, nor do we treat people as enemies," Falun Gong practitioners quietly endured the bullying, and time and again gave those prejudiced people opportunities to understand what cultivation is about and what kind of people practitioners are. Many practitioners, including Communist Party members and government officials, also wrote to the central leadership to testify from their own experiences that Falun Gong is beneficial to society and and not a threat. These appeals could easily have been interpreted as "standing in opposition to the Party," "disrupting the Party’s normal work," or even "counter-revolutionary." Any one allegation was enough for someone to lose his job or even his freedom, but practitioners stepped forward spontaneously and in large numbers to speak of the facts and in defense of Falun Gong.
The large number of appeal letters prompted a group of senior government officials, led by Mr. Qiao Shi, former Chairman of the People’s Congress (March 1993 to March 1998), to organize investigations in the later part of 1998 to examine the impact of Falun Gong on people’s health and on society in order to provide a basis for solving the controversies surrounding Falun Gong. Among these investigations were a series of health surveys sponsored by the State Council and the National Bureau of Sports and conducted by professionals in state-owned medical institutions in several major Chinese cities (http://www.fsccentre.org/Summary of Health Surveys.htm). With over 34,000 practitioners participating, these are the most systematic and comprehensive health surveys done on Falun Gong practitioners to date. The results show that among those surveyed, 98.7 percent experienced improvement in physical health and 97.7 percent reported improvement in mental conditions after beginning Falun Gong practice.
Based on these investigations, the group of senior officials submitted a formal report to the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, with a conclusion that "Falun Gong has numerous benefits to the country and people and not a single detriment." This conclusion, however, did not sit well to Jiang Zemin, who bitterly wrote on the report: "[The report is] too complicated; I do not understand." With an obvious intention, Jiang assigned Luo Gan to handle the report and related issues.
Luo Gan readily took the hint and looked for opportunities elsewhere. On April 11, 1999, He Zuoxiu published yet another article slandering Falun Gong in a magazine in the city of Tianjin. Since the article was full of fabrications, many Falun Gong practitioners visited the editorial offices of the magazine to tell the editors their personal experiences of Falun Gong practice, and ask the magazine to retract the erroneous article. On April 22 and 23, 1999, armed police forces violently assaulted Falun Gong practitioners in front of the magazine’s office and arbitrarily detained 45 of them. Mysteriously, the police urged Falun Gong practitioners at the scene to go to the central government in Beijing to address their grievance.
The April 25th Peaceful Appeal
Two days later, on April 25, 1999, over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered quietly in Beijing outside the State Council Bureau of Appeal, located in the vicinity of the Chinese leadership compound, to request the release of the practitioners detained in Tianjin and the lifting of the ban on Falun Gong books.
The gathering was peaceful, orderly. People stood three-deep in rows between the roadway and sidewalk so as not to block the traffic; they advised curious pedestrians to move on so as not to create a scene; they picked up trash and litter that was thrown by passers-by, and even picked up the cigarette butts from the police watching them. The police, however, took advantage of the practitioners’ kindheartedness. Soon after the gathering began to form, they told practitioners to follow them to see the central leadership. The police then divided the practitioners into two columns and led them away by separate routes that converged at the gate of Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound. The separate routes resulted in an encirclement of Zhongnanhai, which was later used to incriminate Falun Gong.
According to one participant, Dr. Shi Caidong, Premier Zhu Rongji walked out of the gate and toward the Falun Gong practitioners at around 7:30 a.m., and inquired what the gathering was about. Premier Zhu then invited three practitioners to go inside the compound to have a dialogue. It was from this dialog that the practitioners learned that Premier Zhu had issued an instruction several days earlier to the State Council not to harass Falun Gong practitioners, but someone had withheld this instruction and never made it known to Falun Gong. That afternoon, Premier Zhu met with five representatives of the Falun Gong practitioners, and ordered the release of those detained in Tianjin. Upon learning the news, the practitioners quietly dispersed. Because of this gathering, Falun Gong began to receive international attention.
Jiang’s Personal Crusade Against Falun Gong
The peaceful resolution of the April 25 petition was highly regarded by international observers and media. Many viewed it as a precedent of solving social conflict through compromise, a milestone in China’s progress toward civil society.
Jiang Zemin, however, deeply resented Premier Zhu’s handling of the event. Less than three weeks earlier, when Premier Zhu returned from a successful state visit to the United States and Canada and was credited with getting China’s effort to join the WTO back on track, Jiang could not conceal his enmity and was awkwardly missing from Zhu’s welcome ceremony.
Apparently seeking to augment his personal authority, Jiang wanted a different way — his way. According to reliable sources, when Luo Gan reported the course of the April 25 Falun Gong petition, Jiang waved his fists and yelled, "Crush it! Crush it! Resolutely crush it!" At the first meeting of the Party’s Standing Committee of the Political Bureau to discuss the April 25 petition, Premier Zhu pleaded, "Just leave them practicing…" Before Zhu could finish, Jiang pointed a finger at him, "Foolish! Foolish! Foolish! It will lead to the destruction of our Party and nation!"
Premier Zhu fell silent. He knew all too well what it meant to defy a paramount chief of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1966, Liu Shaoqi, then heir-apparent to Chairman Mao, fell from power. He died three years later in handcuffs and tied to a wooden board naked, after suffering extensive torture and inhuman treatment. In 1971, Lin Biao, Mao’s second heir-apparent, fled for his life but was killed when the airplane he was on mysteriously crashed in Mongolia. In 1976, Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s right-hand man, was stripped of power and "expelled from the Party forever." Deng was fortunate enough to have survived and later rose to leadership; however, he duplicated what Mao had done to him, sacking his own handpicked successors Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang in 1986 and 1989, respectively. All these were too familiar to those at the meeting, and no one opposed Jiang further.
While most officials in the government would not openly oppose Jiang, his high-handed policy was not popular either, for many government officials practiced or were sympathetic to Falun Gong. Some government officials wrote to Jiang and other top leaders to suggest more conciliatory approaches. To heighten the pressure, Jiang gave a speech on June 7, 1999, to the full assembly of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee.
Jiang’s June 7 speech was soon distributed to all Party branches as a Central Committee document. It was significant in several respects. The speech accused Falun Gong practitioners of "fighting with the Party and the government to win the people’s favor," established "the Party’s position on Falun Gong," and mandated "severe treatment" of those who refused to comply with the Party’s position. Following Jiang’s speech, the Central Committee made the decision to persecute Falun Gong.
More importantly, Jiang had already sensed that the existing government and Party structure would not fully support his personal crusade against Falun Gong. In the speech, Jiang appointed Li Lanqing, Ding Guangen, and Luo Gan to form a body specifically for handling the Falun Gong issue. This was the origin of the infamous "610 Office." Three days later, on June 10, 1999, following Jiang’s instructions, the "Central Committee’s Leadership Group on Handling the Falun Gong Issue" was formed, with Li Lanqing as the head. Under the Central Leadership Group was the "Central 610 Office," the real operational entity, with Luo Gan in charge. The Leadership Group and the "610 Office" were set up as independent organs within the Party and the government, with absolute power over the Party and the government. They were granted the authority to directly issue orders to the military, security forces, police, the judiciary, and the propaganda ministry, with the power to command all government resources and systems. Below the Central Leadership Group and the "Central 610 Office" were the leadership groups and "610 Offices" at all levels of the Party and the government, from federal to municipal, with corresponding power to direct resources and systems at their levels. Simply put, the "610 Office" system was Jiang’s personal network for controlling the whole government.
With everything under his control, Jiang’s crusade against Falun Gong was in full operation.
Falun Gong Practitioners’ Nationwide Petition on July 20, 1999
On the morning of July 20, the state-run media began to bombard the nation with anti-Falun Gong hate propaganda, saturating the airwaves and print media with fabrications and invectives. The propaganda machinery also broadcast tearful "confessions" and "denunciations" from "transformed" Falun Gong practitioners to intimidate Falun Gong practitioners, their families, and those who were sympathetic to them. The night before, in a nationwide blitz of arrests, the authorities had detained all Falun Gong practitioners they thought of as key to the Falun Gong "organization." From their past experience, the authorities were confident that without these "key leaders" the Falun Gong "organization" would collapse in disorder and the 100 million Falun Gong practitioners would simply disperse due to the high pressure.
For the next few days, however, in every major city in China, Falun Gong practitioners came spontaneously by the tens of thousands to petition the city and provincial governments. Large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners also traveled to Beijing spontaneously to appeal to the central government. Witnesses estimated that millions went to Beijing in the first two days. They came with kind hearts and with trust in the government, and they came for one very simple reason: to testify to the goodness of Falun Gong from their personal experiences, and to urge the government to correct its mistake of launching a persecution based on groundless incrimination.
The authorities were not interested in hearing what Falun Gong practitioners had to say, however. The peaceful petitions were met with violence from the police, who had the heart to wield clubs at 80-year-old ladies, to kick pregnant women, to slap preteen children, and to strip the clothes from young women in public. In contrast with the violent police, Falun Gong practitioners remained completely peaceful; not a single Falun Gong practitioner in the whole nation retaliated.
It is not known how many Falun Gong practitioners participated in the petitioning on July 20, 1999. What is known is that the number was so large that there were not enough detention centers to hold them. Instead, the police forcibly herded practitioners into sports arenas and large warehouses, where they demanded the practitioners provide their names and identify their work units. The kindhearted and unsuspecting practitioners felt that they had nothing to hide and complied, not knowing that the information would be used for further persecution. The police then ordered the practitioners’ work units to come and pick them up.
As darkness fell, July 20, 1999, went down in history as the beginning of an unprecedented persecution. Amidst this sudden descent of terror, Falun Gong practitioners came forth with courage; amidst the storm of violence, practitioners exemplified peace. As the contest of courage and terror continues, July 20, 1999, will be remembered as the beginning of Falun Gong practitioners’ journey of peace.
Solemnity and Heroism on Tiananmen Square
Throughout the persecution, Tiananmen Square in Beijing has been a focal point. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Falun Gong practitioners have come to the vast square from all over China and the world to stage petitions, unfurl banners declaring the innocence of Falun Gong, demonstrate the Falun Gong exercises, and simply proclaim, "Falun Gong is good!" For this simple and peaceful expression of opinion, they have suffered tremendously. Almost all were beaten by police or hired thugs, who felt no inhibition in the presence of thousands of tourists on the Square. Some were beaten to unconsciousness, while some were beaten to death on the spot; children and the elderly were assaulted with full force; pregnant women were kicked in their abdomens. The attacks were usually so violent and forceful that the victims were silenced in less than a minute. Yet, for just that brief moment, practitioners kept coming and coming, despite the consequences. This seemed puzzling to foreign journalists: Could it be worthwhile? What was this all about?
For Chinese, Tiananmen Square, the "Heavenly Peace Gate" Square, is sacred. The modern history of China is considered to have begun with a student-led patriotic demonstration in Tiananmen Square back in 1919. Several other demonstrations with historical impact, including the 1976 and 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations, also took place in the Square. Tiananmen Square is therefore regarded as a sanctified ground for patriotism, sacrifice, and the last resort for appealing to public conscience.
The sudden descent of terror threw the lives of Falun Gong practitioners into a tailspin, but could not take away their internal conviction and commitment to being good people. After the initial shock, and trusting that the government would halt the persecution if they could clear up the officials’ misunderstanding about Falun Gong, practitioners all over China started to converge at the State Council Bureau of Appeal to hand in their petitions, explaining how Falun Gong is beneficial and can only make positive contributions to society. The kindhearted practitioners soon discovered that the State Council Bureau of Appeal had been turned into a detention center. The "State Council Bureau of Appeal" sign was taken down, and those who asked for directions were tricked into waiting police vans and driven away, with no chance to submit their petitions.
As more and more practitioners came, the authorities issued a ban on coming to the State Council Bureau of Appeal to petition for Falun Gong and ordered local governments to enforce the ban. This was another unconstitutional order and a shocking step back to the Cultural Revolution. The State Council Bureau of Appeal was set up after the Cultural Revolution as a way to help resolve those "framed-up, sham, and unjust cases" and for the wronged to address their grievances. There were literally millions of such cases at that time, and establishments at different levels tried to cover everything up and escape responsibility. In response to the outcry from the whole society, the State Council Bureau of Appeal was established to receive complaints directly from the victims, circumventing layers and layers of obstacles. Referred to as "heaven’s ears" by Chinese citizens, this mechanism played a key role in settling the social discontent that resulted from the Cultural Revolution, and the right to address grievances to the State Council Bureau of Appeal was subsequently written into China’s constitution. The brazen stripping of this constitutional right, and the appalling beatings of practitioners caught traveling to Beijing by different levels of authorities, unmistakably signaled to the practitioners that the government was not at all interested in what they had to say. The practitioners were left with no choice but the last resort of appealing to public conscience—and where more symbolic than in Tiananmen Square?
The first known demonstration by Falun Gong practitioners was on September 29, 1999. The night before, a group of practitioners from different parts of China gathered at Tsinghua University, calmly took pictures, wrote down what they were going to do, e-mailed their plans to people they knew overseas, and the next morning, they went!
In the Square, they chose to display the second set of Falun Gong exercises. This was probably the longest demonstration practitioners were able to stage; according to one participant, time seemed to freeze at that moment. Completely unprepared, the police took a while to react; and unprepared for how to react, the police showed their true face—kicking, beating, wrestling, and eventually manhandling all of the peaceful practitioners. We do not have a complete name list of these practitioners, and we do not know their whereabouts; however, their heroism and that solemn moment are imprinted in history forever.
The public demonstrations in Tiananmen Square were disastrous for Jiang Zemin. From August to October 1999, Jiang traveled abroad frequently. Among other things on his agenda, he tried to sway world opinion with his version of "handling the Falun Gong issue" and entice other governments’ cooperation with his persecution through giving away business interests and territory claims. Feeling confident, and contrary to his later rejection of international criticism as "interfering with internal policy," he personally passed out booklets that smeared Falun Gong to leaders of other governments, and offered interviews on the subject of Falun Gong to the international media, thus inviting international attention to the Falun Gong issue and to his ability to handle crises.
The continuous demonstrations by Falun Gong practitioners not only deflated Jiang’s claim of having solved 98 percent of "the Falun Gong problem," but also unmasked his fairy tale of "education and affection" in "solving" the "problem." People, including international reporters, started to wonder: If the police can be this violent in public, what will they not do behind the closed doors of jails, detention centers, and labor camps?
The practitioners’ sacrifices, however, were tremendous. Not only were those in the Square brutalized, but those suspected of having the "inclination" to travel to Beijing were rounded up by local authorities and coerced into signing the so-called "double pledges": a pledge to renounce Falun Gong and a pledge not to appeal for Falun Gong. Those who refused to comply were tortured, some to death.
However, Falun Gong practitioners continued to stage petition after petition in Tiananmen Square. In October, an enraged Jiang ordered the Chinese national legislature to pass a law to legitimize a tougher persecution. The Washington Post noted in an article on November 2, 1999, that, "When [China’s Communist leaders] found themselves without the laws they needed to vigorously persecute a peaceful meditation society, the Party simply ordered up some new laws. Now these will be applied—retroactively, of course… By these standards, Stalin was a scrupulous observer of civil rights."
At the same time, Jiang ordered all levels of government to stop practitioners from going to Tiananmen Square, and those officials who failed to do so would be demoted. Precious resources were diverted to set up checkpoints at airports, train and bus stations, public highways, and even hotels to intercept Falun Gong practitioners. To pass the checkpoints, travelers were required to curse Falun Gong, or to spit on or step on Falun Gong books, and anyone who refused would be detained.
To further diminish practitioners’ ability to travel to Beijing, Jiang issued an order to "destroy their reputation, bankrupt them financially, and exterminate them physically." The cruelty of this order was amplified by the greed of local officials, who took the opportunity to loot or seize practitioners’ homes, personal property, and businesses, and to extort large amounts of ransom from the families of those they arrested. The oppression by local tyrants sometimes had the effect of compelling practitioners to go to Beijing, because they could not safely remain at home and had nothing left but grievances to address.
With no money, no help, no map, and no compass, many practitioners started to walk or bike to Beijing. Scaling mountains, crossing the wilderness, sleeping under trees, begging for food, and avoiding checkpoints, they went to Beijing step by step and one by one. Along the way, they were intercepted by ferocious policemen, by misinformed locals, and by patrol teams recruited to hunt them. But they were also helped by kindhearted people, by those who were willing to listen to their side of the story, and by those who looked in their eyes and found not bitterness but peace. After their few seconds in Tiananmen Square, they refused to give out their names and addresses to the interrogating police, or they would be escorted back and it would be months before they could walk to Beijing again.
It is important to note that these appeals all happened spontaneously. From its past despotic experiences, the Chinese government thought it could paralyze the Falun Gong "organization" by arresting all the important "leaders." What the government could never understand is that Falun Gong genuinely has no organization. While practitioners may know each other, their decisions and actions are completely from their own hearts, their own initiatives, and their own determination to speak the truth.
Torture and Killing
For more than 50 years, the Chinese communist regime has had its way in destroying people’s wills and crushing non-conforming groups through terror and deceit. It had never failed at any previous persecution. The continuing appeals by Falun Gong practitioners in Tiananmen Square, and the insistence on the right to practice by millions upon millions around the nation, made it clear that Falun Gong practitioners would not yield to the persecution. Embarrassed and enraged, Jiang instructed through the "610 Office" system that "No measure is too excessive against Falun Gong," and ordered the use of extreme torture. As the persecution continued to meet practitioners’ peaceful resistance, Jiang’s personal crusade became a personal vendetta.
Since July 20, 1999, from information that has leaked through the tight control of the Chinese government, we know that millions of people have suffered arbitrary incarceration, almost all under inhumane conditions; hundreds of thousands, including pregnant women, the elderly, and young children, have been put into labor camps; and thousands have been detained and severely tortured with nerve-damaging drugs in mental hospitals. Thousands have died in custody, while countless others are still unaccounted for. The scope and severity of the atrocities are difficult to fathom.
The worst atrocities are usually those of genocide. Genocidal killings are done to physically eliminate a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, and so they generally result in a large number of deaths.
The persecution of Falun Gong by Jiang Zemin and his "610 Office" system uses a different kind, arguably a worse kind, of killing: the killing of people’s minds. Its goal is not to physically kill a large number of people, although the death toll is of no concern to the murderers. The purpose is to force a victim to choose between a physical death and a mental demise—the giving up of his will, his fundamental values, and his conscience.
Torturing to the brink of death, therefore, is a necessary ingredient of this kind of killing. The Chinese police have openly told Falun Gong practitioners, "We will make you beg for life while dying, and beg for death while living!" The only way out? To lie and say that Falun Gong has done harm to them and to society, to say Truth-Benevolence-Forbearance is evil, and to thank and applaud the government for saving them from Falun Gong. Tell lies to live, or tell the truth and die.
Due to the Chinese government’s blockage of information, we do not know how many practitioners have been tortured to death in police custody. From the over 2,600 reports we have received on the torture and deaths of the victims, we see an almost unimaginable picture of tragedy: Some died from their bodies being ripped apart by slowly pulling the limbs; some died after being locked in "water cages" and immersed in filthy water for months; some died from prolonged electric baton shocks on or in their genitals; some were frozen to death; some were burned alive. In extreme cases, an eight-month-old infant was killed with his mother, a 75-year-old grandmother was murdered, and a disabled man with a hunched back was killed when police forcefully "flattened out" his torso.
In addition to external injuries, the police also inflict internal pain through horrific force-feeding. These torturous force-feedings are not at all meant to nourish, but to cause excruciating internal pain. Policemen, guards, or convicts who are ordered to do so will jam a firm plastic tube into the victim’s nose and force it down to the stomach; sometimes it enters the lungs instead. The tube is often pulled out and re-inserted several times, causing internal bleeding. Boiling water, urine, feces, hot pepper oil, concentrated vinegar, mustard paste, and other irritating liquids are then poured through the tube. Of the known cases of killings of Falun Gong practitioners, this is by far the number one cause of death.
The mass killings of Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese authorities have been reported by many journalists and human rights organizations. For example, in a Wall Street Journal report on December 26, 2000, Mr. Ian Johnson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his series of reports on the persecution of Falun Gong, wrote:
"WEIFANG, China—Rising out of the North China Plain… this is an unremarkable Chinese city in every respect but one: local police regularly torture residents to death. Since the beginning of the year, when police killed a 58-year-old retiree, at least 10 more Weifang residents have died in police custody. Weifang, which has less than one percent of the national population, accounts for 15 percent of those deaths."
Since Mr. Johnson’s report, at least 54 additional Falun Gong practitioners have died at the hands of the Weifang police.
It is important to note that the killings carried out in Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong aim only to demolish the minds and consciences of the victims, but they also result in the moral destruction of the torturers. Deceived by the hate propaganda, driven by government instruction, encouraged by promises of impunity, and enticed by financial rewards, police carry on torture and killing completely devoid of humanity, as some openly yell at Falun Gong practitioners, "We are reincarnated little devils from hell, and we’ll beat you into hell as well."
It is a killing of conscience, indeed.
Horrific as the tortures and killings are, the most sinister aspect of the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong is the so-called "transformation"-the brainwashing of practitioners so that they go against their own wills to publicly renounce and condemn Falun Gong. For victims of the persecution, the most painful memories are invariably of "being transformed."
Mr. Zhao Ming, who suffered 22 months of torture in six different detention centers and a labor camp, wrote, "After being given electric shocks for over half an hour, a thought came to my mind, ‘That’s it. I don’t want to bear it anymore. I can disclose their crimes after I get out.’ Because of this thought, I gave in… Many fellow practitioners asked me what pained me the most in the forced labor camp. This is it… The wounds from the physical torture can heal as time passes by, but the mental pain from this persecution can haunt a person for his entire life."
Through international pressure, Zhao Ming was freed and allowed to continue his studies at Trinity College in Ireland. He recalled, "I stepped out of the labor camp without any happiness, hope, or relief, because my spirit had been murdered."
Another Falun Gong practitioner wrote about her haunting experience: "On October 10, 2000, I had reached my limit of enduring the torture, and was forced to write the pledge to never again practice Falun Gong. The hurt is beyond description. At that moment I felt that my whole life, all the essence of my being—everything—had just vanished from me, and all I had left was an empty shell. I mumbled incessantly: ‘I am transformed, I am transformed, I am…’ Two years have passed, but I still have not completely walked out from the shadow and shame of being forced to betray my beliefs and barter away my own principles. From my own personal experience, I can attest to how those who are forced to ‘transform’ have been tortured beyond the limits of what any person can bear."
The "transformation" process embodies and distills all of the sinister nature of the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong. To force Falun Gong practitioners to give in, the police spare no trickery or coercion. They bring in practitioners’ families to beg them to give in and "go home"; they torture one practitioner until others submit; they even plead with practitioners that they be "sympathetic" to the officers’ "hard work." To soften a practitioner’s resolve, one police officer will inflict savage beatings and another will act sympathetic. Once the "tender" approach fails, the police do not hesitate to resort to torture. They even use nerve-damaging drugs to subdue practitioners and then press their fingerprints onto prepared "pledge letters."
Many "transformed" practitioners have suffered further humiliation from being forced to read their "pledge letters" to brainwashing classes or on publicly broadcast radio or television programs. To show that they are "sincere" in their "transformation," some practitioners have been forced to assist the police in coercing their fellow practitioners to "transform": to use their own experiences of "being saved by the government" to persuade other practitioners, to curse others as they have been cursed before, and to use on others the torture devices that they have been subjected to. In this way, they "show in action" that they have "completely broken away from Truth-Benevolence-Forbearance."
One can only guess at the guilt, shame, and self-loathing that "transformed" practitioners have endured. What helps them to recover, in the end, is Falun Gong. Mr. Chen Gang’s experience is typical: "When I was in desperation, it was again Falun Gong that lifted me up. No matter how much I felt like a damaged lonely boat striking out in the storm, I felt that I still had a pure and harmonious space inside my heart, the perfect harmony and serenity that I had experienced, and the pure land of Truth-Benevolence-Forbearance… Gradually, I found my self-confidence and my direction, and recovered my serenity and caring state."
Coercion cannot change one’s heart. Since 2001, over 270,000 Falun Gong practitioners have sent their "solemn declarations" to be posted on the Clearwisdom website, a site created by overseas Falun Gong practitioners. These solemn declarations are practitioners’ avowals that whatever they said or did under duress and deception that was against Falun Gong is null and void, and that they will resolutely continue to practice Falun Gong.
A Staged Self-Immolation and the Deception of World Opinion
At the same time as the violent persecution, Jiang’s regime also launched a far-reaching campaign of disinformation to justify its persecution and to escape world condemnation. State-run media flooded the printing presses and airwaves with fabrications about Mr. Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong. As with all lies, the propaganda faied miserably in the details. For example, the Chinese government made up claims that the practice of Falun Gong caused 1,400 people to die or to become insane. This number, even if assumed to be true, divided by 100 million practitioners, would be many orders of magnitude below the national average. In another example, the Chinese government claimed that Mr. Li Hongzhi had falsified his date of birth, and even produced a "hospital record" to prove that his mother was treated with oxytocin in 1952, before his birth. Oxytocin, however, was not to be identified until 1953.
In early 2001, the authorities attempted an outrageous stunt: a staged self-immolation of five people in Tiananmen Square. No less devious than Nero’s shift of blame for the Great Fire of Rome to Christians, the state-run media alleged that the immolators were Falun Gong practitioners and incited hatred in society toward Falun Gong. This staged self-immolation, however, has been analyzed by neutral reporters and by careful observers of the same videotape that was published by the Chinese government. There were many holes in the story, as well as contradictions and inconsistencies:
• An investigative story published by the Washington Post reported that no one had ever seen Ms. Liu Chunling, one of the "immolators," practice Falun Gong.
• Police were mysteriously patrolling Tiananmen Square with dozens of pieces of firefighting equipment that day.
• Liu Siying, the 12-year-old girl "immolator," was purported to have had a tracheotomy, but spoke and sang clearly to the interviewing camera, a medical impossibility.
• Ms. Hao Huijun, another "immolator," was reported to have graduated from Henan Music College in 1974. That college’s own website reveals that it did not admit students between 1962 and 1984.
• Mr. Wang Jindong was shown to have been badly burned; hair burns and plastic melts extremely rapidly; however, his hair and the plastic 7-UP bottle that he had "used to dowse gasoline" remained miraculously intact.
These holes prompted International Education Development, a United Nations NGO, to issue the following statement during the 2001 session of the U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights: "The regime points to a supposed self-immolation incident in Tiananmen Square on January 23, 2001, as proof that Falun Gong is an ‘evil cult.’ However, we have obtained a video of that incident that in our view proves that this event was staged by the government."
The Chinese Government’s Global Coercion of Conscience
In addition to deceit, the Chinese government has also repeatedly made threats of economic sanctions against countries, states, cities, and businesses that dare to criticize its persecution of Falun Gong. This creates a fear, a fear of being left out of some economic gain, a fear of speaking for conscience. With this tactic, the Chinese government has induced several major Western news media corporations to apply self-censorship in reporting China’s human rights violations, forced cities in a number of countries to rescind their moral support for the victims, and even coerced some democratic governments to stifle the voices of Falun Gong practitioners. In France, Germany, Iceland, Russia, Ukraine, Thailand, and a few other countries, there have been cases in which local police forces were pressured into arbitrary and wrongful detention of Falun Gong practitioners who were merely exercising their rights of peaceful demonstration.
The Chinese agencies, however, do not stop at blackmail. Canadian Member of Parliament Rob Anders had the following to say about being physically assaulted by Chinese diplomats in February 2000:
"I wore [a T-shirt that talked about Falun Gong] out to a function that was being hosted by the People’s Republic’s Embassy here, in this building [Parliament]. I stood at the back of the room, and then all of a sudden I had four or five men surround me and start to harass me, and point fingers, and jostle me physically, saying that I had to leave, that I wasn’t welcome, go home, you know, cowboy, you don’t know what you’re doing… and what crossed my mind immediately was four or five people that comprise a gang on behalf of the People’s Republic of China think they can get away with doing that to me as a Member of Parliament, on Canadian soil, in my place of work, in the House of Commons—can you imagine what they’re doing to people back home in their own country? It was absolutely over the top! And then when a media reporter came over with his camera, they started to grab his camera, they tried to force it down to the ground, they told him to go away… They were issuing orders to a member of the free press here in Canada. … It was absolutely outrageous. And it just proved what Falun Dafa is up against. … We’re at a very critical moment. If we don’t take a stand now, history will look back at us and sigh."
Similar incidents of intimidation and assault have also happened in the United States, Iceland, Germany, Australia, Russia, Romania, Thailand, Cambodia, Hong Kong, and many more. Simply put, the Chinese regime has exported its persecution to the world as a global campaign of evil against conscience.
Murder Attempt on Falun Gong Practitioners in South Africa
On June 28, 2004, at around 8:30 p.m., five Falun Gong practitioners were driving from Johannesburg International Airport to Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, when a white car came up from behind and opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle. The practitioners tried to change their speed to dodge the attack, but the assassins kept speed with them and continued to shoot. The practitioners’ car and driver were hit and forced off the road; the injured driver managed to stop in a field. The gunmen stopped and watched for a few seconds, then fled the scene.
This shooting was by no means a simple homicide attempt. The victims were among the group of nine Falun Gong practitioners from Australia who were there to file a lawsuit—charging China’s Vice President, Zeng Qinghong, and Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai, who were visiting South Africa from June 27 to June 29—with torture, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Even before they left Australia, one of them had received two threatening phone calls. When they arrived in Johannesburg International Airport, they noticed a suspicious-looking man following and watching them. In addition, Mr. David Liang, the driver who was shot, was wearing a Falun Gong jacket. The South African police noted that the shooting site was not a high-crime area. The gunmen obviously did not want to rob the practitioners. These factors point toward a political motive for this shooting.
A hasty statement on June 30 by China’s Embassy in South Africa only adds to the suspicion. As the representative of Chinese nationals in South Africa, the embassy showed no sympathy toward Mr. Liang, who suffered gunshot wounds in both feet and bone fractures in the right foot. On the contrary, the embassy claimed that the incident was a Falun Gong conspiracy, and warned the international media not to make any "irresponsible report about the incident."
This shooting was by no means an isolated attack on Falun Gong practitioners. To stifle overseas Falun Gong practitioners’ efforts to reveal the brutality in China, agents of the Chinese government have resorted to violence and hate crimes to intimidate Falun Gong practitioners. In the United States alone, there have been multiple incidents of physical assault on Falun Gong practitioners by Chinese nationals with close ties to the Chinese consulates in Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City. In response to these blatant infringements of civil rights, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 304) on October 4, 2004, calling on China to immediately stop persecuting Falun Gong inside and outside China.
The Struggle Between Truth and Lies
On March 5, 2002, at around 8 p.m., eight channels of the local cable TV system in the city of Changchun simultaneously broadcast documentary films showing the spread of Falun Gong around the world, the Chinese government’s violent persecution of Falun Gong, and the staged self-immolation in Tiananmen Square. The broadcast lasted more than 50 minutes. The shockwave spread quickly and far beyond Changchun; by the next day, people in other regions had begun to whisper to each other, "The self-immolation is a hoax!"
The broadcast was the first-ever showing of dissenting messages from any persecuted group via state-controlled media in the entire history of communist China. The magnanimous act is not only another demonstration of Falun Gong practitioners’ courage, but also represents their deepening understanding of the nature of the persecution and their benevolence toward the general public, which is under the control of the lies of Jiang’s regime.
At the beginning of the persecution, the trusting Falun Gong practitioners believed that the persecution must have been the result of the leadership being misinformed and misled by a few who hated Falun Gong, so they went to Beijing in large numbers or wrote to the government to plead their case. At the same time, they peacefully endured the ill-treatment from the police, and calmly told them "We don’t hate you for not understanding us," and "If our sufferance can deflate some of your hatred toward Falun Gong, I am willing." Their forbearance has moved many Chinese people, including even the policemen.
Because there are so many Falun Gong practitioners, and because they are very self-disciplined and totally peaceful, it was difficult for their neighbors, colleagues, families, and friends to turn against them. The staged self-immolation, however, had the nation deceived. As reported by a Washington Post article on August 5, 2001, "The self-immolation of five purported [practitioners] in Tiananmen Square on January 23 was a turning point. A 12-year-old girl and her mother died, and the Party made the incident the centerpiece of its campaign to discredit Falun Gong. By repeatedly broadcasting images of the girl’s burning body and interviews with the others saying they believed self-immolation would lead them to paradise, the government convinced many Chinese that Falun Gong was an ‘evil cult.’"
Many misinformed people began to assist in the government’s persecution, or even directly participate in the abuse and beatings. Policemen were even more affected. Consumed by the hate propaganda, some intensified their torture and killing of Falun Gong practitioners, claiming, "We will kill you and set your body on fire as self-immolation!"
There is no question that these are criminal acts, and it is easy to hate back. However, to Falun Gong practitioners, their violators are also victims of the Chinese government’s persecution, and they should be given the opportunity to awaken. With great benevolence, Falun Gong practitioners take great risks to tell the facts to their torturers, to their misinformed classmates, and to the general public, so as to wake them up from a persecution that is completely based on lies. They mass-mail letters to police stations, they pass out flyers in supermarkets, they distribute VCDs to mailboxes, they post articles on the Internet, etc. In the Chinese language, this is called "clarifying the truth."
Their truth clarification is powerful. There are numerous stories of policemen changing their attitude toward practitioners, cellmates of practitioners learning Falun Gong, strangers protecting practitioners, and prejudiced family members helping to clarify the truth. There are even people in charge of "610 Offices" who have become Falun Gong practitioners.
To Jiang Zemin, truth is disastrous. Upon learning of the Changchun broadcast of Falun Gong programs, he issued a strict order that if a similar broadcast happened again, all city officials would be fired. He also instructed the Changchun police department that all Falun Gong practitioners involved in the broadcast must be "killed without pardon." Later, Jiang instructed the "610 Offices" that any Falun Gong practitioner spotted distributing Falun Gong material can be "shot on sight."
For their benevolent spreading of the truth, Falun Gong practitioners have sacrificed enormously. In the month following the Changchun broadcast, over 5,000 practitioners were arrested in the city, and at least a dozen died during "interrogation." When the police arrested Mr. Liu Chengjun, the organizer of the broadcast, they fired two shots into his leg even after he was handcuffed and shackled. Mr. Liu died on the night of Christmas 2003, after enduring over one year of extreme torture.
However, truth is invincible. After the Changchun broadcast, many similar broadcasts followed in other cities. Every hour, in every corner in China, numerous Falun Gong practitioners are preparing and distributing truth clarification materials. They may not have comparable literary grace, but they are the living Justin Martyr, Origen, and Ignatius.
"Coming for You"
On November 20, 2001, at around 2 p.m., 36 Western practitioners from 12 countries gathered in Tiananmen Square. They sat in a meditation position, unfurled a large yellow Falun Gong banner, shut their eyes, and began their Falun Gong meditation exercise.
Within seconds, several police vans rushed over and surrounded the group, and officers began dragging, kicking, punching, and pushing the practitioners into the vans. In response, they started to shout in Chinese: "Falun Gong is good!"
These 36 foreigners were the first of many foreign practitioners who traveled to China to hold peaceful appeals. Like their fellow practitioners in China, they wanted to let the Chinese people know the truth. In their own countries, they often pass out flyers to Chinese tourists who are surprised to learn that, contrary to what the Chinese government had led them to believe, Falun Gong is not banned in other countries. Sometimes they engage Chinese tourists in conversation and discover just how misinformed they are about Falun Gong. To let more Chinese people know the truth, they decided to go to China.
To date, hundreds of practitioners from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Poland, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and several other countries have traveled to China, as the words of their song say, "Facing violence and danger, again and again I come for you; I come with love for you…"
For their love of a traditional Chinese practice, for their benevolence to the Chinese people, they were arrested, mistreated, and deported; many were beaten, some severely. While most were arrested in Tiananmen Square, many were abducted while walking on the street or taken from their hotel rooms. While in detention, they were not allowed to contact their families or their embassies. They were interrogated and intimidated, and most had their valuable belongings stolen by the police. When they cited international standards for the treatment of foreign nationals, the police simply stated, "This is China."
If the Chinese policemen have no inhibition in beating foreigners, knowing that they are to be deported within hours, what would they not do to Chinese Falun Gong practitioners, whom they can incarcerate indefinitely?
Falun Gong Practitioners’ Quest for Justice
When Jiang Zemin launched the persecution against Falun Gong, he was counting on a quick kill. The state-run media publicly announced that the government would "completely solve the Falun Gong problem" in three months, and Jiang himself confidently proclaimed, "I don’t believe I cannot conquer Falun Gong."
As the struggle between truth and lies, love and hate, peace and violence unfolds, as it becomes more and more clear that Jiang will never succeed in his campaign to eradicate Falun Gong, the contrast between courage and cowardice also starts to show. In July 2001, during Jiang Zemin’s visit to Malta, a Chinese woman walked up to him and asked him to stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. In April 2002, when Jiang visited Germany, a white male greeted him in Chinese, and then said "Falun Dafa is good" in Chinese. Fearing to see more protests from Falun Gong practitioners, Jiang demanded that his foreign hosts take drastic measures to ensure that he would see no more Falun Gong practitioners. As a result, during many state visits, Jiang’s motorcade dared not use the front gates of hotels or restaurants, but instead used back doors or underground tunnels.
Jiang, however, has more than protests to run from. With the help of many prominent human rights lawyers, Falun Gong practitioners around the world have filed dozens of lawsuits against him and his accomplices for genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture, making Jiang the only dictator in history to be sued in over a dozen countries. As more and more shocking facts of the Jiang regime’s hate incitement, state terrorism, violence, and cruelty are revealed, the day of a new Nuremberg trial for the regime’s crimes against conscience is bound to come.
The Persecution still Continues
The persecution of Falun Gong is still ongoing in China and the death toll rises daily. The death of Ms. Gao Rongrong is a recent example of the severity of the persecution. On May 7, 2004, two policemen at Longshan Labor Camp handcuffed Ms. Gao to a heating pipe, used three electric batons to shock her face for seven hours, and disfigured her. In July 2004, Falun Gong practitioners in China sent photos of Ms. Gao overseas to expose the barbarity. On October 5, 2004, Ms. Gao, with the help of fellow Falun Gong practitioners, escaped from police custody. This shocked the Chinese authorities. Luo Gan instructed that the exposure of Ms. Gao’s pictures and her escape "have grave international repercussions" and must be "handled well." The Ministry of Public Security set recapturing Ms. Gao as a top priority. The authorities even used public radio to solicit information to aid their search. On March 6, 2005, the police captured Ms. Gao and those who had helped her. The Chinese government could not let Ms. Gao live and be evidence of its barbarity. Her parents tried for several months to locate her, but were given the runaround. Not until June 12, 2005, when Ms. Gao had lost consciousness and was on the verge of death, were her parents notified to see her in an emergency room in a hospital. Even in her parents’ presence, the police repeatedly asked the doctors, "When will she die?"
Ms. Gao died on June 16, 2005, at the age of 37. She was the 2,583rd Falun Gong practitioner confirmed to have died as a result of the persecution.
These people could have stayed alive if they had agree