Twenty-three years ago in China, a surprisingly peaceful and courageous protest took place by a group of people who wanted to safeguard their freedom of belief and prevent persecution by the Chinese regime.
On April 25, 1999, about 10,000 people demonstrated peacefully near the Zhongnanhai government compound in Beijing. These people were all practitioners of the Falun Gong discipline, also known as Falun Dafa.
Falun Gong is an ancient spiritual practice of the Buddha school, based on the principles of Truth, Benevolence, and Tolerance, which gained rapid popularity in China when it began to spread in 1992.
In a context where the atheism imposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) emptied the Chinese people of spiritual values, the teachings of Falun Gong were well received. An estimated 100 million people were practicing the discipline in China within just a few years.
The discipline teaches four gentle exercises and a meditation that improves physical fitness. As a result, crowds could be seen practicing it in parks.
According to Minghui.org, the CCP had started harassing practitioners long before through the Public Security Bureau.
Luo Gan, who was then head of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC), looked for excuses to ban Falun Gong since 1997 but did not succeed until April 1999, the day of the appeal.
The practitioners gathered in Zhongnanhai spontaneously, without banners, in a quiet and orderly manner, so much so that the world media highlighted this.
The reason they gathered outside the central appeals office in Beijing was to petition the ruling Chinese Communist Party for three things:
- To grant Falun Gong legal status as a non-political spiritual practice.
- To allow the publication of the books of Falun Gong’s founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi.
- To release 45 practitioners who had been arrested the previous day in Tianjin.
These arrests occurred because these individuals had requested the retraction of a scientific article that defamed the discipline with misinformation and advised against its practice by young people.
The article was written by Luo’s brother-in-law, He Zuoxiu, a scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a close supporter of the Chinese Communist Party. It was published in the science magazine “Youth Reader of the Tianjin College of Education” of the Tianjin College of Education, on April 11, 1999, and replicated by the Chinese capital’s television network.
How the appeal unfolded
According to the Minghui website, on that day, authorities called several Falun Gong representatives to meet with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji. The practitioners’ requests had been heard, and that night those arrested in Tianjin were released, so everyone returned home.
But for many, Beijing’s appeal was the trigger for the Chinese Communist Party to justify unprecedented persecution. What appeared to have been settled was an ambush by the regime on peaceful practitioners.
According to various sources within the Chinese regime, in the months following the April 25 demonstration, a fierce political struggle took place between factions within the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) amid jockeying for power.
While some members of the regime did not see Falun Gong as a threat, and many even benefited from the practice themselves, Jiang Zemin, who was the leader of the CCP at the time, did not think so. So he gave the order to suppress Falun Gong.
Three months after the massive peaceful demonstration, in July 1999, Jiang formally ordered a crackdown on Falun Gong, calling it a political threat because it had “surrounded” the seat of government on appeal.
The misrepresentation of what happened on April 25, exacerbated by the regime’s heavy-handed smear campaign, led people both inside and outside China to view the CCP’s persecution not as a violent crackdown on a religious minority but as a political struggle by the Falun Gong against the CCP.
Unfortunately, the international media at the time replicated the misrepresented version of the CCP.
Regarding this, journalist and writer on China affairs Ethan Gutmann said: “Because the Western media knows so little about Falun Gong, this fiction survives in the stories about April 25.”
But more than 20 years later, more and more people, both inside and outside China, have come to understand the truth.
Why do we speak of an unprecedented bloody persecution?
Because it includes the deaths of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, who since the beginning of this infamous persecution have been imprisoned and tortured in concentration camps, where their organs are also harvested to be sold at exorbitant prices in the transplant trade.
David Matas, a renowned Canadian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, called this “an evil never before seen on this planet”.
The perpetrators are Chinese Communist Party officials, acting in collaboration with surgeons, prison authorities and army officers.
The China Tribunal, an independent court based in the United Kingdom, has estimated the chilling figure of 1.5 million killed for their organs in China, over the past two decades.
According to an NBC report published in 2019, the China Trunibal indicated that the majority were Falun Dafa practitioners, but that it was possible that Uighur Muslims, an ethnic minority currently detained in large numbers in the Xinjiang area, were also being killed for their organs.
While in 2006, the recently deceased lawyer, David Kilgour, published the report “Bloody Harvest”, together with David Matas, where he also gathered sufficient evidence proving forced organ harvesting.
The United States also raised strong voices to condemn the abuses and call on the communist regime to end the persecution.
The Georgia State Senate, Missouri State Senate, Arizona State Congress and Canadian Senate passed resolutions or legislation to condemn forced organ harvesting in China.
In its 2019 annual report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), indicated that China was listed as one of the countries of particular concern.
“While in detention, Falun Dafa practitioners suffer psychiatric and other medical experiments, unnecessary medical tests, sexual assault, violence, torture, and organ removal, often as efforts to force them to renounce their faith,” the report said.
Falun Gong practitioners’ faith is unwavering
Falun Dafa was first introduced to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi in Changchun, China, in 1992. Since then, its profound teachings have changed the lives of millions of people in China and around the world.
Twenty-three years after the persecution began, and although Jiang Zeming’s hate propaganda policy against practitioners, which includes the order “to ruin their reputation, ruin them financially and destroy them physically,” continues to this day, he has not achieved his goal of eliminating Falun Gong.
No form of torture used in prisons, forced labor camps, and brainwashing centers has been able to change their hearts of compassion.
Year after year, they continue to tell the public why the persecution is wrong and ask people to help stop it.
The practitioners have not wavered in their firm belief and it is stirring the world.