Just before the world entered the new millennium, on July 20, 1999, an event that culminated in a tragic and severe human rights crisis happened in China. A spiritual practice that at least 70 million Chinese people had taken up was suddenly outlawed, and its adherents were thrown into prisons. The entire State machinery was mobilized to eradicate it. Nearly twenty years since the start of this persecution, the practice has spread around the globe, and continues to peacefully resist despite severe persecution, making humanity a witness to the triumph of goodness.
Video: Why is the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong a failure?
This story has two incumbents, i.e. the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the spiritual practice of Falun Gong. The former, a political regime that’s condemned by the entire world for its mass human rights violations and its authoritarian rule, and the latter, a spiritual practice which cultivates truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and practices five slow-moving meditative exercises.
The former persecutes. The latter non-violently stands firm, reminding humanity of the principles that leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela lived by.
The CCP and its history of blood and lies
“The 55-year history of the CCP is written with blood and lies. The stories behind this bloody history are both extremely tragic and rarely known. Under the rule of the CCP, 60 to 80 million innocent Chinese people have been killed, leaving their broken families behind. Many people wonder why the CCP kills,” says the foreword of the seventh commentary of the series ‘Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party’ published by The Epoch Times.
One of the CCP’s worst massacres was known as the Cultural Revolution. Launched in 1966, it was “one of the bloodiest eras in Chinese history… in which as many as two million people died,” reported the Guardian.
“The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was a decade-long period of political and social chaos caused by Mao Zedong’s bid to use the Chinese masses to reassert his control over the Communist party,” the report said.
It’s ironic that in an official party reckoning the CCP actually calls the Cultural Revolution a catastrophe. “The most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the party, the country, and the people since the founding of the People’s Republic,” the Guardian highlighted.
According to the Nine Commentaries, the CCP’s crimes are not restricted to the cultural revolution. The CCP has killed innocent Chinese people throughout continuous massacres such as the Anti-Bolshevik Corps, or the AB Corps (1930), Yan’an Rectification (1942-1945), Land Reform–Eliminating the Landlord Class (1950-1953), “partnership” of public and private enterprises (1954-1957), the anti-rightist movement (1957), the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Tiananmen Square massacre (1989), and most recently, the persecution of Falun Gong (1999-Present).
The Story Behind Falun Gong?
The spiritual practice Falun Gong, originated in China in the year 1992. An article in New Statesman by Leeshai Lemish mentioned how Falun Gong quickly grew in popularity through word of mouth after it was introduced to the public by Master Li Hongzhi. The practice emphasized not on healing or supernormal abilities but on cultivating oneself towards goodness for spiritual perfection.
“Throughout the early and mid-1990s, Falun Gong, its practitioners, and its founder were often the subjects of awards, positive media coverage, and government support. From 1992 to 1994, Mr. Li toured the country giving lectures and seminars to introduce the practice under the state-run qigong association. State media reports from that period, praise the benefits of the Falun Gong spiritual practice and show Falun Gong practitioners receiving ‘Healthy Citizen Awards.’ In an occurrence almost unimaginable today, Mr. Li gave a lecture at the Chinese embassy in Paris in 1995, at the government’s invitation,” said a testimony on the Freedom House website.
However, just a few years later when the practice was at its peak of popularity, it became the CCP’s public enemy number one. On July 20, 1999, CCP leader Jiang Zemin ordered the regime to, within three months, eradicate Falun Gong. Jiang issued three policies “to ruin [Falun Gong practitioners’] reputations, bankrupt [them] financially, and destroy [them] physically”, a suppression campaign subsequently went into full operation, including defamatory propaganda, arrest, torture, and killing, according to the Epoch Times.
As the CCP faced international criticism and domestic sympathy for Falun Gong, it utilized its entire PR apparatus to rationalize its campaign. “It has claimed Falun Gong is a menace to society – a superstitious, foreign-driven, tightly organized, dangerous group of meditators. State-run media tell gruesome stories of mutilation and suicide, but outsiders aren’t allowed to examine them. When investigators somehow manage to scrutinize such cases, they find stories of individuals who don’t exist and crimes committed by people who have nothing to do with Falun Gong. Human Rights Watch simply calls the official claims bogus,” said Lemish, who traveled around the world to interview Falun Gong practitioners and labor camp survivors.
A very recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes how the Chinese regime classifies many religions outside its control as evil cults. “Falun Gong, a meditation-focused spiritual group banned since July 1999, continues to suffer state persecution,” the HRW report tiled ‘China Events of 2016’ said.
The real reason behind CCP persecuting Falun Gong
According to the Freedom House testimony the answer behind Falun Gong’s persecution lies in a ‘combination of ideological fears, institutional factors, and an individual leader’s fateful decision’.
On April 25, 1999, 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered at Zhongnanhai, the political heart of Beijing to protest against the arrest and beating of practitioners in Tianjin. New Statesman reports this incidence to have startled CCP’s leadership and triggered the oppression that followed.
“The incident was pivotal, but for different reasons. That April day, Premier Zhu Rongji engaged members of the gathered group and listened to their grievances. Those arrested were released. Practitioners who were there told me they had felt elated about the open communication between the government and its people,” said Lemish.
“But that night, then Chairman Jiang Zemin rebuffed Zhu’s conciliatory stance. He labelled Falun Gong a threat to the Party and said it would be an international loss of face if Falun Gong were not immediately crushed. Indeed, many experts attribute the campaign to Jiang’s obsession with Falun Gong as much as any other factor,” continued Lemish.
Jiang and the other party hardliners were scared of the cross-strata popularity of Falun Gong. The practitioners included factory workers, farmers, university professor and students and even senior cadres’ wives. “Senior cadres had their own little group in central Beijing,” Lemish said.
The same fear was behind the ban on Zhuan Falun, the main text of Falun Gong. New Statesman article said, “This fear of Falun Gong’s popularity explains why its main text, Zhuan Falun, was banned from publication weeks after becoming a bestseller in 1996. And why, when a government report estimated there were more Falun Gong practitioners (70 million plus) than Party members, security agents began interrupting exercise sessions.”
Gory details of human rights violations
According to a report by the Epoch Times, to date, more than 4,236 Falun Gong practitioners are confirmed to have been killed through torture and abuse. Death toll is likely to be higher as estimated by Human Rights advocates and specialists, but corroboration of any number is difficult in the current situation as access to information in China is scarce.
Investigators say that there are larger unknown number of Falun Gong practitioners who have been killed for their organs and bodies. Many continue to languish in prisons and may get killed any time.
As per the U.S. State Department’s 2009 Human Rights report, some observers estimate as much as half of the inmates in China’s forced-labor camps were Falun Gong practitioners, who were subjected to torture and abuse.
In 2016, a prominent Canadian Human Rights lawyer David Matas, testified at a joint subcommittee hearing of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. on June 23. “There is compelling evidence that practitioners of Falun Gong are killed for both plastination and organ sourcing,” he said. Plastination is an anatomy technique where decomposable body tissues are replaced by plastics and converted into specimen. Plastination like organ trade is a multi-million industry in the world today.
Also in 2016, Matas along with China author and investigative journalist, Ethan Gutmann and, David Kilgour who is former prosecutor and Canadian secretary of state for Asia-Pacific produced a 600-page report on organ harvest in China that alleges large scale forced organ harvest from prisoners of conscience in China, particularly from Falun Gong practitioners.
“The Chinese claim 10,000 transplants a year. We actually counted up all the hospitals which are doing transplants and you can even do this calculation for yourself. But even just looking at the 146 hospitals that are transplant centers authorized by the Ministry of Health, you come out with something over 50,000 a year,” Gutmann said in an interview with ABC explaining the statistics that go behind his investigation.
Gutmann for his work was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 and the two Davids were nominated for the same award in 2010.
Support by world leaders
On June 13, 2016, the US House Resolution 343 (H.Res.343) was passed by unanimous consent, joining other US federal bodies, state governments and individual legislators in addressing the issue of forced organ harvesting in China.
The house resolution expressed concern regarding “persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups”.
According to Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvest (DAFOH), in her comments before H.Res.343 was taken to a vote, the legislation’s initiator, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), referred to China’s killing of innocent people for profit, “a sickening and unethical practice [that] must stop.”
One of the resolution’s co-sponsors and an outspoken critic of China’s human rights abuses, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) exclaimed, “I strongly believe that the campaign to eradicate Falun Gong will be seen as one of the great horrors.”
On December 12, 2013, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the Chinese regime’s forced organ harvesting from prisoners, especially from Falun Gong prisoners of conscience, and called for a EU investigation into the practice. This action was supported by MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament, according to DAFOH.
In late 2009, based on lawsuits and a decade long campaign by Falun Gong practitioners, courts in Spain and Argentina indicted Jiang Zemin and other former Chinese officials on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Minghui, an information website run by Falun Gong practitioners references to innumerable incidences of support from governments, officials, organizations and public from around the world.
Failure of the CCP’s campaign
While the persecution of Falun Gong has happened unabated in China, the practice has persisted and continued to gain popularity around the world. More importantly, all its efforts to raise awareness have remained true to its principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance.
An article titled ‘Why China fears Falun Gong?’ on Los Angles Daily News, mentions that CCP suppression of Falun Gong has only brought its fears to life.
“Continued [People’s Republic of China] efforts to suppress serve only to spur Falun Gong to continue their own efforts. To my mind, a wiser strategy for the PRC would be to ignore Falun Gong, but the regime has never been able to adopt a tolerant attitude toward dissent of any kind,” it said.