On April 25, 1999, approximately 10,000 practitioners gathered quietly in Beijing to appeal to the central government for the right to practice Falun Gong. They came from all walks of life and regions of the country to ask the Chinese Communist regime to cease its escalating harassment, and ensure protection for basic human rights.
The event was the largest and most peaceful protest in modern Chinese history. Nevertheless, igniting false propaganda, the regime declared it a “siege” of the central compound, thus turning a peaceful appeal into a precipitate for brutal suppression that has continued for 14 years.
Below is the summary of the facts and importance of the April 25 peaceful appeal.
On April 23-24, 1999, police officials in Tianjin, a city near Beijing, had assaulted and arrested dozens of Falun Gong practitioners who had gathered outside a magazine office to discuss errors in a recently-published article attacking Falun Gong. As word spread of the arrests and more Falun Gong practitioners inquired with officials, they were told they had to take their appeals to Beijing.
On the following day, April 25, some 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners spontaneously gathered at the central appeals office in Beijing, as they had been instructed by Tianjin officials. The gathering was peaceful and orderly. Several Falun Gong representatives were called in to meet with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji, and members of his staff. That evening, the concerns of Falun Gong practitioners were met, the arrested practitioners in Tianjin were released, and everyone went home.
According to several sources within the Chinese government, in the months following the April 25 gathering, a fierce political struggle ensued within the top levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) brass. Then-CCP head Jiang Zemin called upon the government to "crush" Falun Gong, while other members of the Politburo saw no threat in the practice. CNN's senior analyst WIlly Lam quoted senior officials saying the suppression of Falun Gong became very "personal" for Jiang Zemin.
In July 1999, Jiang formally ordered the suppression of Falun Gong.
The April 25th gathering was quickly re-characterized not as the peaceful appeal it was, and one that in fact was coordinated by Tianjin and Beijing officials themselves, who advised practitioners to go to the Beijing appeals office, but rather as a "laying siege" to the central government compound and clear "evidence" as to how Falun Gong was a threat.
Why It Matters
The misrepresentation of April 25 as a "siege" of the central government compound politicized Falun Gong, both in China and abroad. Thus, rather than seeing the persecution as the violent suppression of a religious minority, a narrative that Falun Gong and the CCP were vying for power began to evolve. Furthermore, some China watchers in the West believed Falun Gong brought the persecution on themselves by "challenging" the government on April 25.
This narrative has eroded the enthusiasm of many would-be supporters of human and religious rights, and remains the single greatest factor in the blame-the-victim phenomena that surrounds the broader investigation of and reporting on the persecution of Falun Gong.
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