The peaceful demonstration of over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing on April 25, 1999, was the beginning of 15 years of non-violent resistance to the brutal persecution of a group of people who follow the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. The event marked a turning point for participants and witnesses alike, and also made a long-lasting impact on the rest of the world.
Persecution Driven by Fear
Contrary to conventional understanding, the full-blown persecution of Falun Gong was not triggered by the April 25 peaceful demonstration. Rather, the persecution was the inevitable result of the nature of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at odds with Falun Gong's principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.
Mr. Zhong Weiguang, a Chinese scholar and author living in Germany, began researching Falun Gong after the April 25 demonstration. He first saw news of the event in newspapers in Germany.
Zhong was very impressed by the fact that over 10,000 of his fellow Chinese citizens overcame the generally pervasive fear of the regime and went to the Zhongnanhai central government compound to call for the restoration of their right to freedom of belief and practice. He found this all the more notable, given the relatively recent horror of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre.
Mr. Zhong remarked, “Over several decades, the Chinese Communist Party had not only completely shattered age-old Chinese tradition, but had ploughed it under repeatedly to reinforce the results. Against this backdrop, Falun Gong emerged! I was stunned, pleasantly surprised, but puzzled. Many overseas Chinese didn't know where [Falun Gong practitioners'] strength came from. I didn't know then that the core teaching of Falun Gong was an emphasis on Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. I later realized that such a peaceful and rational protest couldn't have been achieved if their faith was not deeply embraced by their souls.”
|Falun Gong practitioners held an orderly and peaceful demonstration in Beijing on April 25, 1999, to petition their government for a restoration of their right to practice|
Zhong added, “Falun Gong is beneficial to any society. It doesn't have any political pursuit, nor does it demand any specific form of society. Why did the CCP have to launch the persecution? It is because the CCP relies on lies and violence. In contrast, Falun Gong emphasizes Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Compassion and forbearance are intrinsically opposite to violence. The existence of Falun Gong defies the two core pillars of the CCP. Falun Gong strives for a higher moral ground, which of course would not be tolerated by the CCP.”
The Peaceful Demonstration “Was Only a Natural Response”
Mr. Shi Caidong was a PhD candidate at the China Science Academy in 1999. He was one of three Falun Gong representatives brought inside the Zhongnanhai compound when then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji invited them to sit down with him and discuss the reasons for the gathering. Mr. Shi now lives in New York.
He said, “In summary, we made three requests: To have the practitioners who were arrested in Tianjin released, to have a legitimate cultivation environment, and to lift the ban on Falun Gong books.”
Looking back on the events of April 25, 1999, Mr. Shi stated calmly, “When a person really understands the truth and can tell right from wrong and kindness from evil, his choice will not change due to pressure or personal gain. If we could go back in time, I would still step forward to safeguard the truth and fight for the right for all to be good people.”
When asked why Falun Gong has attracted so many highly educated people, Mr. Shi said he thinks that besides people's innate kindness and longing for Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, the deeper reason is that Falun Gong reveals universal truths: "I was born with the innate desire for seeking the truth. I wanted to know how and why, but there were so many puzzles that I could not find answers to. Falun Gong resolved all of my questions about life and the universe. After learning the truth, my heart became serene, calm, and joyful.
“On April 25, 1999, I did not think that I was making some sort of choice. Under the circumstance that facts were distorted and the truth was defamed, the demonstration was only a natural response.”
A Major Turning Point for Some Practitioners
Ms. Wu Yanxia, a former senior lecturer at Tianjin City Landscape School, didn't participate in the April 25 demonstration. However, the event prompted her to take a new look at her path of cultivation.
“I had cultivated for over two years by then. However, I had been a CCP member for 26 years and was severely brainwashed. Even though I knew that it was wrong that Falun Gong was mistreated, the CCP's teaching of 'align with the Party line' had such a restraint on me. Who dared to resist all those 'struggles' the CCP ran during its rule? We were all afraid of being implicated. I was so impressed that so many people dared to step forward and make a stance.
“Even though I didn't go to Beijing on April 25, 1999, the event inspired me and enabled me to break away from the CCP's spiritual shackles. I was subsequently able to safeguard Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance with dignity,” Ms. Wu added.
Ms. Jin Xiulan, who is also from Tianjin and who participated in the April 25 appeal, shared that a policeman said to her some time after the event: “You [Falun Gong practitioners] appeared from nowhere and dispersed in a short time. Even the military wouldn't be as disciplined as you were. We have all seen how good you are. When history turns a new page, I will also cultivate. April 25 will gain an important place in Chinese history.”
On April 25, 1999, Lucy Zhou was in Ottawa, Canada. She and her husband, upon hearing the news of the peaceful appeal, immediately wrote a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Canada. They have been dedicated to clarifying the facts about Falun Gong and the persecution ever since.
Prior to that day, they had never thought that they would become the target of persecution because of their belief. Ms. Zhou shared, “I have to live with principles. There has to be justice in society. The April 25 event helped me to improve from a moral standpoint. I broke away from being a selfish person to a selfless one, willing to sacrifice herself for others and the common good. How precious was that?”
Practitioners' Perseverance Inspires Chinese Society
Many may think that Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is only a slogan. Who can really sustain those principles in the face of the very real threat of imprisonment, forced labour, or even death? Yet, Falun Gong practitioners' 15-year-long peaceful resistant shows that it can be, and is, done.
Mr. Zhong Weiguang said, “Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is the core value of Falun Gong practitioners. I have observed them for a long time. Their peaceful resistance hasn't died and is still evolving. I can see more the positive impact of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and how it can fundamentally change a person.”
He concluded, “Contemporary Chinese people have lost their roots. Morality has declined rapidly, especially during the recent half-century. In the face of the brutal persecution, with the lies of the CCP, the misunderstanding and distortions, Falun Gong didn't collapse, but has spread around the world. Practitioners have filed complaints against the main perpetrators of the persecution. They empower Chinese people to attain spiritual independence by quitting the CCP and its affiliated organizations, based upon the inspiration provided in the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. This is such an innovative example of justice!”
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