Twenty-two years ago, about 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners staged a peaceful appeal outside the State Council’s Appeals Office in Beijing on April 25, 1999, requesting the release of dozens of practitioners arrested in Tianjin for the previous two days (April 23-24), and calling for an environment where Falun Gong could be freely practiced and its books published.
What motivated the April 25 Appeal was an incident that happened in nearby Tianjin. On April 11, 1999, He Zuoxiu, an academician from Chinese Academy of Science, published an article in Science Review of Juvenile (a journal published by Tianjin University's College of Education) titled “I Do Not Approve of Youths' Practice of Falun Gong.” In the article, he repeated some defamatory propaganda made by Beijing Television Station in 1998, which had proven to be falsified.
To stop the misinformation from further spreading, some Tianjin practitioners, myself included, visited Tianjin University's College of Education (TUCOE) between April 18 and 24, 1999. Although the College of Education was initially supportive of us, Tianjin police dispatched over 300 riot police officers between April 23 and 24 and arrested 45 practitioners, some of whom were also injured during the arrest. I witnessed the entire process.
An Article with False Charges
Four other practitioners and I went to TUCOE on April 19, 1999. After we got there at 9 a.m., a receptionist led us to a meeting room to wait. After about 10 minutes, two officials came and we began to talk. One practitioner explained why we came. Two other practitioners discussed the physical and spiritual benefits of Falun Gong they had received. I mainly shared the story of my daughter.
My daughter had a cold years before. It was not treated in time and turned into carditis. She could not participate in sports and was excused from taking gym class. Every time when catching a cold, her carditis would come back. Seeing me practicing Falun Gong, she was curious and asked, “Mommy, can I do that with you?" "Sure! I replied.”
Not long after that, her carditis recovered and she was able to join other students for physical exercise. Not only that, her chest congestion and other problem associated with carditis also disappeared. She was so healthy that she was totally fine when half of her class came down with the flu later.
Health improvement was only part of the benefits. As an only child and a girl, my daughter was a spoiled princess. Following Falun Gong’s principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance, however, she changed a lot. When running into conflicts with peers, she could remain calm and rational. With the money she saved, she once paid for the lunch of a student who could not afford it and helped others as well. Her generosity and friendship with others earned her trust from others, and teachers often needed her to resolve issues between students. After she talked with them and shared her own understandings, conflicts would be gone most of the time.
Because He Zuoxiu’s article in the magazine accused Falun Gong of affecting students’ schooling, one TUCOE official asked me about that. I explained that my daughter always finished homework first after getting back from school. After dinner, she would read one lecture of Zhuan Falun with me before taking a shower and going to bed. On weekends and during school breaks, we would go together joining others for group exercises in a park.
The official listened attentively. He asked my daughter’s name and which school and which class she attended. He also asked if I could bring my daughter over for him to ask some questions. I said sure and I could bring her during lunch break. Besides me, two other practitioners also had children practicing Falun Gong and they also shared their experience.
After hearing our stories, the officials were a little embarrassed about the magazine article. We asked them if an erratum could be published since the article was not factual; otherwise, such a misleading article was not good for the magazine or fair for Falun Gong.
We made three formal requests: first, the magazine publish an open apology to Falun Gong practitioners; second, the author make corrections about his accusations against Falun Gong; third, the magazine publish an article that positively reports on Falun Gong. The officials said they would make a decision after discussing our requests. I could tell they were sincere and indeed wanted to solve the problem.
After the five of us came out of the meeting, we saw that more practitioners came. They stayed on the track field but left room so that traffic would not be blocked. Some practitioners brought plastic bags to collect trash. So the ground was very clean. During rush hour, some practitioners also helped police officers to direct traffic.
Intervention by the Police
Because the school wanted to talk with my daughter, I came back with her the following day. It was Tuesday and she did not have class that afternoon. After arriving at the school, we headed to the same building we went in the day before. Immediately I could sense the situation had changed.
TUCOE is a facility for adult education and teacher training. But I noticed that many people in the hallway didn't look like teachers or practitioners. Almost all of them were males between 25 and 40 years old. They were at least 174 cm (or 5 ft 9 in) tall.
When my daughter arrived at the meeting room, there were several of those people standing outside the door. As I was about to knock on the door, one of them stopped me. Although I explained I was there for an appointment, he simply said all the staff was busy. He told me to contact the school officials by phone and drove us away.
Based on the clothing, I could tell some were riot police and some were regular police officers. When my daughter and I sat at the track field afterwards, I also saw some special forces agents walking around. In addition, there were unmarked police cars in the area.
By April 23, I heard one practitioner had been taken away near the school. When I came back home that evening, my husband said several police officers had been waiting for me for over three hours. They asked about my workplace, how long I had practiced Falun Gong, and what was my daughter’s situation. They left only minutes before I got back home.
The next day I planned to visit TUCOE again. Just as I came downstairs of my apartment building, I saw two police officers coming to my apartment unit to knock on my door. But they did not see me.
When I got to the school, I saw a lot of practitioners there already. There were also a lot of plainclothes officers. One female practitioner said she needed to go to the restroom but never returned. I learned from other practitioners that she had been taken away by two officers. By evening, the police began to clear up the area. Four officers dragged one practitioner away at a time. When one elderly lady was dragged along the ground, her back was exposed and bruised. Some male practitioners were pushed into police vans.
After clearing up the field, police shut the gate and drove away.
Tianjin City Official: You Need to Go to Beijing
After the arrests, some of us decided to contact city officials. Upon arriving at Tianjin City government, we found some practitioners were already there. We explained the situation to a security guard and he reported this to officials inside the compound.
About 20 minutes later, an official came out. He said since the police had intervened in the incident, it was beyond the authority of the city officials. When asked how to resolve this issue, he said, “You need to go to Beijing and appeal for this.”
“But Beijing is so big. Which department handles this?” one practitioner asked.
“You can go to the State Council’s Appeals Office,” he replied.
When we asked where it was, he said it was on Fuyou Street. Once we got to Beijing and asked around, we would know it, he added.
More practitioners came. We told them what we heard, and decided to go to Beijing to seek the rescue of the detained practitioners the next morning.
After leaving the Tianjin City government, a friend and I went to Wuqing District, which is closer to Beijing. After staying there for the night, we got up before 5 a.m. and began driving to Beijing. It was only 6 a.m. when we arrived at the State Council's Appeals Office. I also saw some other practitioners, some from Beijing and some from Hebei Province such as Tangshan City and Langfang City.
As there were many practitioners, we lined up outside the wall of the Appeals Office. At about 7 a.m., plainclothes police appeared. Then I heard some practitioners had also come from other cities of Hebei Province and even Shandong Province, but most of them had been blocked at the train stations and were not allowed to enter Beijing. There was also a practitioner who flew in from northeastern China but he had been blocked at the airport.
At about 10 a.m., I saw practitioners in the front were talking about something. Someone said that then-premier Zhu Rongji had come out with two staff members. He asked Falun Gong practitioners to find some representatives to come inside for a discussion.
After a while, we heard that several practitioners had gone inside to talk to Zhu.
At about 2 or 3 p.m., someone asked around if anyone came from Tianjin. I replied yes. He asked me to call Tianjin to see if those arrested practitioners had been released, as Zhu had issued an order for Tianjin authorities to release the detained practitioners. I called a few practitioners. At that time, practitioners in Tianjin were also very nervous since police were tapping their phones. As a result, many practitioners did not answer my call. I made a few phone calls and in the end was able to talk with someone. I asked him to check with others if the practitioners had been released.
About half an hour later, he called back saying the practitioners he knew had been released. Probably all of the detained practitioners had been released, he added. Dozens of practitioners had been arrested and we did not know all of them. Some practitioners had been injured and they were beaten both in the chest and back.
Officials then asked us to record the names of the wounded practitioners along with details about their injuries. Because Falun Gong has no membership, it was difficult to collect such information. After we finished verifying the required information, it was already 4 or 5 p.m.
Cleaning and Leaving the Site
At about 8 or 9 p.m., practitioners in the front spread the word that our requests had been submitted and we could leave soon. We also reminded each other to check areas around us to make sure no trash was left behind. After checking their own surroundings, some practitioners also cleaned nearby areas such as collecting cigarette butts left by police officers. When practitioners in the front did this, other practitioners also followed suit. We collected the trash in plastic bags and later put them in trash cans.
Normally whenever there was a gathering, there will be trash left behind. But when we left, there was nothing, not even scraps of paper or cigarette butts.
Twenty-two years have passed and I still remember this clearly. This shows who we are as Falun Gong practitioners.
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