Switzerland: Commemorating April 25 Appeal and Raising Awareness of Persecution in China by Lake Geneva

Falun Gong practitioners in the French-speaking region of western Switzerland held an event on April 25 to commemorate a peaceful appeal in Beijing 22 years ago and expose the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of Falun Gong since July 1999. They also explained to passersby what Falun Gong is.

By Lake Geneva, the largest Alpine lake in Europe and headquarters of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), the practitioners displayed banners and posters, and set up tables for a signature drive.

The peaceful appeal that took place in Beijing 22 years ago stemmed from the arrest of dozens of practitioners in nearby Tianjin on April 23-24, 1999. When Tianjin practitioners sought the release of the detained practitioners, they were told that the arrest order came from Beijing, and that they should to appeal in Beijing to get the practitioners released.

About 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners peacefully appealed outside the State Council’s Appeals Office on April 25, 1999. The appeal was calm and peaceful, with the practitioners asking for the release of the Tianjin practitioners and an environment to practice their faith without retaliation from the government. This appeal set a precedent for ordinary citizens to have peaceful dialog with authorities. It also brought Falun Gong to the attention of the international community.

Although then premier Zhu Rongji talked to a few practitioner representatives and ordered the release of the detained practitioners, Jiang Zemin, then CCP leader, ordered a nationwide campaign against Falun Gong in July 1999. A large number of practitioners have been arrested, detained, and tortured in the past 22 years.

 
Group exercises and banners by Lake Geneva from Falun Gong practitioners on April 25, 2021

Because April 25, 2021 was a Sunday with nice weather near Lake Geneva, many locals and tourists were at the lake. Next to the exercise demo, practitioners distributed flyers to passersby and told them about the ongoing suppression of Falun Gong in China.

Many people were drawn to the group exercises and banners. Some tourists came up to ask questions, and some picked up materials to read. They wondered what Falun Gong was and expressed sympathy to the practitioners after learning of the CCP’s persecution. “Freedom of belief should be protected everywhere,” one of them commented, “the CCP is really vicious for persecuting innocent people.” Some tourists also signed petitions calling to stop the persecution in China.

 
One passerby signed a petition urging a stop to the persecution in China.

Due to the pandemic, local practitioners had to temporarily cancel group exercises at a local park. A practitioner once received a phone call from a young woman asking why she could not find the group practice site. She said she had read information about Falun Gong and really agreed with the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. That is why she wanted to practice it too.

The practitioner explained the reason for the pause at the exercise site and invited her to join the April 25 event by the lake. The young woman initially said she had other commitments, but she unexpectedly showed up. She learned the exercises and joined the demonstration of exercises together with practitioners at the event.

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