On June 13th, 2005, the Italian national newspaper “Unità” published an article by journalist Flaminia Lubin on the persecution of Falun Gong, the article has been summarised as follows:
From New York to Taiwan, they tell people about the persecution of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong. It all started because the former Chinese president Jiang Zemin declared that the practice threatened the stability of the country.
I was taking a walk in New York City. On the corner of Fifth Avenue near Central Station, many Chinese were giving out fliers to passers-by and telling their stories. They seemed very concerned and needed help. The fliers they gave out described the gross human rights abuses currently happening in China. I spoke to them to find out more. These Chinese people then started recounting to me the tragedies that happened.
They said the government in Beijing persecuted a spiritual practice called Falun Gong. The practice was founded by Mr. Li Hongzhi and was made available to the public in 1992. Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a high level cultivation practice of the body and mind. In a short period of several years, it has spread widely among the population. In 1999, however, the former Chinese president Jiang Zemin declared Falun Gong a threat to the stability of the country and started the brutal persecution of its practitioners and promoters.
Falun Gong practitioners in China, however, did not succumb to the pressure and organised a peaceful demonstration outside the Chinese Communist Party’s central compound. There were thousands of practitioners. This shocked the government, because they did not expect such determination and courage from the practitioners. Out of fear, they continued the crackdown.
Chinese Falun Gong members were taken away from their homes and exercise sites in parks, and sent to prison or labour camps. It has been very difficult to expose and verify the persecution, because Falun Gong is banned in China and anyone showing support for the practice would encounter problems from the government. The Chinese living in the US, however, felt that they could expose the persecution without any fear of consequences.
A female practitioner, who had escaped from Beijing and now living in the US, had been detained, tortured and beaten because she refused to renounce her practice of Falun Gong. She is now living in Queens. She could only speak Chinese, so her friends translated for her.
“My name is Amy Lee. I had my family in Beijing and my job was a fashion designer. I’ve lost everything but I will not give up my faith in Falun Gong. My nightmare started in the same year when the persecution started. I was immediately put into prison. I was forced to watch brain-washing propaganda day and night, and was forced to listen to other inmates denouncing Falun Gong, they would say things such as ‘Falun Gong is bad, demonic, evil, deceitful and dangerous. All these efforts were to force me sign a guarantee statement to renounce the practice. Because I refused, I was sent to Chang Ping psychiatric hospital. The horrific things which took place there was beyond anyone’s imagination, they tied me to a bed with belts and tortured me; they shocked my head and body with electric batons. I would often lose consciousness, and when I woke up, I saw six inmates come in and I was tortured to the brink of death. At that point, they released me because they saw I was very feeble and thought I would die at home for sure.”
She continued, “They forced my husband to divorce me and separated me from my daughter. I then moved to another area. On the first day I was without water, electricity and heating. After a few days, I was again taken away by the police and tortured. After they released me, I began to hide. I had no home to return to and did not know where to go. Eventually, with the help of my relatives, I escaped to Hong Kong and then came to New York.”
“Why is Falun Gong so important to me? Before practicing Falun Gong, I was very sickly and I was miserable, but after doing the five sets of Falun Gong exercises, I felt full of energy, and my body and mind had become healthy. My mind was very peaceful,” she said.
International organisations had helped Amy’s daughter come to the US. They finally re-united after several years and Amy showed me the photos of her daughter and of their reunion at the airport.
Why is Falun Gong persecuted to such an extent in China? What is this practice all about? And why has it become so popular? Professor Thomas Bernstein from the East Asian College of the University of Columbia explained: “The crux of the matter is the Chinese authorities are fearful of any factor which could potentially overthrow the government. They are afraid of instability. In particular, they were afraid of Falun Gong because its practitioners came from all walks of life, even from the senior positions; they were farmers, city people, soldiers or even government officials. Therefore, it could potentially become a force which could resist and overthrow the government. Its ability to call on the members had made the government fearful.”
So I went to Taiwan, an island about 160 km east of the Chinese coast. Taiwan liked to call itself democratic and liberal, and a “good China”, outside the reign of Beijing. Here, the practice was not persecuted; instead, it was very popular. The members here were very active against the persecution.
On a Saturday morning in Taipei, on the beautiful square of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, there gathered at least seven hundred practitioners. Falun Gong members often perform the exercises for two hours in the early hours of the morning before going to work. What’s in front of me was incredible. Every practitioner was wearing a yellow track suit. Yellow is the favourite colour of the Buddhist belief and Falun Dafa is one of its eighty-four thousand schools.
We met Professor Zhang Qingxi there. Professor Zhang taught economics at the University of Taiwan and he practised Falun Gong. He told us that Falun Gong teaches the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance; Falun means “ law wheel” and Gong implies the cultivation of self. He said it is a spiritual cultivation practice, not a religion, and that the practice is very peaceful.
Zhang said, “The practice is called Falun Dafa. It is widely known as Falun Gong because when it was initially introduced in China, it took the form of a qigong practice. Essentially, Falun Dafa is Falun Gong. It is a practice of both body and mind, and the two aspects are inseparable. We nurture our mind and exercise the body, so the practice benefits us both physically and mentally. The exercises are easy to learn and perform and its healing ability is evident which makes it very popular. People are free to come and go and there are no fees involved. There is no registry of memberships. When Jiang Zemin began the persecution, there were at least one hundred million practitioners. Jiang hated the practice perhaps because there were more practitioners than the Chinese Communist Party members.”
Chen Gang was another Falun Gong practitioner from China. He was nearly tortured to death; in order to survive, he signed the guarantee statement, which said Falun Gong was not good and hence the crackdown and attempted elimination. Chen said: “I was detained at Tuanhe labour camp for 18 months. I almost died and was treated inhumanely, worse than an animal. The sole intention of the inmates was to carry out the order of the 610 Office, a government body not within the jurisdiction of the Chinese Constitution.”
He continued: “Each time an inmate ‘transformed’ a Falun Gong practitioner, he would be rewarded, the reward was about two months worth of living expenses for a family; but, if they were unable to transform any practitioner, they would be punished financially. As a result, the guards would be bent on ‘transforming’ practitioners with all means, they shocked me with electric batons, not just with one baton, but several at the same time, it felt as if you were burnt by fire. I was wounded very badly and was thrown under the bed for long periods of time. They did not let me sleep. What if the practitioners missed their families? The guards would bring in the family members, for example, the children, and asked the children to slap their parents on the face and forced them to denounce their parents: “It’s all your fault. You have caused all our miseries. You are a real criminal.” Many of my friends had died in prisons, labour camps or psychiatric hospitals. I did not stick it out and signed the guarantee statement, this had pained my heart very much.”
The Beijing government is unrelenting on the issue of Falun Gong, no one is allowed to interfere with their policy. Former US President Bill Clinton and President Bush had both condemned the persecution, but they only condemned and could not interfere with China’s national affairs. Many US politicians had worked very hard to have the international community pay attention to this issue.
In Taiwan, Theresa Chu was the practitioner responsible for exposing the persecution. She is an international human rights lawyer. She told us the death numbers of practitioners were unofficial because it was very difficult to verify the real numbers. There were, however, at least 3,000 practitioners tortured to death in China. The real number could be far more than that. This conservative figure equates to nineteen deaths per month. Many female practitioners were raped and children are also beginning to be subjected to torture and murder also.
Ms Chu said: “The lawsuit filed by Falun Gong against the Chinese Communist Party is the largest human rights lawsuit in history. There are currently lawsuits in fourteen countries. As long as the persecution exists, we will continue our resistance. The international community cannot keep quiet about this. Every year, many renowned human rights organisations publish documents to expose these acts of terrorism. The Chinese Communist Party wants to eradicate Falun Gong and they have carried out verifiable acts of criminal genocide.”
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