On a train to Hanover, a medium-built but energetic young man was handing leaflets to passengers about Falun Gong and the persecution in China. Glancing over the content, one passenger commented: “I know about Falun Gong. I see them every day at the Old Town Hall Square in Goettingen.” Coincidentally, the leaflet distributor came from Goettingen as well. From 2001 to 2003, several young practitioners from Goettingen demonstrated the five sets of Falun Gong exercises at the Old Town Hall Square every day. He happened to be one of them.
Their perseverance brought about a series of changes in Goettingen, including the University offering a Falun Gong course for a whole semester. Australian practitioner Zhang Cuiying held an exhibition of her paintings on the city government’s invitation, the Mayor paid attention to the persecution of Falun Gong, there was some positive media coverage and a human rights organisation with headquarters in Goettingen indicted Jiang during his visit to Germany at the Supreme Court of the Confederation.
True stories from Goettingen
Goettingen is famous not only for having one of the top ten universities in Germany, which is one the most steeped in history. Its legend also lies in its connection with the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the City Council’s statistics, since the foundation established in 1901 forty-three laureates had something to do with Goettingen. A Goettingen prize-winner can be found in every single prize category and some even won twice. This has to be a miracle in the history of the Nobel Prize. No other city in the world can rival this record.
Let’s go to the city centre
Falun Dafa is practised all over the world. Goettingen is no exception. For a few years, the weekly group practice site had been at the University gymnasium. In 2001 a few young practitioners came to Goettingen. They felt that although people could find out the time and place of practice from the gym programme, it wasn’t in the public eye enough. Falun Gong practitioners’ duty is to clarify the truth of Falun Gong’s persecution in China to the public and help people see the goodness of the practice. Therefore they decided to exercise at the city centre every afternoon.
At the centre of the square is the famous symbol of Goettingen, a statue of a girl holding a goose that dates back a few hundred years. This is the only way through the old town for daily commuters and tourists. Even doctoral students hold traditional graduation ceremonies here.
Worrying about permissions to practise initially, the practitioners went to only relatively out-of-the-way places. Later, they felt the purpose of practising outdoors is to expose the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) evil persecution of Falun Gong and further bring the magnificence of Falun Gong to everyone. That being the case, the practice site should be at the busiest place in the city centre. After realising this, they walked straight to the city centre in Old Town Hall Square. The police never had any problems with the practitioners performing the exercises in the city centre. One policeman came over once to ask where other practice sites were, saying he would like to learn in his spare time.
Nobody would have thought that they could have kept this up for nearly a year and a half until they left Goettingen one after another. During this year and a half, there was someone practising there every day, rain or shine. Sometimes there was a handful of people; sometimes just one person would start the exercises after laying out some leaflets. A Chinese youth demonstrating beautiful Falun Gong exercises and calling for the CCP to stop persecuting Falun Gong had become a permanent fixture at the Old Town Hall Square. As time went by, more and more people took notice. Even in the worst weather, people would come to say: “What is this?”, “Why does the Chinese Government persecute these peaceful practitioners?”, “Good luck!” etc. Often, as soon as passers-by raised a question, other passers-by who had already learned the truth would explain before Falun Gong practitioners could get a word in.
Goettingen forms ties with Falun Gong
On the 28th January 2002 Falun Gong practitioners successfully held a symposium together with professors from Goettingen University. Through this symposium, students gained a better understanding of Falun Gong and the CCP’s campaign of genocide against the practice. During winter term that year, Falun Gong was offered for a whole semester as one of the courses at the College of Theology.
During the annual St. Nicholas Day celebrations in 2001, Falun Gong practitioners happened to meet a person who worked for Amnesty International. Subsequently, through him, practitioners gained Amnesty International’s support in planning various joint activities, which played a positive role in exposing the evil and stopping the persecution.
On the 5th of April 2002, prior to former CCP leader Jiang Zemin’s visit to Germany, Goettingen City Council and Amnesty International jointly invited Zhang Cuiying to hold a painting exhibition and a press conference, which attracted media attention.
Vice Mayor, Wilhelm Gerhardy, commented at the press conference, “We have the special duty of drawing people’s attention to human rights abuses. Such acts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader are simply absurd against such a spiritual movement, a Buddhist school cultivation method which teaches people to follow the principles of ‘Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance’ in daily lives and improves both mind and body through five gentle exercises… Since 1999 the CCP leaders have been persecuting Falun Gong on such a large scale. What exactly are they afraid of? … Human rights and democratic systems do not come naturally. Therefore it is necessary for us to talk about values, to think about the values that drive our society, i.e. the basic rights of a democratic system. Human dignity, religious freedom, tolerance and equality are all these kind of values. ‘Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance’ as advocated by Falun Gong are also such values.”
On the 8th of April 2002, during Jiang’s visit to Germany, the Association for Threatened Peoples, a human rights organisation headquartered in Goettingen, indicted Jiang Zemin at the Supreme Court of the Confederation of Germany.
The indictment charged Jiang with four cases of persecution to death, including Falun Gong practitioners. According to the Chairperson, Mr Tilman Zulch, China repeatedly violates the anti-torture convention it signed. If one violates such convention in Germany, one will be punished by law.
On the 17th of August 2002, German Falun Gong practitioners held a series of activities with the theme “Stop the Persecution of Falun Gong Together”. Churches, the Greens, Amnesty International and the Association for Threatened Peoples were among the organisations invited to participate. This was the first time in Germany where representatives from churches and political parties gave public speeches during Falun Gong practitioners’ demonstrations. The media gave this event positive coverage.
Mr Ungerer from the Greens at the City Council said: “We cannot tolerate political persecution of a peaceful group.” He highly praised the principles of “Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance” and the magnificent feats of Falun Gong practitioners. Dr Delius from the Association for Threatened Peoples warned in his speech: “We can not turn a blind eye to the worsening of human rights conditions in China in order to gain more business from China. Germany should not keep silent.”
Father Lahmann from a Christian Church pointed out: “Falun Gong represents the Chinese people who long for democracy and freedom and will become the new hope of China. The German Government and other democratic countries should not put economic policies ahead of human rights.” Mr Schmalzried from the Goettingen branch of Amnesty International condemned this persecution of human rights in China and overseas alike, as well as its negative impact on democratic countries. Asking the German public not to favour economics over human rights, he called for the entire international community to stop this persecution together.
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