On a train to Hanover, a medium-built but energetic young man was handing out leaflets to passengers, which were about Falun Gong and its persecution in China. Glancing over the content, a passenger commented, “I know about Falun Gong. I see them everyday at the Old Town Hall Square in Goettingen.” Coincidentally, the leaflet distributor came from Goettingen. From 2001 to 2003 several young Falun Gong practitioners from Goettingen had been demonstrating the exercises and telling people about the persecution at the Old Town Hall Square every single 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, Falun Gong practitioner, Zhang Cui Ying, held a painting exhibition on the city government’s invitation, the Mayor paying attention to China’s persecution of Falun Gong, positive media coverage, a human rights organisation with headquarters in Goettingen indicting Jiang during his visit to Germany at the Supreme Court of the Confederation, etc.
True stories from Goettingen
Goettingen is a famous university town in Germany. It is famous for one of the top ten universities in Germany, which is also the one most steeped in history, its legend also lies in its connection with the Nobel Peace Prize. According to City Council’s statistics, since the foundation established in 1901 forty-three laureates had some connection with Goettingen. A Goettingen prize-winner can be found in every single prize category, 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 has spread around the world and Goettingen is no exception. For a few years, the weekly group practise site had been at the University gymnasium. In 2001 a few young practitioners came to Goettingen. They felt that even though people could see the time and place of practise from the gym programme, most of the public would miss out. 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 which dates back a few hundred years. German people will immediately think of her when Goettingen is mentioned. This is the only way through the old town for daily commuters as well as tourists for sightseeing. Even graduated doctoral students hold traditional statue-kissing 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 was to expose the Chinese government’s evil persecution of Falun Gong and further bring the benefits of Falun Gong to everyone. That being the case the practise site should be at the busiest place in the city centre. After realising this, they walked straight to the city centre Old Town Hall Square. Interestingly, the police never asked any question even though there is a police bureau right at the edge of the square. Indeed one policeman came over once to ask where the practise site was, saying he would like to learn in his spare time.
Nobody would have thought that they stuck with it for nearly a year and a half until they left Goettingen one after another.
During this year and a half, there were practitioners practising everyday, rain or shine. Sometimes a handful, sometimes just one person would start the exercises after laying out the materials. A Chinese youth demonstrating beautiful, gentle Falun Gong exercises and calling for China to stop persecuting Falun Gong had become a fixture at the Old Town Hall Square. Those who could not make it would take to the streets to collect signatures and call on professors, politicians, clergymen at various churches to let them know about the persecution. As time went by, more and more people took notice. Even in the worst weather, people would come to ask, “What is this?” “Why does the Chinese government persecute these peaceful practitioners?” “Good luck!” etc. Often as soon as passer-by raised a question, others who had learned the truth would explain before Falun Gong practitioners could even get to it.
Goettingen forms ties with Falun Gong
On January 28th, 2002, Falun Gong practitioners successfully held a symposium together with professors from Goettingen University. Through this symposium, students gained better understanding of Falun Gong, the contents of Falun Dafa's main text, Zhuan Falun, and the truth of Jiang Zemin’s persecution. During the winter term that year, Falun Gong was offered for a whole semester as one of the courses at the College of Theology.
On the 5th of April 2002, prior to Jiang’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 also have the special duty of drawing people’s attention to human rights abuses. Such acts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader is 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, equality are all these kind of values. ‘Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance’ as advocated by Falun Gong are also such values.”
On April 8th, 2002, during Jiang’s visit to Germany, the Association for Threatened Nations 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 violates time and again the anti-torture convention it signed. If one violates such convention in Germany, one would be punished by law.
On August 17th, 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, the Association for Threatened Nations 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.
In March 2003, the Student Union of Goettingen University invited Falun Gong practitioners to give a lecture. Once deceived by lies, they had cancelled Falun Gong’s participation in the Student Union activities. Since then, they have gained a new understanding of Falun Gong. Practitioners were invited to introduce Falun Gong and talk about the reasons for the persecution and how to help practitioners in China, etc.
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