Before 1999, people from all walks of life, including many Communist Party members, practised Falun Gong’s exercises in parks all over China. Communist authorities even promoted Falun Gong. However, in the summer of 1999, countless adherents filled the streets of China’s capital to protest an unlawful ban that would soon transform into what leading human rights attorneys have referred to as a genocide against Falun Gong.
Like the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, the beginning of this genocide was determined by a handful of Communist Party officials at the highest level, with then-President Jiang Zemin the chief instigator, in spite of opposition from many other Party officials and members. It was apparent from the beginning that there was a dichotomy of thought within the Communist Party itself as an estimated 30 per cent of Party members practiced Falun Gong.
The seeds of the persecution were first planted in 1996. Although Falun Gong had received numerous awards and accolades from many quarters, including various government departments, Falun Gong’s bestselling books were banned and the state-run Guangming Daily newspaper published its first article criticizing Falun Gong.
In July 1998, the Ministry of Public Security issued Document No.555, titled Notice of the Investigation of Falun Gong, claiming that Falun Gong was an heretical cult. The Ministry began a series of investigations, seeking evidence to support this conclusion, and police began disrupting exercise sites, tapping phones and searching the homes of adherents who helped organise activities. State-run media also stepped up their attacks on Falun Gong.
Juxtaposing this, at the end of 1998, a study conducted by China’s State Sports Commission estimated that over 70 million people were practising Falun Gong in China. In 1999, one official from China’s National Sports Commission, speaking with U.S. News & World Report, declared that Falun Dafa: “Can save each person 1000 yuan in annual medical fees. If 100 million people are practicing it, that’s 100 billion yuan saved per year in medical fees.” The same official went on to note, “Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that.”
Qiao Shi, who had served a term as chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and had been a Politburo member, led his own investigation, joined by other senior members of the Congress, into the Document 555 allegations. After months of investigating, the group concluded, “Falun Gong has hundreds of benefits for the Chinese people and nation and does not a bit of harm.”
In spite of these reports, in April 1999, the first major incident took place in Tianjin where former propaganda chief and physicist, He Zuoxiu, disparaged Falun Gong, and qigong in general, in a Tianjin college magazine. Local Falun Gong adherents gathered there, asking the magazine to address the damage done to their reputation. On April 23 and 24, for the first time, police intervened, beating and arresting 45 practitioners.
The next day, April 25, more than 10,000 practitioners went to the State Council Office of Petitions in Beijing to appeal the Tianjin incident. They were directed around the walled government compound at Zhongnanhai and met with then-Premier Zhu Rongzhi, asking for the release of the arrested practitioners, to lift the ban on printing books and allow the practice to resume without interference. Mr. Zhu ordered the release of the practitioners in Tianjin and reassured the practitioners Falun Gong would not be banned.
In spite of this, Jiang Zemin, understood to be jealous because Falun Gong had amassed more followers than the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), thus potentially eroding his power base, created the 6-10 Office, a secret agency with a mandate to eradicate Falun Gong, on June 10, 1999. He granted it extra-legal authority over all local levels of police, government and courts. The 6-10 Office later became and remains the primary tool for arresting, torturing, and killing Falun Gong adherents.
Jiang ordered a full-blown crackdown on July 20, 1999, when police began arresting people that they considered to be key organizers. On July 22, 1999, a media blitz commenced. Airwaves, television screens and newspaper columns were filled with attacks on Falun Gong around the clock. Even protesting the ban was made illegal. After only seven days into the campaign, authorities boasted they had confiscated more than two million “illegal” Falun Gong books; the Public Security Bureau even orchestrated book burning rallies. At the time of the crackdown, Jiang stated that he and the CCP would wipe out Falun Gong within three months.
Centerpiece of propaganda
State-run media claimed in January 2001 that several Falun Gong practitioners had ignited themselves in a protest on Tiananmen Square. This so-called self-immolation became the centerpiece of the Party’s propaganda against Falun Gong. Images of a burned young girl turned many in China against Falun Gong.
However, investigations by the Washington Post and others, which included slow-motion analysis of the Party’s own video footage, raised serious doubts about the CCP version and postulated that this incident may well have been staged and orchestrated to discredit Falun Gong.
Following this episode, arrests escalated rapidly and tens of thousands of Falun Gong adherents were sent to brainwashing centers, prisons, labor camps and mental hospitals to be beaten and sexually abused, force fed, injected with nerve damaging drugs, and brainwashed, with thousands being tortured to death and maimed. The U.S. State Department: 2007 Country Report on Human Rights Practices stated that Manfred Nowak, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, claimed that 66 per cent of all the victims of alleged torture while in government custody were Falun Gong adherents.
Reports of organ harvesting began to surface and in 2006, David Kilgour, Canada’s longest serving MP, and David Matas, an internationally-acclaimed human rights lawyer, studied these claims and concluded that they were true, publishing their results in the report Bloody Harvest. By 2007, they stated that there were at least 41,000 cases where harvested organs could only have come from Falun Gong adherents. The procedures, they suggested, were often performed while the victims were still alive.
Ten years on and the genocide against Falun Gong continues unabated. Because of the total media and Internet crackdown in China, Chinese citizens and even many communist officials don’t know or understand the true story about Falun Gong or the degree of the genocide against its adherents.
John Andress is a spokesperson for Falun Dafa in Australia