NEW YORK—As ambassadors and heads of state on Tuesday prepared for the next day’s General Assembly meeting at the United Nations, hundreds of protesters gathered at Dag Hamarskjold Plaza, near the U.N. building. At least a dozen groups appealed for their causes, but most were protesting the human rights abuses of the Chinese Communist regime.
In attendance at the U.N. meeting is Hu Jintao, the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chinese military, during one of his rare visits to the United States. Hu met with President Obama on the sidelines on Tuesday during a meeting regarding climate change.
The largest group in attendance were practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that the CCP has been persecuting in China and abroad since July 1999. Several Falun Gong practitioners who have family members imprisoned in China spoke, including Ms. Weidi Wang, a 20-year-old fashion design student.
Wang spoke of her mother Shao Jie Qiu, 46, a middle school history teacher who was taken forcibly from her home in China last March by the Chinese authorities simply for practicing Falun Gong. First she endured a brainwashing center, and when she did not recant her beliefs, she was sent to the Shandong Province Female Prison, located in Jinan City, and the prison is known for its brutal methods.
“I’m standing here not just for my mother, but also for all the practitioners in the mainland, appealing to members of the international community who can save them and help stop the persecution.”
During an interview, Wang said she began practicing Falun Gong when she was eight years old, along with her mother. The practice, based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance, consists of study of spiritual principles and five gentle qigong exercises. Wang said that she does not remember being sick since she was a small child.
Also speaking on behalf of a relative was Shuangying Zhang, a U.S. citizen and resident of New York City, whose 68-year-old father, Xingwu Zhang, was put on trial March 31 and sentenced to seven years in prison. Through a translator, Zhang said her father had been “kidnapped at midnight” and since his arrest, he has not been allowed to “see the light of day.”
Wang and Zhang can hope to be reunited with their family members, but many other relatives of Falun Gong practitioners will not be able to see their loved ones. For instance, according to speaker Gail Rachlin, of the Falun Dafa Information Center, earlier this month Wang Huilan, a 53-year-old woman from Northeast China was dragged from her home by police, and six days later, she was dead.
The organizer of the Falun Gong group was Ms. Rong Yi, who is the vice president of the Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party in Flushing, New York. Many of the speakers encouraged Chinese people to renounce their affiliations, past and present, with the CCP.
Mr. Zhiyuan Yang, spokesperson from the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution Falun Gong (WOIPFG) spoke of the “100 million unnatural deaths” caused by the CCP since its inception and said that "No matter how long it takes, we will investigate to the very end and help the victims send the criminals to trial.”
Also attending the rally in large numbers was the Tibet Coalition of NY and New Jersey (TCNYNJ). As one approached the plaza from blocks away, one could hear the group chant “Stop Lying to the World … Stop Killing in Tibet … Wake-up, Wake-up United Nations,” and other phrases.
Throughout their participation, the TCNYNJ focused much more on the violence inflicted on Tibet’s people since the CCP invaded Tibet in 1949 rather than independence for Tibet. One of the Tibetan speakers was poet and activist Tenzin Tsundue who encouraged all those who opposed the human rights abuses to “never give in” and to persevere.
Tsundue spoke on behalf of all Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners who were being persecuted for their beliefs, referring to both as “genuine” paths.
Fleeing persecution by the CCP, Tsundue’s parents left Tibet in 1960 and found refuge in India. After he graduated from college in 1997, Tsundue’s tried to cross the border into Tibet “to see the real situation,” he said during an interview. Unfortunately, Tsundue did find out, but in a devastating way.
While trying to cross, he was arrested by the Chinese authorities. “It was my belief that I was going back to my country.” Tsundue said that for three months, he was beaten and deprived of sleep. Fortunately, the government of India was monitoring the situation and made sure he was returned after three months, which was the maximum he could be detained under an agreement between the two countries about border crossing, according to the activist poet.
When asked what he would say to Hu Jintao, Tsundue responded that he would not say anything. “He knows what he is doing—he knows the injustices he is doing,” stated Tsundue.
Fashion student Weidi Wang’s answer to the same question was, “Let my mother go home, let my family be together, and stop the persecution of Falun Gong.”
Some of the other groups in attendance at the rally included The League of Chinese Victims, The Chinese Democratic Party, The Federation for a Democratic Party and China Democracy Journal.