Worldwide Vigils Mark Tenth Year of Persecution while Torture, Arrests Continue in China
WASHINGTON, DC -- Ten years ago next week, on July 20, 1999, former Chinese Communist Party-head Jiang Zemin launched a violent campaign to “eradicate” the Falun Gong spiritual discipline, practiced at the time by tens of millions of ordinary Chinese citizens. Since then, the Party has used coercion, imprisonment, torture, and systematic villification in an effort to force anyone known to practice Falun Gong to recant the basic tenets of his or her peaceful faith.
As the anniversary of that fateful day approaches, Falun Gong practitioners outside China prepare to mark the tenth year of persecution with a series of marches, candlelight vigils, and rallies.
At Chinese consulates throughout the world, tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters will hold candlelight vigils or demonstrations on or around July 20th. From Brisbane to London, weekend marches and rallies will call for an end to ongoing repression in China and remember those who have lost their lives amidst persecution.
“This anniversary is a time of commemoration for the millions whose lives have been unalterably changed by this violent campaign,” says Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center. “It is also a time for hope. Ten years after the CCP sought to crush Falun Gong 'in three months,' countless Chinese citizens continue to find peace and spiritual fulfillment through the practice, and more and more people are peacefully standing up for their rights to do just that.”
Washington DC will once again host the largest commemorative events, including a rally on July 16th on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, where members of Congress will join community leaders to demand an end to the persecution in China. On the evening of July 17th, a candlelight vigil will be held, followed by a concert on the afternoon of July 19th to call for freedom in China before an anticipated crowd of over 5,000.
Unique to this year’s events in Washington DC is a campaign titled Million Minutes of Meditation, which asks individuals of all faiths and backgrounds to express support and solidarity with the Falun Gong with donations of their own meditation time.Minutes of meditation or prayer can be donated online at www.MillionMinutesofMeditation.org, or in person at the National Mall on July 19th (between 3rd and 4th streets).
Persecution Continues in China
In China, the anniversary of the start of the violent campaign against Falun Gong is being characterized by an escalated security environment and continued reports of arrests, torture, and arbitrary sentencing. Official websites dated as recently as May 27, 2009 cite heightened activity by branches of the extra legal 6-10 Office against local Falun Gong practitioners in the run-up to July 20th. One such posting on the official website for Qidong in Jiangsu province states that the town’s 6-10 Office is to strengthen and consolidate its transformation efforts against Falun Gong.
Such efforts often result in the arrest and torture of practitioners and in some cases—death. Such was a the recent case of Ms. Sun Min, arrested recently along with her husband Wu Yang (aka Wu Zhijun), both of them natives of Inner Mongolia who had relocated to Beijing. According to sources inside China, on April 22, 2009, the couple was distributing Falun Gong-related DVDs at a shopping center in Beijing’s Fengtai District. They were reported to police and taken to the Niujie District Police Station.
Within one day, Ms. Sun was dead. A police report sent to her family stated that her death resulted from a fall, while a coroner asked to examine the body reportedly told family members that Ms. Sun’s injuries were inconsistent with falling. Family members who saw her body described seeing bruises on her wrists and neck, bloody patterned wounds on her forehead, and burns from electric batons. She is one of 3,259 practitioners documented to have died from torture or other forms of persecution since 1999, though the actual death toll is likely much higher.
In spite of continued persecution and at grave risk, China’s Falun Gong practitioners persist in their efforts to quietly educate their fellow citizens about the innocence of their practice and the cruelty of the persecution they face. Their efforts include producing and distributing literature and VCDs documenting rights abuses to their compatriots, hanging banners in public squares and parks proclaiming Falun Gong’s goodness, and promoting Falun Gong-developed software to enable Chinese citizens to safely circumvent the country’s Internet blockade, thus allowing them to freely access information.