In the late 1990s, if you had gone for an early-morning stroll around a park almost anywhere in China, you would have found a tranquil but powerful scene: the grounds covered with people from all parts of society practicing the slow movements of Falun Gong.
A Chinese government survey at the time concluded that as many as 100 million people nationwide were practicing Falun Gong. In February 1999, US News and World Report put the number at over 60 million. High-ranking government officials were quoted in Chinese newspapers as praising the benefits to health from Falun Gong practice. In 1996, the main book of Falun Gong teachings, “Zhuan Falun,” was a national best seller.
Falun Gong was the most popular meditation practice in China. Why did the situation change so that government officials now risk their jobs, maybe their lives, if they say a few positive words for Falun Gong? In an authoritarian society, a dictatorship, the leader’s word becomes the law. The ruler then, Jiang Zemin, went out of his way to condemned the popularity of the practice of Falun Gong, ordering a persecution campaign beginning on July 20, 1999, the scope and brutality of which has been hidden from the rest of the world.
With China’s huge financial resources, in part drawn from huge foreign investment, the Communist Party has been able to devastate countless lives inside China during this brutal, nationwide campaign. With its information stranglehold in China and paid staff in Chinese consulates and other agencies in other countries, the Communist Party has been able to mislead people with state-controlled media and prevent them from learning the facts. The Jamestown Foundation published a report showing that the Communist Party owns or controls nearly all Chinese-language TV broadcasts and newspapers in North America — even Chinese people living an ocean away from the Party cannot escape its long reach. Even if people believe only a tenth of the propaganda against Falun Gong, they are still misled into dismissing something that is positive as dangerous or harmful.
Here in America, and elsewhere in the world, victims of Jiang’s brutal crackdown have recourse in a functioning legal justice system. Jiang and his accomplices are being sued for genocide, torture and crimes against humanity in U.S. Federal District Court in Chicago. Already in the past two years, three other high level Chinese officials have been found guilty of crimes against humanity in the U.S. District Courts of New York and San Francisco for their role in overseeing the Falun Gong persecution in China. These legal news can be viewed at www.flgjustice.org.
The true stories of what Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet and Milosevic did in their own countries to good, innocent people eventually saw the light of day. We can expect the same for Jiang soon.
Unfortunately, the information blockade has been very severe in China and sometimes it is difficult to get the real story. Many Web sites such has NYTimes.com, CNN.com and even Google have been frequently blocked or restricted by the Chinese government. For these and other reasons, Jiang Zemin was named as one of the top Ten Worst Enemies of the Press for five years in a row by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Jiang’s information blockade, however, is not always watertight. In a shocking media expose on March 5, 2002, a group of individuals successfully entered the cable TV network in Changchun, China and broadcast a video exposing the horrific torture in labor camps and detention centers against Falun Gong practitioners. The entire city of Changchun was in shock; the viewers were stunned to witness video evidence of the persecution for the first time. Enraged by the publicity, Jiang ordered a roundup of 5,000 Falun Gong practitioners in Changchun, according to FalunInfo Center. One of the arrested participants in the expose, Mr. Liu Chengjun, died in police custody after 21 months of torture. His fate, however, was only one of the 860 confirmed deaths under Jiang’s crusade against Falun Gong that remain largely unreported in China.
But in America, we have freedom of information. You can look up what the U.S. State Department in its reports, or the U.S. Congress in its July 2002 Resolution 188 (passed 420-0), say about Falun Gong. You can check what Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch say. You can read how the Chinese Communist Party has attempted to interfere with Americans’ freedom of expression on U.S. soil Claudia Rosett’s Feb. 21, 2002 Wall Street Journal column.
Anyone who wants to know what Falun Gong is about can go online to www.falundafa.org, the main Falun Gong Web site, and read the introductory book “Falun Gong,” or the full system as detailed in “Zhuan Falun.” Read the whole book, then decide for yourself how to view a teaching that emphasizes Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance foremost.