At a private viewing of The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition at La Galleria on Pall Mall, a wide range of London Mayors and Councillors described reactions of sorrow, hope, and a determination to uphold human rights.
“It was illuminating … in every meaning of the word,” said Councillor Ingrid Cranfield of Lower Edmonton, North London.
Traditional Chinese music played in the background as she walked through scenes of both torture and great spiritual peace—the experiences of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual cultivation practice that began spreading rapidly in China in 1992. It has three principles: Truthfulness (Zhen), Compassion (Shan), and Tolerance (Ren) and, as a practice that elevates both mind and body, it includes exercises and meditation.
In 1999, the then-head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Jiang Zemin, began a campaign to wipe out Falun Gong. He discovered through a state census that the number of Falun Gong practitioners—more than 70 million—was greater than the number of CCP members. After years of supporting the practice, the CCP sought to eradicate it. Thirteen years of suffering began.
“What gives me hope and confidence,” said Councillor Ian Wingfield of Southwark, “is that the belief people have is very strong, and belief conquers all at the end of the day. For all the suffering that is going on, I think that, at the end of the day, something good will come out of the suffering. I think that’s what everybody’s got to look forward to.”
The sorrow of orphans and the grieving of parents who lost their children to the persecution are balanced by scenes of heavenly realms and peaceful meditation.
The artists use Western, classical oil painting techniques and call their work “Neo Renaissance”. The exhibition includes classical Chinese motifs and work originally done in watercolors and on silk and paper.
“Very beautiful paintings, I like the traditional style,” said Ms Cranfield. She particularly liked a painting depicting a small town in China. “It’s a picture you can explore, you can almost go for a walk in it,” she said.
Mayor of Lambeth, Councillor Clive Bennett, wondered at “the power of the artists themselves.”
One of the painters featured in the exhibition, Professor Kunlun Zhang, is one of the most important Chinese sculptors. He founded the Sculpture Department of the Shandong University of Arts and he and his works appear in many publications including Collected Works of the World’s Sculpture.
The CCP sentenced him to three years in prison and torchured him for practicing Falun Gong. In 2001 he was released through the work of friends and family, and the government of Canada where he now lives.
With a group of like-minded artists, Professor Zhang set up the Falun Dafa Artists Centre and began The Art of Zhen Shan Ren continuous international tour, of which the Galleria exhibition is part.
The main message Mr. Bennett took away was “the power of art in trying to come to terms with an opportunity for people to change their views.
“[For people to] look at something like an organ harvest and say, ‘How can the West accept something like this and still be prepared to do business with a republic that is quite happy to exercise such atrocities and resist all criticism in changing their human rights?’”
Former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour and member of the Order of Canada David Matas were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for exposing the human organ harvesting operated by the CCP.
The CCP takes organs from live Falun Gong practitioners to sell to wealthy Chinese or foreigners, according to Kilgour and Matas. The healthy lifestyle of practitioners make their organs particularly valuable for this market.
“You can’t suppress belief forever, because history shows us that there won’t be enough policemen,” said Mr. Wingfield.
Ms. Cranfield said, if the issue is addressed at a council level, it could spread up to the higher rungs of government. She felt the onus to uphold human rights as she is a public representative.
She said, “At the right place, at the right time, and with the right motives, one person can make a difference.”
Perhaps this is an idea whose time has arrived. On July 11th this year, a full session of Leeds City Council allowed a deputation from five Leeds Falun Gong practitioners to be heard concerning the persecution of Falun Gong, organ harvesting, and the CCP-supported Olympic athletes who were training in Leeds at the time.
The deputation ended by asking the Council to call for a stop to the persecution and to take the example of other cities, particularly in America, which have instigated a “Falun Dafa Day”.
It also urged Councillors to visit The Art of Zhen Shan Ren exhibition, which was at the Corn Exchange in Leeds city centre at that time, in order to get a fuller understanding of the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
A report on the deputation is being prepared by a council officer to go before Leeds City Council General Purposes Committee on August 30th.
The Art of Zhen Shan Ren International Exhibition will be at La Galleria, Pall Mall, 30 Royal Opera Arcade, London until August 18, 2012. The exhibition is open daily from 10am-7pm, except on August 6 until 5pm and August 18 until 4pm).
It then moves to 12 – 14 Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh EH1 1DT (located just off the Royal Mile), from 21 August–1 September 2012, opening10am – 6pm daily www.zsr-art.org.uk
Additional reporting by Xiaomin Pang
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