Ten years ago, on the evening of March 5, 2002, an estimated 1 million citizens of the northeastern city of Changchun, China, were watching a prime time broadcast of the opening session of the National People’s Congress when the programming suddenly changed. The motionless officials sitting with teacups under a giant, red communist flag were replaced by programs called “Falun Dafa Around the World” and “Suicide, or Homicide Staged by the Government?”
For 50 minutes Sun Changjun, working with several other Falun Gong practitioners, managed to broadcast in the place of the regime’s propaganda accurate information about their banned spiritual practice. Since 2002, the Falun Gong website minghui.org has provided detailed accounts from participants and witnesses of this dramatic event, which are the source for this article.
A resident of Changchun who witnessed the program switch in her college dorm “was literally electrified” by what she saw. “Because it [hijacking the state media] was something that no one in Communist China’s history had done. In my view, it was something that no one had been capable of doing.”
Reign of Terror
As the Falun Gong programming aired, news spread through the city, and more people began turning on their TVs to witness what they thought was the rehabilitation of Falun Gong.
But there had been no rehabilitation and local Party officials were frantic. In some parts of the city, officials were so desperate that they cut off the electricity in order to stop people from watching.
In 2002, Falun Gong was the Party’s No. 1 enemy. Three years before, then head of the Chinese Communist Party Jiang Zemin vowed to “eradicate” Falun Gong, fearing its unprecedented popularity among Chinese citizens.
Changchun officials were scolded by Beijing: one more episode like this, and your easy days of living as Party cadres would be over.
A reign of terror descended on the city. Policemen in Changchun began carrying guns with them, knowing that they would rather kill than risk more pressure from Beijng. Five thousand Falun Gong practitioners were arrested in Changchun and interrogated about the whereabouts of the key members involved in the TV hijacking. At least seven practitioners were known to have been beaten or shot to death right on the spot of the arrest.
At the age of 26, Sun Changjun was the youngest member of the crew that hijacked the state TV.
Sun grew up in China’s Korean region of Yanji, situated on China’s northeastern border and next to North Korea. Despite academic success in his younger days, he often wondered what the meaning of life was.
Before being banned in 1999, Falun Gong was the most popular qigong method in China. Sun found that the discipline’s teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance answered his lifelong questions, and he strove to live by them.
People familiar with Sun describe him as a devoted son. After Sun graduated from college, he quickly got a position as the secretary of the head of a small town, and was recruited as a potential candidate for the next generation of the communist leadership in that region.
He moved out to go to work, but still visited his parents often. His mother’s feet had been bound in the old days, and ingrown nails made walking particularly painful for her. Sun would get down on his knees, soak her feet in warm water, and carefully remove the ingrown nails.
“Don’t do this. You now work in the government. How embarrassing it would be if people you know see this,” said Sun’s mother with a sense of guilt.
“You are my mother, and taking care of you is the most righteous and proper thing for a son to do” he answered.