In the predawn hours 13 years ago, on July 20, 1999, security agents throughout China broke into the homes of individuals believed to be core Falun Gong practitioners and arrested them. Thus was launched the campaign by then-CCP head Jiang Zemin to, as he said at the time, “eradicate” this traditional spiritual practice.
Jiang thought his campaign would be over in three months.
The dictator did not understand the power of belief. Falun Gong practitioners believe in living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. They believe that doing good is rewarded and doing evil is punished. And they believe that being a good person is more important than anything else.
The terrors Jiang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) unleashed on the practitioners could not overwhelm these convictions.
Jiang also did not understand that the practitioners of Falun Gong would actually stand up for themselves—something unprecedented for a group to continue doing in the entire history of communist China. They did so first of all by going to Tiananmen Square to appeal to the Party to end its mistaken persecution.
Appealing to the People
When the Party turned a deaf ear to their pleas, the practitioners began appealing directly to the Chinese people.
Tens of millions strong, the practitioners began a massive campaign of civil disobedience aimed at changing hearts and minds throughout China. With leaflets, DVD disks, banners, and, most importantly, one-on-one conversations, the practitioners of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) set out to tell the people of China what Falun Gong is and that the Party’s persecution of it is wrong.
As a result of the Falun Gong practitioners patiently working to disabuse the Chinese people of the CCP’s propaganda, the Chinese people are now doing something remarkable: they are standing up for the practitioners of Falun Gong.
On June 9, in Tangshan City in Hebei Province, hundreds of villagers formed a human wall when police came to arrest Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Li Zhen. After the police succeeded in dragging Li away, the villagers immediately signed, with their real names and their thumbprints affixed with red sealing wax, a petition calling for Li’s release.
This is the latest of a series of incidents stretching back to 2009 in which ordinary Chinese, on seeing practitioners arrested, work to free them.
For instance, in June 2012, 15,000 people from Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China signed a petition on behalf of a family of practitioners. In June 2011, Amnesty International documented a case in which 2,300 people signed a petition calling for the release of a practitioner held in Tianjin City.
One petition from households in Zhouguantun Village in Hebei Province is known to have been circulated within the highest CCP organ—the Politburo Standing Committee.
Cutting the Gordian Knot
While the people of China have begun raising their voices for Falun Gong, the CCP has been paralyzed.
There have been reports of closed-door Party meetings at which ending the persecution has been discussed—but no actions taken. And there has recently begun an intensification of the persecution in connection with the upcoming 18th Party Congress, at which new Party leaders will be named—the same old policy of ratcheting up the persecution in advance of so-called “sensitive days.”
The paralysis does not extend only to Falun Gong—on a host of fronts the Party does not seem to know how to move forward. In order to address a failing economic model and growing social unrest, the Party needs real economic and political reform.
The persecution of Falun Gong is the Gordian Knot that prevents such reform.
If the CCP cuts the knot and ends the persecution, then the atrocities committed by the Party—in particular the killing of tens of thousands of practitioners through forced, live organ harvesting—will come to light. Once those atrocities are widely known in China, the CCP’s chances of holding onto even a shred of legitimacy will vanish.
Moreover, the victims of the persecution and their families will demand the officials who brainwashed, tortured, and murdered practitioners be held accountable.
If the CCP fails to end the persecution, then China is stuck, with no way to advance the political or economic reform the country desperately needs.
However powerful the CCP may seem, the Chinese people will ultimately decide China’s future course.
But in the end, the decision to end the persecution will not lie in the hands of the Party. However powerful the CCP may seem, the Chinese people will ultimately decide China’s future course.
For 13 years, the Chinese people have learned of how wrong—how evil—the persecution has been of peaceful Falun Gong practitioners for their beliefs. The Chinese people are now stirring themselves and are beginning to state a clear choice: this cannot continue.
We here in the West should listen to what the Chinese people are saying and add our voices to theirs. A chorus of voices in and out of China will hasten the day the persecution ends and the Chinese people enjoy a better day.
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