When events in Egypt began to gather momentum, the U.S. State Department (DOS) was caught flat-footed. U.S. officials had been relying on their contacts with Mubarak’s regime and had not been talking to the people of Egypt. But in the end, the people of Egypt decided the course of events, and the United States could only be a bystander.
Falun Gong practitioners wonder whether those at the top in DOS who are making China policy are not making the same mistake regarding the Chinese regime. Practitioners renounce violence in all its forms and are not interested in political power. But the Chinese Communist Party considers Falun Gong to be the greatest challenge to its rule.
Sen Nieh is professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Catholic University of America. He is also a Falun Gong practitioner who lives in Washington, D.C., and has often organized academic forums about the persecution of Falun Gong.
“I think they truly don’t know what we’re about, what we want, or what drives us. If you asked these very basic questions, I really don’t think the State Department could answer them,” Nieh said.
“And that’s alarming because Falun Gong is so central to the Chinese regime’s foreign and domestic policy. We’re trying to engage this regime without really understanding such a crucial issue.”
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual discipline that involves practicing five meditative exercises and living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. After Mr. Li Hongzhi began teaching the practice publicly in 1992, it rapidly became very popular in China.
Nieh says that DOS officials, if they want to understand China, need to understand how a formerly atheist nation was transformed in seven short years.
In a February 1999 article, U.S. News and World Report quoted a Chinese Sports Commission official who indicated 100 million Chinese had taken up the practice. A Shanghai TV station also reported in early 1999 there were 100 million practitioners.
That is one in every 13 Chinese—or one-third the population of the United States.
The nation’s embrace of Falun Gong was seemingly spontaneous—no advertising was used to spread the practice. It spread by word of mouth, and trickles of popularity in areas that Mr. Li visited quickly deepened and widened.
No region of the nation was left untouched, and no layer of society left out. Illiterate farmers began practicing, as did the rich and the powerful. Sources inside China say that the wives of seven of the nine-member Politburo—the committee that stands at the top of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—practiced Falun Gong. So, too, did a number of governors and mayors throughout China.
Various governmental bodies gave awards to Falun Gong, including, ironically enough, a foundation run by the Public Security Bureau.
War Against the Chinese People
Nieh believes the U.S. government needs to understand why the issue of Falun Gong is the issue of greatest importance to the CCP and how much the Chinese regime fears this peaceful practice.
That fear, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC), led then-paramount leader Jiang Zemin in July 1999 to order the practice of Falun Gong be “eradicated,” which remains the official policy of the CCP.
“The resources the CCP has poured into making war on the Chinese people are huge,” Nieh said. “Why would the CCP waste the nation’s money in forcing people who simply want to become better to give up their beliefs?”
In June 1999, Jiang set up an extra-constitutional agency called the 610 Office. Its purpose is to carry out the persecution of Falun Gong. With offices at every level of the Party and government in China and seemingly unlimited resources, it has organized a systematic, comprehensive, and brutal effort to identify and “transform”—a euphemism for torturing someone to renounce his or her beliefs—every Falun Gong practitioner in China.
The CCP’s mammoth Golden Shield Internet project—more commonly known as the Great Firewall of China—targets Falun Gong. Studies have shown the most-heavily censored terms are those relating to Falun Gong.
The CCP has also arrested large numbers of practitioners. The independent scholar Ethan Gutmann estimates 450,000 to 1 million practitioners are detained in China at any one time. International observers, as quoted in human rights reports, have claimed that one-half of those detained in the Chinese regime’s vast labor camp system are Falun Gong.
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, two-thirds of the reports of torture are of Falun Gong practitioners. FDIC confirms over 3,000 practitioners have died from torture and abuse but estimates the actual death toll is in the tens of thousands.
Falun Gong practitioners have also been killed by having their organs removed. In their book “Bloody Harvest,” former Canadian secretary of state (Asia-Pacific) David Kilgour and international human rights lawyer David Matas state that since 2000, 42,000 transplantation operations have occurred for which the CCP cannot provide a source for the organs. They believe the most likely source is detained Falun Gong practitioners.
Next: False Friends