SAN FRANCISCO—Falun Gong practitioners and supporters marched in a parade through downtown San Francisco on Sunday to demand an end to the 13-year-long persecution of their practice in China.
Several hundred participants marched from Japan Town through Union Square and ended at the popular Portsmouth Square in Chinatown. Practitioners from California, the United States, and various places around the world came to San Francisco for an experience-sharing conference held on Saturday, and many stayed to participate in the parade.
Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that gained immense popularity in China in the 1990s—by early 1999, an estimated one in twelve Chinese had taken up the practice. Falun Gong encompasses meditative exercises, and living according to moral teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
In 1999, Jiang Zemin, the then-head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), saw the practice and its 100 million adherents as a threat to his power. He began a campaign to eradicate it.
Many San Francisco residents and tourists looked on to see what Falun Gong is all about. Many took photos or filmed the various sections, including a marching band, practitioners demonstrating the Falun Gong exercises, and others holding up banners and signs.
Some practitioners in yellow costumes carried signs that read, “The World Needs Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance,” and “China’s New Era Begins When the CCP ends.”
Some passers-by who had not previously known much about the persecution of Falun Gong in China were shocked to learn that the Chinese regime has been harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners—killing them—in order to make a profit.
“It’s horrendous. It’s sickening,” said Susie, a tourist who had stopped at a street corner in Chinatown. “It is about time that this ends.”
The parade and a subsequent rally also expressed support for the Chinese people who want to live free from the CCP.
The Tuidang movement, which literally means quit-the-party, first began following the publication of The Epoch Times’ 2004 award-winning publication, “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party.”
The publication chronicles the history and crimes of the 60-year rule of the CCP, something that people in mainland China are forbidden to write or talk about truthfully.
To date, 124 million people have renounced any association with the CCP and its affiliated organizations. More than 60,000 people are renouncing the Party every day, said Jollia Xiong, director of the local San Francisco Service Center for Quitting the CCP at the rally in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Xiong, who is originally from China, described how at the age of six she was made to join the Young Pioneers, a communist youth organization, and had to pledge “to give her life to the Party.”
Like many of her friends, she firmly believed that the “Party is the greatest,” and the “Chinese people are the happiest.”
Not until Xiong read “The Nine Commentaries” did she understand that communism does not belong in China and that the “Party is evil,” she said.
Just as at other Service Centers for Quitting the CCP around the world, the local center on Stockton Street in Chinatown offers Chinese, both inside and outside China, an opportunity to cut their ties with the Party. Local volunteers in the Bay Area make calls to China every night to hundreds of people, inviting them to quit. About a third do so, Xiong said. At a recent event in Oakland, 200 signed statements renouncing the Party.
Many in China are worried that renouncing the Party could have implications for their career and their family. Instead of feeling safe in the United States, in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where the Chinese Consulate has a significant influence, people are still often afraid to take this step, Xiong said.
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