SAN FRANCISCO—Bay Area Falun Gong practitioners and supporters on April 24 commemorated the anniversary of a historic appeal by practitioners in China and sought to raise awareness that followers of the meditation discipline are still being persecuted by the regime in China, at a rally in front of the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
On April 25, 1999, about 10,000 people gathered peacefully at the Chinese communist headquarters at Zhongnanhai to appeal for their right to freely practice Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa). The appeal took place after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began to perceive Falun Gong’s enormous popularity as a threat.
“[The practitioners] had the heart to go to talk to the leadership of their country, to peacefully explain why they should not be interfered with,” said Chris Kitze, a participant at the rally.
Before the 1999 appeal, a few practitioners had been arrested in China after a magazine reported false information about the practice. Practitioners believed it was their duty to tell their government the truth about Falun Gong and why it shouldn’t be persecuted.
WeiQun Hua, a rally participant, remembers what it was like to stand among thousands of others who shared the same faith. She and her neighbor, who also practices Falun Gong, took their then two-year-old children with them.
“We stood on the side of the road quietly. There wasn’t even a sidewalk. It was very quiet. People were reading or meditating,” Hua told NTD Television. “Someone told us to stand here because there are too many people inside. We stood with our children. Our children were not rowdy or anything, just standing there quietly.”
Before they left, they were told that things would return to normal. But it didn’t happen that way. Soon the CCP forbade the practice of Falun Gong
On July 20, 1999, the CCP began a large-scale violent persecution against the tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Since then, practitioners overseas have held public rallies and candlelight vigils annually to remember those who were tortured and died for their beliefs.
Falun Gong consists of five sets of meditative exercises and teachings that guide people to live according to truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.
Due to its health benefits, word spread quickly in the 1990s until an estimated 70 million to 100 million people in China were practicing Falun Gong.
“But there are a lot of people that still don’t know the persecution is still going on, and innocent lives are being killed. And a lot of people are being persecuted and they cannot practice their spiritual belief,” Alicia Zhao, a rally participant, told NTD Television.
Pedestrians passing by the rally expressed their support.
“I’m in complete solidarity with the movement and the desire to remove the Communist Party from China. The oppressive practices are inhumane and deserve to be sanctioned across the world,” Walter Kaweski, a passerby from Sacramento, told NTD Television.
Lucia Arreola, a passerby from San Jose, told NTD Television, “I think it’s horrible where you don’t have this freedom to practice [something] as simple as meditation.”
“It brings awareness to the American people,” Scott Nelson, a passerby from Salt Lake City, told NTD Television. “To understand that we’re not isolated in our own little bubble. That … we’re all one people, and what everyone does affects everyone else.”