Falun Gong practitioners from more than a dozen countries around the world—many of whom are survivors themselves—held vigils and rallies over the past weekend in a joint call to stop the Chinese regime’s decades-long suppression campaign targeting their faith.
“It doesn’t matter that it’s thousands of kilometers across the sea,” Sen. Janet Rice of Australia said during an online rally on July 20. “What is going on in China matters to us as human beings and it’s our responsibility to be reaching out and doing everything we can to be trying to be working for justice.”
The day marks the 21st year since Beijing launched a sprawling persecution campaign designed to eliminate Falun Gong, a meditative practice involving slow-moving exercises and moral teachings.
Minghui, a U.S.-based clearinghouse that keeps track of the persecution, has collected accounts of over 4,500 deaths through its sources in mainland China, although the actual death toll is likely much higher.
“This is an incredibly dark and somber day,” Jeff Yang, a spokesperson for the Calgary Falun Dafa Association in Canada, said at a local rally in front of the Chinese Consulate General in Calgary. “It’s a reminder for the world’s people not to shut their eyes to the crimes of tyranny, nor ignore the calls of conscience.”
Similar events also took place in more than 20 countries and cities around the world, including San Francisco, New York, Washington, Vancouver, Toronto, Taipei, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, and Macau.
Over 600 current and former lawmakers around the world, meanwhile, have signed a joint statement calling on the regime to “immediately stop” the persecution of Falun Gong and to unconditionally release all the detainees who are subject to torture and other forms of abuse for refusing to give up their belief.
Wang Xi, a 28-year-old elementary school teacher in Maryland, was only 7 when the persecution began. In August 2000, the police raided a print shop that her parents ran after discovering Falun Gong-related materials, arresting both her parents and two employees. The incident was the first in a series of arrests, house raids, and incidents of harassment against her family and many others over the years.
Her father, who spent a good part of a decade in jail or on the run to avoid arrest, spoke little about what he went through, but what he did reveal—having ice-cold water poured over his head as he stood on snow-covered ground, weekslong sleep deprivation, force-feeding, and frequent beatings—made her wonder what more he had withheld from her knowledge. He lost around 66 pounds due to the torture in jail.
Wang’s father died in 2015, at the age of 50, less than a month after she left China for America. The news, she said, nearly took away her strength to live.
“I feel lucky that I have not lost my life like many other fellow practitioners, and that I can stand here to tell my family’s experience to more people—the evidence of CCP’s [Chinese Communist Party] crimes,” she told practitioners near the Chinese embassy as they held a vigil to mourn those who have died.
What saddens her, she said, is knowing that the persecution campaign can claim more innocent lives and bring more family tragedies as it goes on, “and all of this should not have happened.”
Liu Haipeng, a Chinese student studying in Seoul, South Korea, who was stranded in the country due to the pandemic, said he hopes that one day, Falun Gong practitioners in China can openly exercise their belief without fear.
Truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance “are universal values” and “basic principles that everyone should follow,” he said in an interview.
Alan Adler, from the U.S. nonprofit Friends of Falun Gong, said that the harsh campaign against the faith group deserves the world’s attention.
“The persecution of Falun Gong is a clarion call that should resonate with all good people around the world. It is a test of our human conscience; to see if we have the courage to stand up to the CCP,” he said in a speech in a New York rally.
Wu, also a Chinese student in South Korea, took up the practice only weeks ago. She said the courage and perseverance of practitioners under the threat of death has touched her deeply.
“My tears come out whenever I hear the music,” she told The Epoch Times.