Whenever a major political event is about to take place in China, the regime wants to project an image of stability and peace. Any possibility of protest or disagreement with the authorities is quashed, often by silencing and intimidating dissident groups.
Even outside China, the pressure can be felt.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional self-improvement practice based on the core principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Its benefits to physical and mental health led to its popularity, with more than 70 million adherents in China by 1999, according to a state survey. Practitioners say their numbers reached more than 100 million.
The Chinese regime perceived Falun Gong’s presence as a threat to its authoritarian rule and began a campaign to eradicate the practice in July 1999. Since then, millions have been subject to imprisonment, “brainwashing sessions,” and torture, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
The persecution persists until today. In the days leading up to the 19th National Congress—when the next round of party elite to rule the country will be unveiled—Falun Gong practitioners within and outside China report an increase in police harassment, according to Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that tracks the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
Practitioners who have fled abroad to avoid persecution continue to get pressure through relatives and family back home. In recent weeks, police have visited their families, inquiring about the practitioner’s whereabouts, such as when they plan on returning to China and what they’re doing abroad.
The police will sometimes insist on “having tea” with the family to discuss the practitioner’s goings on. The tactic is used to exert emotional stress on the practitioner, in hopes of coercing him or her to give up their faith.
Ms. Lin, a practitioner from Guangzhou City who now lives in New York, said she heard from her 80-plus-year-old mother that police came to harass her, claiming that they showed up to deal with Lin’s residence permit.
Lin added that during other major political events, police will visit her family home, frightening her family members.
One practitioner originally from Changchun City in northeastern China who now lives in New York, said police visited her home in Chaoyang District, saying that they needed to chat before the 19th National Congress. Her husband dismissed them, but they later repeatedly telephoned the house in an attempt to get her husband to reveal information.
For practitioners who reside in China, police across the country have been knocking on their doors, pressuring them to fill out government forms or sign papers renouncing their faith, searching or taking photos of their homes, and other such monitoring activities.
About 150 practitioners have been harassed in Heilongjiang Province in far northeastern China, according to Minghui.org. Some were arrested and detained after police ransacked their homes and found Falun Gong-related books and materials.
Some practitioners in Chanji County, Xinjiang in far western China were also taken away by police after their homes were searched.
Ms. Yang, a practitioner in Zengcheng County, in Guangzhou City in southern China, told The Epoch Times security forces kept showing up at her home, even passing out search notices to residents in her building in an attempt to enlist them to turn her in.
The authorities have not given up on persecuting Falun Gong practitioners and their families, whether inside or outside China, in or out of prison.
Li Zhendi and Li Xi contributed to this report.