NEW YORK—Flushing was awash with color and music on April 28; the streets home to a festive parade with a serious message. The Chinese enclave has become an important place for practitioners of the Falun Dafa meditation practice to celebrate the first amendment—something impossible to do in China.
The parade marked 13 years since a peaceful appeal by 10,000 practitioners outside the Central Appeals Office beside the leadership compound in Beijing. The practitioners sought an end to harassment that had been taking place by security forces for three years, the lift of a ban on publication of Falun Gong books, and a lawful environment to pursue their beliefs.
Erping Zhang, spokesman for the Falun Dafa Association in New York, said, “During the whole process of the April 25th appeal, Falun Gong practitioners stood by their beliefs of truthfulness, compassion, forbearance. In any circumstances, when they are being defamed, misunderstood, or severely persecuted, they still adhere to truthfulness, compassion, forbearance.
“What they [Falun Gong] have accomplished has been a true benefit to the Chinese people. When they appeal it is… to express the right of their freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom of assembly, which was written in the Chinese constitution. Meanwhile they are practicing the basic rights for a human being which is described in United Nation’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Dr. Damon Noto, a Falun Dafa practitioner from New Jersey, said the fact that practitioners in China had withstood such a brutal and sustained persecution for 13 years was astounding.
“[Ex-Party head] Jiang Zemin said that he will eliminate Falun Gong in 3 months; 13 years have now passed and we have only gotten stronger,” Dr. Noto said.
Lucio Armellin started to practice Falun Dafa in 1996. He said the event was important to raise awareness of the persecution as well as the effect of the propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party. “After the persecution started in 1999, I was even more convinced that this was a great practice and discipline. After the persecution started I was amazed by how little it was being reported and that even the U.S. government did not seem to pay attention to it. So I try to attend any event we have to offer my support and bring even more awareness to it.”
Tang Baiqiao, a prominent democracy activist and writer, spoke at the post-parade rally, saying he was inspired to hear about the recent escape of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng. Chen made a daring escape from being under house arrest, possibly to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing last Friday.
“I believe that there are indications showing that the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party is ending soon. The bells of freedom have gone off, China is about to greet the advent of the historic moment,” Tang said. “The most important thing that this group of Falun Gong practitioners are doing is telling the truth to stop persecution. All of the facts in the past have proven to be correct, and it has played a great social role; in the future it will prove what they have said and done is correct.”
In 2004, The Epoch Times published an editorial series called Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. The book describes the nature and history of communism and the Chinese Communist Party in particular. It became the most blocked and banned book in China, but Chinese people passed it around and broke through the Internet firewall to find it online. Since then, more than 115 million Chinese have renounced the communist party and its affiliated organizations through The Epoch Times’ website. Spurred by Saturday’s events, more than 100 people in Flushing renounced their allegiance to the Party that day alone.
One, a young man with the pseudonym Li Ding Yun, a Chinese visiting the United States, expounded on his decision.
“I realized the evil nature of the Communist Party and its dictator-like organization. It cheated me and lied to me to join their evil organizations,” Li said. “I wouldn’t have known this if I didn’t see this [Falun Dafa event] today. I realize how great freedom and democracy is. I would like to see China move in that direction.”
One spectator who watched the parade said he came to offer his support. Naim Darzi, who grew up in Queens but is originally from Iran, said he was sad that the persecution of Falun Gong had continued for 13 years. “I have known about the persecution for about 8-9 years but actually didn’t know much about Falun Gong until just about a year and a half ago. I really like the principles it teaches about truth, compassion, and forbearance.”
With reporting by Benjamin Chasteen.
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