STOCKHOLM—On the sixteenth anniversary of a brutal persecution in China, a group of meditators in the capital of Sweden carried out simple but purposeful activities to gather support for ending the persecution.
Outside the Chinese embassy in Lidovägen, and the Swedish parliament in Mynttorget, over a dozen Falun Gong practitioners set up booths to provide information about the Chinese Communist Party’s suppression of their faith and collect signatures for a petition which calls to end alleged forced organ harvesting in China. On the cobbled pavement nearby, some practitioners did five sets of rounded, slow-motion calisthenics.
The small setups attracted a brisk, international crowd. In Mynttorget, a German man, two young Eritrean men, a lady from Finland, and several Swedes stopped to observe the exercises and ask questions about the practice. At the Chinese embassy, a young Swedish man wished the Falun Gong practitioners good luck after learning about the persecution.
Things weren’t always peaceful. Zhou Xiuhua, 62, said that staff from the Sweden Chinese embassy used to harass her when she tried to hand out Falun Gong flyers to passing tourists.
“They just screamed at me,” said Zhou. “We felt really threatened.”
Former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin ordered a suppression of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999, declaring he would do everything he could to “defeat Falun Gong.” To this end, Jiang utilized state security forces and created the 610 Office, a Gestapo-like organization whose goal was the eradication of Falun Gong.
As of 2015, more than 3,800 practitioners have been persecuted to death, according to Minghui, a clearinghouse of Falun Gong persecution information. Many more have been locked up in prison cells and labor camps, where they face torture and abuse, researchers say. Researchers have too collated evidence to support the allegations of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners by Chinese public and military hospitals.
Falun Gong practitioners have long demanded that Jiang be brought to justice for instigating the atrocities, and a recent change in the Chinese legal system has afforded them the chance to do so within official Party channels.
The Party’s highest prosecuting body is now required to accept all legal complaints or issue in writing the reasons for rejection. After the changes came into effect, over 80,000 Falun Gong practitioners filed criminal complaints against Jiang since the end of May. Previously, these complaints would never be acknowledged by the courts, and the practitioners who submitted them would be arrested and persecuted.
“Jiang Zemin is the one behind the persecution, and he went against the law and did things his own way,” said Li Zhihe, a 57-year-old Falun Gong practitioner who lives in Stockholm.
“Because of the persecution we lost our jobs and our home,” Li added. Moving to Russia didn’t help Li and her family because the Russian Chinese embassy sent staff to intimidate them. Eventually, the Li family escaped to Sweden.
Li, Zhou, and at least eight other Falun Gong practitioners in Sweden have mailed criminal complaints against Jiang.
“The Communist Party has killed many Falun Gong practitioners and harvested their organs; these atrocities signal the coming collapse of communism,” Li said.