NEW YORK—Practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese meditation practice, set up their banners in front of the gilded facade of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Sept. 25 and peacefully protested.
The practitioners believe that Xi Jinping, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is staying at the hotel.
The message they had for Xi was loud and clear:
“Give back our human rights,” said Wuhua Chen, a Chinese man who immigrated to the United States only a year ago, escaping his homeland where physical and mental persecution of Falun Gong practitioners has lasted for almost 14 years. Chen was handing out information newsletters to passers-by with another practitioner while others lined the edge of the road, meditating.
The CCP has carried out a massive persecution against practitioners of Falun Gong since 1999. Researchers believe that the CCP has engaged in forced organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners since 2000. There are hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in forced labor camps and brainwashing centers who are subjected to a range of brutal torture techniques, including beatings with electric batons and injections of unknown drugs.
Falun Gong practitioners outside of China regularly protest at events that high-ranking CCP officials attend, seeking to inform people about the persecution. Practitioners at the Waldorf-Astoria have been collecting signatures against forced organ harvesting.
“In this beautiful, distinguished, Waldorf-Astoria, they are hosting the head of the state that has been running a Holocaust against his own citizens for fourteen years,” said Lia Onely, who was also handing out leaflets to those on the street.
Onely has been practicing Falun Gong for over 10 years. She says that the atrocities that are happening in China hit home. Coming from Israel, she grew up with the shadow of the Holocaust.
“I’m coming from a nation that says ‘never again,’” said Onely.
According to Onely, the reason after 14 years that she still bumps into people who say they didn’t know anything about the persecution is because the West is streaming money and technology into China and maintaining good relations.
“We keep feeding that monster and they have all the capability to seal it off and deceive everybody,” she said, adding that the issue is global and concerns everyone.
Onely works as a public relations person at the Tuidang Center in Flushing. The Tuidang Center is home to a global Quit the CCP movement, which asks Chinese citizens to withdraw from the CCP and its affiliated organizations by submitting their name. The organization has collected over 145 million signatures to date.
“Good people should unite,” Chen said. “Bad people, they unite for their profit, for their greed, they don’t care about the country or nationality.”