SAN FRANCISCO—July 20 holds special meaning for the millions of Falun Gong practitioners around the world. On this date in 1999 the then-head of the Chinese regime, Jiang Zemin, initiated a campaign of terror against the peaceful spiritual practice, a persecution that continues to this day.
Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) practitioners from all over Northern California gathered together on Saturday, July 16, in San Francisco to commemorate with a march and rally their 17-year struggle to end the persecution of their fellow practitioners in China.
Beginning in front of City Hall, the march went through downtown San Francisco and ended up in Chinatown’s Portsmouth Square, where the rally was held. The march was broadcast live via Facebook.
Falun Gong is a self-improvement practice of mind and body. Adherents of the discipline perform five sets of meditative exercises and seek to live their lives according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
In 1999, there were 70 million to 100 million people practicing in China. Jiang Zemin, fearing the popularity of Falun Gong’s traditional moral teachings, unleashed a wave of terror and brutality against practitioners with these words: “defame their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.”
Those who refused to give up their faith were arrested, tortured, brainwashed, and in what is the most gruesome crime of all, killed for their organs, which were sold for very high profits to “organ tourists” from around the world.
On June 13 of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res.343, the most significant legislative confirmation of the crime of mass, forced organ harvesting to date. A little more than a week later, an unprecedented report by a small team of relentless investigators was published.
The report documents that in the years 2000–2016, between 60,000 and 100,000 organ transplants were performed each year and estimates that up to 1.5 million organ transplants could have been performed. Due to the lack of any significant public organ donation system, and due to the inefficiency and wastage in China’s organ transplant industry, the number of people killed for their organs could be as high as 1.5 million.
Although the passage of H.Res.343 and the publishing of this report have increased the media attention paid to this horrific crime, many of the march’s onlookers were hearing about the persecution and live organ harvesting for the first time.
Stefan Haselbauer was stunned to learn of these atrocities. “I’m speechless. I never imagined something like this could be possible. This must be stopped.”
Another onlooker expressed what is an all too common emotion when faced with such horror. “It’s shocking to absorb. My first impression was that this is too terrible. I didn’t want to see it, but little by little I understood and realized that it’s true. We all need to do something to stop this. Congress passing H.Res.343 is a good start, but this has to end. This is devastating to humanity.”
The rally in Chinatown was attended by practitioners and non-practitioners alike. Speakers included several Falun Gong practitioners who experienced persecution in China; Abraham Thompson, conductor of the Divine Land Marching Band; Cheng Kai, reporter with Radio Free Asia; and Fang Zheng, president of the Chinese Democracy and Education Foundation.
Cheng Kai, the reporter with Radio Free Asia, told the large crowd how he has been following and reporting on the persecution of Falun Gong for 17 years, attending all the activities organized by practitioners.
“Falun Gong practitioners have made the greatest contributions to the struggle against the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) totalitarian rule. The most evil crime committed by the CCP is live organ harvesting. This cannot be tolerated. We will continue to oppose the persecution until the day when the CCP is eliminated, and Falun Gong practitioners can practice their faith openly and freely.”
Fang Zheng, a survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, shared his tragic story with the crowd. A student at the time of the massacre, he was leaving the peaceful protest when a tank knocked him down, ran him over, and dragged him for a short distance. He lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital to find he had lost both of his legs.
After the incident, he was pressured by the Chinese regime to admit that his injuries were the result of a road accident. Zheng refused to do so and was subsequently bullied and harassed by the regime for years until finally immigrating to the United States in 2009. Now president of the Chinese Democracy Education Foundation, he is an outspoken critic of the brutalities committed by the CCP.
Speaking at the rally, Zheng expressed his sincere support for Falun Gong practitioners, thanking them for “their efforts of spreading the truth of their persecution to the international community over the years.” He added that H.Res. 343 is “of great importance to our era. In China, the CCP’s evil is well-known, but many of their crimes are not seen in the larger world.”
He related how there are still people who ask him if his legs were really run over by a CCP tank. He equated their disbelief to his own where he first heard about live organ harvesting. He remembers asking himself, “really?”
But then he realized that many of the CCP’s crimes are “below human morality’s bottom line. That any normal person could never imagine the cruelty committed by the CCP, but that in reality, the CCP is a totalitarian, brutal regime that can and does do anything.”
He implored onlookers to oppose the CCP’s evil regime and raise awareness of live organ harvesting.