PARIS, FRANCE—Over a hundred practitioners of the Falun Dafa discipline gathered on the Trocadéro esplanade in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on May 10 to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the public introduction of Falun Dafa.
Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong) is a mind and body cultivation practice consisting of five gentle exercises. It also encourages its practitioners to follow the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It was first introduced to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi on May 13, 1992, in China. Since then practitioners celebrate May 13 as World Falun Dafa Day.
OnMay 10, the Paris celebration offered group demonstrations of the exercises as well as performances of traditional Chinese dances. The Trocadéro esplanade, named the Parvis des Libertés et des Droits de l’Homme (square of freedom and human rights), offers a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower gardens, but also carries a special meaning for people practicing Falun Gong.
Falun Dafa spread fast in China during the 1990s. By 1999 official government statistics put the number of practitioners at 70 million to 100 million, even exceeding the membership of the ruling Communist Party. That was when Party leader Jiang Zemin ordered the practice to be “eradicated.”
Overnight, tens of millions of Chinese became acutely aware of their country’s lack of human rights and freedoms. Millions were imprisoned and thousands were confirmed to have been persecuted to death simply for continuing to practice, asking the government for their right to practice, and later for distributing information about the persecution, according to Falun Dafa official website Minghui.org. Some independent investigators, like former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour, estimate the number of deaths due to the persecution has been at least in tens of thousands.