On October 28, 1999, more than 30 mainland Falun Gong practitioners risked their lives to successfully hold the first Falun Dafa press conference in mainland China, in secret, with the international press.
On July 20, 1999, Jiang Zemin declared that he wanted “to educate Falun Gong practitioners in a mild and gentle way,” while he secretly planned “to eliminate Falun Gong in three months.”
This international press conference was held secretly to expose the dark side of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners to the international community for the first time. Some media commented that this press conference was a loud and clear slap in Jiang Zemin's face.
Seven years have now passed. How did practitioners manage to hold the press conference under the CCP's tight media blockade? What happened in the press conference? What happened to the participants? To answer these questions, an Epoch Times reporter interviewed some of the participants and organizers, asking them to flash back to that year's historic details.
'I Was Responsible for Taking Reporters to the Press Conference'
Falun Gong practitioner Li Bin from Dalian City, one of the participants, narrated her personal experience to The Epoch Times. At that time, she had just completed graduate school and had come to Beijing for work. On the day of the press conference, she was primarily responsible for taking reporters to the press conference in a western suburb of Beijing.
Li Bin recollected: “On October 28, 1999, Beijing's temperature suddenly dropped dramatically; sand-filled winds filled the sky, making people feel extremely dismal. We went to the prearranged location—the Quanjude Roast Duck restaurant in Dongzhimen, Beijing. At that time, because the situation was very intense, for security reasons, we tried as much as we could to make it look like a business meeting.
“We asked Quanjude for a room in advance, planned to treat the reporters to a meal first, then go to the press conference site together after all the reporters had arrived. The conference site was at the Moon River Holiday Village in the western suburb of Beijing; it was a hotel.
“When it was almost 11 o'clock, the head of the Reuters representatives came in a hurry with two female photographers. At that time, they were more nervous than we were. After we explained our plans, they insisted on not eating but going to the press conference site immediately. I took three reporters to the conference site first. Another practitioner stayed there waiting for other reporters.”
Li Bin was arrested shortly after the press conference. After going through torture at a mental hospital and all kinds of torture in labor and re-education camps, she traveled through many places and eventually escaped to the United States.
A Tragically Heroic and Touching Press Conference
Li Bin: “About 12:30, the reporters and I walked into the conference room. We saw that everybody was already seated and looking at us with anticipation. With the arrival of the reporters, they [Falun Gong practitioners] quickly pulled up the “Mainland China Falun Dafa Press Conference” banner.
“Upon entering the conference room, Reuters reporters immediately set up their camera tripod. Before other reporters came, and the announcement of the conference opening, they started interviewing practitioners in haste. Their first focus was on an 11-years-old boy, surnamed Qu from Heilongjiang, …[who] said that his school teacher did not let him go to school because he practiced Falun Gong. The boy's mother held a Falun [symbol of Falun Dafa] poster with both hands and stood at his side; his father was there too.
“In less than half an hour, the Associated Press and New York Times reporters also arrived hurriedly with a photographer. Conference host Jiang Chaohui immediately announced the opening of the press conference and read out a brief statement. At that time, reporters immediately turned the interview microphones to Jiang and started to ask about his personal persecution experience.
“After Jiang, from Fujian Province, briefly said a few words about his personal experience, he said to the reporter: 'I want to save the precious time for other practitioners because the persecution that they suffered far exceeded mine.' About ten practitioners spoke afterwards.
“A practitioner who used to be a policeman gave up his job and came to Beijing to appeal. He lost his job because he was unwilling to give up the practice, and was forced to choose between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Falun Gong.
“Another practitioner who was also a policeman before said that he could not keep silent anymore; he wanted to tell people the facts about the brutal persecution. When the policeman practitioner was interviewed, it took a longer time; the reporter questioned him in more detail.
“Because all three photographers were women, they expressed great sympathy [regarding] the beatings of the beautician Ding Yan, from Shijiazhuang City. They took many pictures of her. The interview lasted an hour and 15 minutes. Actually more practitioners still wanted to speak, but the reporters ended the interview.
“Reuters' reporters told Jiang that the conference must end quickly or there might be danger. As the closing remark, practitioners gathered to practice Falun Gong exercises. The reporters kept on taking photos. I remembered that I could not stop my tears from pouring down my face at the time.”
“After the conference ended, Jiang and participating practitioners left Beijing rapidly. They quickly scattered when leaving. At that time, still more reporters arrived hurriedly. Jiang asked practitioners to take some of the reporters home to continue the interviews.
“Jiang and three Reuters reporters left together. They commended the courage of the participating practitioners. Jiang asked them with a smile, what if the police found out about their interview? A reporter answered, 'At worst, we will be unable to be reporters in China and would surely be interrogated. To us, it is only a little trouble, but to you, it is big trouble!'
“I left with two Associated Press reporters. On the road, they also expressed their admiration to us and said, 'You are truly brave.' They expressed their concern for our safety as well and urged us to be careful. When it was time to say goodbye, they shook my hand and felt reluctant to part.”
International Media Report and the CCP's Fluster
Ms. Chen, currently residing in the United States, indicated that the success of this press conference was a result of the joint efforts of both mainland and overseas Falun Gong practitioners.
On October 28, the very day of the press conference, the Associated Press and Reuters reports were sent all over the world. On the October 29, The New York Times published the press conference photos and news on the front page. At that time, U.S. Falun Gong practitioners were explaining the persecution of Falun Gong in China to the U.S. Congress and government officials in Washington.
The most influential English newspaper in Asia, the South China Morning Post, used an entire page to cover the press conference with photos. Many major European papers also carried the news of this press conference in conspicuous places in their newspapers.
These reports shocked the international community. Jiang Zemin's regime was furious and used the highest level espionage department and the most advanced equipment to track down the participating Falun Gong practitioners.
Where Are the Participants Now?
Li Bin said: “Although press conference participants left without incident at the time, most of them were arrested in Guangzhou later and lost contact with others. Because Falun Gong is a very loose and spontaneous organization, even with large group activities, practitioners just come as they want, and they may not know any other practitioners; therefore, many have lost contact. Even the death of Ding Yan and Cai Mingtao from persecution was only known from the [Falun Dafa's Minghui.net] Web site.”
According to Minghui.net, the press conference host Jiang Chaohui was sentenced to five years imprisonment; Xiang Guilan from Beijing, and Zhang Ke Ke from Hubei were sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Lei Xiaoting, one of the press conference translators, was arrested by the Beijing Public Security No.7 Section and sentenced to two years in prison.
Another female translator, Liu Dongmei, who was a Northeast Financial and Economics University International Commerce foreign language English lecturer, was also seized later and suffered unbearable torture in the Masanjia Labor and Re-Education Camp.
Ding Yan, female, 31 years old, from Shijiazhuang City, Hebei, was a key interviewee at the press conference. She was arrested on November 25, 1999 and sentenced to four years. On the evening of August 18, 2001, Ding Yan was tortured to death in the Chende prison.
Foreign Reporters Followed and Threatened
According to international human rights organizations, all five international media journalists who participated in the press conference encountered persecution by the CCP afterwards. The Chinese National Security police conducted interrogations for exceedingly long hours, threatened them, confiscated their resident certificates and work permits, and compelled them to sign an “admission of guilt paper.”