SAN FRANCISCO—This past weekend, practitioners of Falun Gong, along with local supporters from the community, held events around the city to commemorate a large-scale protest held in China on April 25, 1999. The historic event was notable because of the sheer number of people who quietly gathered in Beijing to appeal for their right to practice their faith.
“The practitioners all hope to hold different types of peaceful events, like appealing in front of the Chinese Consulate or holding banners in the downtown area, or holding a parade to raise awareness,” said organizer Kerry Huang.
Huang said she organized the activities to commemorate the event that shocked the Chinese regime 23 years ago, known as the “April 25 Appeal.”
Volunteers also came to bring attention to the spiritual discipline Falun Dafa, which is forbidden in China despite the gentle nature of its members.
“In my heart—I want to support freedom,” said Kun Ding, who recently came from China. He was with the group holding a sign. “I not only support people who practice Falun Gong, but I support freedom.”
The practice has been misinterpreted due to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempts to slander the practice and cover up its abuses against the group.
Ding said he doesn’t practice Falun Gong, but he knows about the CCP’s media disinformation campaign against the practice.
“CCP news sources tell me that people who practice Falun Gong people are terrible people. Actually, it’s not true,” he said.
The Appeal That Started It All
In mid-April 1999, a magazine in China published an article that slandered Falun Gong.
Practitioners in China sought to explain the inaccuracies and requested a correction, which was denied.
On April 23 and 24, the Public Security Bureau used anti-riot police to beat and arrest over 40 people.
And on April 25, 1999, more than 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners went to appeal. They informally gathered outside the state appeals office in Beijing—standing or sitting quietly on the sidewalk, being careful not to cause a disturbance.
Three months later, the CCP ordered a ban on the practice and started its mass persecution of Falun Gong.
Visitor From SoCal Says He’s Stunned After Viewing Exhibit
During the weekend activities, volunteers held up signs and lined themselves along the sidewalk in San Francisco.
Their signs depicted stories of detainees who were taken from their homes and subjected to torture, brainwashing camps, and forced labor. Visitors to Chinatown were shocked to see the photos.
“It’s horrible. It definitely doesn’t look like something that people should tolerate,” said Jonathan Davy, who stopped by to look at the exhibits.
“I know it’s a different culture over in China, but nobody deserves that.”
The regime in China has attempted to silence the practitioners using various inhumane methods, including forced organ harvesting—killing Falun Gong practitioners for their organs for transplants—according to the Falun Dafa Information Center and other human rights organizations.
“I think that more people should be upset about it,” Davy told NTD Television. “You know, it’s like, ‘We don’t have to deal with it over here, it’s another country; it’s not our problem.’
“It should be everybody’s problem.”
Jason Sedillo, who was there with Davy, said, “I’m stunned. I’m stunned to the point where I’m kind of feeling—very tiny right now.”
San Francisco’s Chinatown was busy with tourists as well as locals shopping; it’s one of the largest Chinatowns in the United States.
“You look around here and you see people, and you see them walking and people smiling and then you look at what people don’t see all the time, and what’s hidden, buried, or covered up to the point where nobody really knows about it,” Sedillo said.
“It makes my stomach turn inside, and my heart throbs for it—it’s sad.”
Armando Centen and his wife signed a petition to condemn the CCP.
“We helped sign the petition because personally I think there are a lot of restrictions from the Chinese government,” Centen said.
To his knowledge, he said, the CCP maintains tight control over its citizens.
“They try to keep them mind-controlled. They want to set up some type of system where the people are afraid to talk.”
Centen hopes his signature on the petition will improve freedom for those living in China.
Ding, the young volunteer, said, “If China becomes a worse country, it’s really bad for everyone all over the world. So I think U.S. people [should] know about this—it’s important.”
Practitioners feel they’ve been wrongfully targeted. Some have said that the CCP is afraid of large groups, thus deeming practitioners of faith a threat.
‘I Think Courage and Belief Could Lead My Way’
Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, originated in China and was publicly introduced in May 1992. It’s based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. It consists of four gentle exercises and a sitting meditation, as well as moral teachings.
“I became much more confident” after practicing, said Linda Campbell, who was at the vigil.
“I think I was always a sort of nervous person, and so now I’m a lot calmer—I think everyone around me appreciates that.
“It has really given me something to live for, and a lot of answers to life.”
John Wu, 18, gave an example: “When you argue with someone, you should find what needs changing inside yourself—why you’re reacting that way. That’s how you fix the problem.”
Wu has been practicing since he was young, working to improve his character.
Crystal Lu said that when she was in middle school and still living in China, she sent a letter to the police. She wanted to tell them the truth about Falun Dafa and the persecution. They responded by trying to arrest her. Fortunately, her mother intervened.
“I don’t know why writing a letter should be a crime,” she said. “But I think courage and faith should be my guides, and I’ll be steadfast in my faith.”
Jason Blair contributed to this report.