For 11 years the peaceful adherents of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) have suffered persecution in China and for 11 years individuals inside and outside of China have worked to bring this persecution to an end.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched the persecution on July 20, 1999, with the intention of “eradicating” the practice in three months.
Practitioners of Falun Gong inside China have regularly suffered detention, brainwashing, forced labor, torture, and death. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, hundreds of thousands of practitioners are imprisoned and 3,383 are confirmed to have died from abuse. Thousands more are suspected of having been killed by organ harvesting. Due to the information blockade on matters relating to Falun Gong, the full scope of the persecution is not yet known.
Falun Gong, is based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and includes practicing meditative exercises. The practitioners of Falun Gong have not quietly accepted the regime’s attempt to eliminate this spiritual discipline.
Through acts of civil disobedience, practitioners inside China have sought to tell the regime’s officials and the Chinese people what Falun Gong is and that the persecution is wrong and must end.
Outside China, Falun Gong practitioners have been joined by government officials, heads of NGOs, lawyers, and ordinary people in calling for the CCP to stop the persecution.
The Epoch Times has interviewed some of those who have taken the lead in opposing the persecution of this peaceful practice, asking what they do and why they do it.
Vice President of the European Parliament
Vice President Edward McMillan-Scott learned first hand about the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners while he was visiting Chinese leaders in 2006. During his visit, he also met with people who had experienced the CCP’s persecution first hand.
“After I left Beijing, everybody I had contact with was arrested, imprisoned, and in some cases, tortured,” said Mr. McMillan-Scott. He made a vow to, “Maintain my campaign for reform and democracy, and human rights in China” until the goal is achieved.
“I think it’s really important for people to understand just what in the world does really take place in China—the prison camps, re-education through labor, child labor, forced labor, torture. This is the real China,” he said. “The worst thing they’ve done is choose a totally innocent group of people [Falun Gong practitioners], and torture them to death, and this has got to stop.”
Vice President McMillan-Scott shared his belief that the ruling regime in China will soon be “swept away” and replaced with democracy. He said in the meantime, “We’re setting up mechanisms that can punish the people who are doing the torture, that are oppressing the people of China, that are infringing human rights, and are conducting campaigns of genocide against certain parts of the population. We are watching.”
As an immigration and refugee lawyer, and an advocate for human rights, David Matas has been a strong voice against the persecution of Falun Gong.
He has furthered his work in human rights through investigations he and retired member of Canadian Parliament David Kilgour have done into the Chinese regime’s removal and selling of organs from living Falun Gong practitioners. Their findings were published in their book, “Bloody Harvest: The killing of Falun Gong for their organs,” and both are Nobel Peace Prize nominees for their work on organ harvesting.
Mr. Matas has hunted Nazis, worked against Apartheid in South Africa, and battled dictatorship in South America, yet has made the forced removal of organs from Falun Gong practitioners one of his main focuses. “At the time I was involved in those human rights struggles, they all looked as daunting as the persecution of Falun Gong does now,” he said.
“What you are dealing with is a dictatorship, and dictatorships in my view are very fragile,” said Mr. Matas.
Although not a Falun Gong practitioner himself, he said that the practice represents the traditions of ancient China’s belief systems. “So the significance of Falun Gong to China [is], it is the real China,” Mr. Matas said.
Mr. Matas said stopping the persecution against Falun Gong in China is the key to ending the persecutions of other groups inside China: “My view is if you stop that, you stop everything.”
Retired member of Canadian Parliament
David Kilgour said he first learned about the persecution of Falun Gong in 2001, when he would walk by demonstrations on Parliament Hill—at the time he was the secretary of state, Asia-Pacific, in Canada.
The book he coauthored with David Matas, “Bloody Harvest, The killing of Falun Gong for their organs”, includes descriptions of the 52 pieces of evidence of the crime. “From what we heard we were dismayed to conclude that the killing of Falun Gong practitioners for their organs was happening,” said Mr. Kilgour.
The findings spurred Mr. Kilgour into action. He has visited more than 60 countries, where he has spoken about the CCP’s organ trade and discussed with government leaders about the persecution. He and Mr. Matas have done this work on a volunteer basis. “We will stop this traveling and speaking the minute the persecution stops,” he said.
“We never give up, we keep going because we believe we are making headway,” said Mr. Kilgour. “We want to embarrass Beijing to stop this hideous practice of killing people for profit.”
Deputy Director, Global Internet Freedom Consortium
Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC) Deputy Director Samuel Zhou had a tenure track job teaching computer science at the University of Pennsylvania when the persecution broke out. A Falun Gong practitioner, he resigned his position that was too time-consuming to allow him to devote himself wholeheartedly to opposing the persecution. He now teaches at Rutgers University.
The CCP’s “Great Firewall” blocks and censors information online. Chinese people have difficulty sending information abroad or learning the truth of the regime, including its campaigns of persecution.
GIFC has had a significant impact on breaking through the firewall and bringing information freedom to Chinese people. GIFC software has allowed millions of Chinese people to break through the blockade and has also helped millions in other repressive countries gain access to free information.
Mr. Zhou said there are many people involved in helping spread free access to information online, but he “cannot reveal their identities for security reasons.” He added that one of their chief engineers, Dr. Li Yuan was attacked by Chinese secret agents in 2006.
According to Mr. Zhou, many at GIFC experienced the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 as students in China and have since experienced the persecution of Falun Gong.
“It is my hope that, by facilitating the free flow of information into China, the Chinese communist regime can no longer manipulate people’s thoughts, and it can bring about positive changes in Chinese society, which will lead to the end of suppression in China,” Mr. Zhou said.
Researcher analyst and award-winning author Ethan Gutmann says he doesn’t consider himself an activist, as his focus is on “exposing,” rather than “opposing” the CCP.
When the persecution against Falun Gong first began in Beijing, Mr. Gutmann witnessed practitioners of Falun Gong being rounded up by police. He documented his experience in his book, “Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal,” and has since interviewed more than 50 survivors of China’s forced labor camps.
Mr. Gutmann has published articles in several journals about the regime’s organ harvesting, global surveillance, and misinformation campaigns against Falun Gong. He is currently writing a book that he hopes will “stand as the definitive history of the conflict between the Party and Falun Gong.” He adds, “My research has never been contested.”
Mr. Gutmann says he wants his research to bring about “an end to denial” of the persecution of Falun Gong.
“The persecution is a bellwether,” said Mr. Gutmann. “If China’s current trajectory continues, global war becomes more likely. Yet if Falun Gong is reintegrated into a democratic China—well, to quote an obscure Chinese proverb: ‘When brothers agree, the world will turn to gold.’”
Executive Director, Human Rights Law Foundation
With a doctorate in the classics and a teaching position, Human Rights Law Foundation (HRLF) Executive Director Terri Marsh was once on a very different path than she is today. But the thought that she should make a difference by defending human rights led her to give up that teaching position, go to law school, and eventually help found HRLF.
“The Human Rights Legal Foundation is a small team of lawyers who work to hold accountable major perpetrators of the widespread persecutory campaign waged against Falun Gong believers in China,” said Ms. Marsh.
In 2002 HRLF sued Jiang Zemin, then the head of the CCP, in U.S. Federal Court. This lawsuit laid the groundwork in the following years for about 50 lawsuits in dozens of countries.
In November 2009 a Spanish court, responding to an HRLF lawsuit filed against Jiang Zemin and high-ranking Communist Party officials Bo Xilai and Luo Gan and others indicted the defendants for crimes of torture and persecution. If any of these defendants sets foot in a country with which Spain has an extradition treaty, then the defendants must be detained and transported to Spain to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
Director, World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong
The CCP’s inner workings and the systems of its persecution of Falun Gong tend to be a murky subject. However, work is being done outside of China to bring to light the dark secrets of the communist regime.
The World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG) has published extensive reports that detail how the persecution of Falun Gong is carried out by the CCP.
Lao Wan, WOIPFG’s director, believes his work is his responsibility in this life, his “mission.” Through a Chinese interpreter, he shared his belief that the persecution of Falun Gong “is persecution against the kindest people in the world; against conscience.”
Part of the goal of WOIPFG has been to gather evidence against the regime and the people involved in the persecution. “We’ve prepared evidence and witnesses to bring the persecutors to justice,” Mr. Wan said.
Mr. Wan said WOIPFG has called members of the regime’s 610 office—a Gestapo-like organization under the CCP formed to persecute Falun Gong—who have been willing to reveal information to “redeem their sins.” He said his experience calling into China has been that “good people see hope, and evil people are scared.”
Director, Friends of Falun Gong
The CCP’s persecution against Falun Gong still baffles Alan Adler, director of human rights organization Friends of Falun Gong (FoFG). According to Mr. Adler, the persecution “defies common logic—that a political power would choose to persecute its constituents that strive, in their daily life, to be honest, compassionate, and tolerant.”
He said that when the persecution first began, he thought it would be over quickly after the CCP authorities came to better understand Falun Dafa. “At first I just went to explain to U.S. government officials that an error must have been made, because Falun Dafa was simply a benign spiritual practice, and I knew it,” Mr. Adler said. “Little did I know that I’d still be doing this a decade later.”
He said that he has been changed through his work of educating the public about the persecution. “I’ve come to understand the injustices in this world, and I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for the persons in China who are being persecuted,” Mr. Adler said. “I can hardly imagine what their lives are like, what happened to their families and themselves, and I just hope that soon it will end.”
In the beginning stages of the persecution against Falun Gong, Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDI), said it was more of a personal issue. “I saw people who were doing the same thing as I—something benevolent and peaceful—and were being tortured for it. I even felt as though I were seeing my friends, parents, and brothers being tortured for it and sent to prison,” said Mr. Browde.
As the persecution went on, and he learned more about the CCP and why it carries out persecutory campaigns, Mr. Browde said he now sees it “from a much broader angle.” He said, “The issues are much bigger, the injustice is much larger, the damage being done is not just to individuals, but to an entire fabric of a society.”
As a human rights organization, FDI collects and compiles information about the persecution of Falun Gong and works with NGOs, governments, and media to bring the information to the public.
FDI also makes contact with individuals inside China who can relay information and evidence about the persecution. According to Mr. Browde, it is sensitive work, and maintaining the safety of their contacts is a top priority. “It has to be done very carefully, and that’s what makes part of it so difficult,” he said. “Human rights organizations and media have difficulties themselves.”
Chairman, The Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party
David Gao was once China’s youngest university professor at the Canton University of Technology. His scientific discoveries won him national prizes on two occasions, but his reputation also marked him for possible persecution. Police were sent to arrest Mr. Gao on July 20, 1999, yet he managed to escape to the United States.
Mr. Gao is now the chairman of the Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party. The volunteer-run organization was established to give Chinese people a channel to withdraw their memberships from the Chinese Communist Party and its affiliated organizations.
Today, “Tuidang” (quit the Party) centers all over the world process over 50,000 renunciations from the CCP every day. They come from inside China and the Chinese diaspora; they come via Internet, phone, fax, and personal submission.
After years of political movements such as the Cultural Revolution, the CCP has destroyed the traditional beliefs, values, and culture, which were once the foundation of China. Mr. Gao said these campaigns have caused many “not to dare speak out” and created a notion that if the CCP has said something, everyone should follow.
Mr. Gao believes that exposing the nature of the CCP is necessary to ending its persecutions of the Chinese people. Mr. Gao said the Tuidang movement represents an awakening of morality in China. The Chinese people are coming “to see what is really good and what is really bad—what is traditional culture, human rights, and human nature,” Mr. Gao said.
Edward McMillan Scott interviewed by Lixin Yang of NTDTV. Additional reporting by Matthew Little.