Chapter Four: Jiang’s Crusade Against Falun Gong (Part 1)
From its earliest establishment, Chinese culture embraced the concept of the “Oneness of Heaven and Man.” The way for a human being to achieve the oneness, or his true self, is by cultivation practice. Chinese literature is replete with legends of people becoming enlightened, or obtaining the Tao, and even achieving the status of deity through cultivation. Many forms of cultivation have existed over the course of Chinese history. “Cultivation practice” is a generic term for the practice of mind and body transcendence, with “cultivation” referring to mental improvement and “practice” referring to physical refinement.
Falun Gong is an ancient form of cultivation practice. Specifically, Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) is the Great Way of the Law-Wheel Cultivation Practice.
Cultivation practice has left its imprint on nearly every aspect of Chinese culture. The teachings of Lao Zi and Confucius, for example, used in enlightened statecraft, were originally for guiding the moral development of their respective disciples.
A great number of important historic figures in Chinese history early on were practitioners of cultivation. Cultivation of moral character was a prerequisite for students of any serious study. “Cultivate oneself, put family in order, govern the state, and pacify the world” had been a maxim for Chinese scholars and government ministers for generations. Ethical values derived from the theory and practice of cultivation were instrumental in establishing society’s morality.
Cultivation has also long been associated with physical health and contentment. The health benefits of Tai Chi and martial arts exercises, for example, are well known even outside of China. All the renowned physicians throughout Chinese history were practitioners of cultivation and had supernormal abilities to diagnose and cure diseases. In fact, they were entirely responsible for establishing the theory and practice of Chinese medicine, including the system of meridian points in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine that we know today.
Cultivation practices are similar in many respects to the bona fide religions in China and in other cultures. Both types of practices believe in the existence of supersensory realities, the salvation of mankind, and the attainment of higher realms by practicing their respective spiritual teachings. Their role in maintaining society’s morality is also similar.
Religion diﬀers, however, from cultivation in that it has forms not found in cultivation; religions typically have a physical church or temple of worship, may have vestments, and its rituals are essential. Rituals and all the accoutrements and formalities that go with a particular religion are mostly or entirely absent in cultivation practices. Also, membership in a religion will involve an emotional bond between members, often described as a brotherhood or sisterhood of some sort, and normally some kind of tithing is required, whereas cultivation membership is much looser, less tangible, for example, only requiring adherence to prescribed principles expounded in a book.
Falun Gong is a cultivation practice for mind and body based upon the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. The term “cultivation practice” has twofold meanings: cultivation refers to the spiritual elevation of the inner self, while practice refers to the physical exercises.
In 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi—known as “Master Li” to his disciples—began giving public lectures on Falun Gong. He explained that a complete cultivation practice contains both the spiritual and physical aspects, and expounded that the key to cultivation is the improvement of one’s moral and mental self. A practitioner should first of all become a good person with higher moral standards. One should make an honest living and give up selfish and harmful thoughts. In case of conﬂict, one should search within oneself to find one’s own shortcomings regardless of the merits of each side of the conflict. One should always consider others first, never harm others for one’s own gain, and let go of “attachments” to reputation, wealth, and lust, to name the most common ones. Through continuous improvement of one’s mind and moral character, one enlightens to higher realms and reaches other dimensions and worlds. A side effect of this cultivation is the reward of good health, although it is not the primary goal of this practice as it is with other forms of qigong.
Following the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, Falun Gong practitioners devote themselves to the cultivation of their inner selves, and regard the elevation of one’s heart and mind as fundamental. This work on oneself, combined with five supplementary sets of gentle exercises, enables practitioners to reach a state of tranquility and inner peace, while at the same time growing their cultivation energy or “gong.”
Communist rule in the mainland brought an abrupt end to the tradition of cultivation in China. The Communist Party’s atheistic ideology and need for total control was dismissive of cultivation practice. The leaders of the CCP could also feel threatened by it. During the first two years of communist rule, approximately two million people were executed in the movement of “suppressing counter-revolutionary superstitious sects and secret societies.” Cultivation was labeled as “superstition” and brutally persecuted. In the late 1970s, some schools of cultivation practice resurfaced in public, but they confined themselves to teaching physical fitness and healing diseases to avoid arousing the CCP’s attention.
The introduction of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, was the first time since the communists took power in China that a master or spiritual teacher openly promoted cultivation. It also reconnected Chinese people to their own cultural roots.
At the time Chinese society was going through an especially low period of decline of morality and values. The Tiananmen massacre in June 1989 weakened the authorities’ claim to legitimacy. The ensuing political purge further suﬀocated dissenting voices that were calling for accountability. As a diversion from the social discontent, the regime offered the lure of human greed and selfishness, letting loose a genie that no ruler in Chinese history had ever unleashed before. With slogans such as “getting rich is glorious” and “let some people get rich first,” the regime opened the ﬂoodgates for officials at all levels to appropriate public property; a frenzy of material desire swept through China. This turned the nation’s morality upside down, replacing right and wrong with gain and loss. Morality slid down so severely that people refer to it as the “era of the entire people becoming corrupt” with no sense of remorse, and it is even became fashionable to mock traditional values: “How much for a pound of conscience?” “What is morality worth?” This moral bankruptcy contributed to China’s social problems, including the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor, a widespread mafia, prostitution, illicit drug use, and a high suicide rate.
The refreshing teachings of Falun Dafa awakened many people from the moral decay they saw all around them. “One should return to one’s original, true self; this is the real purpose of being human,” said Master Li, words that revived people’s innate longings for goodness, truthfulness, and righteousness. They enlightened to a life of cultivation. They let go of previous grudges. They gave up their desires for material gains when it meant hurting others. They stopped worrying about always being taken advantage of. They turned away from the scheming mentality so pervasive between people in communist China.
Officials who practiced rejected bribes and resisted all forms of corruption. Businessmen shunned cheating and dishonest practices. Gangsters, drug addicts, prostitutes, and thieves alike, who took up Dafa—which means “the Great Way”—turned over a new leaf and led new lives.
While Falun Gong emphasizes individual cultivation, the high moral standards that Falun Gong practitioners abide by have had a positive impact on society, and this fact had been recognized by many people, including various levels of the Chinese authorities. For example, it is a standard procedure to sift and re-weigh grain that farmers turn in to the public procurement stations. In Jianli County of Hubei Province, however, this procedure was waived for grain turned in by Falun Gong practitioners. Many companies even established a preference for hiring Falun Gong practitioners, as Falun Gong had become synonymous with honesty and kindness.
Additionally, among the many Chinese systems of fitness exercises, Falun Gong was the fastest growing and attracted the attention of medical professionals and the government. In 1998, a preliminary medical survey was conducted among Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing (twice), Wuhan, Dalian, and Guangdong Province. The five surveys collected data from nearly 35,000 practitioners. This data was by far the most comprehensive investigation of Falun Gong’s effects on healing and fitness. It found that Falun Gong practitioners surveyed came from all walks of life: 72.9 percent were women; 62.1 percent were over 50; more than 90 percent suffered from at least one disease before practicing. Most of the practitioners began to learn Falun Gong for healing and fitness purposes. The surveys concluded that more than 98 percent had said they benefitted in their health and fitness. Many survey respondents appreciated Falun Gong for giving them a second chance at life or for saving their family members.
Even the Chinese government acknowledged Falun Gong’s health benefits. According to a US News & World Report article published in February 1999, “‘Falun Gong and other types of qigong can save each person 1,000 yuan in annual medical fees. If 100 million people were practicing it, that’s 100 billion yuan [U.S. $14.9 billion] saved per year in medical fees,’ says one official who was involved in the nationwide reviewing process. Citing an internal memo, he adds, ‘Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that. The country could use the money right now.’”
By 1999, Falun Gong had become a global phenomenon of over 100 million practitioners across more than 50 countries.
During the 1998 Yangtze River flooding, the government called on the people to donate for the relief; the names of the donors were displayed on state television. Many Falun Gong practitioners made donations, but signed, “Falun Gong practitioner,” instead of using their personal names. According to Jiang’s staff, when he saw people identified as Falun Gong practitioners on TV, his face turned gloomy. Later, when Jiang trotted around to inspect the people on the frontlines fighting the flood, he saw a team of people working there day and night. Jiang sent his staff to ask if they were communist party members. The answer came back that they were Falun Gong practitioners. Upon hearing this, Jiang became immediately unhappy. People around him were confused and did not know what to do. But those who were familiar with Jiang’s personality knew what had happened: Jiang was jealous of Falun Gong’s founder.
As early as 1993, the name “Master Li” was already widespread in Beijing. Jiang Zemin often heard about the founder of Falun Gong. However, Jiang could not tolerate words of praise for another, and was unhappy upon hearing Mr. Li’s name. Later on in 1994, Jiang’s wife Wang Yeping (王冶坪), as well as families of the seven members of Politburo Standing Committee, started to learn Falun Gong. Jiang could not accept high-level people and his wife practicing. Jiang ordered his wife to stop practicing. He said, “Even my wife is believing in Li Hongzhi. Who would believe in me, the General Secretary?” Because of Falun Gong’s amazing health benefits, more and more people came to learn the practice. This too made Jiang irrationally angry.
Zhong Guichun (钟桂春), a Falun Gong practitioner who once worked in Beijing’s police force, told a story from his personal experience. “As a matter of fact, Jiang knew Falun Gong very well. How well did he know? Even some of his own actions, his speech, and his way of walking are learned from Master Li of Falun Gong. In 1992, when he met with police officers in Beijing, we gathered in the Great Hall. Everyone was looking at the way he was making his appearance, or walking, which was not normal. When Jiang was clapping, both palms were wide open and five fingers were quite apart from one another [as done in the exercises]. When he was making his way, the belly was bulging outward. It looked odd to many of us.
“As the words made their way to his ears, he felt the need to change his unsightly postures. And he asked his staff nearby, ‘Who is the most famous across the entire country nowadays?’ His staff told him that would be Master Li. Falun Gong’s Master Li was most famous and his manner is most elegant and classy. Ever since then, Jiang has been emulating Master Li. Now his postures have changed. They are all from Master Li. His speech and way of walking are mimicking Master Li.
“But he could not even do a good job mimicking. While he was trying to emulate Master Li, he was displaying his jealousy. His staff told him that Master Li could stand there and talk for hours without a script, and then produce a book after the talk. Tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners would follow and act accordingly. Master Li was respected and highly regarded by over 100 million people. Jiang could not put up with it after hearing all these.”
Chinese communism is never short of things to showcase its “correctness.” There was Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theories. Jiang needed something as his political legacy to be put side by side with his predecessors. In 1995, Jiang launched a campaign of “three emphases”—emphasis on study, emphasis on politics, and emphasis on being upright. The campaign received little enthusiasm and achieved little effect. Everyone knew that it was merely a formality.
In contrast, the practice of Falun Gong is purely voluntary. Practitioners chose to follow the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance deeply from their hearts. Their gratitude toward Falun Gong and Master Li is anything but a formality. This difference, to the chagrin of Jiang Zemin, puzzled him. Why is heartfelt gratitude attributable to Falun Gong but not to his “three emphases?”
In 1997, Deng Xiaoping died. Jiang Zemin, realizing that his time as a puppet emperor had come to an end, was eager to establish his own personal authority. Seeing that tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners were having genuine reverence for their teacher and master, Jiang simply could not hold back his jealousy.
On April 25, 1999, more than ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners gathered quietly in Beijing outside the State Council’s appeal office (General Office of the State Council), located near the Chinese leadership compound, to request the release of practitioners detained days earlier in Tianjin and the lifting of the ban on Falun Gong books.
Around 3 p.m. in the afternoon, in his bulletproof limousine embellished with tinted windows, Jiang toured around the compound to have a close look at the practitioners. He did not get out of the car, or talk to Falun Gong practitioners. To his surprise, he saw dozens of military men with rank badges on the shoulders among the practitioners. Jiang just was annoyed that these military people would follow Falun Gong instead of him, the chair of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission and head of the Chinese military.
In the evening, Jiang Zemin wrote a letter in which he said, “After the [April 25] incident, the Western media immediately reported it and stirred it up. Does Falun Gong have ties with overseas forces or the West? Is there a mastermind behind the scene? This is a new sign that we must pay high attention to. The sensitive period is around the corner. We must take effective measures as soon as possible to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents.” The “sensitive period” that Jiang is referring to is the 10th anniversary of the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre, which is only 42 days or six weeks from the April 25 demonstration.
Jiang also said in the letter, “We cannot underestimate the religious appeal of Falun Gong as an organization. The authorities must step up investigations and formulate countermeasures. As Falun Gong’s headquarters is abroad, we cannot exclude the possibility that overseas forces were behind this operation.” “Shouldn’t the Marxist theories, materialism, and atheism in communism be able to defeat the stuff promoted by Falun Gong?”
Volume II of Selected Works of Jiang Zemin, published in 2006 in mainland China, included this letter, titled “A New Sign.” At the end of the letter, there is a footnote: “This is a letter Comrade Jiang Zemin wrote to the members of Politburo Standing Committee of Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee and other relevant leaders.”
It was in this letter that Jiang Zemin proposed for the first time that the Communist Party should defeat Falun Gong. At the time, among the seven sitting members on the Politburo Standing Committee, everyone except Jiang disagreed with the persecution of Falun Gong. The reason was quite simple. Falun Gong practitioners posed no threat to the PRC government and probably most of them saw positive benefits to the practice.
For years, people have been asking the same question: Why did Jiang Zemin persecute Falun Gong? There are many levels to the question that involve the role communism plays in world history that go beyond the scope of this book. The simplest explanation was his jealousy which was very obvious. Jiang Zemin’s jealousy towards Falun Gong and the founder led to his irrational desire to want to persecute and destroy it. While objective, historical forces played a role, the persecution launched by Jiang Zemin was very much a personal matter.
To understand the context of Jiang’s letter of July 1999 calling for the leadership to be concerned about Falun Gong, one needs to go back to previous years to understand how this antagonism began and observe the escalation of the CCP’s hostility.
Despite the positive impact that Falun Gong brought to Chinese society, some Communist officials, believers of Marxism and atheism, were irritated by the increasing popularity of Falun Gong. They could not accept the fact that despite forty years of brainwashing, many people—even some communist party members—turned to an ancient and theistic tradition to look for guidance. For other officials in the Party’s intelligence and public security authorities, Falun Gong’s popularity provided a great opportunity for them to expand their power and gain political capital by monitoring and suppressing it. As a result, these two groups joined hands and took a series of steps toward restricting Falun Gong.
Starting in 1994, CCP sent undercover personnel to spy on Falun Gong practitioners by posing as practitioners. They found nothing and some of them even started to practice Falun Gong. In 1996, the Guangming Daily published articles that criticized Falun Gong for, among other things, being unscientific, and they made other unfounded accusations against Falun Gong. These articles were the launch of a campaign to vilify practitioners and Falun Gong’s founder. Later, the Propaganda Department of the CCP’s Central Committee banned the publication of Falun Gong books. Since then, interference coming from public security and politicians never ceased.
At the beginning of 1997, Luo Gan, the chair of Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the CCP’s Central Committee, instructed the public security authorities to conduct a nationwide investigation, so as to make Falun Gong appear guilty of something and to justify banning Falun Gong. However, the investigation found nothing.
In July 1998, Luo Gan, via the First Bureau of Ministry of Public Security, issued a Notice on Conducting Investigation of Falun Gong. The Notice first determined that Falun Gong was an “evil cult,” and then instructed police nationwide to conduct systematic “undercover investigations” to collect evidence. Again, the investigations turned up nothing.
However, in some areas, the harassment of Falun Gong practitioners’ normal activities continued. In 1998, the Public Security Bureau of Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, Hebei, Fujian, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Shandong, and other provinces already harassed and expelled Falun Gong practitioners doing exercises outdoors in the name of “illegal assembly,” searched Falun Gong practitioners and confiscated their private property, and detained and beat up Falun Gong practitioners.
It is worthwhile to note that the First Bureau of Ministry of Public Security was also known as Bureau of Political Security (政治保卫局) (BPS), which was established by the CCP in the 1930s, modelled on the Soviet Union’s secret police, the “Cheka,” the predecessor of the KGB. BPS was very popular during the CCP’s earlier years fraught with political turmoil, as a tool to battle “class enemies.” Later, when economic growth became the country’s main focus, the standing of the BPS was not as high as before. In order to preserve its status and curry favor among the bureaucracies, BPS would look for various ways to prove the need for its existence, such as finding some illegal or subversive organizations, or coming up with big cases. It was against such a backdrop that the harassment of Falun Gong practitioners before July 1999 was taking place.
Falun Gong practitioners were not intimidated as much as other people would have been under the circumstances. They had learned from their own experiences that the allegations were without merit. At the same time, in the face of the unprovoked repression, they tolerated it. They saw the hostilities toward them as an opportunity to show what cultivation is and what kind of people cultivators are. Many practitioners even wrote to the CCP, risking their jobs and personal safety, to tell their personal stories and reassure authorities that Falun Gong is beneficial to society, and no threat to the regime.
As the harassment and interference continued, in 1998 the state General Administration of Sport dispatched a team to conduct a Falun Gong study in Changchun and Harbin cities. Their conclusion said, “We think that Falun Gong is good in terms of both its methodology and efficacy. It has great effects for social stability and spiritual civilization. This should be fully affirmed.” In the second half of 1998, a group from the National People’s Congress (NPC) of retired veteran officials, headed by Qiao Shi, conducted a detailed investigation and study of Falun Gong. The study reached the conclusion that “Falun Gong has one hundred benefits with zero harm to the country and the people.” The study was submitted to Jiang Zemin at year’s end, and out of jealousy toward Qiao Shi, Jiang was quite displeased. “The writing is iffy and I don’t understand it,” commented Jiang and handed over the report to Luo Gan. Luo took the hint and stepped up his efforts to suppress Falun Gong. He began to make use of some people who were hostile toward Falun Gong to conspire against it in major ways.
As an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, He Zuoxiu was a very controversial figure. Wearing the hat of “scientist,” he was actually a politician eager to wield the CCP’s club. When he graduated from the Physics Department of Tsinghua University in 1951, he was assigned to work at the Propaganda Department of the CCP due to his views on “the class structure in natural science.” Later, he began research on theoretical physics, but his focus was still on using Marxist philosophy to study physics. In 1958, he went to the Soviet Union to study at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research. One of his most important works was the theory of “layer model” for fundamental particles, for which he won the title “honorable,” as a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the CPPCC (National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference). His paper was titled, “Using Mao Zedong Thought to Guide the Study of Fundamental Particles.” This theory identifies that fundamental particles are built upon layers, which are also divisible into “proletariat particle” and “Mao (Zedong) particle.”
For example, August Kekulé, a German chemist, discovered the ring-shape molecule structure of benzene in the 19th century. Later, Nobel Laureate (in chemistry) Linus Pauling proposed the “resonance” theory to explain the Kekulé model, marking the beginning of quantum mechanics in the study of chemical structures. However, He Zuoxiu accused the Kekulé model of the “reflection of class reconciliation in the scientific community.” As a result, many Chinese experts in structural chemistry were implicated and investigated for their “bourgeois viewpoint.” This dealt a serious blow to China’s quantum mechanics research and caused a prolonged interruption.
A Marxist and atheist, He Zuoxiu held innate hostility toward China’s traditional practices of qigong. When He was interviewed by the government’s mouthpiece, China Central Television, he said by a slip of the tongue that his courage in attacking Falun Gong came from the fact that “the Communist Party is behind me.”
In May 1998, He Zuoxiu defamed Falun Gong on Beijing TV station’s program, “Light of Science and Technology.” After Falun Gong practitioners went to the station and told them the facts, Beijing TV made a correction. On April 11, 1999, He published an article in a magazine under the name of the Tianjin Institute of Education that slandered Falun Gong and continued to misrepresent the truth about Falun Gong. In the article, he wrote that Falun Gong would cause mental illness and hinted that Falun Gong would lead the country to destruction in the same way as the Boxer Rebellion at the end of 19th century. Some Falun Gong practitioners in Tianjin believed that it was necessary to clarify the truth to the relevant parties in Tianjin, in the hope of eliminating the erroneous statements in the article through rational discussion.
So, from April 18 to April 24, some practitioners went to the Tianjin Institute of Education and other relevant organizations to make clarifications. At the beginning, Falun Gong practitioners met with the persons with editorial authority at the magazine who appeared willing to make corrections. The next day, however, their attitude changed all of a sudden, and they refused to admit any mistakes. Later developments show that this time He Zuoxiu was not acting alone, but acting in concert with recently promoted chair of the CCP Central Committee’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission Luo Gan. On April 23 and 24, more than 300 Tianjin riot police arrived to beat up Falun Gong practitioners who went to make clarifications, resulting in bloody injuries and the arrest of 45 people. Tianjin officials told the practitioners that this was not something the Tianjin government could handle, and that they had to appeal to a higher level: the central government in Beijing. When Falun Gong practitioners asked for the release of the people arrested, they were told that the Ministry of Public Security was involved in the incident and that the arrested Falun Gong practitioners would not be released without authorization by Beijing. Tianjin police told the practitioners, “Go to Beijing. This can only be resolved by Beijing.”
On April 25, 1999, over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered in Beijing outside the State Council Appeals Office. Upon learning of the gathering, China’s Premier Zhu Rongji met with the practitioners and instructed the person in charge of the Appeal Office to hold dialogues with the practitioners. The practitioners made three requests: 1) release the Falun Gong practitioners arrested in Tianjin two days before; 2) guarantee a legitimate environment for practicing Falun Gong; and 3) allow the Falun Gong books to be publicly published through normal channels.
Completely cognizant of the situation, the CCP’s security apparatus wanted to escalate tensions and was prepared to manufacture excuses for the suppression of Falun Gong. On the evening of April 24, numerous Falun Gong practitioners traveled to Beijing. At the same time, some insiders who knew the CCP’s plan informed families who practice Falun Gong and persuaded them to stay home the next day, as the police were already deployed to arrest people.
On the early morning of April 25, when a large number of Falun Gong practitioners arrived at the State Council Appeals Office sitting on Fuyou Street, police came forward to lead Falun Gong practitioners away from the Appeals Office toward Zhongnanhai, the office compound of the CCP top leaders. Innocent and kindhearted as they always are, the practitioners followed the arrangement of the police. They went where the police asked them to go and stayed where the police told them to stay. Under the police’s command, the practitioners were divided into two columns: one marching from south up to north, and the other from north down to south. The two columns met at the gate of Zhongnanhai, resulting in an encirclement of the Chinese leadership compound. The practitioners did not realize that it was a ruse until later when the CCP formally started the persecution and incriminated Falun Gong for “besieging the central government.”
After carrying out their scheme, the police enforced martial law at eight o’clock. Many police vans arrived; rows of armed police stood face to face against the practitioners. Cameramen were trotting up and down to videotape the practitioners. Nobody was out on the street except the police (uniformed and plainclothes). Inside the fencing and walls around Zhongnanhai, heavily armed military troops wearing combat helmets came into sight of the practitioners, purveying an atmosphere of terror.
April 25, 1999 was also the day when Falun Gong practitioners’ high moral discipline, achieved through their cultivation, was on full display. When He Zuoxiu, who repeatedly slandered Falun Gong in the media, showed up at the scene under heavy protection of plainclothes police, not a single Falun Gong practitioner started an argument with him. When some plants who feigned to be Falun Gong practitioners incited everyone to shout slogans, none of the practitioners followed suit. More than 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners were peaceful and orderly. They stood three-deep in rows between the street and sidewalk to make room for traffic. They advised curious pedestrians to move on so as not to create a scene. They even picked up the cigarette butts dropped by the police who were watching them. The harmony and peace of Falun Gong practitioners quickly pacified the armed police accustomed to an intense confrontational mode. A policewoman was moved and said: “Look, what is virtue? This is virtue!”
In the morning, when Premier Zhu Rongji saw the large number of practitioners, he came out of Zhongnanhai and walked directly over to the practitioners. Zhu said: “You have religious freedom! If you have any question, send a couple of representatives and I will take you in to talk about it.” Zhu randomly picked three Falun Gong practitioners and took them into Zhongnanhai for a meeting with the head of the State Council’s Appeals Office. During the conversation, practitioners found that Zhu Rongji already had given instructions on Falun Gong issue, but somehow these were withheld and not passed on.
The meeting between the State Council officials and Falun Gong representatives lasted for a whole day. During the time, the practitioners quietly waited outside. Around nine o’clock in the evening, the emergence of an agreement began to take shape. The arrested Tianjin Falun Gong practitioners were to be released, and the gathering outside Zhongnanhai quietly dispersed. There was not even a paper scrap left on the ground. The whole event ended peacefully. This event became known as the “April 25th 10,000-person appeal.”
As the largest scale public gathering of Chinese people since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, the Western media gave it a lot of attention. Regarding the peaceful settlement of the April 25th appeal, international observers and the media gave high marks to Falun Gong and Premier Zhu Rongji. They regarded it as a precedent for the Chinese government to solve social issues with civic groups, and also a milestone for China towards behaving as a civilized society.
The following section is taken from a statement by Yiyang Xia, Senior Director of Policy and Research at the Human Rights Law Foundation and Director of the Investigation Division for the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong.
The Chinese government never legally banned Falun Gong and there is, in fact, no law on the books prohibiting this religious practice. In 2007, six prominent Chinese lawyers defended Falun Gong practitioner Wang Bo and her family. The attorneys concluded: “It is clear that the punitive actions carried out at present against Falun Gong believers have no constitutional legal basis, and they should be suspended forthwith.”
The persecution of Falun Gong began on July 20, 1999. At the time, two documents were considered to form the basis for the persecution, but both were announced on July 22, two days after security forces engaged in mass detentions of contact persons from local exercise practice sites. The mass arrests were not carried out under an order from the government or a court order. Rather, they were implemented under directives from Communist Party Chairman Jiang Zemin, directives that were reportedly issued in a secret internal meeting held on July 19, 1999 at which Jiang himself gave a speech. The title of the talk: “Speech given at the Meeting of Leaders of the CCP Committee of Provinces, Autonomous Regions, and Municipalities,” itself indicates that the meeting was held under the auspices of the Party and not the official government.
The two documents subsequently issued on July 22 were titled: “Decision to Ban the Falun Gong Research Society” issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the “Notice of Six Prohibitions from the Ministry of Public Security.” The first notice targeted the “Falun Gong Research Society” as an administrative organization, rather than Falun Gong itself as a spiritual or religious practice. In 1993, Falun Gong was a subordinate entity of the Chinese Qigong Scientific Research Society and was called the “Falun Gong Research Branch.” In March 1996, the Falun Gong Research Society formally petitioned to withdraw from the Chinese Qigong Scientific Research Society. When the withdrawal was approved, the Falun Gong branch formally dissolved. What the Ministry of Civil Affairs banned in July 1999 was technically an entity that had been dissolved in March 1996.
Even if the Ministry of Civil Affairs could have banned the non-existing “Falun Gong Research Society,” the ban cannot automatically be extended to cover the practice of Falun Gong itself. Practicing Falun Gong has never been banned. In addition, the “Decision” document claimed that the Falun Gong Research Society had not registered in accordance with regulations. Even if that were true, not being registered does not amount to a group being illegal. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has no legal jurisdiction to ban any group.
The “Notice of Six Prohibitions from the Ministry of Public Security” then illegally extended the scope of the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ already groundless decision. Under Chinese law, these two ministries have no legislative or judicial power to decide what is legal or illegal. Thus, both documents exceeded their ministries’ jurisdiction. In addition, both documents were in direct violation of Article 36 and Article 5 of the Chinese Constitution. Article 36 grants Chinese citizens the freedom of religious belief and Article 5 holds that all state organs must abide by the constitution and the law.
A third document, often viewed as forming part of the core basis for the persecution, was titled, “Notice from the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party Forbidding Communist Party Members from Practicing Falun Gong.” As a Party document, it is applicable only to Party members and therefore cannot be considered to hold any legal standing for society at large.
On October 30, 1999, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee ratified a “Decision to Ban, Safeguard Against, and Punish Cult Activities.” This is often cited as the basis for the campaign. However, the document never specifically mentions Falun Gong.
On June 7, 1999, 43 days before the persecution was launched, Jiang Zemin announced in a meeting of Politburo members that a new leadership team would be established under the CCP’s Central Committee to deal with the Falun Gong issue. Under this leadership team, an office was established to handle day-to-day duties and called, “the Office of the Leadership Team of the CCP Central Committee for Handling the Falun Gong Issue.” That Office is more commonly known as the “6-10 Office,” named for the date it was established: June 10, 1999. After that date, almost every Party branch, from the province to the county to the district level, established its own 6-10 Office. The source of the 6-10 Office’s ability to operate extralegally and with impunity is not drawn from the state. Neither the People’s Congress nor the State Council has authorized its actions. Rather, approval and support for its deeds comes from the Communist Party. Each 6-10 Office takes orders from the 6-10 Office at one level above it, going up to the central 6-10 Office. The local 6-10 Offices also take orders from the leadership team of the CCP Committee at its same organizational level. Today, thousands of 6-10 Office branches remain active throughout China.
Thus, a new chain of command came into being separate from the state government bureaucracy with the power to supersede the latter’s authority and its jurisdiction of the legal system. The CCP set up its own security group for addressing the Falun Gong issue. “At its core, the 6-10 Office is a plainclothes CCP-based extra-ministerial security force focused on suppressing the Falun Gong spiritual group,” said the Jamestown Foundation, The 6-10 Office: Policing the Chinese Spirit, Sept. 16, 2011. The same source said, “Given that the entire anti-Falun Gong campaign functioned outside Chinese law, Jiang needed a security force that could operate outside the existing legal system and its potential restrictions.”
At the time when 6-10 Office was set up, it was headed by Li Lanqing, then vice premier of the central government. The whole system of 6-10 Offices is under the CCP’s Political and Legal Affair Commission, and staffed by cadres from a vast array of government and Party organs: the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Procuratorate, the Ministry of Justice, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the General Administration of Sport, the State Council Legal Affairs Office, the Office of the Leadership Team of the CCP Central Committee for Handling the National Security, the State Council Information Office, the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Post Bureau, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League, the All-China Women’s Federation, the China Association for Science and Technology, and the Armed Police.
From the level of the head of 6-10 as well as the list of the above participating member organs, it is not hard to see the nationwide political power that Jiang Zemin mustered to persecute Falun Gong. In one way or another, most of the State apparatus was brought into action. Once the wheels of the State turned, the whole of Chinese society would follow, first as passive innocent observers, then sometimes as active participants in the persecution campaign.
Relying on its nationwide network and extralegal power, the 6-10 Office is able to mobilize an enormous amount of resources to carry out the campaign against Falun Gong. The goal is to “transform” Falun Gong practitioners. 6-10 Offices throughout China maintain an informal network of “transformation-through-reeducation” facilities, also known as “brainwashing classes,” which use physical and mental coercion to force the practitioners to renounce Falun Gong. Such “brainwashing classes” were set up in urban neighborhood committees, state institutions, companies, and even remote villages. No Falun Gong practitioners are spared, including students and the elderly. Those who refuse to renounce Falun
Gong will be put under house arrest, sent to labor camps, or sentenced to prison. Some mentally healthy Falun Gong practitioners were even locked up in psychiatric facilities.
In 2010, the Central 6-10 Office launched a three-year intensified “transformation” campaign. Documents from 6-10 offices across the country show details of the campaign, which involves setting up “transformation quotas” and requiring local authorities to force Falun Gong practitioners to participate in “reeducation courses.” If Falun Gong practitioners do not accept the “courses,” they will be sent to a labor camp.
The 6-10 Office routinely interfere with judicial processes that face Falun Gong practitioners.
A Chinese court by itself is a black box operation. When there is a “trial committee,” it is in full control over the process. It is the highest trial authority inside the court, directing the trials of all so-called “difficult, complex, and major cases.” The judge sits in the courtroom as a dummy, rendering no real judgment. The “trial committee” doesn’t show up but makes the final decision. Except for the president and vice president of the court, members of the “trial committee” are secret. As Jiang Zemin and the CCP treated Falun Gong as a major case, the Political and Legal Affairs Commission and 6-10 Office made full use of the “trial committee” structure to manipulate the final verdict on Falun Gong-related lawsuits. Before a case is put on trial, the verdict has already been decided by the PLAC and 6-10 Office.
Li Xiongbing, a lawyer who once defended Falun Gong practitioners, said, “From the judicial process, including investigation, prosecution, or trial, the 6-10 Office is non-existent. But when dealing with Falun Gong-related cases, the judicial process is actually controlled by the 6-10 office. Speaking of judicial openness and transparency, the 6-10 Office violates the principle of law.”
Lawyer Jiang Tianyong said, “In Falun Gong cases, we always heard that the judge and the prosecutor say they cannot play their respective roles but have to listen to the 6-10 office. Everything is arranged by the 6-10 [Office], including the date and time of court hearing, whether it’s an open hearing or not, and even the final verdict. But the 6-10 Office does not belong to any legislative, executive, or judicial organ. So far, I don’t know how the 6-10 Office exists, where it exists, who is in charge, where the personnel appointments come from, and what law authorized such an organization. Since it is has no legal authority, there is no legal basis for the establishment of this institution; it is an illegal thing.”
In early 2009, overseas media exposed that many localities in China were circulating a secret directive from the Ministry of Justice on “Further strengthening the coordination work on defense lawyers for Falun Gong cases.” Shenyang’s 6-10 Office made it even explicit that there should absolutely be no verdict of innocence in Falun Gong cases. In the same year, the city of Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province issued a secret notice, demanding to “promptly stop” any lawyer from defending the innocence of Falun Gong practitioners. The notice also ordered the establishment of a coordination mechanism, comprising courts, procuratorate, police, national security, judiciary, and other organs, to control the trials of Falun Gong cases and monitor the defense lawyers.
In China, the judicial system has never been independent. It is tightly under the grip of the Communist Party. The CCP Central Committee’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission (PLAC) is the most frequently used Party organ to interfere with judicial institutions. The PLAC states, “The Central Committee’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission is the functional organ for the Party to lead and administer political and legal affairs.” In the central government, the PLAC controls the Supreme Court, the Supreme Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of National Security, and the Ministry of Justice. Such control exists at each and every lower level of the government: the CCP’s PLAC at each level controls the judicial authorities at the same level.
In the 1980s, the CCP once wanted to abolish the PLAC. The process was reversed after Jiang Zemin took office. In order to strengthen his dictatorship, he ceased talking about the separation of powers between Party and government. Nor did he talk about impartial justice or judicial fairness. Throughout the 1990s, the CCP issued various directives regarding the function and authority of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC) at all levels of the government bureaucracy. As a formal organization under the CCP’s Central Committee, PLAC is a typical organization for the Party to meddle with government affairs and disrupt judicial independence.
The mere existence of the PLAC itself is in violation of the Article 126 of the Constitution: “The people’s courts shall, in accordance with the law, exercise judicial power independently and are not subject to interference by administrative organs, public organizations, or individuals.” Therefore, the PLAC is an unconstitutional organization that lacks legal basis and undermines judicial independence. When Zhou Yongkang served as Minister of Public Security, Zhou was deputy secretary of the Central PLAC, while the Supreme Court Chief Justice Xiao Yang was only a member of the PLAC. So, the Minister of Public Security was the direct boss of the Supreme Court Chief Justice. Such strange phenomena are quite common in the Chinese communist regime. Many heads of local PLACs also serve as police chiefs.
As a result, the police would collect evidence based on the needs of the procuratorate, while the procuratorate would press charges in accordance with the court’s preordained decision. In all political campaigns launched by the CCP, judicial independence completely vanished. Everything centers on the will of the Party.
The persecution of Falun Gong is mostly carried out by internal documents marked as “classified” or “top secret.” Such documents can be issued at any level, but from the various ones leaked online or via informants in the government, it appears that almost all are modified copies of orders that originated from the CCP’s Central Committee or its 6-10 Office. For example, a letter by Jiang Zemin from April 25 and a June 7 speech in 1999 were distributed by the Office of the CCP Central Committee as formal CCP internal documents to direct the persecution even before it had formally begun. Relevant CCP members and bodies are typically instructed to study such speeches and carry out their aims.
In 2010, an internal document issued by the Central 6-10 Office initiated a three-year campaign to reinvigorate the brainwashing and “transformation” of Falun Gong practitioners. Versions of the orders and plans for their implementation appeared on websites across China at various levels of the party apparatus. According to the Legislation Law of the People’s Republic of China, higher level laws carry more authority than lower-level laws. However, in order to persecute Falun Gong, the CCP has reversed this rule in practice. The internal CCP documents override laws and regulations, the “Notices” override the “Interpretations” of the Supreme Court and Procuratorate, the “Interpretations” override the “Decision” of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and the “Decision” overrides the Constitution.
Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code is the most commonly used way to charge Falun Gong practitioners with a crime and send them to prison for up to 18 years. Thousands of innocent practitioners have been subjected to such punishments. Article 300 establishes, “using heretical religious organizations to disrupt the implementation of law,” as a crime. Chinese lawyer Wang Yonghang stated in a 2008 open letter to the Supreme Procuratorate that it does not meet minimal international legal standards of clarity and specificity. In practice, the government organs that have charged Falun Gong practitioners at the behest of the 6-10 Office have never been able to truly demonstrate that the practitioners had actually committed a crime. It has never been established in court which law’s implementation is disrupted by Falun Gong adherents peacefully practicing their faith, doing their exercises, or disseminating information on human rights abuses.
The CCP has been using an extrajudicial system of Reeducation-Through-Labor, as well as mental hospitals and newly established brainwashing centers, to jail and torture Falun Gong practitioners. Reeducation-through-Labor (RTL) is an administrative punishment that was first introduced by the Ministry of Public Security in 1957 to persecute “counterrevolutionaries” and “Rightists.” In 1982, the State Council approved the Ministry of Public Security report on its status. Since both MPS and the State Council have no legislative power, this is not a legally sanctioned system. Any Chinese citizen can be sent to an RTL camp for as long as three years without any legal process and can have this extended by an additional year for “bad behavior.” The RTL system quickly became the CCP’s most convenient tool for persecuting Falun Gong. The CCP found it to be a quick, efficient way for punishing adherents, torturing them, and locking them away until they renounced their faith.
Although there had previously been scattered reports of mental hospitals being used to jail dissenters, it was not a common phenomenon until the campaign against Falun Gong began. But since 1999 mental hospitals have been widely used to detain practitioners, not only because no legal process is needed, but also because this tactic can further isolate and demonize Falun Gong practitioners in the eyes of the Chinese public.
Brainwashing centers is another system established for persecuting Falun Gong. This network involves makeshift detention centers in schools, hotels, senior citizens homes, and so-called “legal education centers,” where adherents are taken and subjected to severe psychological pressure and physical abuse aimed at forcing them to renounce their faith and pledge allegiance to the CCP. People are typically held for several weeks, but can be detained for months or even years. The detention centers have been established at different administrative levels, from the provincial to the neighborhood level, from local 6-10 Offices to state-run enterprises.
In their public statements, Chinese officials often state that torture is prohibited. China has also signed international treaties and conventions prohibiting torture. Also, Chinese criminal law includes provisions for perpetrators to be punished. In practice, though, when the regime was faced with a group the size of Falun Gong and was trying to accomplish an impossible task—to force tens of millions of people to give up their beliefs—CCP leaders resorted to systematic torture. It is difficult to find the direct orders, especially written documents, of specific instructions to use torture on Falun Gong. However, there is widespread evidence that physical violence is used deliberately and systematically.
In August 2001, Washington Post reporters John Pomfret and Philip Pan authored an article titled: “Torture Is Breaking Falun Gong; China Systematically Eradicating Group.” This was the first time that a western media outlet obtained a quote directly from a high-ranking official acknowledging that violence used against Falun Gong practitioners is part of a well-designed strategy. Numerous testimonies and eyewitness accounts by Falun Gong practitioners, human rights lawyers, and former detainees imprisoned with practitioners confirm the widespread and routine use of brutal torture tactics on Falun Gong adherents. These include shocks with electric batons, torture devices like the Tiger Bench, severe beatings, injections with drugs, and long-term deprivation of food and sleep. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Amnesty International, and other human rights bodies have also reported on the prevalent use of these torture methods against Falun Gong believers. Moreover, instances of perpetrators being punished for acts of torture as required by Chinese law are rare. More common is for individual officials and detention facilities known for obtaining high transformation rates through torture to be rewarded in various ways, such as receiving promotions and monetary bonuses.
The Political and Legal Affairs Commission and the 6-10 Office ordered Chinese lawyers not to defend Falun Gong. So, lawyers are intimidated and most dare not take on a Falun Gong case. Some lawyers did represent Falun Gong practitioners, but PLAC and the 6-10 Office ordered them not to defend their innocence. These brave lawyers suffered from Chinese communist retaliation and harassment. Some had their lawyer’s license revoked. Even worse, the CCP simply arrested these lawyers under charges of disclosing state secrets.
The leading Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was deeply aware of the darkness of the Chinese judicial system, but he was still shocked by the fact that Falun Gong practitioners were completely deprived of basic human rights when he defended Falun Gong cases. He himself was subsequently persecuted. He said in his second public letter to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao:
“Starting from the morning of October 20, [2005,] 20-some plainclothes police from Beijing’s Municipal State Security Bureau and Public Security Bureau would never let me and members of my family out of their sight. At least nine vehicles blocked my doorway from three different directions. On October 18, 19, and 20, the number of vehicles increased to over 20. On the 19th, I received an outright threat phone call. To my wife’s surprise, two unidentified personnel would follow my 12-year-old daughter all the way from home to school every day from October 20 to November 15, when their cover was blown, and then they switched to following me. Every day from November 20, at least three plainclothes police would set up station outside my house and my office, rotating once every few hours. The day after their appearance, the bicycle that my wife rides to drop off and receive our children to/from school was mysteriously lost, while 100 other bicycles in the same parking lot were safe and sound. Last night, more than 20 plainclothes police were at the doorstep. Our newly bought bicycle had its two air valves for inflating the tires pulled out. My car was painted with all kinds of dirt that cannot be washed away. On November 15, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice illegally announced the suspension of my law firm’s practice. On November 15, I went to the court in Xinjiang. The plainclothes police that used to follow my daughter to school tailed me from the morning when I left home to when I boarded the plane. Immediately after I arrived at Urumqi, someone took over the relay baton and continued to follow me.”
On Dec. 12, 2005, attorney Gao once again wrote to the Chinese authorities. The letter was entitled “Immediately stop the brutality that eradicates our nation’s conscience and morality.” For a third time, Gao publicly appealed to the Chinese authorities, with describing the six-year-long tragic persecution. Because of his three open letters, Gao was arrested on Aug. 15, 2006, under the charge of “suspected of inciting subversion of state power.” On Dec. 22, 2006, the Chinese court sentenced Gao Zhisheng to three years imprisonment under the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.”
Attorney Zhu Yubiao was the very first lawyer in Guangdong Province who openly defended Falun Gong practitioners. Between 2005 and 2006, Zhu defended three Falun Gong practitioners. His defense was brilliant and rigorous, leaving the Chinese court in shock and embarrassment. In February 2007, attorney Zhu was kidnapped in Guangzhou and forced to spend one year and half in a reeducation-through-labor camp. In August 2010, attorney Zhu was again illegally arrested and his house ransacked. In May 2011, the court in Guangzhou sentenced Zhu to two years in jail.
Since 2006, Beijing based attorney Li Heping has been under surveillance and harassment by local police because of his participation in rescuing attorney Gao Zhisheng. In March 2007, Li decided to accept the case of Falun Gong practitioner Wang Bo. Immediately after he notified the court, his law office was visited by Beijing’s Bureau of Justice. On March 16, Beijing’s Bureau of Public Security sent a policeman to his law office with a message, “be mindful of the consequence when defending sensitive cases.” In April of 2007, at the second court hearing of the Wang Bo case, attorney Li argued that the prosecution of Wang Bo was unwarranted with improper application of the law, ambiguous facts, lack of evidence, and erroneous legal procedure. Li also defended the case in terms of constitutional supremacy, freedom of belief, and human rights. On one afternoon in October 2007, attorney Li Heping was kidnapped near his office building. He was beaten in an unknown house until midnight. The thugs used electric batons and Li was a mass of bruises. Li was driven to the Xiaotangshan mountain, and he had to travel back home by himself. Attorney Li’s computer hard disk, cell phone card, and lawyer ID were robbed. His laptop was copied by the thugs and reformatted.
Attorney Guo Guoting took the case of Falun Gong practitioner Qu Yanlai. However, the prison authorities forbade him to see Qu Yanli. In disappointment, he wrote an article, “A Chinese lawyer is absolutely useless.” In February 2005, Attorney Guo was forced by the Chinese authorities to suspend his law practice. In March, he was arrested and detained under the charge of “assembling a crowd and disrupting the social order,” and was illegally placed under house arrest for two and a half months in Shanghai. In May 2005, Guo was expelled out of China and began his life in exile.
Dalian lawyer Wang Yonghang and Beijing lawyer Han Zhiguang defended innocent Falun Gong practitioner Cong Rixu. The prosecutor found no evidence to justify the prosecution and the court did not issue a sentence. Shortly afterwards, Wang Yonghang was arrested and beaten by the police. In the detention center, Wang was severely tortured. He was finally sentenced to seven years in jail. Separately, Cong Rixu was secretly sentenced to three years.
Continue reading Chapter 4 here
To read the Introduction, click here.
To read Chapter 1, Jiang Zemin’s Rise, Part 1, click here.
To read Chapter 1, Jiang Zemin’s Rise, Part 2, click here.
To read Chapter 2, Corruption Soars Under Jiang, Part 1, click here.
To read Chapter 2, Corruption Soars Under Jiang, Part 2, click here.
To read Chapter 3, The Reality Behind China’s Economic ‘Miracle,’ Part 1, click here.
To read Chapter 3, The Reality Behind China’s Economic ‘Miracle,’ Part 2, click here.
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