The rally for freedom in China sponsored every July by adherents of Falun Gong is by far the most orderly and well-organized political demonstration that takes place in Washington, DC. This year’s rally of July 14 was no exception. Practitioners of the spiritual discipline combining meditation, graceful exercises, and breathing techniques with cultivation of virtue sat cross-legged on the ground in dozens and dozens of rows facing the U.S. Capitol. But few realize how, behind the scenes, Falun Gong is more successfully rocking repressive regimes around the world than could the most riotous of demonstrators.
Unlike many Washington protestors and demonstrators, Falun Gong members attending the rally for freedom were almost totally silent. There were no shouts of “No justice, no peace!” No chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho. Hu Jintao has got to go.” But for their applause for the rally speakers, Falun Gong followers sat quietly in the hot sun. Members of Congress and representatives of human rights and religious freedom organizations that come every year to the rally brought greetings, condemned the actions of the Chinese government, and pledged their support to Falun Gong, persecuted Christians, and all those who are oppressed by the Communist regime.
In addition to sheer numbers, (seated adherents stretched all the way to the edge of the Capitol West Lawn) visual images spoke for the practitioners. Most of the hundreds of participants held posters declaring “Stop the Persecution of Falun Gong” or “Abolish the Chinese Communist Party.” Other participants’ peaceful expressions belied the horrific photos they displayed of the battered faces of friends and family members, practitioners who have been arrested, beaten, and put in China’s vast gulag, or brutally tortured to death. Flanking the seated participants on all sides stood other demonstrators supporting large, colorful banners that proclaimed both the goodness of Falun Gong, or “Falun Dafa,” as it is also known, and the evil of the CCP and Communism. It was a refreshing change in a climate where Chairman Mao and Che Guevara are fashion statements and in which we are informed by our betters at Newsweek that “we are all socialists now.”
July 2011 marked twelve years of the CCP’s brutal persecution of Falun Gong. First founded by Li Hongzhi in 1992, Falun Gong’s practitioners numbered over 70 million by the mid-1990’s, to the great alarm of the Communist regime. Falun Gong was outlawed on July 20, 1999 as “neither a religion nor a spiritual movement” but “an evil cult against humanity, science and society.” Communist Party Chairman Jiang Zemin created a government office to “eradicate” Falun Gong, and leading practitioners immediately were arrested. By 2008 the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report on China noted that “some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in re-education through labor (RTL) camps, while Falun Gong sources overseas placed the number even higher.”
The numbers of Falun Gong practitioners that have been tortured and killed grew throughout the nineties, and continued into the twenty-first century. In 2003, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Asma Jahangir, reported that she continued “to be alarmed by deaths in custody in China.” She concluded that “the cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture” against followers of the Falun Gong movement “defy description.” In just the first four months of 2011, sources reported the deaths of 26 Falun Gong practitioners from various age groups and regions of China.
Even as persecution continues, Falun Gong is having a tremendous impact on the struggle for freedom not only in China, but around the world. Human rights activist Michael Horowitz says that Falun Gong followers are “changing the course of history.” First, in 2004, Falun Gong’s international newspaper The Epoch Times published an exposé of the deception and violence of the CCP. The Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party feature such topics as “On How the Chinese Communist Party Destroyed Traditional Culture” and “On the Chinese Communist Party’s History of Killing.” One topic even turns the tables on the CCP and explains “On How the Chinese Communist Party is An Evil Cult.”
Reaction to the Nine Commentaries has been astounding. In the seven years since their publication, over 98 million people have left the Party. To assist in this process, the Falun Gong initiated the “Tuidang Movement.” Tuidang, which translates as “withdraw from the Communist Party,” signifies withdrawing or renouncing membership in the CCP or its affiliated youth organizations, the Young Pioneers and the Communist Youth League. The Tuidang Movement was recognized in U.S. Senate Resolution 232, just introduced on July 13, 2011. Yi Rong, the chairwoman of Falun Gong’s aptly named “Quitting the CCP Service Center,” was one of the speakers at this year’s rally. She revealed that Tuidang volunteers both inside China and around the world process over 60,000 quitting statements each day.
But opening the eyes of former Communist Party members through the Nine Commentaries is not the only way in which Falun Gong practitioners are changing the world and fighting for freedom. In 2000, Chinese-American Falun Gong followers launched the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, (GIF). This is a series of free downloadable programs with names such as “Freegate” and “Ultrasurf” that allow Internet users to bypass the servers that are censored by their government and access the Internet via GIF’s servers that are spread across the world.
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