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How the Falun Gong Persecution in China Began

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Written by Titania Nguyen
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Falun Dafa, also called Falun Gong, was first made public in mainland China in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong in China quickly gained followers thanks to its powerful moral and spiritual teachings. Additionally, it taught five simple but effective Falun Gong exercises that combined meditation and slow-motion movements. Before 1999, Falun Gong grew rapidly and was practiced openly in almost every city in China. As a result, tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners had better physical health, mental focus, and clarity. Practicing Falun Gong gave many Chinese people who wanted to know the truth about life, the universe, human society, and ethics another way to find it.

By 1999, seven years after it was first shown to the public, the Chinese government said that 70 million to 100 million people were practicing Falun Gong. That would mean that in a country of 1.3 billion people at the time, 1 out of every 13 people practiced Falun Gong. These include the top political leaders of the CCP, the military, and elites in various fields. At the same time, the Ministry of Public Security is also secretly collecting so-called “evidence” of Falun Gong.

The Chinese Communist Party is a totalitarian dictatorship

In Chinese history, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been quick to find and stop any large groups whose ideas don’t match those of communism. During the Land Reform Movement, the CCP said that wealthy farmers and landlords were “enemies of the state.” Later on, in 1989, the Tiananmen Square protest led by students who demonstrated democracy sparked another crackdown from the CCP, leading to a strict crackdown against dissidents and their ideas.

Mr. Li Hongzhi publicly introduced Falun Gong for the first time in May 1992, near the end of China’s “qigong boom” (Qigong movement). During the early years of its growth, Falun Gong got a lot of help from the government. It was pushed by the Qigong Association, which the government runs, and other government groups. By the mid-1990s, however, Chinese officials wanted to limit the influence of qigong practices, so they put in place stricter rules for the country’s different types of qigong.

At the time, Falun Gong received widespread acceptance and support from China’s authorities. It also includes the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Governments and associations also invited Falun Gong’s founder, Mr. Li. He travels to teach his multiple lecture series (including abroad). It is a testament to the official recognition of this practice. 

Falun Gong Withdrew Nation Qigong Association

In 1995, the government required all qigong groups to set up Communist Party branches. The government also tried to make Falun Gong more official and get a better handle on the practice. Falun Gong refused the government’s takeover. Instead, Mr. Li filed to leave the state-run qigong association. The reason is simple, Falun Gong does not want to join any political organization. This is the practice of healing people’s health.

Falun Gong withdrew from the Qigong Organization in March 1996. There is no fee to practice Falun Gong, which was not the same as what the association had requested. Along with that Falun Gong didn’t desire any interference from the CCP.

The CCP viewed Falun Gong as a potential power struggle, despite its spiritual teachings of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. They saw the practice had over 100 million followers and could challenge their power. The Chinese leadership, led by Jiang Zemin, viewed the large and rapidly increasing numbers as a threat. This was especially alarming because the Chinese Communist Party had only 60 million members at that time.

Jealousy and Political Motivations of Jiang Zemin

All known reasons were due to the envy of the time’s president, Jiang Zemin. At that time, Jiang’s personal image suffered, and his position in the Party remained precarious. While Falun Gong grew rapidly, it received plaudits and praises from around China, including from numerous official agencies. Falun Gong also brought back traditional values, which the Communist Party had been trying to eliminate for decades.

According to the book “The Man Who Changed China,” in 1998, China experienced a great flood. When Jiang Zemin was inspecting a dike, he saw a group of people working hard. Jiang was very proud and said to his subordinates: “These people must be Communist Party members.” He called a person and asked him. The result is that they are Falun Gong practitioners. Jiang was so jealous that he turned around and left with an annoyed expression.

In 1998, a group of veteran cadres led by Qiao Shi did an in-depth investigation of Falun Gong and concluded that it had a lot to offer with no downside. They presented their findings to Politburo and Jiang Zemin. He was not pleased and handed it off to Luo Gan, known for his anti-Falun Gong attitude. At the start of 1997, Luo Gan instructed the Ministry of Public Security to look into Falun Gong and find evidence that would deem it an “evil cult.” After a full investigation, public security agencies came back with no conclusive proof. The investigation resolved nothing.

Jiang grew desperate. He wanted to consolidate his control and destroy the rebirth of traditional values. Jiang adopted the strategies of previous CCP leaders. He launched a violent campaign to eradicate Falun Gong. At the same time, he sought to scare the remainder of society into submission and build up his own power.

April 25 event – A Peaceful Protest by Falun Gong Practitioners

A magazine office in Tianjin published an article attacking Falun Gong in April 1999. From April 19 to 24, Falun Gong practitioners protested and set up peaceful sit-ins in front of the newspaper’s headquarters. They want to ask for a retraction. This legal method worked in China in the late 1990s in rare cases. This time, however, a large number of the participants were detained. Other practitioners petitioned for the release of the imprisoned practitioners. The Tianjin police told them that the order came from the central authority in Beijing.

Around 10,000 Falun Gong followers gathered peacefully on April 25 in front of the government’s central appeals office. That office is near the Zhongnanhai Central Government Compound. Several Falun Gong members met with then-Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and other important people. Practitioners asked them for an end to harassment and restrictions on publishing Falun Gong teachings, as well as the release of Tianjin practitioners. Zhu told them that the Party was not against Falun Gong, so he agreed to let the prisoners go.

Falun Gong adherents attempted to seek redress from the leadership by quietly and politely approaching them. It was the first major protest against the Zhongnanhai complex in the People’s Republic of China’s history and the biggest in Beijing since 1989. That occurrence drew worldwide notice.

6-10 Office Creation to Persecute Falun Gong

Even though other top officials were against it, Jiang Zemin planned, led, and carried out the anti-Falun Gong campaign himself. He did it in a desperate effort to consolidate his control.

On the night of April 25, 1999, Jiang Zemin, then-Communist Party General Secretary, published a letter expressing his intention to see Falun Gong defeated. In the letter, there was worry about how Falun Gong was becoming more popular, especially among Communist Party members. He reportedly said that the Zhongnanhai protest was “the most serious political event since the “June 4″ political disturbance in 1989.”

At a meeting of the Politburo on June 7, 1999, Jiang said that Falun Gong was a serious threat to the Communist Party’s power. That has never happened in the country since 50 years ago. He ordered the creation of a high-level committee to “get ready for the work of breaking up Falun Gong.”

On June 10, 1999, the Politburo Standing Committee created the 610 Office as a branch of the Party to keep an eye on Falun Dafa, keep track of it, and punish it. As an organization outside of the law, it is run by the CCP and has no official legal authority.

Further down, all provinces, cities, and counties must set up the 610 Office. It administers public security bureaus, procuratorates, and courts. It also has the power to mobilize various social resources like the military, armed police, finances, diplomacy, medical institutions, and communications. All government departments and the Communist Party branch must cooperate with the 610 Office.

The 6-10 Office system, from the Communist Party's center of power — the Politburo — down to neighborhood committees and village offices, is shown (Photo by Faluninfo.net).
The 6-10 Office system, from the Communist Party’s center of power — the Politburo — down to neighborhood committees and village offices, is shown (Photo by Faluninfo.net).

Darkness Encompasses China – The persecution of Falun Gong started

“The persecution of Falun Gong” – An award-winning documentary about why 70 million meditators were targeted for elimination in China.

July 20, 1999 – Ordered Nationwide to Eradicate Falun Gong

On July 20, 1999, Jiang Zemin ordered nationwide anti-Falun Gong practitioners. A series of sweeping arrests of coordinators of Falun Gong exercise sites marked the campaign banning Falun Gong. This was the beginning of the brutal persecution. People who practice Falun Gong were already illegal at the state level. They were also locked up and tortured.

The CCP agents also exploited all media types, including television, newspapers, magazines, and classrooms, to disseminate hatred and misinformation against Falun Gong. This psychological warfare campaign inflicted physical harm on people who refused to abandon their beliefs. They were arrested without a reason or a trial, kept in labor camps or prisons indefinitely, and tortured with electric shock batons or other techniques to keep them from sleeping, which are still used today.

The painting "July 20" by Xiqiang Dong (Art Exhibition of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance in 2015).
The painting “July 20” by Xiqiang Dong (Art Exhibition of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance in 2015).

On July 22, 1999, Jiang directed the Ministry of Public Security in China to issue a sweeping order banning Falun Gong. Accordingly, any attempts to oppose or petition against the government’s decision were declared illegal. The regulations were especially stringent, requiring that this movement be “finished” within three months.

Jiang Zemin demanded that Falun Gong-related publications be confiscated and destroyed. Millions of Falun Gong books, which are the center of Falun Gong practice, were destroyed in the worst ways possible, like shredding, burning, bulldozing, and so on. Practitioners were forced to turn in their Falun Gong books and tapes. And they were also forced to renounce Falun Gong. This was an act of silencing that mirrored attempts to wipe out Falun Dafa.

Propaganda Persecuted Falun Gong after July 20

The Party’s Center Committee wants to ruin Falun Gong practitioners. They used the policy of “destroying reputations, bankrupting financially, and eliminating physically.” And the media is one way to destroy their reputation.

A massive state-run propaganda machine uses China’s media as its mouthpiece. This propaganda campaign played a leading role in the persecution of Falun Gong. The Communist Party filled the airwaves, newspapers, and magazines with stories about how bad Falun Gong and its founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi, were. This turned everyone into a persecutor and took away the rights and protections of Falun Gong adherents.

The Communist Party instilled fear in Chinese citizens by portraying Falun Gong negatively in the media. So it was easy for them to ignore wrongdoing and block out the cries of innocent people.

1,400 Alleged Deaths

The propaganda about the “1,400 deaths” has done more than anything else to make people in China hate Falun Gong.

According to Chinese officials, “the practice of Falun Gong has resulted in more than 1,400 deaths” of adherents. However, many people are skeptical because little evidence verifies this claim. After beginning their campaign against Falun Gong in July of 1999, the regime levied accusations against it. This makes it hard to believe that it is true and shows how effective propaganda can be when used to support a political agenda.

For many years leading up to the ban, Falun Gong had been practiced peacefully and successfully in China. It has no reported negative health effects or fatalities related to it. So, it is hard to accept that over 1,400 people suddenly died from practicing Falun Gong. This raised doubts when CCP had only just enacted the ban.

Staged Tiananmen Square Self-Immolation

On January 23, 2001, Chinese authorities reported that five individuals had set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square. Images and videos of the fabricated event quickly spread through state-run media. The CCP claimed that the self-immolators were Falun Gong practitioners.

However, an article from The Washington Post soon came out. It said that at least two of these people had never been seen practicing Falun Gong. And it further showed evidence revealed that it was a staged incident. The Chinese authorities then used this incident to manipulate the public’s perception of Falun Gong. They aired programs accusing Falun Gong’s teachings of causing the tragedy. So, people were misled and outraged, and their feelings toward Falun Gong changed from sympathy to anger.

Before this, Falun Gong was a well-known name in China, and most people respected it. Also, Zhuan Falun and other Falun Gong teachings always tell people to do good instead of killing or even killing themselves. However, after months of coverage of the “self-immolation,” hate crimes targeting Falun Gong practitioners became more frequent. Jiang’s faction within the Central Government also intensified its abuse against them.

At least six insiders said the self-immolation was staged. And the date of the self-immolation was chosen on purpose.

The following documentary, “Tiananmen Square Self-Immolation,” is a hoax by the CCP. It is the authoritative source on the suspicious points of the staged “self-immolation” incident. It got an honorary award at the 51st Columbia International Film Festival for its insightful analysis and coverage of this terrible event.

NGOs have identified numerous flaws in the cover story propagated by Xinhua. Their frame-by-frame analysis of the official video footage was released shortly after the incident. They also investigated the accounts made by state media and the CCP. This revealed discrepancies that suggested a staged event.

Persecuted for Practicing Falun Gong

The CCP launched an anti-Falun Gong campaign that criminalized its practice and deemed Falun Gong followers “enemies of the state.”

Illegal Arrested and Imprisoned

The Chinese leadership began persecuting Falun Gong practitioners, resulting in the arrests and imprisonments of many Falun Gong adherents for simply practicing their peaceful beliefs. Falun Gong followers have been illegally held in China for reeducation through labor camps, prisons, and other places of detention. This could be as many as a million people.

Teams of police can arrive at the homes and workplaces of Falun Gong followers at any time of day to take them away. Some people have been taken from the street after shopping or dropping their kids off at school. Once in custody, the police asked them many questions about their religion and Falun Gong contacts. Police also searched their homes for “evidence,” like Falun Dafa books or homemade “The Truth” leaflets.

Held and Tortured

Over the past 20 years, Falun Gong practitioners have been one of the largest groups of prisoners of conscience in China’s prisons, labor camps, and detention centers. At any given time, there were as many as several hundred thousand Falun Gong practitioners held in the country’s vast system of detention facilities. In 2013, Amnesty International said that Falun Gong prisoners made up anywhere from one-third to all the people in some reeducation-through-labor camps.

Under the rule of the CCP, torture is a common practice for law enforcement and punishment in China. Any person who is arrested in China is at risk of being tortured. But the most serious are those who practice Falun Gong.

There are over 100 different types of physical torture utilized against Falun Gong practitioners. Here are a few examples of such methods: beatings, piercing, force-feeding, burning, scorching with hot iron, high-voltage electric-shock batons, ‘The Water Dungeon,’ psychiatric, food and sleep deprivation, etc. The Falun Dafa Information Center says that torture and abuse in prison killed more than 4,000 known Falun Gong practitioners. This happened when they refused to give up their beliefs. The actual number could be many times higher.


One of the cases reported by Minghui.org is that of Ms. Wang Yuxia, a Falun Gong practitioner. Police arrested Ms. Wang after she filed a criminal complaint against Jiang Zemin in 2016. She was put in a detention center five times and a forced labor camp twice, where she had to do hard labor. 610 Office and Justice Department officers often bothered her.

On December 29, 2016, Ms. Wang was sentenced to five years in jail and fined 5,000 yuan. On July 24, 2017, they transferred her to the Gansu Province Women’s Prison. Her guards have tortured her in many ways. They beat her with rattan sticks, not letting her sleep for long periods. It included tying her up in uncomfortable positions and giving her electric shocks.

She has also been regularly given unknown drugs by force as a punishment for not giving up her Falun Gong beliefs. Even though the authorities have mistreated Ms. Wang, she still won’t do what they say. She stands strong against their unfair treatment of innocent people who exercise their right to freedom of religion or belief.

The Brainwashing and Transformations

In China, arrested Falun Gong practitioners must undergo a “transformation” process. They are forced to sign three statements saying they no longer believe in Falun Gong. This is to prove that they have given up the practice. They’re told they’ll be released if they sign the documents. But if they don’t sign, they risk torture and indefinite imprisonment.
Brainwashing is one way the Chinese government tries to transform Falun Gong adherents. There are many methods of brainwashing through torture. It includes repeatedly attacking practitioners’ minds, torturing them, forcing them to take nerve-damaging drugs, etc.
The CCP often uses this strategy to punish individuals. Many Falun Gong adherents are arrested and placed in a “transformation and education session.” They suffer all kinds of physical and mental torture until they break down and give up their beliefs.

Forced Labor

Since 1999, most Falun Gong practitioners have been arrested and sent to “reeducation through labor” (RTL) camps in China. Administrative detention is a type of jailing that happens in these camps. Law enforcement officials can detain people in China for up to four years without a trial. The police can extend the detention period without giving any reason.

Prisoners are forced to do hard work like mining, farming, and working in factories while in the camps. Human rights groups say that beatings, torture, and interrogations usually happen in these centers. And that no one from outside could come in. After 1999, RTL centers expanded significantly, with authorities aiming to force labor and exploit Falun Gong practitioners.

In the video below, a Falun Gong practitioner describes how the police tortured and forced laborers in Chinese labor camps:

A series of press investigations and exposes in 2012 and early 2013 drew attention to human rights violations at the Masanjia Forced Labor Camp, where about half of the detainees were Falun Gong practitioners. The disclosure fueled efforts to abolish the “reeducation by labor” system. CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping got rid of RTL at the beginning of 2013. It resulted in the closure of the camps. However, human rights organizations discovered a fact. They had renamed RTL facilities into prisons or rehabilitation centers. That means the extrajudicial detention of dissidents and Falun Gong practitioners have persisted.

Persecution at Work and School

When the persecution and its accompanying propaganda campaign were launched, millions of workers, teachers, and students suddenly faced ostracism. People who practiced Falun Gong were “model workers” or “honorary students,” but now they receive reprimands. And in some cases, they were even jailed.

Employers and school administrators faced pressure if one of their employees or students publicly protested the persecution. As a result, Falun Gong’s adherents suffered discrimination. They lost their jobs and were kicked out of school because of what they believed.

Furthermore, workplaces and schools had to implement cultural revolution-style study sessions. It was in order to propagate People’s Daily editorials that outlined an approved view of Falun Gong’s practice. Elementary school students had to stand in line and sign banners denouncing Falun Gong and superstition. They had to declare their commitment to Marxism and science. High school students also underwent tests that revealed their points of view. The answers would determine whether they could go on with higher education or be expelled or jailed for not following the Party’s orders.

Authorities threatened those arrested for practicing Falun Gong. If they refused to renounce their beliefs, their loved ones would face repercussions such as loss of their job or educational opportunities.

Organ Harvesting

The China Tribunal is an independent panel examining forced organ harvesting activities in China. They conducted an extensive investigation before releasing their final judgment in June 2019. Falun Gong practitioners are the target of organ harvesting in China.

In 2006, a human rights lawyer from Canada said he had seen proof that Falun Gong followers in China had been forced to organs harvesting without their permission. Investigations and reports have uncovered evidence that organs are taken from individuals against their will in China for financial gain. This has been linked to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.

The CCP and the 610 Office's roles in the forced Falun Gong practitioners's organ harvesting system.
The CCP and the 610 Office’s roles in the forced organ harvesting system.

The Chinese authorities have committed horrific human rights violations against Falun Gong practitioners. Despite this, practitioners remain resilient and will not give up their beliefs. Jiang Zemin needs to be held responsible for what he did when he went after innocent people to get political power. Falun Gong practitioners’ persecution in China must stop, and the world community must demand this. This is the only way to ensure justice and freedom for all people who believe in freedom of religion or belief.

Millions of People Continue to Practice Falun Gong

It has been over twenty years since the CCP began its brutal campaign to eradicate Falun Gong in China. Despite the propaganda used to vilify Falun Gong by the CCP, Falun Gong continued to be practiced by millions of people in China and worldwide.

The Chinese government’s efforts to stop the practice have gotten a lot of attention from governments and non-government groups around the world. Human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have expressed concern over reports of torture and other bad treatment of practitioners in China. They have also asked the UN and other international governments to step in and stop the persecution.

Falun Gong practitioners responded to the persecution in China on July 20, 1999, by sending petitions to local and central petitioning offices. They also demonstrate by traveling daily to Tiananmen Square to chant: “Falun Dafa is Good.” Over the course of several years, police came and arrested people who were gathering peacefully. The Wall Street Journal said that between 2000 and 2001, more than 30,000 people who practiced were arrested. This was a strong stand against decades of Communist rule.

Peaceful Protest Against the Falun Gong Persecution outside China

Falun Gong practitioners worldwide are tirelessly working to spread awareness about the atrocious persecution in China. We’ve probably seen people in yellow shirts holding signs with tragic accounts of innocent civilians who’ve experienced torture because of their moral beliefs. From parades to rallies and information booths to protests outside Chinese embassies, these brave souls are doing everything possible to call out the injustices committed against them.

For the last twenty-two years, a single street in London has been forever illuminated by candlelight. Since 2001, London’s street in front of the Chinese embassy has been lit 24/7. These brave practitioners keep their flame burning as an important symbol of freedom and justice for all. Their determination has not wavered. The candles will continue to burn brightly on this London street until the persecution stops.

A Falun Gong practitioner is protesting at the Chinese Embassy in London (Minghui.org).
A Falun Gong practitioner is protesting at the Chinese Embassy in London (Minghui.org).

Every year, Falun Gong adherents show their strength and solidarity in the face of the CCP’s persecution with parades, candlelight vigils, and rallies. Falun Gong followers hold memorials all over the world to remember those who died because of persecution in China.

Falun Gong practitioners have also set up information booths at renowned landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, and many more. They hand out leaflets to educate people on the peaceful practice of Falun Gong, as well as demonstrate the meditation exercises so that people can get a glimpse into their cultivation process. Moreover, practitioners are eager to tell visitors about the terrible persecution since 1999.

Use the Arts to Tell the Truth

Falun Gong practitioners have used art to spread awareness about the persecution they face in China. The Art Exhibition of Zhen-Shan-Ren is a traveling show of amazing and inspiring artworks made by Falun Gong practitioners themselves. It features traditional oil paintings of Falun Gong’s beauty, persecution in China, and more. The artworks also address current issues like human rights abuses, going on to tell stories of resilience and true courage during experiences of persecution. Exhibits of the “Art of Zhen Shan Ren” have toured hundreds of cities and countries, such as Hong Kong, New York, Paris, etc.

Street parade music performances are an incredible way for Falun Gong practitioners to promote their values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. The Tian Guo Marching Band is an inspirational example. The band comprises dedicated members from all age groups and backgrounds. They are either professional musicians or regular people. They offer the grand sounds of their instruments as a tribute to Falun Dafa. Among its most popular pieces are “Falun Dafa is Good” and traditional nation songs, which carry its message through the streets worldwide.

International Condemnation

The international community has spoken out against the CCP’s actions. In 2014, the European Union passed a resolution that said the Chinese government was violating the human rights of Falun Gong practitioners. Also, many other countries have passed resolutions or made statements to show that they support justice and freedom.

Despite all these efforts, however, Falun Gong is still being persecuted in China today. Even now, hundreds of thousands of people are still being held or jailed for practicing Falun Gong, and many more have been tortured or even killed because of their beliefs.

Through their undying courage and unyielding spirit, practitioners of Falun Gong around the world will keep on fighting for justice until their mission is accomplished. Falun Gong practitioners will keep lighting candles in London and other cities worldwide to show that, in the end, justice will win. The rest of the world needs to keep putting pressure on China to stop this terrible abuse and violation of human rights.

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