A Chinese Reporter Recalls Little-Known Press Conferences Held By Falun Gong Practitioners After July 20, 1999
Feb. 27, 2003
(Clearwisdom.net) Witness's recollection
On April 25, 1999, when Falun Gong practitioners appealed at Zhongnanhai, every major media outlet in Beijing sent reporters to cover the story. Many reporters went there. However, in that day's national news there was no coverage of the event, which was very rare in Chinese media history.
Falun Gong practitioners told reporters that they had gathered at Zhongnanhai because of the Tianjin incident, in which Falun Gong practitioners went to the newspaper office to clarify the facts about a slanderous article, but were beaten and arrested. They came to report this situation to the central authorities in Zhongnanhai, hoping to create an environment that would allow them to practice freely. [Note: For more details, see http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2002/6/8/22897.html] The reporters learned that Falun Gong is a practice that teaches people to be good people, and it helped people cure illnesses and keep fit. The reporters saw practitioners being calm and peaceful, and standing quietly by the roadside in perfect order. In fact many reporters wanted to return quickly to their offices to write the story right away, but all were told by their bosses that it was not permitted.
Not until two or three days later did the media carry a simple story. The story deviated from the facts, saying, "Falun Gong jointly attacked the Zhongnanhai Central Authority; this is a serious political event." All of the media reporters were told that no news coverage about Falun Gong was allowed. Thus, during the more than two months between April 25th and July 20th, the media in China maintained an unusual silence about the appeal at Zhongnanhai.
The Curtain of Night Falls
On July 20, 1999, the media suddenly received notice from the Central Propaganda Department to comprehensively publicize Falun Gong as a political organization. From that day on, all the media in China carried article after article slandering Falun Gong.
Reporters had to stop everything they were doing in order to travel around the country to find "cases." Most "cases" were designated by the local governments. The emphasis of the coverage was to collect cases to frame and slander Falun Gong. For example, cases where someone was allegedly not allowed to take medicine and died; cases where family members were not allowed to take medicine, either; examples of the practice going wrong; cases of cultivation insanity, and so on. During that time, almost every reporter received a copy of Zhuan Falun from their boss, and was instilled with the false propaganda put out by Jiang's regime. Reporters were required to write critical articles immediately, and were told that no one was allowed to secretly interview Falun Gong practitioners. All stories, including the content and the people, had to be designated by the government. Therefore, it was very hard for reporters to interview Falun Gong practitioners.
In the cases that I came across, I didn't see the circumstances the way the government promoted them. I didn't think there was anything wrong in people keeping themselves healthy through cultivation practice, and becoming good people. But when a reporter brought back a real report such as this, it was not approved for publication.
For a quite long period of time, the general public knew nothing about the persecution of Falun Gong. All they had were the false reports from the media. In China there has never been freedom of the press; in China, the media is the mouthpiece of the authorities.
Beginning to Wake Up from A Nightmare
During the period of October to November 1999, Falun Gong practitioners started to wake up from the nightmare. Risking their lives, they started to clarify the truth to people and governments, and told the media and the general public about the persecution. They sought out the reporters, hoping that the reporters would report the real situations objectively and fairly. By that time, they had already been the victims of the persecution, but no one in the whole country knew about it.
There wasn't a single media outlet that dared to risk reporting the truth. In China, reporters have never exercised their right to report freely. Also, because of the forced brainwashing, reporters were bound by duty to interview the so-called examples of those who had been "transformed" and were actually forced to give up cultivation. When we heard that Falun Gong was being persecuted, none of us believed it was real.
During that period, many Chinese and foreign reporters were invited by Falun Gong practitioners to their press conferences which exposed the persecution to which Falun Gong practitioners were being subjected. At that time, since we didn't believe that the authorities were persecuting those who wouldn't betray their faith, when we learned the truth, we were very shocked. But if anyone intended to report it, the authorities would consider that person to be sympathetic to Falun Gong and punish him or her.
Around that time, over a period of several months, Falun Gong practitioners secretly held press conferences, one after another, at places such as Mentougou in Beijing, at a factory in Tianjin, in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, Shenyang and Jinzhou, etc. The authorities not only attacked Falun Gong, but also attacked their sympathizers. Reporters who were sympathetic toward and supported Falun Gong, and those who tried to report on Falun Gong objectively were also subject to official persecution, to different extents.
A Special Experience
On November 2, 1999, I was invited to a press conference secretly held by Falun Gong practitioners in Mentougou, Beijing. The conference was held in an apartment. Two Falun Gong practitioners talked; other practitioners remained outside to keep a lookout. This was a very special press conference.
The two Falun Gong practitioners displayed more than 30 photos to the reporters. The photos were about persecution too horrible to look at. Some had cuts and bruises all over their bodies, some had been tortured to the point of being disabled, some were covered with blood. The real names and addresses of those who had been persecuted were at the bottom or on the back of each photo. The two practitioners calmly displayed the photos, only asking that the reporters write down the names and addresses on the photos and then visit the victims or their family members in person, to report objectively and fairly. All the reporters present were shocked by the miserable condition of the victims, and were convinced by the Falun Gong practitioners' calm and rational and bearing.
The press conference ended successfully, and the reporters wrote down every piece of information. However, under the great pressure, some reporters made a clean breast to their bosses, getting all of the participants into trouble. Some were expelled from their workplaces, some were illegally imprisoned, some were subjected to examination in isolation; some reporters have been missing ever since. I myself didn't escape the threat of illegal imprisonment and interrogation either. Having no choice, I had to leave my wife and child to become a fugitive out of town.
Today, three years later, I sit down and read through Zhuan Falun conscientiously. Again and again, it comforts my heart, making me feel a calmness I have never had before. Although I do not completely understand what cultivation practice is, Falun Dafa is wonderful. "Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance" is wonderful!