On April 25, 1999, over ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners in China went to the Appeals Office of the State Council in Beijing to peacefully appeal for Falun Gong. This has been known as the "4.25 Appeal." Three months later, on July 20, 1999, Jiang personally plotted and launched the widespread persecution of Falun Gong. Since the April 25 Appeal was the trigger for the subsequent and widespread persecution of Falun Gong, let us review the experiences of some Falun Gong practitioners who participated in the event.
Chen Gang and his wife Bai Pin, who now live in southern New Jersey, were among the ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners who appealed for Falun Gong on April 25 five years ago. With the help of the worldwide campaign to rescue the relatives of overseas Falun Gong practitioners, Chen and his wife were finally able to leave Beijing to join his parents in the US in July of last year.
Because of its great benefits, improving practitioners' physical and mental health, the number of people practicing Falun Gong grew very rapidly since it was first introduced to the public back in 1992. In 1999, the number of people who practiced Falun Gong reached one hundred million.
Chen Gang and Bai Pin recounted their experiences of the April 25 Appeal:
"Back then, at the Beijing Ditan practice site where we regularly went, there used to be about five hundred people who practiced Falun Gong together every day. There used to be many such practice sites in Beijing. It was estimated that at that time, about forty to fifty thousand Falun Gong practitioners went to parks every morning in Beijing to do the Falun Gong exercises. Since we practiced the exercises with the group every day, it was natural that we each knew several fellow practitioners. Therefore, the information about the police in Tianjin arresting Falun Gong practitioners spread very quickly among practitioners in Beijing. Most of us learned it the following morning (April 25, 1999) while some of us had learned the night before, the very evening the incident occurred. Many of us were ready to appeal for the case. Some practitioners went together with their colleagues, some with their neighbors, and I went with my wife. Quickly we had thousands of practitioners going to appeal. If we had had any formal organizers, we would have easily have had many more than ten thousand people going there."
Chen Gang recalled, "The reason for our appeal was very simple. It was because the Tianjin police officers unlawfully beat many practitioners and arrested over forty of them. The authorities in Tianjin told the practitioners there that they were not able to resolve the issue, that only Beijing could resolve it. They encouraged the practitioners to appeal to higher authorities in Beijing."
Regarding why Falun Gong practitioners were said to go to Zhongnanhai, Bai Pin, Chen Gang's wife, explained, "We were all going to the Appeals Office. Most of us gathered on Fuyou Street and in the vicinity, around Zhongnanhai. That is because the Appeals Office is very close to Zhongnanhai. We were maintaining very good order. We were led there by police officers. We stood where the officers told us to stand. It was fully arranged by the police. We were not purposely gathering around Zhongnanhai (the central government compound where China's highest leaders reside)." Describing how orderly the practitioners were during the appeal, she said, "When everyone left in the evening, the street was very clean and neat. The practitioners even picked up the cigarettes that the police officers tossed on the street and put them into the trash bins. This is the demonstration of practitioners' elevated morality after their practice of Falun Gong."
According to Chen Gang, "Later, they accused us of besieging (or surrounding and attacking in Chinese) Zhongnanhai. That's really very unfair. The so called 'surrounding' was merely us following whatever the police instructed us to do. We stood where the police asked us to stand. As for 'attacking', we were just quietly waiting outside for the outcome of the discussions between our representatives and the authorities in the Appeals Office. We didn't take any drastic action, chant slogans, or protest with signs. We didn't even make any loud noises."
The April 25 Appeal was merely an example of Falun Gong practitioners' peaceful appeals. To Jiang Zemin, however, it was used as an excuse to launch his brutal persecution. On July 20, 1999, Jiang personally plotted and launched his "eradication" policy, which included such orders as "Defame their reputation, bankrupt them financially, destroy them physically," "No responsibility if practitioners are beaten to death," "Consider it suicide if practitioners are beaten to death," and "Cremate the body immediately without confirming the identity."
Under his policy, the authorities imprisoned thousands of practitioners. Among them was Chen Gang, who was imprisoned in Beijing Tuanhe Forced Labor Camp for eighteen months. The police officers in the labor camp used eleven high voltage (tens of thousands of volts) electric batons to shock his entire body. His flesh was burned, and every time he was shocked, he felt as if being bitten by snakes.
"I personally experienced the persecution in China for four years. I was on the verge of death. In fact, I was dying at one point. Among the practitioners around me, two of them died of persecution." Chen Gang recalled.
The family members of Falun Gong practitioners that are being persecuted are also under tremendous pressure. "Like Chen Gang, hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been imprisoned in forced labor camps and persecuted, simply because of their belief in 'Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance'. Whenever I recount the time I went through when Chen Gang was imprisoned, I can't help but think of how much the family members of all of these practitioners have suffered." Talking about the months her husband was imprisoned in the forced labor camp, Bai Pin was choked with sobs. She said that the State Security Bureau once came to her work place to investigate her. They installed a video monitoring system in the hallway of her apartment.
Chen Ningfang, Chen Gang's mother, recalled, "We were really worried about him when he was imprisoned, because the authorities there would do anything they could to persecute him and force him to denounce his practice."
Chen Gang pointed out, "I'm fortunate to have been able to come to the United States. Nevertheless, at this very moment, many of my good friends back in China are still being tortured."
During the Falun Gong parade in New York's Chinatown this April, Chen Ningfang, Chen Gang's mother, a former First Class State Performer from the State Orchestra of China, demonstrated one of the brutal tortures that the imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners in China have been suffering.
"When you are gathered with your family members, enjoying the Easter holiday, when you are very happy, can you imagine that at that very moment, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners in forced labor camps are suffering this form of torture!" Mrs. Chen explained, "What we're doing now is stopping the persecution, to make it possible for thousands of the broken families to reunite, and to restore basic human rights and the right to practice Falun Gong to millions in China."
Now this is exactly what the ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners were trying to express on the April 25 Peaceful Appeal five years ago.