A Look Back at the April 25 Appeal Through the Eyes of a Few of its Participants (Continued)
V. The so-called high-level "organizational discipline"
After the April 25 Appeal, a somewhat mysterious commentary about Falun Gong was circulated, the so-called "high-level organizational discipline." There is even a story told that a high-ranking Chinese military official, when passing by the Appeals Office in his car and seeing the Falun Gong practitioners appealing, was surprised and said that over the many years of his military career, he had never seen such well-trained and disciplined people. Many people praised the good conduct of the practitioners. Some asked which eminent person had organized and trained them. There were also some people who said that there must be someone behind the scenes, and other such favorable comments.
Ms. Liu, who is from a western Beijing suburb, described what one of her neighbors had said to her after the April 25 Appeal. A neighbor saw so many people standing there that day, in very orderly fashion, with no banners and no shouting of slogans. It did not seem like a demonstration. Out of curiosity, the neighbor asked others and learned that the people were Falun Gong practitioners. The neighbor was also curious to know who had organized them in such an orderly way.
The answer that Ms. Liu gave to her neighbor was very similar to what many other Falun Gong practitioners had said, "We are Falun Gong practitioners. No one organized us." But how could they explain such an orderly appeal?
There were reports saying that when the group of over 10,000 appealing practitioners left, they left no trash, not even a small piece of paper on the ground. They even picked up the cigarette butts that the police discarded. When asked if it was true that someone told the practitioners to do it that way, Ms. Shen, a medical doctor from Beijing's Dongcheng District, said, "No! It was not necessary at all to do so. Cleaning up the surroundings is natural for Falun Gong practitioners. It has long been the case at my practice site and at other practice sites I am familiar with. We clean up the surroundings no matter where we practice. Some kids who came to study and practice went around carrying plastic bags and did the clean-up. There was no need at all for someone to tell us to do it that way."
Ms. Liu described the scene this way: "It was noon. After the practitioners finished their lunches, some trash was generated. Several practitioners in the area where I was located took out plastic bags and started to walk back and forth to collect the trash. After a while, we encountered practitioners from other lines who were also carrying plastic bags and collecting the trash. I guess that there were practitioners collecting the trash in all sections."
Eyewitnesses reported that the practitioners displayed harmony and a kindred spirit among themselves, which touched those who saw them assembled there.
Ms. Shen said, "In the early morning of April 25, many police vehicles appeared on the street and many officers got out of them. They appeared very tense, but after a while, when they saw that we were so peaceful and serene, they became visibly relieved. They started to talk with each other and smoke cigarettes. Around noon, the police went inside their vehicles to have lunch."
Ms. Liu said, "After the police gradually became relaxed, some of them came over to chat with the practitioners and asked about Falun Gong. Several practitioners read Falun Dafa books and some chatted with practitioners from other regions. At all times there was good order."
In contrast to independent media's comment about the orderly nature of the appeal, government propaganda later claimed that the April 25 appeal blocked traffic and disturbed the local residents. Regarding this issue, practitioner and participant Mr. Bian said, "The traffic proceeded smoothly at all times. Between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 am, the police removed roadblocks and led the practitioners to the outside of the west gate of Zhongnanhai. I did not know why the police blocked intersection to Fuyou Street between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. There were no more vehicles on the street, but actually, the street was not blocked at all. The sidewalks were also not blocked. The practitioners especially left a passage for the handicapped to go through."
Ms. Wang said, "In order to not disturb the residents living nearby, the practitioners tried their best to reduce the number of times they used the public toilets. Furthermore, each time when the local residents came to use the toilets, the practitioners told them that they did not need to wait in the line and they could go directly to the front. The local residents spoke highly of the noble character of the practitioners. Later, the government propaganda said that Falun Gong disturbed the lives of local residents, contrary to the facts." Ms. Wang explained that the practitioners did not need to have anyone tell them to act in such a noble way. She said, "Teacher told us, because we practice Falun Gong, we need to always consider others first when we encounter any problems."
VI. Looking back after five years, were there better ways to deal with the situation than going to appeal?
After the April 25th appeal was peacefully settled that day, there was a short period of peace, less than three months. Then Jiang single-handedly initiated the persecution of Falun Gong throughout China. He called the April 25th appeal "besieging Zhongnanhai." This phrase became one of the excuses the persecutor had used to gain public approval of the persecution. Over a period of the past more than four years, many things have happened. In Beijing and almost every other region of China, countless cases of arrest, torture, and even murder of practitioners have occurred.
If the practitioners had known that the some people would consider their actions "besieging Zhongnanhai" and that it would become one of the excuses for carrying out the persecution, would they still have chosen to hold the April 25 appeal?
Ms. Liu said, "I would still go. In fact, some government departments had started to secretly harass and persecute Falun Gong practitioners a long time before. As early as 1997, Zhuan Falun, then the most popular book in China, was forbidden from being published. Later, there were constantly reports emerging of practitioners' exercise sites being interfered with throughout China and that the practitioners' safety was endangered at those practice sites. This problem had to be resolved sooner or later. Prior to the April 25 appeal, through clarifying the truth to the individuals who did not know the facts, we cleared up their misunderstandings. Some of them corrected their mistakes and made up for the losses. If we had not gone to clarify the truth, the problem would have never been able to get resolved. Whenever we encountered such a problem, we would still go to clarify the truth." Ms. Liu continued to say that after the five years of persecution, she no longer has complete trust in the central government leaders as she did five years ago. But it still necessary to use compassionate ways to let the leaders or the people who do not know the truth about Falun Dafa to learn the truth.
Regarding the Falun Gong practitioners' truth-clarification efforts throughout the period of more than four years of persecution, Ms. Liu said, "Since the April 25 appeal, practitioners who have participated in various appeals and clarifying the truth have improved their realm of mind. At the time of the April 25 appeal, we still trusted government leaders, without knowing that we would experience big troubles later on. But by now, practitioners have clearly gotten to know the brutality and severity of the persecution. Still, they persistently appeal to the general public, to officials from different levels of the government and the personnel of different governmental branches in China, to help them learn the truth. The practitioners are extraordinary. In fact, through their persistent efforts, many people have gotten to know the truth and have made their own choice between right and wrong. Just like what happened during the April 25 appeal, when many police officers and the local residents came to ask about Falun Gong, the premier of the State Council also knew the truth."
Mr. Bian, a government official, said later that he would also go to appeal. He said, "The persecution did not start after the April 25 appeal. The April 25 appeal was not just due to the arrests in Tianjin. Practitioners would have appealed for the right to publish Falun Gong books and to protect their right to practice sooner or later. When people's legitimate rights and interests are violated, an appeal is proper, reasonable and legitimate."
Mr. Bian continued that it is against the facts to say that "the April 25 appeal triggered the persecution." The persecution had already begun prior to the April 25 appeal. Furthermore, after the April 25 appeal was properly resolved, Jiang used distorted facts and excuses, reversed the premier's decision, and then initiated the persecution throughout the country. The persecution was planned, and to find a pretext for the persecution, Jiang took the appeal of over 10,000 people as grounds for the persecution. This was the propaganda scheme that was used to mislead and deceive the public.
Ms. Wang gave a similar answer. She said, "I would still go to appeal since there are no other ways. Writing appeal letters did not work. Neither did appeals to local governments. There were no other choices but going to Beijing to appeal. The problem had to be resolved. The issue would never be resolved if no practitioners went to clarify the truth. In fact, calling the April 25 appeal as "a siege" is absurd. We went to appeal to let the government know the facts and stop the persecution. Some individuals later on distorted the evidence and used the appeal as a pretext to continue the persecution. We had to keep clarifying the truth. If we had not gone and would not go to clarify the truth, the persecution would not stop. To stop the persecution, we had to clarify the truth. So after July 20, 1999, when the persecution throughout China was implemented, I knew that anyone who went to appeal would be arrested, but I still went to Beijing to appeal."