Falun Dafa in Europe: Voices from Switzerland (Photos)
(Clearwisdom.net) When it comes to Switzerland, people may first think of the beautiful landscape of lakes and mountains as well as the United Nations Office in Geneva. Over the past six years or so, these tourist attractions and United Nations' buildings have witnessed Falun Gong practitioners' incessant efforts calling for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
The Palace of Nations, as the title suggests, is the place where representatives of all UN members gather together, the premises of the United Nations Office in Geneva. Every year, many international conferences are held here on various topics. In 1998, the Swiss Falun Gong Experience Sharing Conference was held there in the Main Conference Hall with a capacity of two thousand seats.
Though seven years have elapsed, practitioners still vividly remember the solemn and peaceful atmosphere throughout the conference. The founder of Falun Gong, Mr. Li Hongzhi, also attended the conference to talk to the Falun Gong practitioners from various parts of the world and answer their questions.
Some practitioners shared with other practitioners attending the conference their experiences of how to behave according to Falun Gong's guiding principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance" and how to be a kind-hearted person. Their great sincerity, compassion and forbearance was deeply touching, and different from the squabbling, confrontation and even fighting one often sees in daily life. The palace was like a piece of pure land set apart from the tumultuous world.
|The Swiss Falun Dafa Experience Sharing Conference held at Palace of Nations (Palais des Nations) in September 1998|
|In March 2000, Falun Gong practitioners from all over the world gathered in front of the entrance of UN Nations Palace to practice Falun Gong exercises together|
Since 2000, groups of people come here every March when the UN Human Rights Commission convenes or on other dates commemorating specific human rights events. They are from various parts of the world. Some are Chinese while others are westerners. Some are elderly people and others are toddlers. Some are famous professors, doctors, lawyers, CEOs of multinational companies, and there were also some housewives, students, etc. They use their own savings and holidays to come to the square to stage peaceful petitions on a voluntary basis. These people are Falun Gong practitioners.
To call for an end to the bloody persecution against Falun Gong practitioners perpetrated by the Chinese Communist regime since July 1999, they peacefully demonstrate the five sets of Falun Gong exercises along with beautiful music, and explain the facts about the on-going persecution to passers-by and the participants coming from various countries to attend the UN. They also collect signatures to support the petition against the persecution.
After witnessing the activities time and again, the public came to realize that the practitioners simply want to be good people based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. But because the Chinese Communist regime does not tolerate these good people, and does not allow people to have their independent thoughts and the criteria of differentiating between right and wrong, it fabricated a lot of unfounded charges to frame them and carried out relentless persecution against them. One can sense the practitioners' strong desire to put an end to this persecution. Though under such unfair treatment, practitioners have never held any hatred or grudge at all, nor used furious slogans. Instead, they demonstrate exercises and display banners. Seeing them practice the exercises whatever the weather and listening to the personal experiences of practitioners who were rescued to western countries from China under international support, is it any wonder that people were touched by their unwavering belief in upholding truth and compassion?
|Anti-torture exhibition in Geneva's downtown area|
The main square in Geneva's capital, Bern, is often home to open markets where people can bring fresh home-grown flowers, fruit and vegetables to sell. When no fairs are held in the Square, people also like to visit there as there are twenty-six water fountains in the Square. Especially during summer, children always like to play in the water there, which makes the Square a popular place. The twenty-six sprinklers represent the twenty-six cantons of Switzerland. Practitioners often get together in the square to demonstrate the Falun Gong exercises or hand out leaflets about the persecution. In August 2001, they held a press conference there after a week-long SOS walk through Switzerland.
The objective of that SOS walk was to call for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. In particular, several Falun Gong practitioners were persecuted to death in Harbin's Wanjia Forced Labor camp in June 2001, and in the meantime, some 130 other Falun Gong practitioners were in a critical situation after being on hunger strike for nearly a month in the same labor camp.
To help more people know the facts about the brutal persecution in China, Swiss practitioners launched an "SOS Rescue Walk" activity along with other Falun Gong practitioners around the world. Though the practitioners' feet were blistered after walking through rugged mountainous trails, they still persevered in handing out leaflets along the way and visiting the local council office in each town or city to talk to local government representatives. To arrive at the government agencies in the next destination before the end of office hours, they sometimes had to walk fast, regardless of hunger or fatigue. In order to save lodging expenses, sometimes they stayed at farmers' cottages in the evening.
In addition to hardships resulting from the walking, they had to face the interference from the Chinese Communist regime. They were followed and videotaped. Nonetheless, they never thought of giving up. Under the Chinese Communist regime's rule of terror, practitioners in China are subjected to both mental and physical torture, including deprivation of freedom of speech and belief.
The Swiss government, like many other western governments, would never take a laissez-faire attitude toward crimes against human rights. As expected, not only were the representatives of the "SOS Rescue Walk Team" protected by the Swiss police to avoid the interference from the Chinese Communist regime, but they were also received by officials of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the press conference was concluded. The officials also mentioned that Switzerland would strive to urge China to respect basic human rights, including those of Falun Gong practitioners, and among others, the practitioners who are being incarcerated.
|A long journey from Geneva to Bern||Press conference at the square in front of the Palais des Nations|
The largest railroad station in Switzerland is Zurich Central Station. Trains are the most important means of transportation in Switzerland. Many groups of practitioners come to the park across the street from the station to practice the five sets of Falun Gong exercises every Tuesday and Sunday, regardless of the weather. They have been doing so for more than five years. Some distribute leaflets and newspapers they prepared for passersby free of charge. Some practitioners sit in meditation, detaching themselves from the noise and bustle of the world. The public started paying attention to them.
In addition to the occasions when they did the exercises in the park, practitioners gathered in the railroad station because they were catching trains to other cities to hold activities. As time went by, several people made enquiries about Falun Gong and achieved a better understanding about practitioners and their faith. Their lives are very simple. They always give consideration to others first, and hence they don't take their personal gain or loss to heart. As they are so tolerant, they still search inside themselves for possible mistakes even under the circumstances that they may have been treated badly. Their lives can be very simple because they deal with all issues according to the principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance."
However, these people are also extremely busy. In addition to taking good care of their work and study and carrying out responsibilities in their families and social lives just like other people do, they dedicate a lot of their free time to ending the ongoing persecution that the Chinese Communist regime has inflicted on Falun Gong practitioners during the past six years. They hold information day activities in major cities to collect petition signatures, and distribute leaflets so as to raise the attention of political leaders, the media and the general public to the bloody persecution happening in China. All of the efforts are to call upon people with a sense of justice to support Falun Gong practitioners' freedom of belief. They know the more they do, the better people will understand the truth and the more support they will receive to reduce the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and save more families from being torn apart in China.
|Falun Gong practitioners provide a homecoming welcome to the four Swiss fellow practitioners who conducted a peaceful appeal on Tiananmen Square on November 22, 2001|
Chinese People have Changed their Attitudes toward Falun Gong
Kapell Bridge, also known as Chapel Bridge, is a roofed wooden bridge and is almost 700 years old. It was once damaged by a fire. However, with many excellent craftsmen's skillful repairs it was completely restored, and many tourists are attracted by its charm, especially those who came all the way to Switzerland from overseas. This bridge is a landmark of Lucerne, one of the most beautiful cities in Switzerland. Many tourists come here, especially tourists from mainland China.
After they get off the bus, what confronts them is a Falun Gong information booth on which some small tables are laden with of a variety of leaflets in various languages, along with video-CDs and bookmarks with photos of the Falun Gong exercises. To the Chinese tourists' surprise, some westerners are practicing the Falun Gong exercises along with the beautiful traditional Chinese music. Perhaps the music is not unusual to them, as there were over one hundred million people practicing Falun Gong in China when the persecution was launched. Six years ago the music was frequently heard in almost every park in China in the early morning. But what shocked them most of all were the horrifying photos of the anti-torture exhibition and the Falun Gong practitioners who were acting out some of draconian methods of torture inflicted on their fellow practitioners in China.
The anti-torture exhibition at Lugarno
When looking at the pictures on the display boards, viewers found that they reflected two different scenarios. One is that before the brutal persecution, numerous people got together to practice the exercises in a very peaceful atmosphere. The other scenario was that all the photos were of people with wounds all over their bodies and many other photos of the brutal torture methods. The viewers could not believe that such a cruel persecution would still occur today.
Passersby read the information on display boards attentively
What these people are witnessing is in fact something that is happening on a daily basis in China. Those who are being persecuted are Falun Gong practitioners, and what they want is nothing more than to be better people according to the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. But they are tortured, so Falun Gong practitioners outside China have acted out the torture methods to let the Western world know what is happening.
Anti-torture exhibition held in Schwanenplatz Square near Kapell Bridge
Information booth at the Post Office Square near Kapell Bridge
Falun Gong practitioners set up information booths in downtown Lucerne many times to raise people's awareness of the persecution of innocent practitioners in China. Passersby often stopped to look at the display boards, take some leaflets or show their support by signing the petition. However, tourists from China were the exception. They would usually just stay away from the booths. Little by little many Chinese people came to realize the truth after listening to Falun Gong practitioners' explanations from a distance. The practitioners helped them to see through some of the lies and propaganda that the communist regime has spread about Falun Gong practitioners through China's state-controlled media.
With the establishment of the information booths one after another, more and more local residents and tourists from different places have come to understand Falun Gong. In the meantime, many Chinese students and tourists began to stop to view the photos quietly. Some accepted a leaflet and read it on the spot. Others asked questions, and still others said that they already knew the truth, as they know some Falun Gong practitioners back in China or that they have already received the flyers in other countries. Some even took the initiative to ask for a copy of the "Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party" as they have learned about it in China, but were unable to get one. As the book systematically discloses the CCP's evil nature, and explains how Jiang Zemin colluded with the CCP to persecute Falun Gong, Falun Gong practitioners also benefit a lot from reading the book themselves. Therefore they often keep the book with them so as to introduce it to more Chinese people.
The reason why these Chinese people changed their attitudes towards Falun Gong is because many Falun Gong practitioners in China have utilized all kinds of possible approaches to clarify the truth to the Chinese people, though they are under overwhelming pressure and the threat of persecution. It is also because Falun Gong practitioners around the world have held various Falun Gong Information Day activities to help overseas Chinese and Chinese visitors understand that Falun Gong is popular overseas, and make them consider why Falun Gong is prohibited only in China. Very soon all the Chinese people will approach Falun Gong's information booths of their own accord, and tell the practitioners that they have realized Falun Gong is good.
The Focus in the Snow
The little town of Davos in Switzerland has few inhabitants and is located on the top of a high mountain where the air is very fresh and the roofs glisten with winter snow. Thick layers of snow enable people to ski down from the top of the mountain speedily to their hearts content, but for those who take no interest in skiing, winter here offers nothing but freezing cold weather. Normally the temperature will drop down to minus twenty degrees.
But during one week in January the focus of the world is on this little town when it hosts the World Economic Forum. International media gather here to inform people in their country of important issues. In recent years they have gained something unexpected. Since 2003, during the one-week economic forum each year many groups of practitioners gather here. They do not come here to attend the meetings, nor do they come for skiing or protesting. Usually they will quietly shovel away piles of snow, display banners and photos and put materials in all languages on a small table. Then some of them start to distribute leaflets to passersby and talk to them. They put down mats on the snowy ground and start practicing meditation in freezing cold weather. But they seem to be protected from the cold.
In 2005, three seriously beaten victims whose wounds seemed to be bleeding were an addition to their stand. One of them was hung upside down from a rack, another chained to a tiger bench and the other locked in a cage so small that he could not stand straight. These practitioners were acting out some of the torture method used on their fellow practitioners in China where the CCP attempts to force them to renounce their faith in Falun Gong.
Media expresses concern over the anti-torture exhibition in Davos
The reason why Falun Gong practitioners set up the anti-torture exhibition on such a snowy day is to enable more people to understand human rights abuses and persecution against good persons happening in China. Because the CCP spreads lies around the world, many people in the West are unable to understand the facts. Therefore, with the personal experiences of themselves and their friends, the practitioners hoped to call on people to bring an end to the inhumane persecution.
After understanding the facts of the persecution, many reporters interviewed these Falun Gong practitioners and photographed the scenes of the anti-torture exhibition as well as the displayed photos. The reporters also promised to inform the audience in their own country of the facts. Some of them signed the petition to call for an end to the persecution. Besides the media, passersby, tourists and some of the officials who came to attend the forum were shocked by the brutal human rights abuses and signed the petition in support of the anti-torture activities. One local person brought hot coffee to warm up the Falun Gong practitioners, specifically for those who had been unable to stretch their bodies due to their long participation in the anti-torture exhibition.
Passersby are shocked by scenes of the anti-torture exhibition
Since the CCP launched the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in 1999, we have witnessed how the Swiss Falun Gong practitioners persistently used all kinds of methods to bring to people the facts of the persecution. We have also witnessed more and more Swiss people jointly standing against the persecution after they came to realize the facts.