No one knew who they were when they arrived in Beijing. Though they spent their first few nights in the crowded Beijing Railway Station, eating food and sleeping on the benches, their ambition was to make known to the world an occult, unique qigong. Falun Gong, as everybody now calls it, includes a set of soft, slow exercises, meditation, and a profound practicing theory.
In China, there are hundreds of schools of Qigong. The Chinese, especially senior people in cities, are accustomed to practicing Qigong in the morning, outside in the parks, in the spacious places or on the sidewalks, with the purpose of improving their health and curing their diseases.
In order to be noticed, Mr. Li and his students treated the attendants at the Fair and cured them of their ailments with supernatural capabilities.
"Falun Gong is a miracle!" News spread quickly among the attendants. In the Fair, people queued in lines at Falun Gong's table, waiting to be treated, bought Falun Gong's books and asked for the autograph of the author.
At the request of the attendants, the committee of the Fair invited Mr. Li to give a Qigong lecture. His lecture on Qigong was so unique and instructive that one-day's arrangement extended to three days. At the end of the Fair, Falun Gong had won the highest prize and Mr. Li was granted the title " the most popular Qigong Master".
Then from 1992 to 1994, Mr. Li was invited to give Qigong lectures by Chinese local Qigong organizations and he taught Falun Gong everywhere, traveled to nearly every big city in China, and the reputation of Falun Gong rose quickly, with the number of its practitioners increasing at an explosive rate.
In order to guide Falun Gong practitioners located in every area of China, his students in Beijing established a Falun Gong center: the Research Association of Falun Dafa. It helped each city set up contact and training posts, seeing that each fresh learner would obtain free tuition and not go to a deviant way, and issued Mr. Li's new instructive essays.
Within three years since Mr. Li made Falun Gong public China, the number of people practicing it reached tens of millions, alarming the Ministry of Public Security of China. It sent spies to its training posts and conducted many secret investigations. Although the conclusion of the reports was that Falun Gong was wholesome, harmless and apolitical, the top leaders still
felt that it was a "thorn in their sides."
Mr. Li felt the pains of the Chinese government, and left for New York U.S. in 1995, where he traveled from place to place, lecturing on Falun Gong.
Although Mr. Li was not in his motherland, the Chinese government still saw the steadily swelling ranks of Falun Gong learners. By the day of the national crackdown on it in July, 1999, its number had reached to about 100 million, more than that of the Chinese Communist Party members.
Before the crackdown, Falun Gong practitioners formed peculiar scenes in public places of China in the morning. They did exercises collectively to the music of the tape-recorders, sitting on the ground meditating, with golden and red Falun Gong banners waving in the air and the introduction pictures and free tuition advertisements hanging on the trees. In the evenings, the practitioners got together in certain places, usually some practitioner's home, to read Mr. Li's books, discuss problems and exchange experiences with each other.
Get-togethers in China are not allowed, because they are regarded as a threat to the regime of the Chinese Communist Party. Some experienced on-lookers warned their spouses and children that "your good days won't last long, no matter how good Falun Gong is, and the C.C.P will forbid it, sooner or later."
The ominous prelude began on April 11, 1999, when an article attacked Falun Gong and its founder was published in a periodical geared to youth's issued by a teacher's school in Tianjin, the southern gate city of Beijing. The author, Mr. He Zuoxiu, a member of an institute belonging to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was one of the few activists in China who opposed Falun Gong, as well as Qigong, and regarded all the supernatural phenomena in Qigong, like recognizing characters with ears, people's-flying in the air, recovering health without medicine, perceiving living beings in other
dimensions, etc, as anti-scientific, superstitious and cheating. The author's denouncing of Falun Gong and his slandering on its founder aroused a strong response from the city's Falun Gong believers. They thought the editors of the periodical didn't know anything about Falun Gong and had violated the government's policy "Don't debate about Qigong".
So they went to the editorial department, telling the editors their practicing experience of how Falun Gong changed their mentality, and let them become good people and regain good health. They said they hoped more and more people, including the youths, would practice Falun Gong as the morality of human beings was deteriorating and Falun Gong could explain the truth and teach them to be noble people. They requested the editors to make a public apology to eliminate the bad influence produced by Mr. He's article.
But the editors' delay and refusal resulted in the believers' protesting. On April 20, 1999, several hundred of the believers gathered outside of the building of the editorial department, and the number increased from 1000 to several thousand on the 21st and 22nd respectively. It was not the first time for Falun Gong practitioners to protest against the media's authority. They sat or stood, reading Mr. Li's book, maintaining the rules themselves, waiting for the editors to understand them and change their minds.
But this time, they felt disappointed. On April 23, more than 300 riot police were brought to the area. They beat the crowd, drove them away, and arrested 45 protestors. Part of the protestors went directly to the City's municipal hall, and there they got the information that the Ministry of the Public Security was involved in it and the arrested people couldn't be released unless the Beijing authority authorized it.
The Research Association of Falun Dafa in Beijing was soon informed of the Tianjin event. It immediately announced this news to each city's Falun Gong practitioners and encouraged them to petition to the top leaders of China.
From 4 o'clock in the morning, on April 25, Falun Gong petitioners in nearby cities and provinces appeared in Beijing, one after another, and eventually gathered at Zhongnanhai, the Party and central government headquarters. The number reached 10 thousand that night while ten times more were moving on their way to Beijing.
Without shouting slogans or posting mottos, the gathered petitioners at Zhongnanhai were especially quiet and peaceful, and looked serious in their demeanor. Every one knew the possible results: to be killed there, to be arrested and sentenced to jail or to be persecuted later. Some among them did write down hurriedly their last words to their families before they left their homes. At 10 o'clock the same day, they collected their trash and disappeared unnoticed, leaving three requirements for the consideration of the Chinese top leaders: 1. To release the arrested practitioners in Tianjin ; 2.To protect the practitioners from persecution; 3. To publish the books of Mr. Li Hongzhi legitimately.
It is believed that the plan to destroy Falun Gong had been worked out a long time before the April.25 Zhongnanhai Event. Someone deducted that the armed police guarding Zhongnanhai on April 25 had led the petitioners to the compound on purpose, to make a handle for the later persecution.
The nationwide crackdown on Falun Gong started on July 22, 1999, when the Chinese government declared it illegal and announced a six-point notice to it's citizens: practicing Falun Gong, gathering for it, exchanging and spreading information on the subject, petitioning for it, will be punished and arrested. It also urged the practitioners to hand over their Falun Gong books to the authorities.
From then on, a lot of miserable pictures of the cases of how Falun Gong had caused its practitioners to die, become insane, commit suicide and oher family tragedies were shown on the T.V programs all over China. Citizens were organized by their grass-root governments and their working places to watch the programs made by the Chinese Central T.V station. Newspapers, magazines, as well as radio stations were flooded with indignant accusations, describing Falun Gong as cheating the innocent citizens and using them to attain their political aims.
The nationwide attack on Falun Gong, as vehement as thunder storms, focused on the first month and lasted till the new millennium. It has set a new unprecedented record since Chairman Mao's death in 1976. It is compared with by many aged Chinese to the Cultural Revolution launched by Chairman Mao, in which many innocent citizens were treated as enemies, wrong doings were supported and human rights were treaded on.
As soon as the official banning of Falun Gong on July 22, large scale arrests of its leaders started all across China. The police drove the practitioners away from every training post, and carried away those die-hard members by police cars. Local substation police went door to door, accompanied by the block committee staff, to the practitioners' homes, and demanded them to abandon their belief and confiscated their Falun Gong books.
In the fearful storms, some practitioners got ill and went to hospitals, with contingent death there, some wrote down their statement to the police, repudiating Falun Gong, some closed their doors and cut off their connection with the community; some drew down their window curtains, practicing it in a clandestine way; some, in defiance of the 6-point notice, went to the capital to petition.
Within 10 days of the official banning, hundreds of thousands of practitioners had managed to petition in Beijing. Beijing's jails were soon full. President Jiang Zemin, who was on the harder-line, demanded that each city try every means they could take to block the practitioners from coming to Beijing to petition, and take back the arrested petitioners.
The dragnet system was quickly set up to prevent petitioners from going to Beijing, but still lots of devotees succeeded in breaking through the blockade.
An old peasant, when he was arrested, opened his parcel and showed several pairs of his worn-out cloth shoes to the policemen, and said that: "I've walked a long way here to say one word in my heart. Falun Gong is good! The government is wrong!"
In order to prevent practitioners from further petitioning Beijing and make them abandon their belief, many cities adopted fascist ways to suppress them and a lot of atrocities were committed.
Beating, torture, ill-treatment are very common ways to treat the arrested practitioners. Some practitioners' bones were beaten broken; some practitioners' hair was pulled out and some were kicked until they spit blood.
In Salt City, Jiang Su Province, the police pressed a woman practitioner's head into a water jar.
In a jail in Beijing, the jailers hit about 25 practitioners with electronic clubs for 2 hours. The smell of scorched human flesh permeated the air.
In another jail in Beijing, the hand sinew of a Falun Gong devotee was amputated after losing circulation from prolonged time in handcuffs. In order to protest the inhumane treatment, he has gone on hunger strikes several times and now is on the verge of the death.
A Falun Gong practitioner, Zhao Jinhua, beaten to death by the police in Shandong Province, is one of the few death cases reported to the Human Rights Committee in U.N. .
During Christmas last year, six practitioners in Guangrao County, Shandong Province, were publicly paraded through the streets and villages for six days by the local government. In the parading, with five police cars clearing the traffic, a truck posted with anti-Falun Gong slogans and packed with armed police standing with overcoats, carried the six devotees whose hands were cuffed and coats were stripped off, to public places in the frozen weather.
Some rural area officials imposed fines on the practitioners. There is a recent case reporting that a devotee was beaten to death because his family was unable to pay the fine requested by the police. The fine varies from place to place, but in some areas, is up to 10,000 R.M.B Yuan, equal to one- year's income of a peasant family. It is used to cover the expenditure of taking back the arrested petitioners from Beijing and paying the local jail charges.
Some cities and towns use the method of economic punishment to prevent practitioner from going to Beijing to petition. For instance, the family of the arrested has to look for four guarantors before they take back their jailed relatives. If the guarantee goes to Beijing to petition again, then the four guarantors will lose their jobs.
In the jail, the arrested Falun Gong practitioners are confronted with the choice between their faith and their jobs. Some devotees become jobless when they are released from jail. Some practitioners also have to choose between repeating the petition to the central government and being sent to the labor camps. Tens of thousands of Falun Gong devotees have been sent to the labor camps just because they believe that they are right and want to express their opinions to the authorities.
In universities and colleges, the students who adhere to their belief have been kicked out.
Last September, pending the anniversary of P.R.China, the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the C.C.P and the leader of the crackdown on Falun Gong propaganda, declared that the crackdown on Falun Gong had attained a "thorough victory". But this year, the head of Chinese Gestabo, Luo Gan, admitted that another two years are needed to eradicate Falun Gong in China. And President Jiang Zemin, taking Falun Gong as his enemy, told his subordinates this March that "if you don't destroy Falun Gong completely, the day that your heads are cut off will come, but you won't know why."
Will Beijing be successful eventually? Maybe, because the propaganda machines are under its control. The people's mind is just like a container and it can instill into it what it wants them to know. The state machine of suppression like police, courts, and jails and labor camps are in its hands and it knows no human beings are fond of them. It can also use the deadly weapons which kill people without shedding bloods: depriving the die-hards of
their economic resources, firing them, canceling their pensions, forbidding their employment.
But up to now, there are several problems embarrassing the Beijing government. The first is that the Falun Gong practitioners have their own thinking and theory, and haven't been cheated by the government's propaganda machines. In
the jails, no police dare to debate with a Falun Gong devotee who often turn the interrogations into Falun Gong-promotion classes for the police and turn them into Falun Gong sympathizers.
The second is that Falun Gong devotees are so steadfast in their faith that they would sacrifice their families, their jobs, even their lives rather than yield. The purpose of life is, generally regarded, to possess money, power and reputation, to enjoy life while living the short life. But the Falun Gong practitioners are willing to abandon them when their faith is challenged.
The third is that no matter how the police ill-treat them, the Falun Gong practitioners are so self-disciplined, so peaceful and so durable, and don't resist or say a word of complaint. What they often say is that " we don't hate you because you don't understand us", "we don't take the human beings as our enemies". Their forbearance has moved even the most iron-hearted police .
The fourth is that in China, not only the Falun Gong practitioners, but also non-practitioners respect greatly the founder of Falun Gong, Mr. Li Hongzhi. Once a journalist of Hong Kong "the World News" went to Mr. Li's hometown, Changchun City, to investigate at the local police station whether Mr. Li had forged his birth date as the propaganda claimed. The Chinese propaganda lied to the masses that Mr. Li had had his birth date forged in order to pretend to be a savior. The local police showed the Hong Kong journalist the original records, proving Mr. Li's innocence that he was born on the same day as Buddha Sakyamuni. The 13 police were later fired, for the punishment of their righteousness.
Although Beijing authorities consider Falun Gong dangerous to its ruling, the Chinese police don't find any similarities between the Falun Gong practitioners and the dangerous criminals or the political dissidents they pursue. They don't know why the authorities order them to arrest so many people who they think are very kind. Some thinking police officers try to understand Falun Gong and would ask questions from the arrested Falun Gong practitioners in the interrogations. The following is a typical question-and-answer.
"What on earth is a Falun Gong practitioner?"
"A Falun Gong practitioner is a man who follows the requests of Falun Dafa and cultivates himself according to the characteristics of the cosmos: Truth, Compassion, Forbearance. A person on earth is like a bottle full of dirty things at the bottom of the river. Only when the dirty things are discarded from the bottle completely, can the bottle can float up from the bottom of the river. We only try to get rid of those evil things from our minds, just like dirty things in the bottle, such as the desires for money, power, and selfishness, and want to be a noble-minded person."
"Is your Master Li a human being or a god?"
"Like you and me, he is a human being, but unlike you and me, he is an enlightened being, as he sees the ultimate truth of the universe and reveals it to us. Why not read the book "Zhuan Falun" written by our Master Li? If you are lucky, you will find the ladder in it, which can lead you to Heaven. The more desires and attachments you give up, the higher level you will reach, and the more insight into the universe you will gain. Maybe one day, you will find yourself enlightened."
John Pomfret, a columnist of The Washington Post wrote in an article as follows: "Beijing cannot tolerate uncontrolled faith,...... The communists have no faith anymore. The thing they fear most is people who believe." There are many precedents that Beijing had been successful in cracking down
on people who believe. But this time, if the suppressed Falun Gong believers are enlightened beings, the failure of Beijing is doomed, sooner or later.