In the afternoon of March 7, 2001, the Chinese Student Association of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) conducted a symposium about the Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident. It was open to all Chinese students and scholars. The organizer also invited some Falun Gong practitioners. The symposium started with the one-hour "Focus Discussion" program by CCTV (China Central TV Station) on the self-immolation incident, followed by a half-hour speech by Falun Gong practitioners, and a half-hour period for free discussion. The tone of the entire symposium was rational, friendly and warm. It gave the participants an opportunity to exchange their opinions peacefully, though they might hold completely different beliefs. Such a symposium is impossible in China. Even in the U.S., it is hard to find. It is commendable that the Mainland Chinese students, with many misunderstandings and prejudices toward Falun Gong, had a chance to sit down with practitioners and exchange their opinions calmly. In fact, this meeting was a result of another symposium organized by the Chinese Consulate in Chicago several days ago.

On March 3, in the name of the Chicago Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the Chinese Consulate in Chicago conducted a symposium regarding the "self-immolation incident" to attack Falun Gong. When some Falun Gong practitioners, who are also students and scholars, arrived, the organizer refused to let them attend, saying that they were not invited. The Consulate officers even locked the door. Some reporters who came late had to knock on the door and wait a while before entering. The open symposium turned into a "locked-door conference."

Holding this kind of "propaganda" symposium in a U.S. university directly contradicts the spirit of democracy and the rule of law in America. The head of the UIC Chinese Student Association offered a sincere apology: not allowing Falun Gong practitioners to attend was a political decision made by the Chinese Consulate. After further discussion with Falun Gong practitioners, the Chinese Student Association agreed to hold an open and free conference on Falun Gong the following week. This is how the March 7 symposium was initiated.

Taking advantage of the self-immolation incident, the Chinese government started another wave of persecution on Falun Gong. Its suppression has caused great harm in China. Moreover, it is now vigorously extending its persecution overseas. The Chinese Consulate started a campaign to distribute the CCTV video. They also mobilized some followers in the U.S. to help spread the lies. Even during the March 7 symposium, the Falun Gong practitioners only had a chance to express their opinions after the host, the Chinese Student Association, played the CCTV video for one hour.

One practitioner pointed out that when the Chinese government decides to crack down on a group of peaceful people using its government-controlled media, it will do whatever it takes. The CCTV program itself attempts to seal the facts while spreading the lies of the "self-immolation incident." First, for example, Falun Gong principles forbid killing and suicide. Practitioners must treasure life since they need to cultivate their life to reach Consummation [the enlightenment or fulfillment of one's cultivation/translator]; therefore, it is slandering Falun Gong to claim that Consummation can be attained through suicide. Secondly, these people who set themselves on fire were immediately identified as Falun Gong practitioners, and their actions were directly linked to the entire Falun Gong practice, as if all practitioners are suicidal. What ridiculous logic! Thirdly, this incident occurred one and half years after the initial crackdown against Falun Gong, and it happened in China's most politically sensitive location - Tiananmen Square. No matter who these people are, they must have been in extreme despair, or perhaps the whole incident was a hoax designed by the government to slander Falun Gong. In either case, only Jiang Zemin is liable! Another practitioner pointed out that in history, some leaders of the Chinese government often fabricated and circulated lies with the help of government-controlled media to achieve their political goals. This incident itself is highly questionable. There are too many holes in the government reports. People around the world are asking questions about the incident and the international media is not allowed to interview the victims. But inside information has been leaked gradually, and people will not be fooled again.

Falun Gong practitioners' speeches were followed by a free discussion. People with different opinions talked with each other. One guest said he does not believe Falun Gong's principles, but he added, "Given the Chinese Government's track record of killing and brutality, it is absolutely possible that many Falun Gong practitioners were tortured to death." Many people agreed with him.

Many of the participants were interested in learning more about Falun Gong; they asked a number of questions. Some indicated that they hope Falun Gong's principles are true, even though they have yet to be convinced. By the end, the meeting turned into a discussion about Falun Gong cultivation. Quite a few people stayed after the end of the meeting to talk with practitioners.

Facts can't be re-written from lies. The truth will prevail. In today's seemingly competitive environment, Falun Gong practitioners should continue to resist the evil forces. We should tell the truth with our hearts, and offer people salvation. As long as we persevere, there must be one day when "The most gigantic havoc is over, and the universe is illuminated." [From Teacher's poem, "After Havoc"]

Chicago Practitioners

March 15, 2001