On Jan. 25, a Falun Gong spokesperson was invited to Anchorage, Alaska to speak to the Alaskan World Affairs Council. About 70 people attended this luncheon meeting. During the speech, the Falun Gong spokesperson introduced Falun Gong and clarified the truth about the persecution in China. After the speech, the audience asked questions and many people expressed sympathy for the practitioners in China. When the meeting came to an end, many participants stayed and learned the exercises.

A practitioner is giving a speech on Falun Gong issues during the luncheon seminar

After the seminar, many people learned Dafa exercises.

The following is the speech presented.

Alaska World Affairs Council

Erping Zhang
Falun Gong Spokesperson

Ladies and Gentlemen:

(I would like to first thank Barbara and Bill for giving me an opportunity to be here, and there must be good reasons to come over to Alaska in the winter month of January.)

Thank you for inviting me here today. I come before you to describe the unfortunate events in China that have thrust our peaceful practice onto the world stage. To share with you what Falun Gong is. In the process, I would like to ask your help in resolving the tragic suppression that has led to the unjust suffering and persecution of millions, and the deaths of at least 350 innocent people held in custody.

Despite the value of freedom transcending culture, nationality, and time, throughout history freedom has often been something uncertain, even negotiated and contested. With two years into this new millenium, once again the world cries out for freedom and healing. This time, we witness tens of thousands stepping forward courageously and selflessly to defend what is true. They are practitioners of Falun Gong in China, and they are being persecuted for who they are, where they are, and how many they are -- no offense beyond this. Since last July, the whole world has watched in horror as the powerful and intolerant regime in China engages in suppression on scale with few others in contemporary history.

What is Falun Gong that it inspires people of goodwill to suffer for their beliefs? Also known as Falun Dafa, Falun Gong is an ancient Chinese meditation practice that people use to cultivate their minds, bodies, and spirits by acting in accordance with the universal principle of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance." Practitioners also do five gentle exercises. Falun Gong is apolitical; it is not a religion and has no membership. All classes are provided by volunteers and are free of charge. All materials are available on the Internet for free. People are welcome to participate or leave anytime they choose. Practitioners believe in the time-honored principle that the good side of human nature is the key to spiritual enlightenment. Within eight years, Falun Gong has spread to over 30 countries, from everyday citizens to leaders in various fields. Prior to the crackdown, the Chinese government, although atheist, publicly touted Falun Gong's great health benefits and moral contributions to society and encouraged people to practice it. Yet, the growing popularity of Falun Gong has troubled authorities in China. In early 1999, an official report showed that over 70 million Chinese citizens, including members of the Party, government officials, scholars, members of the military and police, practiced Falun Gong. Jiang, the president of China, could not tolerate the fact that Falun Gong practitioners exceeded even the party's own membership.

On July 22, 1999, arrests in the middle of the night began this campaign of suppression. Millions of legally published Falun Gong books and tapes were confiscated, shredded and burned. According to The New York Times, "the authorities have detained tens of thousands of people and are spewing a deafening barrage of anti-Falun Gong publicity each day." We cannot know the precise totals of all those arrested, but some idea of the scope involved can be gained from the announcement of Chinese Vice Premier Li Lanqing that, from July to October 1999, more than 35,000 practitioners were detained in Beijing alone. Citizens of several other nations, including Americans, have been detained. They serve as eyewitnesses to the conditions, and have experienced torture themselves before being released.

The Wall Street Journal reported, "The day before Chen Zixiu died, her captors again demanded that she renounce her faith in Falun Dafa. Barely conscious after repeated jolts from a cattle prod, the 58-year-old stubbornly shook her head...Enraged, the local officials ordered Ms. Chen to run barefoot in the snow. Two days of torture had left her legs bruised and her short black hair matted with pus and blood...She crawled outside, vomited and collapsed. She never regained consciousness, and died." While being arrested, practitioners never offer any resistance, yet are often subject to different physical abuses. Battering; rape; force-feeding with high-density salt water; denial of food, sleep, and toilet use; exposure to extreme hot or cold weather; burning with cigarettes and heated metal; shocks with electric batons -- these are just some of the recorded means of torture employed. One woman was pressured to have an abortion in order to prolong her captors' ability to detain her. Several have been subjected to a device known as "Di-lao," translated as "prison in hell," which immobilizes a prisoner in excruciating positions. It was reported that hundreds of university students were expelled for refusing to renounce the practice of Falun Gong. Now, on a daily basis, they flagrantly violate several provisions of both the Chinese Constitution and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

More than 1,000 have been sent to psychiatric hospitals, where they are administered electric shocks and various anti-psychotic and sedative drugs. Drug rehabilitation centers also dispense psychological torture in this campaign of persecution.

The legal system in China has been contorted in order to lock away practitioners. A vaguely worded, hastily passed law was applied retroactively in charging prisoners with crimes, yet lack of evidence even under this new law forced numerous cases of virtual "show trials," resulting in sentences of up to 18 years. Human rights groups reported that at least 100,000 practitioners have been sent to labor camps without trial, and another 1,600 were sentenced to jail since September.

The government has extended the campaign into every nook and cranny of Chinese society, and even beyond the borders of China. Family members of practitioners, even those who do not themselves practice Falun Gong, have been subject to coercive threats and economic punishment if their relatives would not stop practicing. Foreign journalists reporting on the campaign have been harassed, and Chinese government officials abroad have pressured other nation's governments and universities, attempting to persuade them to ban Falun Gong activities outside China. The targets for such pressure included, to name just two, local government officials in Columbia, Missouri and administrators at the California Institute of Technology.

The reach of the government's campaign has extended to the Internet, as a US News and World Report story outlines in its March 13 issue. A US Department of Transportation Web server, which at first appeared to be under attack from volunteer-run Falun Gong Web sites, turned out to actually be the victim of attacks that originated with the Chinese XinAn Information Service -- a branch of the Ministry of Public Security, China's secret police.

Among those voices publicly calling for an end to the Chinese Government's senseless persecution of Falun Gong practitioners are international human rights advocates, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the World Organization Against Torture; the European Parliament, the U.S. Government, and many other countries. The text of US House Resolution 218 passed in November 1999 states it most clearly: "China should stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners."

Rabbi David Saperstein, the past Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has this to say: "Falun Gong has almost become the symbol for the struggle for religious freedom more broadly." As a nation founded with the idea of protecting human rights, the United States has worked over the course of its history to extend and speak up for human rights for people worldwide. We practitioners request that all Americans act as a catalyst in this acute situation in China, where the human rights of millions are trampled on every day. After all, the matter of human rights is a moral issue.

We ask not for retribution of any kind against the instigators of the suppression campaign -- that they must live with the weight of their actions on their own consciences will be punishment enough for those responsible. We ask only to be able to engage in direct dialogue with Chinese officials for a peaceful solution to this crisis. We trust that, with good effort and unwavering faith from all of us, the Chinese people will in the time to come be able to exercise their basic right to freedom of conscience, association, and expression.

Thank you.