(Clearwisdom.net) As twilight approached on this April 25th, Falun Gong practitioners from Delaware to southern New Jersey came together at the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, the park that is home to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where the U.S. constitution was signed.

Practitioners gathered to honor the 12th anniversary of April 25, 1999, when approximately ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners went to the State Council Appeals Office in Beijing, near Zhongnanhai (the central government compound), to appeal for the removal of newly promulgated restrictions on the practice of Falun Gong and the release of 45 wrongfully arrested practitioners.

Onlookers at the Philadelphia event took flyers and talked to practitioners. Also in attendance were local media. As darkness set in, a candlelight vigil was held.

Falun Gong practitioners commemorate the April 25 Peaceful Appeal with a candlelight vigil

One of the speakers was Ms. Qinhua Gong, a Falun Gong practitioner now residing in New Jersey who attended the peaceful appeal in 1999. Like many practitioners that day, she and family members headed to the State Appeals Office to ask for the release of 45 practitioners who had been arrested in Tianjin City.

Ms. Gong explained that when she first approached the Appeals Office, police were trying to disperse practitioners and send them home. However, as more and more practitioners arrived, who were immersed in a peaceful state, the police also became peaceful and friendly. Some practitioners stood there silently, while others practiced the Falun Gong exercises.

Ms. Qinhua Gong sharing her recollections of the peaceful appeal on April 25, 1999. During her speech, Faluns appeared in pictures of the gathering of practitioners.

Eventually, the authorities said that the 45 practitioners were being released, and the practitioners left in a peaceful and orderly manner, not leaving a single scrap of litter on the ground, said Ms. Gong.

The commemoration was hosted by Alex Luchansky, a Pennsylvania resident who has been practicing Falun Gong since 2005. Mr. Luchansky said, “Although then-Premier Zhu Rongji met with practitioners and agreed to honor their requests, the official oppression accelerated soon after this event. Falun Gong practitioners’ appeal was portrayed as an attack on the government…” In reality, only a tiny fraction of the Falun Gong practitioners near the Beijing area spontaneously went to the Appeals Office.

Pennsylvania resident Alex Luchansky introducing speakers in commemoration of the April-25 appeal

A key speaker was Annie, a Chinese woman who had suffered multiple rounds of persecution in China. She was in detention centers, forced-labor camps and brainwashing centers and had been subjected to multiple forms of abuse and torture, both mental and physical. When she was arrested once, her then four-month-old child was left with no one to take care of the child.

Annie's most recent arrest was in 2009. To protest the illegal arrest and resist her persecutors, she went on a hunger strike. They forced a tube through her nostril and down her throat and force fed her. She choked on vomit and blood.

Fortunately, with the help of relatives in the United States and US officials, Annie now resides in the US. In the closing of her speech, Annie called out for the world to help the practitioners who are still being persecuted in China.

The program ended with the reading of the names of some of the thousands of Falun Gong practitioners who had been tortured to death in China. Immediately to the right of the quietly sitting practitioners was a stone engraving of the first amendment to the US constitution, guaranteeing freedom of belief, freedom of speech, freedom to peacefully assemble and freedom of the press.