This article was first published in April 2010.

( The April 25, 1999 Appeal attracted worldwide attention. The response from the Chinese regime then toward the appeal was considered a landmark, that China has stepped out of autocracy and into democracy. However, on July 20, 1999, the communist regime commenced the full-scale persecution of Falun Gong and claimed that the April 25 appeal was a coordinated attack on Zhongnanhai [the central government compound]. A Clearwisdom correspondent interviewed Falun Gong practitioner Mr. Xia Shengchun, who took part in the original April 25 event in Beijing.

Reporter: When did you start Falun Gong practice?

Mr. Xia: I started the practice in April 1996. One day I heard from a colleague that people in the neighboring courtyard were showing the Falun Gong lecture videos, and it seemed to be very good. Two days later he asked me again if I wanted to watch it. Since the place was only a five-minute walk from my house, I went, but by the time I got there they were already viewing Lecture Seven. Following the video airing, I thought it was really good, so I asked my wife to go to the lecture with me the next day. Since then, both of us started the practice.

Reporter: How did you feel after you started the practice?

Mr. Xia: Since we began the practice, we disciplined ourselves according to the requirements of the Fa: to be a good person, to not place emphasis on personal gain, and to be responsible in one's work. I received praise in my workplace, so they asked me to participate in many projects. My wife also had a quite impressive work performance and received several awards.

Reporter: I heard that you participated in the peaceful April 25 Appeal; can you recall some of the events from that time?

Mr. Xia: Quite a few people from our practice site participated in the April 25 Appeal. The scene was peaceful, quiet, and orderly, and everyone behaved well. People said that Falun Gong practitioners were high quality people and very peaceful, and their conduct was a model for a group appeal.

Reporter: So, what was the actual situation on April 25?

Mr. Xia: Several days before the appeal we showed Master's Fa lecture videos in our courtyard, the last lecture, on April 25. When the lecture had concluded, practitioners shared their cultivation experiences with each other. One of the senior practitioners told us that some practitioners from Tianjin and Hebei Province were going to Beijing to appeal. They found the need to do so because He Zuoxiu published an article in the official magazine of the Tianjin Institute of Education, implying that practicing Falun Gong would make people go astray, or develop a mental disorder.

The Tianjin practitioners thoughts what he said in the article was too far from the truth, so they went to the editors to tell them the facts. Institute officials had initially promised to correct the mistake, but very shortly thereafter they suddenly refused to honor any requirements the practitioners had brought up. Many police officers arrived and arrested dozens of practitioners. Practitioners who went there later to ask for the release of the arrested practitioners were eventually informed that they had to go to Beijing to solve the issue; that the Tianjin government couldn't help them. Therefore, practitioners had to go to Beijing to appeal.

Reporter: Then why did you also go there?

Mr. Xia: What I was thinking was that Falun Gong had numerous advantages, but not a single harmful effect on society and I was extremely grateful for Falun Gong. It had not only helped me to become more healthy and fit, but also improved my moral standards. I fully enjoy life every day; everyone should learn such a good practice. Also, I felt that as a practitioner in Beijing, I should tell the government about the truth. So, I went with my wife and several other practitioners to the office of Letters and Appeals at the State Council on Fuyou Street, which is close to Zhongnanhai.

Reporter: Can you briefly describe the circumstances that day?

Mr. Xia: The sidewalk was already full of people once we arrived at Xianmen Street around 8:00 a.m. You could tell from the first glance they were Falun Gong practitioners: They were so quiet and peaceful. Although there were many people, they all stood along the inner portion of the sidewalk, to leave space for pedestrians. Some practitioners were reading books; most of them simply stood there. It was quiet on the street, with not much traffic. After we found ourselves a place to stand, I felt surrounded by a quiet atmosphere.

Some of the pedestrians would stop and talk with the practitioners. People who lived in that area came over to ask why we were there; so, the practitioners explained, and they all understood. Actually, we didn't block traffic at all: The buses ran as usual, and traffic flowed smoothly the whole time that the practitioners were there. Cars passed by initially, but once the police officers arrived and stopped traffic, there were no more cars. I stood in the same place the whole day and hardly moved, except to occasionally speak with practitioners nearby. By 8:00 p.m., a practitioner told me that the negotiations between several representative practitioners and officials had finished and the Premier had resolved the issues, so everyone dispersed. Around 9:00 p.m. after we cleaned up any trash on the street, we took a bus and arrived home at 11:00 p.m.

Reporter: How did you feel about that day's result?

Mr. Xia: I can't tell you how happy I was! I thought our problem was finally resolved, and that we could at last do the exercises legally. Actually, prior to the appeal, several departments within the Chinese Communist Party had taken action against Falun Gong: Falun Gong book were barred from being published and there was also non-stop investigation and attacks by different departments. So, I felt that the problem was resolved, as the Premier himself had come out and spoken with us. I was certain that the environment would get better in the future.

Reporter: Many people think that the April 25 Appeal ignited the persecution; did officials attack Falun Gong before the appeal?

Mr. Xia: The appeal wasn't the reason why the communist regime started the persecution. I remembered as early as July 1996, the Guangming Daily published a commentary, calling on people to "fight superstition" and slandering Falun Gong in this article in particular. In early 1997, Luo Gan directed the Ministry of Public Security to investigate Falun Gong, in order to gather evidence to condemn Falun Gong as a cult. That same year, Changping County officials in Beijing began to collect Falun Gong books; in 1998, the Beijing TV station broadcast certain information that led to attacks on Falun Gong; in July 1998, the Ministry of Public Security issued the document "Notice of the Investigation of Falun Gong" that claimed that Falun Gong was an evil cult. And after the notice, the local police and people in the political system conducted thorough investigations, to collect evidence for cult activities.

Meanwhile, they also hired spies to investigate Falun Gong from inside. But Falun Gong was and is so righteous and doesn't hide anything, so all the results turned out to be positive for the practice, and the persecutors ended up with nothing to use against us. In addition, the Qilu Evening News, Health Newsletter and other media attacked Falun Gong. As we can see, the communist regime planned to ban Falun Gong for a very long time prior to the actual persecution, and the April 25 Appeal was definitely not the cause for persecution.

Reporter: Thanks for sharing your experience with us.