New York Parade Commemorates the April 25, 1999 Peaceful Protest in Beijing
(Minghui.org) Two thousand Falun Gong practitioners held a parade and rally in Flushing, New York on April 25, 2015, to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the peaceful protest of 1999.
Sixteen years ago, on April 25, 1999, over 10,000 practitioners quietly demonstrated in Beijing. They presented three requests to the Chinese leadership: that the practitioners violently arrested in Tianjin be released, that their legal right to practice be recognized, and that the ban on publishing Falun Gong materials be lifted.
The 10,000 left peacefully later that day, after then-Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji met with Falun Gong representatives. Zhu agreed to release the Tianjin practitioners and gave assurances that the government did not oppose Falun Gong.
Despite the assurances, however, then-president Jiang Zemin launched a brutal, genocidal persecution less than three months later. The persecution has continued to this day. Hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been illegally arrested, sentenced to prison, forced labor, and brainwashing centers. Nearly 4,000 practitioners are confirmed to have died as a direct result of the persecution, including torture – though due to the difficulty in getting information out of China, the actual death toll is likely to be much higher.
Over the past 16 years, practitioners have continued to display the same dignity and discipline shown on April 25, 1999, calmly and unwaveringly clarifying the facts about Falun Gong and the persecution. Each year, they hold major events to commemorate this largest peaceful protest in modern Chinese history.
As a result of practitioners' persistent efforts, the publishing of Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party triggered a grassroots movement of Chinese people quitting the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) its two youth organizations. The number of withdrawals reached 200 million on April 14, 2015.
A giant banner reading “Falun Gong is the cornerstone of conscience. Being a Chinese Communist Party member is a shame” highlighted a common reason why people withdraw from the CCP organizations.
Lu Dong, a democracy activist holding the banner said, “The April 25 peaceful protest was a compassionate response to injustice. It was a significant event in China at a time when people didn't believe in goodness any more after years of terror from the communist regime.
“People have seen how the evilness of the CCP and the kindness of Falun Gong practitioners have played out during the 16-year persecution. The fact that over 200 million have severed ties with the Party shows that the status of being a Party member is considered a shame by a large portion of the Chinese population,” he added.
This change is also reflected in Flushing, a neighborhood in New York where many new immigrants from China land as their first stop in the United States.
Over the past few years, the response from the local community has changed dramatically, according to David Tompkins, one of the parade’s organizers. Many Chinese people used to only know about Falun Gong from the vilifying articles in Party propaganda. Today however, many parade spectators expressed admiration for Falun Gong’s perseverance.
“Among the many Chinese groups in the community, the Falun Gong group is my favorite. Why? They have a marching band and they wear nice uniforms. All of this reflects that their hearts are united,” said Mr. Xu, a spectator who took in the march.
“Such a beautiful display of culture in the Chinese community and the spirit of Falun Gong! I think we are all familiar with it and appreciate it,” said Sino, another spectator. “My impression of Falun Gong is sincerity and a simple idea of extending a nice tradition.”
When asked what they wanted to say the most, many interviewees on the streets of Flushing responded with, “Falun Dafa (Falun Gong) is good. Thank you, Mr. Li Hongzhi (founder of Falun Gong)!”
Led by the Divine Land Marching Band, the parade included waist drum performances, a dragon dance and “celestial maidens” dancers. The parade stepped off from Prince Street Park and ended next to the Queens Public Library in Flushing. A rally was held at the end of the parade.
Representatives from the community and non-profit organizations shared their views on the milestone of 200 million withdrawals, the April 25 peaceful protest, and the Chinese regime's killing of Falun Gong practitioners for their organs.
Section of the parade with the theme “Falun Dafa Spreads Widely.” A golden dragon accompanies the Chinese and English editions of Zhuan Falun, the main text of Falun Gong. The float and flag procession follow.
“Stop the Persecution” (pictured) was the theme of the second grouping in the parade. The third theme, “People Are Awakening,” celebrates over 200 million withdrawals from Chinese communist organizations. The waist drum performances in the third section portrayed the joy of independence and freedom.