Witnessing the April 25, 1999 Peaceful Appeal in Beijing
(Minghui.org) When Falun Gong practitioner Shen Mu went to Xiangshan Park to join the Falun Gong group practice on the morning of April 25, 1999, he noticed there were fewer people than usual.
Upon asking another practitioner, he learned that his fellow practitioners had gone to the National Appeals Office adjacent to the communist compound in Beijing to request the release of 45 Falun Gong practitioners who had been unjustly arrested in Tianjin, a city east of Beijing.
The Tianjin government informed local Falun Gong practitioners that issue could be resolved only by high-level government officials in Beijing. So practitioners went to the National Appeals Office in Beijing.
Shen decided to also go to the appeals office. “After hearing that fellow practitioners had been arrested, I thought I was obligated to speak out,” recalled Shen.
He took a bus and went to Fuyou Street, where he saw many Falun Gong practitioners standing quietly in lines on both sides of the street. He was delighted to see so many people peacefully standing in lines in a busy area of Beijing.
From Unknown to Pleasantly Surprised
Heidi did not attend the group exercise that morning. She had been told by another practitioner that Falun Gong practitioners in Tianjin had been arrested and that everyone should go to the appeals office.
She rode her bike towards the appeals office. She asked for directions, as she did not know the exact location of the office. She arrived at Fuyou Street a little past seven a.m. Many people were standing in lines along the street, and more people were arriving.
“I didn’t know they were Falun Gong practitioners initially,” said Heidi. “I didn’t know any of them. I went over and looked around. I saw that some were reading Zhuan Falun, the main book of Falun Gong. I was told that they were Falun Gong practitioners.”
She was pleasantly surprised to see so many practitioners. She had just graduated from a university and had no idea whether she needed to talk to the staffers in the appeals office.
Later she met a local practitioner. They stood together and waited in line.
New Practitioner Benefits From Practicing Falun Gong
Connie was a volunteer assistant practitioner, who brought a cassette player to play the exercise music and practice the Falun Gong exercises with others at 4:00 a.m. On the morning of April 25, she told others about the appeal.
She returned home after the group practice, and left a note for her husband and daughter, as they were still sleeping. She then headed to the appeals office.
Connie saw many police officers standing in the intersection of Fuyou and Changan streets. Many practitioners asked for directions and the police led them to Fuyou street, west of the communist compound.
She had practiced Falun Gong for a year at the time. She was in her 30s and had suffered many illnesses before she began practicing Falun Gong. She also had a hot temper due to poor health. She recovered from the illnesses soon after she began practicing Falun Gong.
She started to take care of her home, and do the chores that her husband was doing because of her poor health.
Connie recalled, “About 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners were quietly standing on the sidewalk. The police looked relaxed and were smoking and chatting. The practitioners later picked up their cigarette butts and threw them into trash containers.”
Shen Mu recalled, “I stood in a front line for an entire day. Occasionally, a practitioner walked by and asked if we needed water or food. If anyone in the front line left, others took over the spot.
“When police walked around, the practitioners greeted them. The police understood us.”
“Seeing these unknown practitioners, I felt the group was great, and I was proud to be one of them,” said Heidi.
They stood in the front line and noticed that people with camcorders and cameras were taking videos and photos.
A few practitioner representatives had a dialogue with the government, and the issue was solved peacefully. Tianjin police released the unjustly arrested practitioners. The central government stated that the government never interfered with the public practice of Falun Gong.
Hearing the good news, the Falun Gong practitioners returned home.
One day after the April 25 demonstration, every participant in the demonstration faced danger and pressure.
Heidi recalled, “My supervisor asked us whether we went to the appeals office. Everyone knew who in the work unit practiced Falun Gong. Though the media reports stated there was no persecution, the pressure was rising.
“More and more plainclothes police officers started monitoring us at the group practice site. The peaceful demonstration did not change the Communist Party's decision to persecute Falun Gong.” The communist regime initiated the persecution on July 20.
Shen Mu was a Ph.D. student in the Chinese Academy of Science. His participation in the April 25 demonstration became an excuse to persecute him after July 20. Even though he defended his thesis successfully, the Chinese Academy of Science did not issue him the Ph.D. degree, as he refused to give up his belief.
Shen returned home and worked at a university. His wife was arrested for mailing Falun Gong informational materials and was later tortured to death in a forced labor camp. Shen was placed under house arrest for seven years for explaining Falun Gong to his students.
He later emigrated to the United States. After experiencing ups and downs, he finally moved to St. Louis, Missouri.
Heidi left China not long after the persecution began, and pursued graduate studies. She worked in several cities in the United States, and she and her husband eventually settled down in St. Louis too.
Connie never thought of going abroad and lived in Beijing after the persecution began. She continued practicing Falun Gong even though it meant risking arrest. When she distributed Falun Gong informational materials in 2009 she was noticed by police. She left home, so as not to implicate her family.
Her daughter was not allowed to enroll in college due to the implication policy practiced by the Chinese Communist Party. She instead pursued studies in the United States and came to St. Louis too.
The three people did not know each other 19 years ago when they participated in the April 25 demonstration, but met in St. Louis many years later, and have since worked together to raise awareness about the persecution of Falun Gong.
Recalling the April 25 demonstration, they were emotional.
Shen recalled, “It was a historical moment that was only once in our lives. In the past 19 years we have worked to end the persecution. I realized that the April 25 appeal was an opportunity for the Chinese Communist Party to align itself correctly. But the depraved regime chose to persecute good people, people who followed the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.
“Falun Gong practitioners exposed the Party's lies. More and more people have since come to know the evil nature of the Party and the brutality of the persecution. The Party's collapse is imminent.”