Eyewitness Account of the Encounter Between Riot Police and Peaceful Protesters 21 Years Ago
(Minghui.org) It has been 21 years since 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners in China peacefully protested in front of the State Department in Beijing on April 25, 1999. They demanded that the government release the 45 practitioners arrested two days earlier in Tianjin. They also requested the government to protect their basic rights to practice their faith. This protest caught the attention of the international community and was referred to as the largest and most peaceful demonstration in China’s history.
In this article, a practitioner recounted the arrests at the Tianjin Institute of Education (now Tianjin Normal University), which triggered the mass protest in Beijing. She said she was impressed with the practitioners' compassion and tolerance, which was in sharp contrast to the Tianjin police’s brutality.
The following is her account of what happened leading up to the 4.25 incident.
Scientist with Ties to a High Ranking CCP Official Slanders Falun Gong
On April 11, 1999, physicist He Zuoxiu published an article titled “I Do Not Approve of Teenagers Practicing Qigong” in a magazine issued by Tianjin Institute of Education. He was a critic of qigong and was a relative of Luo Gan, the head of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, an extrajudicial agency overseeing the state security and judiciary branches. In his article, He slandered Falun Gong and defamed its founder. He also claimed that Falun Gong would cause mental illness.
The practitioners in Tianjin decided to clarify the facts about Falun Gong to the local authorities. They wrote letters to the officials telling their own stories of how the practice had helped improve their overall wellness. From April 18 to 24, the practitioners gathered on the campus of Tianjin Institute of Education every day, calling on the editors to correct the false statements in He’s article.
Spontaneous, Orderly Behavior
At that time, I had been practicing Falun Gong for a year. Even within such a short period of time, my life had already been turned around, with my heart problem and liver cirrhosis gone and me becoming more positive. I wasn’t going to sit around and let the public be misinformed about this life-transforming practice. I joined the practitioners at the Institute.
When I arrived at the institute on the morning of April 21, 1999, I saw the practitioners sitting quietly in the hallways and around the corners. They made sure that they were not in anyone’s way and did not disturb the classes. They waited quietly for the magazine editors to see them.
The practitioners also minimized eating and drinking to avoid using the restrooms. When they really needed to go, they used the restrooms off campus. Every now and then a practitioner would collect everyone’s garbage and take it elsewhere. The campus remained in good order and clean, even though thousands of practitioners were there all day.
The nearby residents and business owners came to check out what was going on. After talking to the practitioners, many of them were impressed, “It’s quite amazing that there isn’t any noise with so many people here. You are very disciplined.”
It started raining on April 22. That day, I spotted a hidden camera behind the curtain of a classroom. Its lens constantly followed and pointed at the practitioners. According to Hao Fengjun, a police officer of the Tianjin Bureau of State Security who later defected to Australia, there were hidden cameras set up in the nearby buildings surrounding the Institute and recorded the 5,000-plus practitioners there that day.
The people at the editor’s office initially acknowledged the mistakes made in the article and promised corrections after talking to the practitioners. The very next day on April 23, however, a plainclothes officer revealed that no corrections were allowed, according to an order from the top.
That afternoon the authorities spoke through the speakers on campus demanding the practitioners to leave, accusing us of disrupting the classes. They threatened that we would face consequences if we decided to stay.
Spectacular Encouragement for Practitioners
We weren’t moved upon hearing the warning. We knew that we didn’t disrupt the classes and it’s very likely that the school authorities were pressured into saying so.
As some practitioners were thinking about how to better clarify the facts to the school officials and magazine editors, someone suddenly shouted, “See the Falun over there!”
I looked up and saw that the sun had become a large Falun, rotating clockwise and counterclockwise, with a clear srivatsa sign in the middle. I looked down and spotted numerous Falun of all sizes and colors in the air, on the ground, on the wall and also on the practitioners. I burst into tears. The practitioners around me quietly pressed their palms together in front of their chests. This sacred moment lasted half an hour.
An officer ran out of the campus and yelled to other officers, “There are so many Falun in here!” Another officer whispered, “Amazing, it’s real.” People began to chat excitedly and a person shouted, “Quick! look, red, green, blue!” as he pointed at the Falun.
The Battle Between Good and Evil
As I was on my way to get dinner that night, hundreds of riot police had occupied the street in front of the Institute, along with police vehicles and buses. I quickly returned, overwhelmed by anger and sorrow. It was sad to see the police who were supposed to “protect and serve” pointing their weapons at us.
But I wasn’t scared. Having found Falun Gong after years of searching, I was determined that I’d uphold and have faith in it under all circumstances.
When the night fell, the police charged into the campus, waving their batons and threatening to arrest practitioners for “disrupting public order.”
We began to recite the Fa. It started from a few of us to eventually everyone there. The unwavering truth in the teachings gave us the strength and courage to go on.
The police began to push and assault the practitioners who refused to comply. An elderly practitioner, while being shoved and beaten, told the police, “Please stop what you're doing. Without Falun Gong, I would’ve died from coronary heart disease….” Her voice weakened as she passed out.
Four officers dragged away another elderly practitioner. Her shirt and pants came off and her bare back was rubbing against the ground as the police dragged her outside and threw her into the street.
“You are not supposed to hit the child, she’s so small,” a young practitioner said to an officer after seeing him hit a little girl. Before the practitioner could finish talking, the officer smashed his head against a corner of a wall. Blood gushed out of his head and he was thrown into a bus.
Numerous brutal scenes happened right in front of me: an officer grabbed a woman by her hair and stomped on her legs; another officer repeatedly kicked a practitioner laying on the ground; a female practitioner fell after an officer struck her chest with a bullhorn. The police brutality spun out of control in front of me. Practitioners fell one after another and were dragged into the buses.
A total of 45 practitioners were arrested that night. Later the Tianjin police chief claimed on China Central Television (CCTV) that the police did not assault or arrest anyone.
Authorities Set Up Practitioners
After we were forced out of the Institute, we went to the city hall to demand the release of the seized practitioners. We sat and stood quietly in front of the city’s government building. It was past midnight but we waited patiently – we knew some officers were still inside and watching us.
A man came out and warned us to leave. A practitioner responded, “Release everyone you arrested. If not, we will be here until morning. We want justice.” After a short stand-off, the man had several practitioners go in. He then told the practitioners that without authorization from Beijing, the practitioners could not be released.
“Go to Beijing,” he said, “and only that can resolve your problem.”
The words got out and over 10,000 practitioners in Beijing and nearby regions showed up in front of the Complaints and Proposals Administration in Beijing on April 25. Five practitioner representatives went into the State Department and made three requests: to release the practitioners arrested in Tianjin, to ensure a legal environment for the practitioners to cultivate and to lift the ban on the publication of Falun Gong books.
The then Premier Zhu Rongji restated that the government would not interfere with the public practicing qigong and ordered the Tianjin police to release the practitioners. By the evening the Tianjin police had released the practitioners. Very quickly, the practitioners outside the State Department left quietly in perfect order. There wasn’t a piece of garbage to be found on the ground. The practitioners even cleared up the cigarette butts left by the police.
From the Institute of Education in Tianjin to the State Department in Beijing, the practitioners demonstrated their noble spirits and tolerant attitude in the face of the evil regime.