Central Government Compound "Besieged"
Background: On April 23 & 24, 1999, police officials in Tianjin, a city near Beijing, assaulted and arrested dozens of Falun Gong practitioners who had gathered outside a magazine office to discuss errors in a recently-published article attacking Falun Gong. As word spread of the arrests and more Falun Gong practitioners inquired with officials, they were told they had to take their appeals to Beijing. The following day, April 25, some 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners spontaneously gathered at the central appeals office in Beijing, as they had been instructed by Tianjin officials. The gathering was peaceful and orderly. Several Falun Gong representatives were called in to meet with Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji, and members of his staff. That evening, the concerns of Falun Gong practitioners were met, the arrested practitioners in Tianjin were released and everyone went home.
The Problem: According to several sources within the Chinese government, in the months following the April 25th gathering, a fierce political struggle ensued within the top levels of the CCP brass. Then-CCP head Jiang Zemin called upon the government to "crush" Falun Gong, while other members of the Politburo saw no threat in the practice. CNN's senior analyst WIlly Lam quoted senior officials saying the suppression of Falun Gong became very "personal" for Jiang Zemin. In July, Jiang formally ordered the suppression of Falun Gong. The April 25th gathering was quickly re-characterized not as the peaceful appeal it was, and one that, in fact, was coordinated by Tianjin and Beijing officials themselves who told practitioners to go to the Beijing appeals office, but rather as a "laying siege" to the central government compound and clear "evidence" as to how Falun Gong is a threat.
Why It Matters: The misrepresentation of April 25th as a "siege" of the central government compound politicized Falun Gong, both in China and abroad. Thus, rather than seeing the CCP's persecution as the violent suppression of a religious minority, a narrative that Falun Gong and the CCP were vying for power began to evolve. Furthermore, some China watchers in the West believed Falun Gong brought the persecution on themselves by "challenging" the government on April 25th. This narrative has eroded the enthusiasm of many would-be supporters of human and religious rights, and remains the single greatest factor in the blame-the-victim phenomena that surrounds the investigation of and reporting on the persecution of Falun Gong more broadly.
Learn More About What Really Happened:
Epoch Times: An Excuse for Genocide
Award Winning Video: A Decade of Courage - Part 1 - April 25th: The Protest That Changed China