This article was first published in April 2009.

( On April 25, 1999, more than ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners gathered around Beijing's National Appeals Office near Fuyou Street and Xi'anmen Street, next to the CCP's central compound of Zhongnanhai. The incident was later referred to as the"4.25 Incident" or "Zhongnanhai Incident", and was viewed as the fuse that sparked the CCP's persecution of Falun Gong.

Why did Falun Gong practitioners gather near the political center of the CCP? Was that to challenge the CCP? Did the "4.25 Incident" make the CCP decide to persecute Falun Gong?

Ten years have gone by. What is the significance of this incident then and now for Chinese society? Why is it important for us to review the historical background of this incident?

The regime's and the media's positive attitude toward Falun Gong before 1999

"This morning, Shanghai Sports Center was crowded with people, with close to ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners gathering to demonstrate the Falun Gong exercises. Falun Gong's founder, Master Li Hongzhi, began to lecture on Falun Gong to the public in 1992 and was warmly welcomed by the masses. For the last six years, this practice had offered people something completely new and fresh. It is possible for people to practice Falun Gong anywhere, at anytime. Today, people practice Falun Gong everywhere in China, including Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The practice has also spread to Europe, the U.S., Australia and Asia, with more than 100 million people practicing Falun Gong."

The above information was broadcast in December 1998 by a TV station in Shanghai. Many people in Mainland China would be shocked today upon seeing such a TV program. By 1999, prior to the onset of the persecution, Falun Gong was not only popular among the masses. Even the high level officials in the Politburo had a positive attitude toward Falun Gong. However, a handful of CCP officials had always wanted to target Falun Gong.

Falun Gong was first taught publicly in 1992. On May 13, 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi ran the first workshop in Changchun City. Soon, the China Qigong Scientific Research Society (CQSRS) awarded Mr. Li a "qigong master" certificate. In 1993, it issued to Falun Gong a "registration certificate for an allied, affiliated qigong school under the CQSRS." Furthermore, the organization made an official statement that the Falun Gong Research Association was an "academic group" and that its scope of activities included "theoretical research, dissemination of the Falun Gong practice and consultation", and that its activities could cover the whole of China.

Mr. Li Hongzhi completed his workshops in Mainland China at the end of 1994 and finished with overseas workshops in July 1995. In early 1996, Falun Gong officially withdrew from CQSRS. The Falun Gong Research Association that was later "banned" had actually ceased to exist as early as 1996.

It is important to note that the CQSRS was established at the end of 1985 with permission from the National Economic Reform Committee of the State Council, and it was headed by former Deputy Director of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for the National Defence (COSTIND) Zhang Zhenhuan. CQSRS was not truly a non-government academic organization. Starting in the early 90's, CQSRS was administrated directly by the "Working Team for Research on the Human Body." [Note: This team is also known as the "Nine-person Group," a team set up after the June 4th incident in 1989 (Tiananmen Square Massacre,) in an attempt to control all groups that were engaged in the study of qigong and supernatural abilities of the human body.]

All of its team members were high-ranking ministerial or deputy ministerial officials from government organs including the National Sports Commission, the National Science Committee, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Propaganda of the CCP Central Committee, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Public Security, Liaison Division of the Military Political Department and Headquarters of the National Armed Police. One of the major tasks of the working team was to supervise the "political tendency" among qigong groups. The CCP was intent on determining whether Falun Gong had any "political intentions."

On August 31, 1993, the China Anti-Crime Foundation affiliated with the Ministry of Public Security issued an official letter to the Falun Gong Research Association, expressing its gratitude to Mr. Li Hongzhi for providing free treatment to representatives attending the 3rd National Anti-Crime Conference in Recognition of Advanced Individuals. On September 21, 1993, the People's Public Security News, the official newspaper of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, reported the events in an article entitled "Falun Gong Provides Treatments to Advanced Anti-Crime Individuals", in which it remarked, "After the treatments, they unanimously agreed upon their remarkable improvements."

On December 27, the China Anti-Crime Foundation awarded Mr. Li Hongzhi an honorary certificate. In 1993, at the Beijing Oriental Health Expo, Mr. Li Hongzhi was honoured with the greatly coveted "Award for Advancing Boundary Science" and a "Special Gold Award," as well as the title "Qigong Master Most Acclaimed by the Masses." Mr. Li Hongzhi received the most awards at this expo.

The General Bureau of National Sports conducted a comprehensive investigation into Falun Gong in May 1998. In September, a medical professional team was set up to cooperate with the investigation; 122,553 Falun Gong practitioners took part in the survey. The results showed that 97.90f Falun Gong practitioners improved their health after the practice. On October 20, the team leader of a study group from the General Bureau of National Sports to Changchun commented in a speech, "We believe the effectiveness of Falun Gong is very good, and it has made an obvious impact on the social stability and the building of morality. We must fully acknowledge this." At the same time, surveys conducted in Dalian and Beijing came up with similar results.

In February 1999, U.S. News and World Report wrote on the benefits of Falun Gong, leading the head of the National Sports Bureau to declare, "Falun Gong and other qigong practices enable each person to save 1,000 Yuan on medical care. If there are 100 million people practicing Falun Gong, then a trillion Yuan can be saved per year. Zhu Rongji [the then Premier of China] was very pleased about this finding. China can make good use of this money."

One might think that the Communist regime did not know much about Falun Gong before the "4.25 Incident" in 1999. This is actually a misunderstanding created by the CCP to absolve its responsibility. From what was stated earlier, one can see that the CCP had investigated and monitored Falun Gong all along. At two workshops held in the hall of Beijing's Public Security University on May 14 and 15, organized by the China Anti-Crime Foundation, high-ranking officials from the Ministry of Public Security were among the participants.

Mr. Li Hongzhi began to disseminate the teachings of Falun Gong overseas in 1995. The first workshop was run upon invitation from the Chinese Embassy in France, at the embassy's Culture Section. Many embassy staff attended the workshop. Everyone at the workshop praised Falun Gong and was pleased that China's traditional culture was being promoted overseas. No one felt anything abnormal about the practice prior to Jiang Zemin launching the political movement against it.

High level CCP officials knew much about Falun Gong before the "4.25" incident

Mr. Li Hongzhi started to disseminate the teachings of Falun Gong in May 1992, and there was a rather large practice site at that time in Zizhuyuan Park. Many retired CCP cadres lived close by. Some of them were senior to the then leaders Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji, Luo Gan and Li Lanqing, and some even participated in the Long March. Several standing members of the Politburo were their subordinates.

When these retired CCP cadres benefited from the practice, they naturally recommended the practice to colleagues from the past.

Prior to 1996, a practitioner from the Zizhuyuan Park practice site went to Jiang Zemin's home to teach Falun Gong to his wife, Wang Yeping.

Li Lanqing used to be China's Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, and a direct superior of a Falun Gong practitioner. The two of them used to have a good relationship. As early as 1995, that practitioner mentioned that he introduced Falun Gong to minister Li Lanqing, and even gave him a copy of the book Zhuan Falun.

Jiang Zemin's superior at the Wuhan Thermal Engineering Institute also practiced Falun Gong. When Jiang Zemin and colleagues from the Wuhan Thermal Engineering Institute got together, one colleague talked to Jiang Zemin about Falun Gong face to face. Jiang later said that he first heard of Falun Gong on April 25, 1999, which was an outright lie. Jiang Zemin had gone to inspect the Central TV Station in 1996 and saw a copy of Zhuan Falun on the desk of a staff person. He told that person then, "Zhuan Falun is pretty good."

Luo Gan also knew about Falun Gong as early as 1995. His former superiors and colleagues from the China Academy of Machinery Science had told him about Falun Gong.

From 1996 on, the number of people embracing the practice increased rapidly, and more and more people working in major CCP departments and committees also took up the practice, and many had also read the book Zhuan Falun. Due to Falun Gong's significant impact on people's health and morality, the practice was passed on by word of mouth, at an incredible rate. By 1999, the number of people practicing Falun Gong in Mainland China reached 100 million.

Falun Gong's miraculous healing effects and its huge impact on the improvement of social morality made many people take notice. The cultivation practice led people to look at the universe and life from a new perspective.

The CCP, however, is a political party that maintains its power by subjecting the entire population of China to strict mind control. The Party's ideological foundation is based on materialism and an absence of spiritualism. The rapid spread of Falun Gong in China thus created alarm among a few CCP officials at the top, who viewed Falun Gong as a potentially challenging ideological force. This erroneous notion lit a fuse for the eventual large-scale persecution.

(To be continued)