(Minghui.org) China has a long history of venerating the divine. But throughout the dynasties, there were dark chapters from time to time when emperors persecuted Buddhist practices and other faiths. Almost all of these emperors met with serious consequences, which has served as lessons for later generations. Here we would like to look at Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty. 

Eradicating Buddhism

Huizong was the 8th emperor of the Song Dynasty and the direct cause of the Northern Song’s demise. He was good at literature, painting, and calligraphy, but did poorly in managing the country. As a result, the country was weak, officials were corrupt, and the people lived in misery. To make things worse, he undermined Buddhism and nearly eradicated it in his reign. 

Several years after becoming emperor, in 1119 Huizong issued a policy to reform Buddhism. More specifically, he reclassified Buddha and Bodhisattva according to Taoism, and abolished precepts such as shaving one's head to become a monk or nun. Monks and nuns were forced to study Taoist scripture. In addition, monks who had mastered Taoist scripture were rewarded with positions in the government. 

This is a serious issue. Unlike some emperors such as Emperor Wu of the Northern Zhou, who openly suppressed Buddhism and demolished temples, what Huizong did was more hidden and devastating. By forcing Buddhists to read Taoism scripture, he not only destroyed Buddhism from within but also skewed both belief systems. 

Monks who resisted Huizhong's policy met with serious persecution. Seven of those who led the efforts to resist were beaten to death, including Ri Huayan and Mingjue. Monk Yongdao was also exiled to Daozhou (in today’s Hunan Province). Some monks yielded and, due to fear, even openly supported Huizong for their own benefits. 

A major catastrophe soon followed. In 1126, the Jin army in the north invaded and took over the capital city of Bianjing (today’s Kaifeng in Henan Province). They not only captured Huizong and his son Qinzong, but also took a large number of the extended royal family – over 10,000 in total with women in the majority – as servants with some forced into prostitution. Huizong’s other son, Gaozong, fled to Lin’an (in today’s Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province) and established the Southern Song Dynasty. This catastrophe was known as the Jingkang Incident. 

Ignominious Ending

The Northern Song Dynasty ended miserably and all of its major disasters occurred after Huizong issued the policy that eradicated Buddhism. After being captured, Huizong and his son Qinzong were held in Wuguocheng (today’s Yilan County, Heilongjiang Province). In his writings, Huizong blamed his officials for the failure and humiliation, while recognizing he was the key decision-maker. Furthermore, he did not realize his sin of religious persecution. 

Once, the father and son met an old man from Bianjing. As they recalled the old days, the three of them hugged one another and cried. Jin soldiers saw this and gave Huizong and Qinzong 50 lashes each. That night, Huizong sliced his clothing into strips and made a rope. Qinzong saw this and stopped his father from hanging himself, and the two of them cried together again. 

To survive the extremely cold winter, Huizong lived in an underground pit that was several feet deep. In the end, his hair fell out, he became deaf, and his eyesight became blurred. He died at 52.

When Qinzong discovered Huizong’s body, it was cold and hard like a stone. Jin soldiers carried it to a stone pit and burned it for heat. Halfway through, they put out the fire by pouring water into the pit and moved the burnt body to another pit filled with water. They said the water with the burnt body in it could then be used to prepare lamp oil. Grief-stricken, Qinzong was about to jump into the water pit to end his life too. The Jin soldiers stopped him, saying that were a live person to jump into the water, it would not be suitable to use as lamp oil. 

There were many corrupt officials and emperors in Chinese history, but very few met with Huizong's miserable fate. But it is not too surprising, since religious persecution is one of the worst sins and Huizong literally aimed to destroy Buddhism in China. 

Persecution in the Name of “China Law Society”

Unfortunately, the persecution of faith reached an unprecedented level after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) took power in 1949. From the Anti-Rightists Campaign in the 1950s that targeted intellectuals, to the Cultural Revolution that eradicated traditional values in the 1960s, the CCP has never stopped persecuting its own citizens. In July 1999, it started the persecution of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, a meditation practice based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

Since its introduction to the public in 1992, Falun Gong has drawn about 100 million practitioners across China and from other countries. Its principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance are a sharp contrast to the CCP’s nature of deceit, hatred and violence. As a result, the Chinese regime started to suppress Falun Gong over 21 years ago through massive defamatory campaigns in conjunction with the police, procuratorial, and court systems. 

Although the persecution against Falun Gong is directed by the extralegal organization the 610 Office and the Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC) systems, the CCP mobilized the entire society to target innocent practitioners. One example is the China Law Society, a government agency posing as an academic society. 

On March 20, 2019, Wang Chen took over from Wang Lequan as director of the China Law Society. Wang Chen is a member of the Politburo, the top decision-making body of the CCP. Within one month, Wang Chen had planned intensive training to intensify the persecution of Falun Gong. 

According to a leaked document, “China Law Society Training File 2019 No. 17,” the agency hosted 8 training sessions in 2019 alone. The speakers included people from the China Anti-Cult Association, the Ministry of Public Security, the Central Party School (also known as the National Academy of Governance), local Party School branches, and institutions of higher education. 

The trainees were directors and key officials from PLAC branches, local Anti-Cult Association branches, as well as the police, procuratorial, and court systems. Officials from the 610 Office system were also included. It was said that the CCP had planned to escalate the persecution of Falun Gong in early 2020 following these training sessions in 2019. This plan was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and, after the situation improved some in China, the CCP launched the large-scale Zero-Out Campaign, a coordinated effort aimed to force every Falun Gong practitioner on the government's blacklist to give up their belief in Falun Gong. By working closely with the PLAC and the 610 Office at all levels, the China Law Society has aimed to eradicate Falun Gong. 

Wang Chen’s involvement in the suppression started even before former CCP leader Jiang Zemin officially launched the persecution in July 1999. Xu Guangchun, Jiang’s aide and then Vice Minister of Propaganda, organized a meeting in June 1996 for the chief editors of 10 major newspapers in Beijing. He bluntly requested that these media outlets publish articles against Falun Gong. Wang Chen, then chief editor of the Guangming Daily, closely followed the order and published slanderous articles against Falun Gong on the front page of the newspaper. This misled the public and paved the path for the persecution later on. 

After seeing these articles from the Guangming Daily, some practitioners went to the newspaper to submit materials to debunk the lies against Falun Gong. Wang Chen refused to meet with them and ordered his secretary to record the practitioners’ contact information. After the persecution started in 1999, Wang Chen provided the information to the police in retaliation. 

As the president of the Guangming Daily in 2002 and Vice Minister in 2008, Wang continued to instruct this newspaper and other media to defame Falun Gong. 

Human Rights Perpetrators Sanctioned

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced on December 7, 2020 that it sanctioned 14 Chinese officials for human rights violations. They are Wang Chen and 13 other vice chairpersons of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Then U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that these officials failed to follow the Joint Declaration and Basic Law on issues related to Hong Kong, leaving Hong Kong residents deprived of their election rights. “Beijing’s unrelenting assault against Hong Kong’s democratic processes has gutted its Legislative Council, rendering the body a rubber stamp devoid of meaningful opposition,” he explained. 

Three days later, the U.S. DOS again announced sanctions against 17 Chinese officials and other foreign officials for human rights violations. Pompeo said Huang Yuanxiong, Chief of the Xiamen Public Security Bureau of the Wucun Police Station of Fujian Province, is one of them. 

Pompeo said in a statement that Huang was sanctioned for his involvement in the “gross violations of human rights” of practitioners of Falun Gong. 

Both Huang and his spouse are now denied visas to the U.S. 

There is a Chinese saying that “good is rewarded with good and evil meets with evil.” Similar to what has happened in history, those who harm Falun Gong practitioners and other innocent people have faced the consequences, or will some day. Statistics from Minghui show that 164 provincial and central government officials in China have met with such consequences. Detailed information can be found in the downloadable file in the Chinese version of this article. 

Chinese version available

Category: Perspective