(Minghui.org) Twenty-two years ago, about 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered in Beijing for a peaceful appeal on April 25, 1999. They requested the release of dozens of practitioners illegally arrested in the nearby city of Tianjin two days earlier and sought the confirmation of their lawful right to practice their belief.

The appeal was a voluntary event to safeguard the moral foundation of our society. With their fellow practitioners in Tianjin arrested for upholding their faith, the 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners chose to step forward to voice their concerns. They did not know what would happen with their appeal, but they knew it was the right thing to do.

Since then, many people have learned the illegality of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s persecution of Falun Gong. But some people, including both older generations who have experienced the CCP's numerous political movements and younger generations, especially millennials and Generation Z, still do not know what the appeal was about and even harbor misunderstandings of this period of history.

Here we would like to review what happened and explain why this peaceful appeal is important for China and its future.

Background of the Event: 1996 to 1999

Since taking power in 1949, the CCP has launched a political movement every few years, targeting landlords, capitalists, intellectuals, and many other ordinary citizens. A few years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the CCP turned its attention to Falun Gong practitioners.

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a meditation system based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Rooted in traditional Chinese culture, it is fundamentally different from the CCP’s ideology of class struggle, hatred, and lies. Moreover, Falun Gong's miraculous power in improving health and character has also attracted numerous people to learn the practice.

1996: Defamation in Newspapers

Guangmin Daily, one of the major newspapers in China targeted at intellectuals, published a commentary attacking Falun Gong on June 17, 1996. People familiar with the CCP’s history suspected that the article signaled the CCP's intention to ruin Falun Gong's reputation.

One month later, the General Administration of Press and Publication, an agency under the CCP’s Publicity Ministry, issued a policy on July 24, 1996. Sent to Press and Publication Bureaus in each province, the policy forbade the publication of Zhuan Falun and China Falun Gong, the main teachings of Falun Gong and bestselling books in Beijing.

1997: Police Investigations Find No Evidence of Wrongdoing

Two waves of nationwide investigations were launched in China’s Ministry of Public Security (also known as the Police Ministry) in January and July 1997 to pursue so-called “illegal religious activities” related to Falun Gong. It was said that if such activities were confirmed, Falun Gong would be classified as a “cult.” After thorough investigations by the police system throughout China, however, no such evidence was identified.

Nevertheless, the increasing popularity of Falun Gong agitated Jiang Zemin, the top CCP leader at the time.

1998: Spying and False Charges

After Luo Gan, a key member in Jiang’s regime, became the Secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Committee (PLAC) in March 1998, he actively pursued Falun Gong.

Through the Ministry of Public Security, Luo and other officials labeled Falun Gong a “cult” in July 1998 and then mobilized police nationwide to collect evidence to support the allegation.

The First Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security issued policy No. 555 of 1998, titled “An announcement on launching an investigation into Falun Gong.” Openly declaring Falun Gong a “cult,” the policy urged police to find inside information of Falun Gong activities and collect evidence of its “illegal and criminal” activities. The policy also ordered local police forces to conduct deep investigations.

A large number of police officers, United Front Department staff members, and special agents were dispatched to Falun Gong group exercise sites across China. In the name of learning Falun Gong and reading books such as Zhuan Falun, these officers worked as undercover agents. It was easy to do so because all Falun Gong activities were open to the public, with no rosters or membership.

Through close interactions with Falun Gong practitioners, many officers came to know Falun Gong well and became determined practitioners themselves. Contrary to what Luo and others had expected, there was not a single piece of evidence collected against Falun Gong.

Nonetheless, such investigations still produced ripple effects in places where there were false allegations against Falun Gong. Whenever this happened, practitioners would step forward to clarify the situation and reduce the damage.

Below are some examples.

Case 1: The Chaoyang Police Department in Liaoning Province issued a policy No. 37 of 1998 titled “An announcement on prohibiting illegal activities of Falun Gong.” Some voluntary assistants at group exercise sites received numerous fines totaling over 4,000 yuan. No receipts were given for these “fines.”

Because of this, over 40 practitioners went to Beijing to appeal to the Ministry of Public Security. More than 1,000 practitioners filed a joint complaint against the Chaoyang Police Department.

Case 2: The General Administration of Sport in China conducted a comprehensive investigation of Falun Gong in May 1998. Practitioners responded to the questions calmly and honestly.

In a speech on October 20, 1998, directors of task forces dispatched to Changchun City, Jilin Province and Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province strongly praised the benefits of Falun Gong on physical health, social stability, and civil society.

Additionally, non-governmental surveys were also conducted in Beijing, Guangdong Province, Dalian City in Liaoning Province, and Wuhan City in Hubei Province. The results were similar and affirmed Falun Gong's positive impact.

Case 3: Beijing Television Station broadcast He Zuoxiu’s slanderous remarks on Falun Gong in its Beijing Tekuai (Beijing Express) program at the end of May 1998. He specifically attacked Falun Gong and claimed it was harmful. In footage of group exercises by practitioners at Yuyuantan Park, the reporter referred to Falun Gong as “superstition.”

After the program was aired, hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing and nearby Hebei Province wrote to or visited the television station. They reiterated the government’s “Three Nos” policy on qigong (no attacking, no arguing, and no reporting) and recounted benefits they had experienced from practicing Falun Gong. They also pointed out that such an incorrect report by the TV station would mislead citizens and public opinion on a large scale.

He and Luo are relatives (their wives are sisters). Despite few academic achievements, He became an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) for political correctness and promoting communist ideology. To please top CCP leader Jiang, He once published a paper claiming to validate Jiang’s political theories with “quantum mechanics,” earning him the title of "scientific ruffian." When he attacked Falun Gong, the examples he listed had nothing to do with Falun Gong. It was a typical framing plot by the CCP.

After Falun Gong practitioners shared their experiences, officials at Beijing Television Station admitted that their report on Falun Gong was the most serious mistake in the station’s history. As a correction, Beijing Television Station provided a fair report on June 2, 1998, showing Falun Gong practitioners from all walks of life practicing the exercises peacefully at a park.

Case 4: The First Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security issued another policy on July 21, 1998, directing police to attack Falun Gong. As a result, low-level police forcibly dispersed Falun Gong practitioners at group exercise sites in provinces like Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, Hebei, and Fujian Province. They searched private residences without warrants and confiscated personal belongings.

According to inside information, Luo had twice tried to frame Falun Gong as a “cult” to be targeted for suppression, once in 1997 and another time in 1998. “It was not because Falun Gong practitioners did anything wrong. He was at the highest position he could be, and to go higher, he had to do something big politically,” analyzed a Minghui article in 2009.

Luo later discovered that many people in the Ministry of Public Security knew about qigong and practiced it. In 1996, he removed leaders who practiced qigong.

Case 5: In the second half of 1998, several retired cadres from the National People's Congress, led by Qiao Shi, did a detailed investigation on Falun Gong and concluded that practicing Falun Gong brought only benefits and no harm. At the end of the year, they presented their findings to the Central Politburo. Jiang Zemin was the head of the Politburo at the time.

Qiao Shi was one of the founding members of the CCP. He was born in Shanghai and was originally named Jiang Zhitong. During the Japanese invasion (1937 to 1945), he participated in the CCP’s underground activities in Shanghai. During the Chinese Civil War (1945 to 1949), he was the Party secretary at Tongji University and general coordinator of the academic commissary in Shanghai.

After working in a technical field since 1949, Qiao became a politician in 1963. After working at the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government (LOCPG) for 13 years, he became a vice minister. In 1983, he became the director of the General Office of the CCP’s Central Committee and chief of the CCP’s Organization Department, a ministry-level agency. In 1985, he became a member of the Politburo and was appointed as Party secretary of the central PLAC, responsible for politics and law, security, intelligence, and justice. After becoming the vice premier in 1986, Qiao became chairman of the People’s Congress in 1993. At that time, the chairman of People’s Congress was still in charge of politics and law. He later retired in 1998.

Qiao had been in almost all high-ranking positions of the CCP, including outreach, internal structure, organization, politics and law, administration, and legislature. This was very rare for CCP officials. In fact, between 1985 and 1998, Qiao was the highest official in China’s political and legal system.

Nonetheless, Qiao’s conclusion that “practicing Falun Gong brings only benefits and no harm” and then-premier Zhu Rongji’s democratic way of handling the peaceful appeal of April 25, 1999 (discussed below) made Jiang furious. Jiang was also jealous of the popularity of Falun Gong and its founder.

1999: Arrests in Tianjin

After the Beijing Television Station incident, news media in Beijing finally adopted the “Three Nos” Policy. Facing this situation, Luo and He shifted their attention to the nearby city of Tianjin.

On April 11, 1999, He published an article in Science Review of Juvenile (a journal published by Tianjin University's College of Education, or TUCOE) titled “I Do Not Approve of Youths' Practice of Falun Gong.” In the article, he repeated the defamatory propaganda he made at Beijing Television Station in 1998, which had been proven to be falsified.

After the publication of this article, some practitioners in Tianjin knew they needed to clarify the facts with the publisher and related government agencies. As a result, some practitioners went to TUCOE and other agencies between April 18 and 24.

Following the principles of Falun Gong of being good citizens, practitioners who went to TUCOE maintained order to minimize disturbance. They did not speak loudly or move around casually, and they kept passages clear to avoid blocking traffic. Practitioners also volunteered to help police officers direct traffic.

Such an appeal was the only way for practitioners to voice their concerns about He's defamatory article to government officials, as the totalitarian CCP regime controlled all news media and public opinion in China; almost all of the CCP’s political movements started with defamation by “imperial literati” in publications.

Besides freedom of belief and expression, the right of appeal is also guaranteed by Article 41 of the Chinese Constitution:

“Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any State organ or functionary. Citizens have the right to make to relevant State organs complaints or charges against, or exposures of, any State organ or functionary for violation of law or dereliction of duty. The State organ concerned must, in a responsible manner and by ascertaining the facts, deal with the complaints, charges, or exposures made by citizens. No one may suppress such complaints, charges, and exposures or retaliate against the citizens making them.”

But in response to the peaceful appeal, Luo, Party secretary of the central PLAC, ordered Tianjin police to dispatch over 300 riot officers between April 23 and 24. Some practitioners were beaten, covered in bruises and bleeding, and 45 were arrested.

When practitioners demanded the release of the 45 arrested, the Tianjin municipal government told them that the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing had intervened in the incident and that the detained practitioners could not be released without its authorization. “Go to Beijing,” advised some officials, “Only then can this be resolved.”

The escalation of the CCP’s framing of and attacks on Falun Gong between 1996 and 1999 also raised concerns among practitioners. They checked around to see how to stop this slander by going to Beijing to appeal. Many heard the official channel was the State Council’s Appeals Office, so they voluntarily gathered outside the Appeals Office on April 25, 1999.

A Historic Appeal

Although the arrests in Tianjin were the direct cause of the appeal in Beijing on April 25, they were only part of the systemic framing and defamation by some top CCP officials against Falun Gong since 1996.

Although the practitioners came from all over China and had different backgrounds, they had the same wish. Their recollections of that day were also similar. Below are selected testimonies published on Minghui.org over the past 22 years.

Testimony of Mr. Meng Zhaowu

Mr. Meng had studied in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and was a well-accomplished scientist. Beginning to practice Falun Gong in October 1995, he found “a reward to the bitterness in my life.” “I thought that human beings would find it hard to find such a great opportunity like this,” he wrote.

Meng heard about the Tianjin incident from another practitioner when they talked on the phone. She said she'd go to the State Council Appeals Office the next day (April 25, 1999), and he decided to go too.

“Early the next day, I rode my bicycle to the Appeals Office and arrived at Xisi Street at 9 a.m. I noticed there were lots of bicycles parked on both sides of the street. I also left my bicycle there,” he recalled.

“Walking on Fuyou Road where the Appeals Office sits, there were already a large number of Dafa practitioners gathered there. Under the direction of the police, they were standing on both sides of Fuyou Road. I joined people on the west side of the road, and my position was about ten meters from the Appeals Office. There were police vehicles passing by back and forth to direct the traffic. The atmosphere was a little bit intense.”

“Sometime later, as directed by the police, all practitioners who were standing on the east side of the road, which is located next to the red wall of Zhongnanhai (the central government compound where the State Council is located) moved to the west side of the road. The rearrangement of such a large group of people was done within 10 minutes. It became crowded on the west side of the road. There were rows of people, each row consisting of about 10 people, row after row, the crowd was numerous. We almost couldn’t turn around,” Meng continued.

“Along Fuyou Road, the line of practitioners was more than one kilometer long. Those on Fuyou Road alone numbered over 10,000. Towards the north, there were practitioners standing on the east-to-west street from Xisi all the way to Beihai Park. The length of the lines was surely several miles long. On my left were more than 10 Dafa practitioners from Tianjin. On my right were several practitioners who flew in from Urumqi, Xinjiang Province. Everyone was very calm and stood there quietly. One by one, people passed down what was happening up front,” he said.

Testimony of Mr. Shi, then a Ph.D. candidate at the Chinese Academy of Sciences

“On the evening of April 24, I went to the group study place as usual. But I arrived a little late because of work,” Mr. Shi wrote. One of the volunteer assistants, Ms. Li, talked about the situation in Tianjin.

“The following morning, I arrived at Fuyou Sreet at about 7:30 a.m. There were already some practitioners on this street and nearby streets. Some practitioners were standing and some were sitting. They did not talk with pedestrians and some were reading Falun Gong books. Although there were lots of practitioners, we did not block the traffic or make noise,” he wrote.

On nearby Xi’anmen Street, Mr. Shi saw practitioners waiting in line neatly for a public restroom. Practitioners lined up by the street, with those next to the wall sitting and those close to the road standing. Some were reading Zhuan Falun. “I could tell some of them were from the countryside, many nice people and very modest,” he added. There were also plainclothes police everywhere reporting the situation through their radios.

Testimony of another Falun Gong practitioner in China

We cannot provide this practitioner’s name for safety reasons as the persecution in China is still ongoing.

“After the exercises, I saw small groups of practitioners from Beijing and out of town walking toward the State Council. There were already police waiting alongside the roads and intersections. They stopped us from moving forward. We made our way to the north of the west gate of Zhongnanhai through small alleyways.

“As the sun came out, more and more practitioners gathered. We didn't know each other but were peaceful. We formed three rows. In the front row were young practitioners who were standing. Practitioners in the second and third rows were sitting, reading Zhuan Falun, or meditating. We cleared a path so pedestrians could pass.

“During the morning rush hour, buses and cars were moving on the street as usual. Our appeal was clear and simple: ‘Release the arrested practitioners, give practitioners back the environment in which they can practice their faith, and allow the publication of Falun Dafa books.

“Later, because of police actions, there were fewer vehicles and pedestrians. Many police officers patrolled the street. A huge armored vehicle drove back and forth on the street. There was a camera in the vehicle recording the scenes of the appeal. No one shied away, as we felt we were doing the right thing. Later we learned the recordings were for various workplaces to check whether their employees were in the crowd.

“The practitioners stayed there all day waiting for the results of the negotiations between Falun Dafa representatives and then-Premier Zhu Rongji. As we were waiting, several scenes I saw touched me deeply.

“1. At an intersection of a small lane, a woman and her young child were resting by the side of the lane. A middle-aged man, probably a plainclothes policeman, asked her, ‘Who told you to come?’ She answered, ‘My heart.’ I immediately shed tears when I heard her sincere and wise answer.

“2. Though there were tens of thousands of practitioners, we were very disciplined. The police officers walked on the street, relaxed. Some of them threw their food packages, water bottles and cigarette ends on the ground. Practitioners nearby would pick up the garbage and throw it in waste cans. The streets and sidewalks were clean because of the practitioners.

“3. In the afternoon, officials from the surrounding counties were ordered to come to the scene. A person who claimed he was the head of Yanqing County asked a woman farmer. ‘What are you doing here leaving your farms unattended?’ She replied, ‘After I practiced Falun Gong I regained my health and my crops grew. I want to tell that to the officials in the central government.’ She was simple and sincere, and it impressed me.

“At around 9 p.m., we learned that our appeal was granted. We cleaned the streets of garbage and left the scene peacefully and quickly. However, practitioners from out of town left in cars sent by their local authorities. This was a sneaky way to note their participation in the event. The practitioners never thought that in less than three months, a brutal persecution would begin that would not be ended even ten years later. Later my supervisor talked to me about it, and I learned that in a confidential government file, the number of practitioners who went to appeal was far more than 10,000. The number will one day be known as the truth finally emerges.”

Testimony from a practitioner in China

“At around 8:15 am on April 25, then-premier Zhu Rongji led a group of people to walk out from the West Gate to the State Council across the street and came in front of the practitioners who were appealing. Applause arose among the appealing practitioners. Premier Zhu asked, ‘What do you come for? Who asked you to come?’ Many practitioners answered along the lines of, ‘We came to report the situation about Falun Gong. No one made an arrangement for us.’ Premier Zhu asked again, ‘Why do you write letters to appeal? Why are so many people here?’

“Many practitioners answered. One said, ‘The letters I wrote can almost fill a gunnysack. But I did not get a response.’ Premier Zhu said, ‘I had replied to your issue.’ Practitioners said, ‘We did not get a reply.’ The premier asked the practitioners to select several representatives to enter the State Council and further report on the situation.

“At noon on April 25, 1999, Li Chang and Wang Zhiwen from the Falun Dafa Research Association and three Beijing practitioners went inside the State Council as Falun Gong representatives and had a conversation with the governmental officials. They stated three requests of Falun Gong practitioners:

1) Release the Falun Gong practitioners who were arrested in Tianjin.2) Provide a relaxed environment so Falun Gong practitioners could practice publicly without fear of government retaliation.3) Allow the publication of Falun Gong books.

“The governmental officials who attended the conversation included the person in charge of the Appeals Office of the State Council and the people in charge of Beijing City and Tianjin City. At dusk, Tianjin City released all detained Falun Gong practitioners according to an instruction from the central government. Afterwards, the practitioners left quietly. The whole process was very peaceful and orderly.”

How the Appeal was Labeled as a “Siege”

CCP-controlled media later made accusations that “Falun Gong besieged Zhongnanhai,” the central government compound. In fact, the only reason practitioners were near Zhongnanhai was that the Appeals Office of the State Council was located at the West Gate of Zhongnanhai.

Falun Gong teaches people to be good citizens by following the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and let go of attachments, including political pursuits. The practitioners who participated in the April 25 appeal had no intention of getting involved in politics. Their simple goal was to stop the defamatory propaganda so that the public would not be incited to hatred.

Impact of the Appeal

Although the appeal on April 25 was unable to stop the CCP’s premeditated plot against Falun Gong, it allowed the public, both ordinary citizens and officials, to witness the peaceful and compassionate nature of Falun Gong practitioners. As more and more people learned what had happened, many of them realized that the appeal was a moral monument of our era.

In China, the most populous nation ruled by the most totalitarian regime, it is hard to imagine that in a society that had undergone such a moral decline, so many people would voluntarily come out together to safeguard the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Through numerous political movements, the CCP had successfully persecuted landlords, capitalists, intellectuals, and pro-democracy activists. Facing such a brutal regime, the level of courage, kindness, and determination demonstrated by Falun Gong practitioners was unprecedented.

After the April 25 appeal, Falun Gong practitioners were widely monitored, either directly by police or indirectly by employers. In fact, harassment of Falun Gong practitioners started as early as 1998, as mentioned above. But the brutal persecution was not brought into broad daylight until July 1999, when Jiang issued an order for police to suppress Falun Gong practitioners nationwide.

Class struggle, brutality, hatred, and lies are core values of the CCP, which cannot tolerate Falun Gong’s principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. That was also why Jiang issued directives to “ruin their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.” The CCP used the same ideology against other targeted groups in previous political campaigns, but it was not until the persecution of Falun Gong that the CCP had consolidated all its tactics to persecute a group of innocent people whose only intention is to be good citizens.

Throughout thousands of years of civilization, Chinese people believed in goodness and had a deep faith in the divine. Although the CCP has nearly destroyed China’s traditional values and now threatens the world, it is merely a matter of time before the ruthless regime is relegated to history. Over 370 million Chinese people have publicly renounced their current and former memberships in the CCP and its youth organizations. Many governments, officials, and individuals around the world have also chosen to counter the communist regime.

No matter how strong the dark forces may appear, and no matter how many officials have forsaken their moral values, we are watched over by the divine. Our choices will decide our future because they are true testimonies to where we belong.

Chinese version available

Category: Peaceful Protest of April 25, 1999