(Minghui.org) Jiang Zemin, former leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), died on November 30, at a time when the regime is facing significant internal and external challenges.

On the international stage, China’s honeymoon period with Western economic entities has ended. The decoupling of U.S. and Chinese trade and technologies, as well as the global supply chain shifting away from China, has posed a huge threat to China’s future economic growth.

Inside China, “stability maintenance” through high technologies has turned China into a digital prison. Especially during the pandemic lockdown and control, the cell phones that Chinese citizens carry have essentially become handcuffs that restrain their freedom, as the health codes app mandated on the phones is being used to track people’s location and prevent them from getting out of their homes or entering workplaces, transport, public buildings, shops, restaurants, and many other places (should the codes change colors indicating higher Covid-19 risks). The draconian zero-Covid policy has pushed people to the limit. Many have taken to the streets recently to protest against the CCP.

The internal and external challenges may seem unrelated, but both stem from the fact that the totalitarian CCP has never transformed its political system despite decades of rapid economic growth. That is, the increasing national power did not lead to freedom for the Chinese people as expected. On the contrary, the strong power and high technologies have made the system more totalitarian and corrupt, as well as more precise in large-scale surveillance and control of people.

How did this happen? Looking at Jiang’s tenure, one may find all these problems rooted in Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong, a meditation system based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. Falun Gong teaches people to be good, which not only helps its practitioners become better citizens but also leads society back on track – including breaking away from distorted, totalitarian ruling by the CCP.

Had Jiang not started his persecution of Falun Gong in July 1999, Chinese citizens would have had a better chance of gaining freedom and avoiding paying the hefty price of suffering from a corrupt and chaotic society today.

A Gateway to a Better Society

After the cultural revolution (1966-1976) wreaked havoc on China, the CCP was forced to reverse back to some traditional values and started promoting civility in an attempt to win back people’s trust. Under such circumstances, qigong exercises started booming in the 1980s. Many high-ranking CCP officials also practiced qigong for health purposes and became supportive of various qigong schools. While qigong’s supernatural elements were inconsistent with the atheist communism ideology, the Chinese authorities still issued a policy of “no debate, no promotion, and no criticism,” meaning that no one was to discuss, promote, or criticize qigong. Because of its deep connection with traditional Chinese culture, qigong played an important role in loosening the ideological control of the CCP. Even after the CCP suppressed the democratic movement in the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the popularity of qigong continued.

In this context, Falun Gong was introduced to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi in 1992. In addition to guiding practitioners toward mind and body improvement, Mr. Li also clarified all kinds of confusion people had about qigong. More specifically, Falun Gong emphasizes moral character through the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. As a result of the miraculous health benefits and people’s innate quest for spiritual improvement, the number of Falun Gong practitioners increased quickly and reached about 100 million by 1999. They came from all walks of life including senior CCP officials. In other words, despite the CCP’s rigid atheism ideology, the regime acquiesced to Falun Gong in those seven years (1992-1999).

Had Jiang not started the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999, more people would have benefited from the peaceful practice by becoming practitioners themselves or being positively influenced by practitioners that they knew. Falun Gong practitioners strove to live by the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and become better and more productive and responsible citizens. Their demeanor and noble character often inspired their family members, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, and friends to also become better people. The more practitioners there are, the higher moral values the society as a whole would have. Such an uplifting force would have stabilized society and, together with economic growth, potentially would have broken through the CCP’s atheistic ideological constraint. If more people believed in that “good is rewarded with good and evil meets evil,” the general public would have maintained integrity and we would have avoided so many chaotic problems that we see today – such as corruption, sexual freedom, drug addiction, counterfeit goods, and poisonous food. Right now, Chinese society faces a crisis of trust, and people despise poverty but not prostitution. The corrupt officials only seek personal gains, with no ethical principles.

Restoring moral values through Falun Gong would have been a gateway to a better society, but Jiang blocked it with brutality and lies.

A Nation in a Swamp

To fully institutionalize the persecution, Jiang established the extrajudicial agency of the 610 Office, which penetrated the entire status apparatus at all levels. When the entire police forces, court systems, and protectorates were used as tools to carry out the persecution, China’s slogan of “rule of law” became merely a lie that deceived people.

To mislead the general public into supporting his suppression of Falun Gong, Jiang’s regime mobilized the media outlets to defame Falun Gong endlessly and incite hatred with slanderous propaganda such as the staged Self-Immolation Incident at Tiananmen Square. In addition, high-tech tools were deployed to block information of the persecution. Keywords such as Falun Gong and Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance became taboos, which accelerated the moral decay in China. As the procuratorates and courts became rubber stamps to indict and sentence practitioners, many jailed practitioners were tortured and their families fell apart. Furthermore, the widespread brainwashing facilities and black jails against Falun Gong practitioners, as well as the unprecedented crime of forced organ harvesting, have plunged China into an abyss.

The victims are not limited to Falun Gong practitioners and their families. When he started the persecution, Jiang issued an order to “defame their [practitioners’] reputation, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.” Once the persecution infrastructure and killing machine against Falun Gong became well-oiled and running efficiently, they could easily be put to use against the general public. While citizens across China suffered tremendously from the zero-Covid policy and protested recently, many may not realize that the CCP had long implemented a zero- Falun Gong practitioner policy as Jiang vowed to eradicate Falun Gong in three months at the beginning of the persecution.

Human rights abuse in China is not an isolated issue. When Jiang started to suppress Falun Gong in 1999, China was experiencing a wave of economic globalization. The entry into WTO was followed by an ample influx of capital and technologies. Behind the economic growth in the past 20-plus years was the cheap labor and severe human rights abuse including that against Falun Gong practitioners.

In response to criticism of human rights from the international community, Jiang silenced the critics by promising them more vested interests. As the pressure increased, Jiang became more eager to pursue short-term gains such as unsustainable economic development and unbalanced GDP growth. That is, Jiang aimed to cover up all these human rights abuses with the risky, short-sighted economic curve overtaking (i.e., achieving a higher-than-average growth rate of GDP or other economic measures). In the meantime, the state apparatus of stability maintenance was intensified to block information about the persecution of Falun Gong and other human rights abuses, while people lost freedom in the network of censorship, internet monitoring, facial recognition, big data, and artificial intelligence.

What happened in the past few decades served as a serious lesson. Without human rights protection, strong economic growth alone is not only unsustainable but also leads to a dire consequence of totalitarian rule with no freedom. In other words, it is like building a house on the sand – it would collapse sooner or later.

The Next Chapter of History

Jiang’s desire for power went to the extreme after his predecessor Deng Xiaoping’s death in 1997. He could not tolerate the popularity of Falun Gong and its founder Mr. Li Hongzhi. While Jiang mandated the study of his ideological formulation “three represents” (the CCP representing the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people, the orientations of an advanced culture, and the development trends of advanced productive forces), few people took it seriously and they just treated it as a political task because the CCP never represented those three things as Jiang claimed. In contrast, Mr. Li and the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance have won the hearts of tens of millions of people and guided them to become better citizens. While six of the seven standing members of the Central Politburo opposed the suppression of Falun Gong, Jiang singlehandedly launched it anyway, pushing China onto a downward path with no freedom, no human rights, and no moral values.

When reporting Jiang’s death, many Western media cited Chinese netizens’ comments referring to him as a Toad, including BBC, Washington Post, New York Times, and others. Even when Jiang was mayor of Shanghai (1985 – 1989), the word on the street was that Jiang was the incarnation of a toad. Jiang Zemin Qi Ren (The Real Story of Jiang Zemin), a book published in 2005, further explained how a sinister soul of jealousy possessed a toad in an ancient grave, and the toad later reincarnated as Jiang.

There was also a joke about Jiang. Once he visited a renowned monk to see how long he would live. The monk said he would die on a holiday. When Jiang asked which holiday, the monk replied that whichever day Jiang died would become a holiday.

As discussed above, Jiang not only persecuted Falun Gong but also plunged China and beyond into a swamp of endless disasters. With his death, it is time to review what options China and the rest of the world are facing. Can China return to where it was before Jiang’s era – without the Tiananmen Square Massacre? It is possible. But it is likely the next chapter of history will not come until people are clear on Jiang’s crimes and hold him accountable for his sins.