(Minghui.org) The date June 5, 2022 marks 20 years since Falun Dafa practitioners began holding 24-hour peaceful protests in front of the Chinese embassy in London.
Master’s mercy and support and fellow practitioners’ selfless cooperation have enabled us to persist to this day. Some who participate are 80 or 90 years old, as well as little disciples who come with their parents. Some live in London. Others travel from other parts of the world, as far away as New Zealand and Australia.
Many everyday people encourage us. One person said that the Queen should give medals to these practitioners who have been quietly sitting in front of the embassy because their peacefulness and tenacity have established an example for the people of the UK. Sometimes people ask, “At night the embassy workers leave. There are few people in the streets, so is there still any significance to your being here so late?” I’ve also often asked myself, why do we persist?
I began practicing Falun Dafa in Beijing in 1997 and came to the UK in 1999.
On October 1, 2000, Robert, a western practitioner decided to protest for three days in front of the Chinese embassy in London. He explained that when he heard that practitioners in China lost their freedom of belief and the right to practice cultivation and that some were even persecuted to death, he wanted to call attention to the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) persecution of Falun Gong. When I heard this I was deeply moved. I and a few other practitioners joined him in the protest.
I thought that I wouldn’t be able to go back to China and protest in Tiananmen Square, however, I could peacefully protest in front of the embassy in London.
After the event concluded, Robert asked whether we could continue peacefully protesting and practicing the exercises every morning in front of the embassy. I was a graduate student, and the university was not far from the embassy. I had time, so I participated. At first, three or four practitioners participated. Each day we practiced the exercises between 7:00-9:00 a.m. in front of the embassy. We also displayed a sign with information explaining why we were there.
In May 2002 the former CCP head who launched the persecution visited Europe. Wherever he went, practitioners sent righteous thoughts in close proximity for 24 hours. In the UK, those practitioners who were able to, went abroad to participate in sending righteous thoughts. Those who couldn’t travel assembled in front of the embassy in London to send righteous thoughts for 24 hours. After the activity concluded, another practitioner suggested that we should persist in sending righteous thoughts in front of the embassy for 24 hours. At that time practitioners in other countries were already doing this.
On June 5, 2002, we started peacefully protesting for 24 hours a day in front of the Chinese embassy in London.
I had already completed my studies, and my child was on summer vacation. That entire summer I stayed in front of the embassy with my child. After the summer vacation was over, fewer practitioners participated. There was a need to guarantee that people were available to take turns during the 24 hours. So, I started to coordinate with other practitioners and arranged a duty list. At that time there weren’t as many Dafa-related projects as there are these days, and arranging shifts was not so difficult. The main challenge was dealing with local residents’ complaints.
Apart from the official business building, there were also some upmarket residential buildings near the diplomatic quarter of the Chinese embassy. In the beginning, some residents wrote complaints stating that the volume of the exercise music was too loud; also, that our boards and banners were not neat or in good order, and that it ruined the graceful environment. Because we were there, the embassy applied for police protection. The residents said the cost was paid for by the English people’s taxes, and English people shouldn’t be paying for the persecution that’s happening in China.
After practitioners exchanged experiences and looked inward, we improved in the areas where we had not done well. We decided that the exercise music should not be so loud. Practitioners with special skills designed and made an exhibition rack and boards. After making several improvements, they became what we have today. Now when we have large events, we send letters to the surrounding residents in advance, explaining why we are holding this event, and expressing our apologies for causing them inconvenience. Before Christmas, we sent thank you letters to the surrounding residents for their understanding and support.
After many years, the environment changed and became much better. Often residents in the vicinity bring us warm coffee in the winter or food in the evenings.
In the second half of 2007, Shen Yun began performing in the UK. Everyone was trying to find out how to promote it and advertise it. Nearly all the practitioners participated, however, it seemed there were never enough people. Some practitioners asked if we could switch from protesting 24 hours to just protesting during the day. They felt the manpower needed to stand outside the embassy for 24 hours was too much, and impacted promoting Shen Yun. Some also said that I was being too selfish by insisting on holding the 24-hour protest.
After we held a meeting, everyone agreed that they wanted the 24-hour protest to continue, while holding activities to promote Shen Yun. I also rethought the situation: “Was I being selfish in persisting with this project? Had I not made Shen Yun my priority? What was Master’s wish?” I thought that Master would want us to complete our tasks with Shen Yun, and at the same time not suspend the other projects that need long-term support. If we were not intimidated by the surface difficulties, we would certainly see Master’s arrangements.
Many times we all felt we could not continue, and that there really were not enough people taking turns sitting in front of the embassy. But it was always the case that: “After passing the shady willow trees, there will be bright flowers and another village ahead!” (Lecture Nine, Zhuan Falun)
In 2010 Shen Yun was held outside London. Every weekend I had to travel to help promote Shen Yun, and I couldn’t protest in front of the embassy. A practitioner who just came from China filled in my place for all the empty slots.
Another year, a practitioner from Hong Kong came to England to accompany her child who was attending a university. Their apartment was not far from the embassy. She was not familiar with London, and she only knew how to get to the embassy. She filled in all the empty slots on the duty list.
I calmed my mind and examined my own thoughts and actions: “Did taking part in promoting Shen Yun and also persisting with this project at the same time here cause a clash? No, it didn’t.” Actually, it was arranged well. They complemented each other.
I remember once I went to the outskirts of London to sell tickets in a shopping center. After finishing at 10 p.m. I took a bus to take the night shift at the embassy. At the shopping center, I had been presenting and introducing Shen Yun to people nonstop the entire day. As soon as I boarded the bus and sat down I started feeling tired. After arriving at the embassy I sat down and began meditating. I immediately felt energy throughout my body, and all my fatigue was washed away. It felt like I had a shower. My heart and mind were filled with gratitude.
When I asked about other practitioners’ situations, no one felt that protesting in front of the embassy affected their participation in promoting Shen Yun. We handed out Shen Yun leaflets outside a theater close to the embassy. It did not take long. When the performance concluded and they finished handing out flyers they returned to the embassy. They continued practicing the exercises and sending righteous thoughts.
After carefully sorting things out, we clearly understood what to do. As long as we put more effort into communication and coordination, and got rid of our attachments to comfort, we could continue on.
Because the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong had not stopped, our peaceful protest had to continue. This was also the unanimous thought of all the practitioners who participated.
One night a few years ago, we were changing the posters. A car stopped in front of us. The driver rolled down his window and asked, “Are you guys leaving? Has the persecution ended? You should persist!”
About 10 years ago I was speaking with a poet who had just finished a program with the BBC. I left the meditation spot, and we stood behind the poster board and talked. A young cyclist stopped in front of us. I asked if he would like to sign his name on the petition. He said, “I already signed. I stopped to see why no one was sitting here today. Has the persecution ended?” If so, he wanted to tell his friends the good news. If it had not ended, he offered to sit in the spot until a practitioner arrived.
In the hearts and minds of the English people, this spot has become a symbol of Falun Dafa practitioners opposing the persecution.
The road in front of the embassy is busy, and cars continually pass by. Many tour buses pass through here. I often hear people whistling in vehicles as they pass to show their support, or drivers roll their windows down and give us a thumbs up. We often hear guides explaining to tourists on the buses: This is the Falun Dafa protest.”
The large building behind us is the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and they often hold academic meetings, exhibitions, and all sorts of evening parties. Those entering and leaving pass by in an endless stream.
Practitioners practice the exercises, send righteous thoughts, collect signatures, or hand out leaflets to passersby. Many people stop and read the display boards, and sign their names on the petition. Some talk with practitioners to understand the true situation. Many years have passed, and many British people now understand the truth about the persecution of Falun Dafa.
I often hear people explain to their companions: “This is Falun Dafa. The Chinese embassy is across the street, and practitioners are here peacefully protesting.”
One weekend three years ago I noticed a western man standing in front of our display boards. He circled them once, and seriously examined them. After I finished practicing the exercises, he asked, “Have you been here for over ten years?” I said, “How did you know?” He showed me the book in his hand, which described attractions to visit on foot in London. In it, it mentioned our 24-hour peaceful protest.
I was meditating at the protest site several weeks ago. An event was taking place in the building behind me. I heard a young man speaking on his phone. In his conversation it seemed he was giving instructions to the person on the phone on how to get here: “You should get out of the car in front of the Falun Dafa display board, Falun Dafa has been here for 18 years already.” After hearing this I thought, he most certainly said 18 years, it must be that he had gained some understanding of us already and had only miscounted by two years. After a while, I heard him say to his daughter, “This lady is a Falun Dafa practitioner. She is meditating here to oppose the persecution.” The young girl said, “Just sitting there meditating, how boring!” I waited to hear how her father would respond. But the father didn’t say anything. The girl stopped in front of the display board and read it. After a while she told her father, “Look, such a beautiful woman was electrocuted like that, and in the end, she was persecuted to death. That’s so cruel!”
I realized that the energy field here disintegrated the negative substance that blocked people from understanding the true situation. Our being there gave them an opportunity to understand the truth.
My personal understanding is that with practitioners around the world doing things to oppose the persecution, with every project, and effort, even though we cannot see an obvious result, we are transforming people’s hearts and minds.
One western practitioner who frequently participated in the protest made a suggestion. He said, “Protesting in front of the embassy offers all those who participate cultivation opportunities. You should allow all the coordinators to participate, and it will have a good effect on the improvement of all UK practitioners.” I thought, “That’s a good idea.” That week there happened to be a night shift that was empty. I phoned him and asked if he could come and help out. He said that he couldn’t.
In my mind, I started to complain: “Everyone just says with their mouths that this project is important, but I don’t see them act on it.” I took the night shift myself. Burdened by all these emotions, I felt very tired. I opened the tent up and thought of lying down for a little while. Just as I lay down, I felt someone pulling and trying to drag the tent. This never happened before. As soon as I got out to see what happened, an egg hit my head. I felt very disheartened. Why were things going so badly today? I thought that it must have been my fault, otherwise, I wouldn’t have encountered this. I knew it was because I complained about other practitioners and coordinators, so all this happened. I sat down and sent righteous thoughts. I soon calmed down.
When I returned home the next morning, I told my husband what happened. I thought that he would comfort and console me, but unexpectedly he said, “You must look within to find your problem.” When I heard this, I felt so wronged that I wanted to cry. After calming down, I reviewed the questions that I had been thinking about all night: “What was my original intention when I decided to participate in this project? Why did I want to persist? I should treasure those practitioners who could participate. As for those who couldn’t, I shouldn’t complain about them. I should work on achieving this. When I talk to other practitioners about the significance of persisting in this project, I should do it with a humble and selfless mindset and without a show-off mentality. Only then would more practitioners participate, and the project could continue.”
From October 1, 2000, until today, more than twenty years have passed. It has been a long time, and there has started to be some slacking off. Sometimes I feel what we’re doing is like fulfilling the duty at an ordinary person’s work. Day after day, year after year, every day we meet with the same scene and do the same things. We can’t see the scene of a surge like a tidal wave. Few experiences have been soul-stirring.
I’m often asked, “Persisting for so many years has not been easy, how did you manage this?” I’ve also asked myself why I still want to persist.
Wasn’t our original wish to persist until the day the persecution ended? The CCP’s persecution of Falun Dafa continues, so why would we stop? Is it because the difficulties are great, and that we can’t overcome them? Why can’t we continue?
During every one of these seemingly ordinary days, this project allows us to do the three things that practitioners should do. Our minds and bodies are continuously purified and raised to higher levels, enabling us to endure the trials and tests that we encounter—whether it be enduring the scorching hot summer, the freezing cold of winter, or the rainy season, none of this can make our conviction and wish to persist waver.
In arranging turns for taking on the shifts, there has been some difficulty. I knew it was because I hadn’t done well. I recently began helping with media projects as well as promoting Shen Yun. If I could communicate more with fellow practitioners and share with them the history and meaning of this project, surely more practitioners would participate. The reason we haven’t yet accomplished this is because I’ve been afraid that other practitioners would say I had a mentality of showing off. Or perhaps I don’t want to lose face when someone refuses me. I realized as long as one can improve oneself, one can achieve what Master said, “...cultivating as if you were just starting.”(“Fa Teaching Given at the 2009 Greater New York International Fa Conference,” Collected Teachings Given Around the World, Volume IX)
Thank you Master. Thank you fellow practitioners. Please point out anything inappropriate in my sharing.
(Submitted to the 2022 European Fa Conference)