(Minghui.org) Falun Dafa practitioners in Washington D.C. held a rally in front of the Chinese Embassy on April 23 to commemorate the peaceful appeal in Beijing 24 years ago. Following the illegal arrest of practitioners in Tianjin, about 10,000 practitioners went to the State Council Appeal Center in Beijing on April 25, 1999, to peacefully request their release. 

The rally in front of the Chinese Embassy called to end the long-term persecution of Falun Gong in China. Several U.S. Congress members expressed their support for the rally during recent interviews, declaring that they would continue their efforts to end the persecution. 

Practitioners peacefully rallied in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C. on April 23, 2023

Practitioners do the exercise near the Chinese Embassy

Support from U.S. Congress

Chris Smith, Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), said that he heard about Falun Dafa shortly after the peaceful appeal in April 1999. He also initiated the first resolution in the U.S. Congress to condemn the persecution. 

Speaking of the appeal 24 years ago, Smith said the Chinese government should listen to people’s voices. The large number of Falun Dafa practitioners simply means there are a big population who want to be better citizens. “I am a strong believer of everybody’s universally recognized human right to practice their faith or religious practice as they see fit,” he explained. 

Representative Chris Smith is chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC)

So far, Smith has hosted 85 congressional hearings and draft legislation reviews to oppose human rights violation by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In February this year, he introduced H.R.1154 - Stop Forced Organ Harvesting Act of 2023, which was passed by the House of Representatives on March 27. 

Gus Bilirakis, another Congress Representative and co-sponsor of H.R.1154, said he had written to the CCP leader Xi Jinping, urging him to release detained Falun Dafa practitioners. He knew little about the practice in the beginning. But after entering Congress in 2007, he learned more about the atrocities in China. 

Representative Gus Bilirakis is a cosponsor of H.R.1154.

“The violent crackdown by the brutal communist regime and the continued persecution of those who practice their faith is a violation of the most basic of all human rights - the right to worship freely. We have an obligation to speak out on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced for far too long,” Congressman Bilirakis said during an interview with Minghui. “If we stay silent in the face of these transgressions, we do so at the peril of civil society. 

“The international community must continue to apply pressure to force the CCP’s hand in granting its people fundamental human rights, including the right to worship, the right to free speech, and the right to peaceful protest,” he continued. 

Congressman Rich McCormick 

Congressman Rich McCormick also condemned the suppression in China. “China’s communist regime continues to persecute dissidents, religious groups, and ethnic minorities. Since their peaceful protests almost 25 years ago, Falun Dafa practitioners have been oppressed by China’s rulers, who use imprisonment, torture, and organ harvesting to punish those who dream of a free and peaceful future,” he said. “America stands with the victims of communism across the world, and we must continue to divest our industry, business, and research from this corrupt regime.”

Moral Improvement

Human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng said he was in China when the peaceful appeal happened in April 1999. “Many residents in my hometown were discussing this. They said from the television report, they saw practitioners were simply peacefully sitting there for meditation. This is their basic human right,” he explained. He said many of his friends were aware of this. In fact, Falun Dafa’s principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance not only help practitioners to be better citizens, but also improve society’s moral values. 

Although the CCP regime defamed the April 25 peaceful appeal as an “insurrection,” Chen said that was pure nonsense. “Practitioners were just peacefully gathering there to voice their opinions. This is a basic right of Chinese citizens,” he continued. “The CCP has been targeting various groups all along.”

Well Received Around the World

During the rally in front of the Chinese Embassy on April 23, practitioner Zhao Jing recalled what she saw during the appeal 24 years ago. Although the incident was peacefully resolved and practitioners detained in Tianjin were released, she was expelled by the foreign language college she was attending at the time. Besides detention and interrogation, she was also kept at a brainwashing center and sent to a labor camp. In the end, she was forced to stay away from home. This is why she has been calling for help to end the severe human rights abuse in China. 

Despite the ongoing suppression in China, Falun Dafa and its benefits on mind and body have been well received in over 100 countries, said practitioner Zheng Baohe. The main teaching Zhuan Falun has also been translated into at least 50 languages. Falun Dafa and its founder Mr. Li Hongzhi have also received over 4,000 awards and proclamations from governments around the world. 

Inside China, more and more people have awakened after practitioners kept telling them the facts and clarifying the CCP’s defamatory propaganda in the past 24 years. Especially after the publication of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party in 2004, more than 400 million Chinese people have renounced their memberships in the CCP, including its junior organizations, the Youth League and Young Pioneers. 

Letting People Know About the Persecution

Erik Meltzer, technical trainer at a media company, was from a Jewish family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Back in 2000 when he was a high school student, Meltzer searched online and found Falun Dafa. Upon reading Zhuan Falun, he was very excited and began to practice. 

Erik Meltzer is a media company technical trainer.

Speaking at the rally in front of the Chinese Embassy, Meltzer said he wanted to tell the CCP that Falun Dafa gives people good health and brings back traditional values. It stabilizes society and benefits the country. He urges the CCP to stop the suppression soon; otherwise, the regime will collapse faster in the near future. 

Another practitioner Duane Harper heard about the practice for the first time in December 2000 during an African American festival. Having been a practitioner for more than 20 years, he has witnessed how the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance have changed people for the better. 

He was also sorry to hear practitioners in China could not freely practice their belief. The mistreatment ranged from detention, torture, forced labor, and many more. Guards also threw female practitioners into the cells of male inmates in order to force them to renounce their belief. Harper has participated in various activities to raise awareness of the brutality in China. 

Uplifting Society 

China expert He Bin

He Bin, a China expert, said people gather here every year to commemorate the peaceful appeal in 1999. As time went on, more and more Chinese people realized that what Falun Dafa practitioners do is closely related to everyone in society. 

Right now, many people are mistreated by the CCP, from residences being demolished and land deprivation, and loss of retirement benefits. What practitioners seek is freedom of belief and restoration of common good, which is critical for society in general. 

He said this rally is important because, in addition to commemorating a historic moment, it also inspires peoples’ courage to safeguard basic principles in their communities.