Falun Gong survives after 17 years of persecution.
By: Roshni Kapur
The crackdown on Falun Gong occurred long back. Seventeen years later, the persecution still continues.
It is estimated that as many as 1.5 million followers have been killed since 2000. Many practitioners have been imprisoned over the years and became prisoners of conscience.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, a Chinese meditation practice proliferated across China during the 1990s. Its practitioners regard it as a peaceful spiritual discipline with three core tenets on Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance in the tradition of Buddhism. Before 1999, the practice was readily accepted by people and state institutions for bettering society and public health.
But under the helm of Jiang Zemin, the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) banned Falun Gong in 1999. The government launched a campaign of persecution that spawned massive human rights violations and accounted deaths.
A range of reports from people inside China show that over 930 Falun Gong practitioners are incarcerated after farce trials since January 2015 alone. Tens of thousands more practitioners are confined in detention centers, “black jails,” or stay in isolation to avoid illegal abduction by Chinese officials. Others were dismissed from their work, thrown into labour camps and forced into homelessness.
According to human rights group Amnesty International (AI), torture is widespread as these illegal officials are compelling Falun Gong practitioners to relinquish their faith.
The Chinese government has been on the defensive on accusations of persecuting the belief’s followers. They deny the allegations but have overtly opposed the movement.
A recent investigative report unveiled that Chinese doctors are carrying out tens of thousands of organ transplant surgeries each year. A majority of those organs come from Falun Gong practitioners who are illegally detained or even murdered to harvest their organs for a growing medical tourism industry.
Hundreds of lawyers have represented Falun Gong practitioners in court and challenge the legality of their treatment. Members of civil society have stood up by signing petitions to push for the release of Falun Gong practitioners. Even the police in some provinces refuse to arrest Falun Gong followers, according to sources report by Freedom House.
Despite persecution, tens of millions of people in China still practice Falun Gong usually in their private spheres. Estimates suggested there were up to 100 million practitioners of Falun Gong prior to 1999. The exact number of Falun Gong practitioners is vague since there isn’t a membership register.
Ryan Manuel, a strategic research fellow at the Australian Centre for China in the World at the Australian National University (ANU) said it is impossible to know the precise number of followers of Falun Gong.
“They claim an enormous amount of members, but it’s a secret. You have to practise in secret within China,” he was quoted in an online article on ABC.
“They’re a banned organisation, but a banned organisation that often publicly rally and protest.”
Practitioners like Wei insist that Falun Gong is a spiritual meditation practice and not a religion.
“Although people might look at Falun Gong this way, we don’t think this way because we consider it as a lifestyle. It’s our daily life,” said Wei.
In 2014, a demonstration was held in Canberra, Australia by protesters during Xi Jinping’s visit to (the) Parliament House. They wanted to draw attention to the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
Holly Wei, a Falun Gong practitioner, participated in the demonstration. “We just want our voice to be heard, our message to be sent across to him,” Wei was quoted in an online article on ABC.
“Falun Gong is a spiritual meditation practice based on the guiding principles of truth, compassion and forbearance which are universal values,” she added.
The protestors deliberately went to the streets when Jinping was in Australia for a state visit.
“We just want him [Xi Jingping] to see the message … that is to help stop the persecution in China. We know he is not responsible for this, but we would like him to help end this persecution against humanity,” she said.
Falun Gong has spread its wings to many corners of the world.
Last month, hundreds of police officers congregated in Mexico City to practice Falun Gong as a means of quelling violence. Over 600 members of the School’s Security Units participated in the training session for an hour for an unprecedented time.
Laura Martínez Coca, a police officer in charge of training said that the meditation had made the officers more relaxed and patient for the remaining part of the day. Policeman Adrián García said that she felt lighter, “as if something had gone.”
Despite 17 years of oppression, Falun Gong’s grassroots outreach efforts are still bearing fruit. Its followers are continuing to spread the practice and are growing in numbers. The members are taking steps peacefully to defy the government’s persecutory policies and promote the traditional values of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance.