Stephen Farmer, Epoch Times: Washington, D.C. will be the site of a series of activities to commemorate the Chinese government’s ban on the Falun Gong spiritual practice. The ban was announced on statewide television July 22, 1999 although officials began efforts to suppress the group before then.
On July 22 in Washington, a group of youths riding bikes from Canada will join thousands of Falun Gong practitioners from around the world for rallies, anti-torture exhibitions, a “Great Wall of Courage,” and a conference.
In 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi founded Falun Gong in China. Practitioners call it a cultivation, or self-improvement practice. It features Mr. Li’s teachings and meditation exercises.
Falun Gong became popular in China very quickly, perhaps because of the health benefits many practitioners reported. Sherwood Liu, a Falun Gong practitioner and researcher at a university in Florida said, “My parents, in their 70’s, benefited tremendously. My mom was in constant pain from arthritis and my dad had facial spasms and imbalanced vision that caused headaches. Their problems all went away after a few months’ practice.”
According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, which reports on Falun Gong issues, a government survey in 1999 found between 70-to-100 people were learning the meditation system. On April 25, 1999, some 10,000 adherents petitioned the central government in Beijing to stop mistreating practitioners. Then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin began putting in place a campaign to suppress Falun Gong soon after.
On July 20, 1999, Chinese police began rounding up those they identified as “leaders” of the practice. Since then, the government has adopted stringent measures to suppress Falun Gong, including arrests and imprisonment. The information center reports that at least 1,000 practitioners have died as a result. They say more than 100,000 are detained in China’s labor camps.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the U.S. State Department and other human rights and governmental organizations have issued reports documenting the mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners.
Practitioners inside China have responded with peaceful acts of civil disobedience that aims to counter what many consider government propaganda. They continue to leaflet and display posters. Some have gone so far as to tap into state-owned satellite TV signals. Outside China, Falun Gong practitioners hold rallies, parades, bike rides, concerts, exhibitions and other means to call attention to the persecution.