On April 25, 1999 thousands of Falun Gong practitioners gathered quietly in Beijing to ask for the release of adherents who had been beaten and detained in a nearby city. More broadly, they sought to raise concerns with government leaders about ongoing harassment of Falun Gong at the hands of a few high-ranking officials.
The event captured headlines around the world, but more importantly to those who were there, it was a chance to explain to the Chinese leadership how Falun Gong had brought health and harmony to their lives, and that the attacks by some Chinese officials were unwarranted.
Ten years later, Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters are honoring the spirit of peace, justice, and compassion with which that appeal was held. Equally important, we are remembering the tremendous price Falun Gong adherents and their families in China have paid for their unyielding dedication to their faith and its underlying principles of honesty, kindness, and forbearance in the face of unrelenting brutality.
Hundreds of thousands—if not millions—remain unlawfully imprisoned in Chinese labor camps and prisons, the largest single population of prisoners of conscience in the country. Tens of thousands have suffered torture at the hands of police and security agents. Over 3,200 identified adherents have lost their lives, though the true death toll of the decade-long persecutory campaign is almost certainly much higher. Millions of others face destitution, job loss, expulsion from school, and other forms of systematic discrimination.
With the machinery of the state turned against them as forcefully as ever, practitioners in China continue to risk their lives on a daily basis, not only to practice Falun Gong’s exercises and study its teachings for their own self-improvement, but also to inform others of the injustice done to them, of the atrocities happening in their own backyard. Outside China, practitioners around the world hold vigils and rallies, distribute leaflets, circulate petitions, and take whatever non-violent avenues might help raise awareness of what is happening to fellow adherents in the Middle Kingdom.
The ultimate aim of such actions remains the same today as it was ten years ago—to end the persecution, to convince people not to participate in harming our sisters, husbands, mothers, and friends. This is not only for the protection of our loved ones, but also for the sake of other members of the public, lest they willingly or not participate in terrible crimes, if only via forcibly imposed silence. It is thus with an eye towards the benefit of society as a whole that adherents act—to finally stop the cycle of violence against innocent people that has engulfed China for too long.
For this reason, we hope that on this day, people the world over may join us in honoring, remembering, and keeping alive the spirit of that spring day in Beijing ten years ago; that they not accept the reality of injustice simply because of the Communist Party’s seemingly tight grip on power; that they strive to see through the veil of Party propaganda and understand for themselves what Falun Gong is; that they lend their support to our peaceful efforts to restore hope, dignity, and basic rights to tens of millions in China.
For with such collective dedication, we might just find ourselves ten years from now celebrating freedom for Falun Gong in China and with that, the relief for Chinese society of no longer bearing the burden of a violent, ongoing campaign.