Why Falun Gong and the persecution against it matter at home and abroad
Hearing of a spiritual practice from a far away land and perusing accounts of Chinese people being tortured in remote labor camps, some readers may be tempted to ask, “what impact does this have on my life or on the rest of the world?”
Here are a few answers:
The universal values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance are under attack, and that affects us all.
At the center of Falun Gong’s belief system is the understanding that the universe’s nature is fundamentally good, epitomized by the values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance. By assimilating to these values in one’s thoughts and actions, practitioners of Falun Gong aspire to attain a higher level of goodness and spiritual wisdom. The ultimate aim of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of Falun Gong is not simply to eradicate a religious group or eliminate a potential political threat. Its aim is to destroy these underlying virtues that Falun Gong practitioners aspire to. For this reason, much of the torture suffered by practitioners is focused on forcing them to renounce Falun Gong and its core beliefs, a process the CCP refers to as “transformation.”
The story of Falun Gong is therefore, at its essence, an epoch battle between the goodness in humankind—what many in the East call one’s Buddha nature—and a tyranny bent on eradicating it. In this battle, we all have a stake (Falun Gong practitioner or not) and a decision to make: do we stand with those fighting to preserve goodness, or aid those seeking to destroy it, be it through direct support or our own silence?
Practiced in over 70 countries, Falun Gong is helping people around the world improve their health and turn towards kindness and integrity.
Whatever our profession or area of interest, we all have aches and pains, some have more serious or chronic health problems. We also all have moments when we get angry, hateful, or tempted to take advantage of others. Falun Gong—with its holistic combination of “qigong” exercises and spiritual teachings emphasizing the values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance—has proven to be remarkably effective at improving the health, mental state, and conduct of those who practice, sometimes miraculously so. Multiple medical studies and surveys have affirmed this.
Tens of millions of Chinese families continue to face lawlessness and brutality.
One hundred million people were practicing Falun Gong in 1999 (1 in 12 people), when Jiang Zemin launched the persecution. Their lives—and those of their families—have since been turned upside down, as the CCP put to work its full toolbox of repressive tactics to implement Jiang’s orders. A massive propaganda campaign to demonize Falun Gong. New labor camps and makeshift detention centers built to hold the huge influx of detainees. An extralegal police task force established to implement the plan. And an internet censorship apparatus devised to stop people from learning the truth about what is happening. Meanwhile, millions of hard-working, upright people from every profession and of every age have been fired from their jobs, many sent to labor camps for “re-education.”
Today, secret police continue to abduct people from their homes and send them for “re-education” simply because they practice Falun Gong, even if only in the privacy of their own home. As a result, Falun Gong practitioners remain the largest group of prisoners of conscience in China, and new cases of death due to abuse in custody are reported on a weekly basis.
The persecution has spawned a moral and governance crisis for Chinese society.
The repercussions of Jiang’s decision to wipe out Falun Gong have been felt not only by practitioners and their families, but throughout all of Chinese society. Officials who actively participate in the torture and killing of Falun Gong believers are promoted. Members of the public have been offered cash rewards for turning in their neighbors. Those who refuse to collaborate or stand up against the campaign risk being fired, abducted, imprisoned, and sometimes killed. The rule of law and freedom of belief have been inexorably damaged. The persecution has thus spurred a domestic brain drain, moral crisis, and assault on basic rights of staggering proportions.
The products of corruption and forced labor in China spread worldwide.
In today’s interconnected world, such events in any country have global reverberations, let alone in the second largest economy. The chopsticks we buy in Manhattan may have been wrapped by Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing labor camps. The toys our children play with may be dangerous because of the moral degradation in China. The members of visiting Chinese delegations we meet be they from the business, academia, or political sectors—have likely been affected by the persecution, as perpetrator, victim, or silent by-stander.
The Communist Party is trying to expand its persecution beyond China.
Increasingly, the Communist Party’s campaign is touching more directly on the lives of those outside China. Chinese officials have repeatedly instigated harassment and attacks on practitioners in countries ranging from Israel to Vietnam, Russia to the United States. Under such circumstances, each one of us may one day be asked to make a choice between defending the rights of a Falun Gong practitioner, or infringing upon them. All the more reason we should make sure we know what Falun Gong is all about.
In their response to the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners have emerged as a powerful force for freedom and justice in China and around the world.
Rather than conceding to the CCP’s suppression, Falun Gong practitioners in China and elsewhere have persisted in their beliefs. Furthermore, they have worked tirelessly and creatively to stop the persecution. Inside China, homemade leaflets are made, DVDs burned, and banners hung in an effort to help Chinese see through the Communist Party’s lies and avoid perpetrating deeds they will regret in the future. Such materials are disseminated by the thousands even in small, remote villages. Outside China, Falun Gong practitioners have produced television documentaries, designed internet software to counteract censorship, called labor camps, filed lawsuits against key perpetrators, and even pedaled across the country. They have also established dragon dance teams, traditional drum troupes, and an array of other initiatives to introduce authentic Chinese culture to communities across the globe.
Falun Gong practitioners’ actions are inspiring more Chinese people to take a stand for freedom and justice
As they begin to see through the Communist Party’s lies, some Chinese have responded with quiet gestures of support or solidarity. A policeman warning his Falun Gong neighbor that a crackdown is coming. A prison guard turning a blind eye while a practitioner meditates. An official renouncing his allegiance to the Party with an alias as part of a millions-strong grassroots movement to denounce violence. Meanwhile, a growing number of people across China are directly defying the danger of being detained (or worse) and taking a public stand to oppose the persecution. Lawyers openly defend Falun Gong clients in court, questioning the legitimacy of the campaign. Average citizens are signing their real names to petitions calling on the government to release a Falun Gong neighbor, friend, or colleague. Although the persecution persists, with each such act of defiance, the CCP’s ability to continue its suppression weakens.
International voices—including yours—can save lives.
Chinese people are not the only ones whose outspokenness against the persecution matters. Time and again experience has shown that international attention to—and public condemnation of—the CCP’s abuses against Falun Gong practitioners and other innocent people in China can make a difference. Signing a petition, writing a letter, sharing a link on Facebook, even simply offering a solemn prayer, can help us move one step closer to living in a world in which China is not sprinkled with labor camps full of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience, but as in the early 1990s, abounds with scenes of thousands serenely meditating in the park.