Falun Gong: 25 Years of Persecution, 25 Years Too Long

Falun Gong practitioners carry a banner in a May 13, 2024
procession in New York commemorating the anniversary of Falun Gong’s
introduction to the public. (Source: Tuidang Center)

Falun Gong practitioners carry a banner in a May 13, 2024 procession in New York commemorating the anniversary of Falun Gong’s introduction to the public. (Source: Tuidang Center)

On July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched one of the most wide-ranging political campaigns since the end of the Cultural Revolution—a comprehensive effort to eliminate Falun Gong, a meditation and spiritual discipline practiced by tens of millions of Chinese citizens. At the time, few would have imagined that Falun Gong would survive, and that this violent persecution would be ongoing 25 years later. Yet, that is the reality today. Moreover, in recent years the regime has redoubled its efforts to monitor, detain, imprison, and “transform” Falun Gong practitioners in China and to surveil, harass, silence, and malign believers around the world. 

This report, published in July 2024, examines the current state of the CCP’s suppression of Falun Gong. It identifies emerging trends and key tactics deployed by the regime, while highlighting individual prisoner cases and recent international action on one of the largest human rights crises in China today.

Key Takeaways

Ongoing repression: A quarter century after its launch, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) persecution of Falun Gong practitioners remains one of the largest and most severe human rights crises in China today. The regime has redoubled its efforts to monitor, imprison, and “transform” Falun Gong practitioners even after the 2022 death of Jiang Zemin, the former CCP chief who launched the ruthless campaign 25 years ago.

Steadfast resilience: Despite the regime’s massive investment in crushing the practice, Falun Gong survives—and even thrives—in China and globally, bringing health, hope, and peace of mind to tens of millions of people. Falun Gong practitioners across China distribute information exposing the horrors of CCP rule, constituting one of the largest grassroots civil disobedience movements in the world.

Top CCP priority: Dozens of leaked internal speeches and government websites indicate that Falun Gong remains a top target for the regime’s security apparatus within China and in the “overseas struggle,” even above other policy priorities.

Large-scale imprisonment: Since January 2022, over 1,700 Falun Gong believers have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years following sham trials. Thousands more have been detained for studying spiritual texts or sharing information on censored topics. These detainees join tens of thousands Falun Gong practitioners currently being held across China and millions detained over the past 25 years.

High-tech surveillance: Tools like comprehensive databases and facial recognition-enabled cameras in public spaces amplify the regime’s ability to monitor Falun Gong practitioners, often leading to detentions and torture.

Deaths from persecution: At least 369 Falun Gong practitioners are known to have died since January 2022 due to the CCP’s violence. The number of Falun Gong believers documented to have died due to persecution reached 5,069 in May 2024, although the true figure is likely larger due to the regime’s censorship.

Forced organ harvesting: New academic research and recent accounts by Falun Gong survivors add to prior evidence that Falun Gong practitioners have been, and continue to be, killed to harvest their organs.

Propaganda and disinformation at home and abroad: Information manipulation remains central to the CCP’s crusade against Falun Gong. In 2023, the regime deployed the popular WeChat application for a nationwide campaign so tens of millions of Chinese would view anti-Falun Gong propaganda and sign a petition against the group. The CCP’s propaganda has also spread internationally, while some Western media outlets have echoed inaccuracies about Falun Gong beliefs and other problematic CCP narratives.

Transnational repression: The CCP’s pursuit of Falun Gong extends far beyond China’s borders. The regime and its diplomats have engaged in a systematic global campaign to stymie Shen Yun Performing Arts, many of whose artists practice Falun Gong. Chinese nationals deceived by CCP propaganda have physically assaulted Falun Gong practitioners outside China.

International action: National and local governments have enacted laws to combat forced organ harvesting. Democratic governments have also imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for abuses in China and arrested perpetrators of transnational repression to better protect the Falun Gong community.