International Appeal on Tiananmen Square
Thirty-six Westerners from around the world suddenly appeared at Tiananmen Square in Beijing with a message that astounded onlookers in China and around the world.
That was 18 years ago, on Nov. 20, 2001, making international headlines more than two years after the Chinese Communist Party launched an unprecedented campaign of terror against Falun Gong, known as Falun Dafa.
Following photos, the mysterious individuals from Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada sat down to meditate. Behind them was a bright yellow banner that read, “Truth compassion tolerance” with accompanying Chinese characters—the main tenets of Falun Gong.
But the banner didn’t stay up long.
About 30 seconds later, throngs of uniformed and plain-clothes police officers and Chinese Communist Party paramilitary forces swarmed across Tiananmen, pushing tourists aside and confiscating cameras. Police quickly used physical violence as they drug away the peaceful protesters.
“A young lady from France was grabbed by the throat and choked,” Canadian Falun Gong practitioner Zenon Dolnyckyij—who himself had wrapped a smaller banner around his leg that read “Falun Dafa is good”—recalled.
While the Chinese Communist Party never confirmed exactly what had happened, it’s believed to have shaken the regime at its core. Seemingly out of nowhere, three-dozen Westerners appeared at Tiananmen, the symbolic heart of the regime’s power—the same place that, just a decade earlier, was the site where 3,000 were massacred. Before, it was only Chinese Falun Gong practitioners who appeared there.
And Beijing’s police didn’t spare the Western practitioners the brutality meted out to their Chinese counterparts. Practitioner Leeshai Lemish was taken to a small interrogation room and was beaten.
In the face of China’s worldwide propaganda campaign and the threat of extreme violence, why did 36 Westerners gather there?