Falun Gong Supporters Rally in Washington, Call for Rescue of Practitioners Persecuted in China
WASHINGTON, D.C., July 19 (Falun Dafa Information Center) – Thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. today to mark the two-year anniversary of China’s brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners and to send out an urgent call to rescue practitioners being persecuted in China. Events included a large-scale demonstration and press conference on the Mall.
An estimated 1,500 practitioners demonstrated Falun Gong’s peaceful, slow movements to the backdrop of the Washington Monument before embarking on a march to Capitol Hill. For some, the march concluded a three-week journey to DC on foot and by bicycle from as far away as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Orlando, plus others who had caravanned from San Francisco and Los Angeles for the event.
The press conference, held on the steps of the Capitol Building and hosted by Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom of Freedom House, commenced in the afternoon as the marchers arrived at Capitol Hill. In the opening statement made by Ambassador Mark Palmer, board member of the newly-formed “Friends of Falun Gong” (www.fofg.org), Palmer called on international leaders to hold Chinese president Jiang Zemin responsible for the ongoing atrocities carried out under the communist regime, just “as Milosivic is now being held accountable for his crimes against humanity.”
Speakers included members of the House and Senate from both Democratic and Republican parties, calling for support for joint resolutions condemning Chinese president Jiang Zemin for the escalating cases of rape, torture, and death in police custody of Falun Gong believers in China. Spokespeople from Amnesty International, National Organization for Women (NOW), the Family Research Council as well as other advocacy groups for human rights made statements in support of Falun Gong.
Human rights lawyer Cary D’Avino also read a statement regarding the legal summons served to a high-ranking Chinese Government official who was staying in New York City. Mr. Zhao Zhifei is head of the Public Security Department for Hubei Province in China and second-in-command of its notorious “610” division – a special office setup by the central government in China to carry out the crackdown against Falun Gong. Mr. Zhao is being charged under the Torture Victim Protection Act and Alien Tort Claims Act for numerous crimes against Falun Gong practitioners in China, including murder, torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, crimes against humanity, and false imprisonment.
Three survivors of torture in Chinese labor re-education camps, now in the US, recounted their ordeals and the abuses carried out daily in efforts to force Falun Gong practitioners to renounce their beliefs. Mr. Alan Adler, spokesperson for Friends of Falun Gong, said that “tens of thousands are illegally detained, hundreds abused in psychiatric wards, and over 250 innocent people are known to have died due to maltreatment while in police custody. The killing under China’s totalitarian regime continues to escalate, and we’re calling for urgent action to rescue the practitioners held in labor camps and deprived of their basic human rights.”
Falun Gong supporters and practitioners covered the capitol lawn, surrounding brightly-colored mats spelling out their message of “S.O.S.” and held large banners reading, “Rescue Falun Gong Practitioners in China,” “Jiang Zemin Killed These Innocent People,” and “Stop the Killing.”
Mr. Adam Montanaro, spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Information Center (www.faluninfo.net), described the goal of the press conference: “It is vital that we use our voices here in Washington today to speak on behalf of the thousands persecuted in China who have no voice. It is our duty as free citizens to break though the PRC’s information barricade and expose the ongoing, deadly policy of ‘extermination at any cost’ being carried out against Falun Gong by Jiang Zemin and his associates.”