Statistics & Evidence
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has gone to great length to hide the scale and severity of human rights abuses being committed against people who practice Falun Gong in China, even detaining, jailing, and torturing those who have tried to investigate or document the persecution. In some cases, Falun Gong practitioners have even been sentenced to long prison terms on charges of “divulging state secrets” for actions like speaking to foreign journalists or sharing internal government documents related to the persecution.
The CCP has also used political and financial influence around the world to keep journalists silent and drive false narratives about Falun Gong.
This systematic campaign of abductions, torture, and death targeting tens of millions of Chinese people remains largely hidden from view.
Yet, by pulling together reports from the United Nations, the U.S. government, human rights organizations, and a few quality pieces of investigative journalism, as well as first-hand accounts from inside China, the real scope and scale of this persecution campaign emerges with much clarity.
The following are key indicators quantifying this human rights crisis.
70–100 Million Falun Gong Practitioners in 1999
There were 70–100 million people practicing Falun Gong in China before July, 1999. While some have attributed this estimate to Falun Gong sources, the number actually originates from Chinese authorities. Specifically, these numbers come from a survey conducted by the Chinese government in the latter part of 1998, and were cited on multiple occasions by Western media outlets such as the New York Times and Associated Press prior to the ban in July 1999, and even sporadically in the months that followed.
The following are some of the sources for this figure
Interestingly, China’s own state-run T.V. aired a news program before July 1999, in which the anchor tells the audience “over 100 million people are practicing Falun Gong.” — a number corroborated by China’s National Sports Commission official interviewed by U.S. News & World Report.
Shortly after the launch of the persecution, however, the Chinese regime changed their estimate dramatically to 2 million as part of its propaganda campaign and a means of downplaying the scale of violations.
Unfortunately, many media, such as the New York Times, followed Beijing’s lead, and either reduced the official estimated number or changed the source, attributing the estimate solely to “claims” by Falun Gong, rather than what they truly are — official figures from the Chinese government at the conclusion of a comprehensive survey done in 1998.
Not all media followed Beijing’s propaganda point. On November 13, 1999, the Associated Press published “4 From Chinese Spiritual Group are Sentenced” in which the article states: “Before the crackdown the government estimated membership at 70 million — which would make it larger than the Chinese Communist Party, with 61 million members.”
20–40 Million Active in China Today
There are an estimated 20-40 million people in China practicing Falun Gong and actively engaged in civil disobedience activity.
In May 2009, Falun Gong’s main Chinese-language website, Minghui.org, reported that approximately 200,000 underground “materials sites” exist across China. Materials sites are places where Falun Gong practitioners print leaflets, produce DVDs, etc. the content of which unveils the persecution and debunks anti-Falun Gong propaganda. These sites are operated at a grassroots level across China and usually located in a private residence. Each site provides materials to 100-200 Falun Gong practitioners, who then distribute the materials in their locales. These numbers indicate 20-40 million Falun Gong practitioners are actively working to expose the wide-spread suppression they face in China. How many more people are practicing Falun Gong in China and yet do not take part in this form of peaceful resistance is not known.
In 2017, Freedom House published one of the most comprehensive third-party reports on Falun Gong called “Falun Gong: The Battle for China’s Spirit.” The report states: “Over 17 years after Falun Gong’s ban, there is reason to believe that millions, and possibly tens of millions, in China continue to practice.” Using a different methodological approach from Minghui.org, Freedom House estimated there were 7 to 20 million practitioners in China, a range that has subsequently been quoted by the US State Department and other government agencies.
Several Million Detained since 1999
While it is not possible to know the exact numbers of people detained for their Falun Gong practice in China due to Chinese government statistics hiding such information, several indicators suggest that, at a minimum, over the past 20 years, the total number is several million. Today, there are likely several hundred thousand currently detained.
The following are a few data points to consider…
Hundreds of Thousands Tortured
Since early 2000, the use of torture on Falun Gong detainees has been widely documented by major media, human rights organizations, and the United Nations. There are at least 100,000 cases of torture documented by Minghui.org, and reason to believe the true number is several times higher.
The following is a sampling of this documentation…
5,000 Documented Deaths from Torture and Abuse
In a tragic milestone, in June 2023, the total number of Falun Gong believers documented to have died due to persecution surpassed 5,000.
Discovering and verifying information inside China related to wrongful deaths is difficult and dangerous. Some who have exposed the torture and killing of Falun Gong practitioners have, themselves been tortured and killed. It is, therefore, widely believed that this number is just a fraction of the true number of people killed for their Falun Gong faith in China.
Nevertheless, in addition to documentation by Falun Gong source, over the years various journalists, human rights groups, lawyers, and government entities have recorded or highlighted Falun Gong deaths from abuse in custody.
Hundreds of thousands Killed for Organs
Estimates from multiple separate, independent reports indicate hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners may have been killed in order to extract their vital organs, which are used to fuel a booming organ transplantation business in China.
200,000 Underground Materials Sites
Today, across China, there are 200,000 or more underground printing houses in what likely constitutes the largest non-violent, grassroots resistance in the world.
From the very first days of the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners have believed that the key to a peaceful resolution rests with the Chinese people themselves. After all, it has been people who carry out the day-to-day suppression—the small-town police departments and labor-camp administrators, the schoolteachers forced to turn in unrepentant Falun Gong students, the neighbors who report on neighbors. Falun Gong practitioners reason that if the people knew the truth, they would no longer be complicit in such injustice.
Beginning in 2001 and continuing to this day, Falun Gong practitioners have set up underground printing houses in nearly every county and district in the country—China’s equivalent of the Soviet samizdat. From their living rooms, practitioners have established secure internet connections, accessed websites outside China by using proxy servers, downloaded censored literature on the persecution of Falun Gong, and used it to produce homemade leaflets.
Others volunteer to distribute the literature, usually by night. These actions are always taken at great risk. Untold thousands have been arrested and many killed for possessing and distributing these materials or for operating the production sites.
Abundant evidence of these underground printing houses comes from a multitude of sources: from official statistics on police seizures of Falun Gong informational material to anecdotal accounts of citizens regularly waking up to find CDs or leaflets about the persecution waiting outside their front door. Chinese government and Communist Party websites routinely report on efforts to limit the circulation of Falun Gong-related literature.
In the spring of 2009, for instance, the Fujian Provincial Transport Administration issued a notice ordering that among the items to be targeted as part of a nationwide crackdown on illegal publications were those that “slandered the country’s political system, distorted the history of the Party, … [or] publicized Falun Gong.”
Practiced in Over 100 Countries Around the World
While Falun Gong was first introduced to the public in China, the practice has transcended boundaries of language, ethnicity and culture. Today, people in over 100 countries—from Indonesia to India, Togo to the United States, Belgium to Brazil—have taken up the practice, and Falun Gong’s teachings have been translated in over 50 languages.
The practice has largely spread by word of mouth. As was the case in China before the persecution, many people encounter the practice in a local park or through a friend, coworker, or family member.
While many in international Falun Gong communities are refugees who have fled persecution in China, many are locals who have taken up the practice to improve their health and well-being. Wherever they are, the plight of their counterparts in China is rarely far from their minds and many engage in various forms of grassroots awareness raising or government advocacy to try and rescue Falun Gong practitioners in China.