Statistics & Evidence
For years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has classified any information about human rights abuses against people who practice Falun Gong as "state secrets," making it dangerous for anyone to investigate. Indeed, many who have were themselves victims of wrongful imprisonment and torture.
The CCP has also used political and financial influence around the world to either keep journalists silent, or 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, 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
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. This is noted in a New York Times article, “Banned Movement’s Heads Urges Talks with China” published on July 24, 1999.
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.” The New York Times published this article on the same day.
Unfortunately, many other media did follow 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.
Several Million Detained
While it is not possible to know the exact numbers of people detained for their Falun Gong practice in China (such figures are considered a “state secret”), several indicators suggest that, at a minimum, over the past 20 years, the total number is several million.
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…
Thousands Confirmed Killed by Torture, Abuse
There are over 4,900 documented cases of Falun Gong practitioners dying as a result of torture and abuse in police custody since July 1999.
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.
In the U.S. State Department’s 2007 Human Rights report, it states: “Since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999, estimates of the number of Falun Gong adherents who died in custody due to torture, abuse, and neglect ranged from several hundred to a few thousand.”
“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 school teachers 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.”
20–40 Million Engaged in Civil Disobedience
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 the back-room of 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.”
What is the source of evidence?
Our documented cases, statistics, and analysis are built upon reports from a variety of high-quality sources. Here’s a closer look at five of the most common sources…
1. First-hand Accounts
Hundreds of people who have escaped from China bring with them not only heart-wrenching tales of abuse, but often scars and sometimes even photos, videos, or police paperwork that corroborate their tales.
Dozens who were rescued by international efforts from Chinese prisons are also among those whose personal accounts help fill in the story.
Lastly, those who died from persecution, yet their stories were captured on camera and smuggled out of China, are also a source of first-hand account evidence.
Read our collection of personal accounts of persecution.
2. Vast Network Inside China
Over the past two decades, Minghui.org editors have received tens of thousands of first-hand reports from across China — more than any other organization in the world. This vast and resourceful network of heroic citizen journalists spans every province in China, and provides day-to-day reports of what’s happening on the ground, often at great risk to themselves.
Read more about Minghui.org
3. Independent Documentation
Over the past two decades, a wide range of international human rights groups and international bodies such as the United Nations have independently documented and recounted the systematic rights abuses – including torture and deaths in custody – suffered by those who practice Falun Gong in China. The following are a few examples…
Review our complete collection of independent documentation
4. Investigative Journalism
When the Chinese Communist Party launched the persecution campaign against Falun Gong 20 years ago, the world was, understandably, caught off-guard. After all, most in the west had never heard of Falun Gong. While it took some time to sort through the facts amidst the Chinese regime’s web of propaganda, many in western media soon gained their footing.
The Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer Prize exposing the violent campaign against Falun Gong practitioners. The Washington Post and others followed with their own ground-breaking coverage, exposing Beijing’s top-down orders to use torture and propaganda to “break” Falun Gong.
Ethan Gutmann, a US investigative writer, human rights defender, China watcher, and an widely published author is best known for his two books: Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal and The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the European Parliament, and the United Nations.
Unfortunately, in more recent years, the CCP’s political and economic influence has often resulted in a lack of coverage of Falun Gong in western media, or perhaps worse, driving false narratives about Falun Gong — crafted by the CCP — to be headlined in western media.
Review our complete collection of investigative journalism
5. Chinese Government Admissions
Ironically, many cases of abuse and trends can be cross-checked with local Chinese government websites who sometimes unwittingly confirm details of the campaign against Falun Gong. This is not overly common, but does occasionally provide further evidence of abuses against Falun Gong practitioners.