May 13, 2002 (Falun Dafa Information Center) \u2013 In an estimated 40 cities across more than 30 countries and in at least 12 languages, people around the world are gathering today to celebrate the third annual World Falun Dafa Day. It was on this day ten years ago in Northeast China that Mr. Li Hongzhi first began teaching the spiritual practice of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) \u2013 an ancient system of self-improvement that had been taught privately for thousands of years and espouses the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. Mr. Li taught in China for only two-and-a-half years with an estimated 20,000 people attending his lectures. The practice, however, quickly spread by word of mouth throughout China to over 100 million people by late 1998, according to a Chinese government survey. That is, a staggering 1 out of every 12 people in the most populous nation of the world. Yet these numbers only begin to describe the impact of Falun Dafa.During those early years, Mr. Li won praise and awards from a number of Chinese government bodies for the health improvements, the peace of mind, and wellness his teachings brought to the people of China. His book, Zhuan Falun \u2013 the core text of the Falun Dafa practice \u2013 became a bestseller in China. In the fall of 1993, Mr. Li gave a free health recovery seminar at the Ministry of Public Security for officials from over 30 provinces and cities across China, most of whom had been injured or disabled in the line of duty. Afterwards, the Ministry sent Mr. Li a letter, praising him for promoting "the traditional crime-fighting virtues of the Chinese people, to safeguard social order and security, and to promote social righteousness." Later that same year, the Oriental Health Expo in Beijing awarded Mr. Li the title "Qigong teacher most acclaimed by the people" due to the effectiveness of his treatments and the popularity of his teachings.In 1996, Mr. Li began giving free public seminars in North America, Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Over the course of the next six years, Mr. Li and the practice of Falun Dafa received over 600 awards and proclamations from government officials across North America, as practice sites were established in 50+ countries by volunteers.Mr. Li Hongzhi has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the past three years.A Tragic Turn of EventsSadly, however, in 1999, Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin unleashed one of the most systematic and brutal persecution campaigns in modern history. Its target is Falun Dafa.In the late 1990\u2019s a political power struggle instigated by Jiang Zemin in the upper levels of the Chinese government picked Falun Dafa as an unwitting pawn. Peaceful practitioners were soon maneuvered onto the political stage, and positioned as a threat to the communist ruling elite. In July of 1999 president Jiang Zemin outright banned the Falun Dafa practice, labeling a large segment of Chinese society as enemies of the state.What immediately followed, and continues today, three years later, was a reign of terror across China, the brutality of which has shocked the world. Elderly ladies were beaten and tortured to death by policemen. Families were torn apart, many forced to leave their homes or risk being thrown in labor camps for years. And while a startling 400 deaths from abuse in police custody have been documented by the Falun Dafa Information Center, sources inside China last fall put the actual number well over 1,600. Today, that number may be double or triple, perhaps even much higher.The World Takes a StandGovernment leaders from around the world have raised their voices in a resounding chorus of opposition, condemning Jiang Zemin\u2019s irrational persecution. U.S. President George W. Bush has called the persecution "unworthy of all that China has been\u2026and unworthy of all that China should become." On his most recent trip to China, the President told one U.S. Congressman that his administration "repeatedly stressed to the Chinese Government that there is no justification for its brutal repression of Falun Gong." Swedish European Union Member of Parliament Cecilia Malmstrom put her indignation in unequivocal terms, saying, "The whole world is condemning China on this [the Falun Dafa] issue. This has to stop!"Throughout the nearly-three-year persecution, China\u2019s Falun Dafa practitioners have reacted with compassion and quiet strength, strictly adhering to non-violent means to peacefully appeal for their constitutional right to freedom of belief. Despite the fact that police routinely detain, torture, send to labor camps, or even kill people known to practice Falun Dafa, the practitioners in China have not lessened their efforts. They continue to peacefully and courageously step forward to appeal the ban, to dispel propaganda-bred lies, and to call upon the world\u2019s people for support. Through their efforts, Falun Dafa has not only survived the persecution, but thrived in the hearts and minds of the people.Furthermore, the peaceful and dignified manner in which practitioners of Falun Dafa have met the policy of state-terrorism unleashed upon them by Jiang Zemin has served as an inspiration to people around the world, especially in these times of heightened tension and conflict. As M.P. Cotler recently observed, "If the rest of the world would start to share the values of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance, and the Chinese authorities would say, \u2018Wait a minute this is what we gave and can give to the world, instead of repressing Falun Gong, we [can] use Falun Gong as a model, [they\u2019re] people who are expressing the best of Chinese civilization,\u2019 I think we would have a different world in China, and I think we would have a different world generally speaking."Reflecting on World Falun Dafa DayToday we join together with family, friends, community and government leaders to give thanks for the health and joy Falun Dafa has brought to our lives. At the same time, we seek to honor the courage, compassion and strength that people who practice Falun Dafa in China have displayed over the past nearly three years in the face of Jiang Zemin\u2019s vicious persecution.Together, let us reflect on the past, paying our highest respects to the founder of Falun Dafa, Mr. Li Hongzhi, and to those who have protected the dignity of the practice, even in the face of tremendous persecution.Together, let us calmly take stock of the present, knowing that virtue and goodness \u2013 as it has always done throughout history \u2013 will not just survive the current persecution in China, but emerge stronger and more dignified than ever.Together, let us look to the future, filled with hope, joy and humility, thankful for what we have been given, and seeking a swift end to the persecution in China.Together, let us celebrate the teachings of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance.BackgroundFalun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a practice of meditation and exercises with teachings based on the universal principle of "Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance." It is a practice that was taught in private for thousands of years before being made public in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong has roots in traditional Chinese culture, but it is distinct and separate from other practices in China, such as the religions of Buddhism and Taoism. Since its introduction in 1992, it quickly spread by word of mouth throughout China, and is now practiced in over 50 countries. With government estimates of as many as 100 million practicing Falun Gong, China's President Jiang Zemin outlawed the peaceful practice in July 1999, fearful of anything touching the hearts and minds of more citizens than the Communist Party. Unable to crush the spirit of millions who had experienced improved health and positive life changes from Falun Gong, Jiang\u2019s regime has intensified its propaganda campaign to turn public opinion against the practice while quietly imprisoning, torturing and even murdering those who practice it. The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified details of over 407 deaths since the persecution of Falun Gong in China began in 1999. Government officials inside China, however, report that the actual death toll is well over 1,600. Over 100,000 have been detained, with more than 20,000 being sentenced to forced labor camps without trial.