Press Statement (November 4, 2001)
The city of Changchun in the northeastern province of Jilin is called in Chinese “The City of Eternal Spring.” But now, in the late months of 2001, the city where Falun Dafa was first introduced to the public, lies under the heavy pall of a dark and deadly autumn.
Changchun is a special place for practitioners of Falun Dafa all around the world, as the practice first became known here almost a decade ago in 1992 and it is also the hometown of the founder of the practice Mr. Li Hongzhi. However, precisely because it is the place where Falun Dafa originated, practitioners in that city are now being targeted for more intensive persecution. This is why we are here today.
Before July 1999, so many found the health benefits and spiritual teachings of Falun Dafa so remarkable that morning practice of the exercises in the parks of Changchun would draw hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Falun Dafa practitioners in the city were also known to be particularly diligent in their study of the principles of the practice and set a solid example for others in their cultivation of the virtues of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. By treating others with kindness and consideration, they contributed a great deal to their community.
And that is why recent news of brutal abuses taking place against Falun Dafa practitioners in Changchun is particularly alarming. More than one in ten of the hundreds of innocent men, women, and children confirmed to have died at the hands of the Chinese regime under its persecution against Falun Gong have been killed in the labor camps and detention centers of Changchun and Jilin Province. The actual number of deaths, according to sources inside China, far exceeds one thousand – it’s just that the Chinese authorities have gone out of their way to hide many facts about their shameful campaign of terror.
In the month of October alone, at least three practitioners from Changchun died while under police custody. Sixty-two year old Yang Yan and another woman whose name is not known, were illegally held in a detention center for more than seven months before they died. Another was 25 year-old Li Jing, a student at the Jilin Polytechnic, who fell from a train under suspicious circumstances while being escorted back to Changchun from another city by police. News of such tragic deaths can only be relayed out of the country at great risk to witnesses and family members, and we are often able to obtain only small scraps of information. The little that we know of Ms. Yang’s case is that her body was covered in wounds and bruises at the time of her death.
We also know that persecution in Changchun has intensified in the last few months. It has been verified that the Public Security Bureau of Changchun kidnapped more than 60 Falun Gong practitioners in September. Another 20 were illegally sent to labor camps or sentenced to prison terms after being sentenced in show trials.
Even today, as we speak, a group of Falun Dafa practitioners being held in the Chaoyang Gou Labor Camp in Changchun are conducting a hunger strike. For about a week now, they have been protesting their illegal incarceration, protesting the many, many inhuman acts and types of torture that they suffer behind closed doors, protesting against the senselessness and injustice of holding good people in a labor camp. The Falun Dafa practitioners of Changchun are college professors, factory workers, students, housewives, grandparents. What are so many law-abiding, upstanding, respectable citizens doing in the hellish gulags of China?
The situation is severe. The guards, with the help of criminal inmates, have taken to force-feeding the hunger-strikers by prying open their mouths with pliers, using such violence that many practitioners’ lips and mouths have become torn and lacerated and their teeth are broken. Then they force a thick mixture of cornmeal and filthy, recycled wash-water down the person’s throat. The guards and criminals also continue to brutally beat and kick the practitioners to try to break their will.
What is remarkable is that more and more Falun Gong practitioners have been joining this hunger strike despite such violent retaliation from labor camp officials. This is an act of tremendous courage, especially at a time when official government policy is to call all deaths of Falun Gong practitioners “suicides.” In another labor camp in Changchun, witnesses say a practitioner named Wang Xianyou was sent for force-feeding one day and never made it back. Choking, suffocation, and severe damage to internal organs are common results of force-feeding, whether it is done through the nose or down the throat.
And what is the ultimate objective of all this torture and humiliation? It is all to extract a signature on a “guarantee” letter saying that the signer will not practice Falun Gong again. Sign the letter and you can be released with no injuries and go home. Refuse and you will likely lose your job, lose your home, be separated from your family, be held in prison, and be tortured, to the death, if necessary. Why such a glaring difference in outcome between signing and not signing? It seems like such a ridiculous effort for such a small thing. But it is because the piece of paper represents something much more. For the current Chinese regime, as with all totalitarian regimes, victory lies in crushing the human will so one will blindly follow the wishes of the Party or the leader. No one should have to renounce their faith to regain their freedom.
Many who have undergone this experience say that signing such a renunciation is like turning away from all that they know to be good and surrendering to evil. For the peace of their souls, many seek to make amends for such an action. At last count, more than 41,500 people have written solemn declarations stating that whatever documents they signed under duress are now null and void, and then have them posted on public websites. These people have now gone back to practicing Falun Dafa and are actively working to counteract the effects of the Chinese regime’s slanderous propaganda campaign and rescue their fellow practitioners. It is not an easy life, but they have chosen to live with freedom and integrity. It is clear that coercion can ultimately never change people’s hearts.
The Chinese regime’s campaign of terror casts a dark pall over Changchun this autumn, just as it does all across China. And so we must stand as one body with the practitioners in China today, and speak in one voice with them to tell the world what is happening. The perpetrators will one day be held accountable for their actions, and together we can bring brighter days back to the city of Changchun.