In the first ten months of 2001, more than 40,000 Falun Gong practitioners in China publicly declared their intent to continue practicing. These declarations eloquently speak to the failure of the Chinese government’s attempts, using any and every means, to force its citizens to sign statements of renunciation.While the Communist Party continues to tell the world that it has succeeded in "crushing" the Falun Gong spiritual practice, the true picture is gradually emerging: tens of thousands, perhaps millions, remain firm in their beliefs, and are carrying out a massive, grass-roots appeal exemplifying the nonviolent and compassionate principles of the Falun Gong practice. "Solemn Declarations" Testify to Practitioners’ Strength and ResolveThe Chinese government’s attempt to eradicate the peaceful Falun Gong meditation practice has entered its third year with no signs of letting up. On the contrary, it continues to become more pervasive and more violent. With each passing day the contrast between good and evil grows more distinct and more clearly recognizable by the citizenry, both inside and outside of China. Taking advantage of the West’s preoccupation with the terrorist attacks on the United States, Jiang Zemin has reportedly ordered law enforcement agencies to conduct a comprehensive, nationwide roundup of everyone who is or who has been associated with Falun Gong. Those arrested are being immediately thrown into jail whether they are actively practicing Falun Gong or not. These new victims join the ranks of over 100,000 other innocent people who have been illegally arrested and detained since the persecution began in July of 1999. If these practitioners do not sign documents renouncing their spiritual beliefs, they face the grim reality of beatings and other forms of torture in China’s jails, detention centers, and labor camps. As a group, Falun Gong practitioners have borne up extremely well under the most severe tests their tormentors could put them through. Without a doubt, they have created a new model of courage and forbearance in our time and for many years to come. But for some practitioners, the continuous beatings, sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, and other forms of unrelenting torture have been simply too much to bear. In such cases, a number of practitioners chose to take a temporary way out of their suffering by signing so called "guarantee letters" and "renouncing letters," in which they promised to give up their practice of Falun Gong. The point must be emphasized here that the decision to sign these documents was not by any stretch of the imagination a free choice, but rather, one made under extreme duress. Once released from custody and recovered from the injuries and malnutrition they incurred in the jails and labor camps, a large percentage of practitioners who signed such letters under duress change their minds, repent of their decision, and feel inspired to publicly re-establish their relationship with the teachings of Falun Gong. Upon sober reflection and self-examination, and in full knowledge that in doing so they are once again inviting the wrath of the government upon themselves, many practitioners have been submitting "Solemn Declarations" to the Falun Dafa websites. Given the harsh consequences of publicly announcing one’s desire to practice Falun Gong, the number of practitioners writing Solemn Declarations recently has been surprisingly large, with over three and a half thousand appearing on the Falun Dafa websites during the last month alone. Such statements can be very brief, in which the practitioner announces that everything he said, did, or signed while being tortured and mentally abused is null and void, and that he intends to resume his practice of Falun Gong. Other Solemn Declarations are more lengthy and elaborate, and tell the entire story of how practitioners were either broken down through brainwashing techniques or how they were beaten and starved into submission through physical violence. In both cases, the declarations are public announcements of the true state of a practitioner’s mind. The system that instigates these "forced confessions" has been exposed through the process, as well. Local government officials are fined if anyone from their region is found appealing to the central government offices. Quotas for converted practitioners are enforced, and those involved stand to profit from the arbitrary, unrecorded fines levied against the victims and their families.Amy Lee, a fashion designer now residing in New York, was detained in Beijing, in May, 2000, and sent to a "reeducation camp" and tortured in Guangzhou in July, for appealing for her right to practice Falun Gong. Speaking of her experience in custody she says, "For every practitioner we hear from recanting the statements made under duress, we have to assume there are several more we haven’t heard from. China’s vast information blockade has hidden the truth from the world: that Falun Gong is strong and growing in China, despite Jiang’s every effort to annihilate it."Lesson of the ages: "Coercion Cannot Change People’s Hearts"What does this signify? First, it shows that, in the words of Falun Gong founder Mr. Li Hongzhi, "Coercion cannot change people’s hearts." The truth of this can be seen in that, out of millions, only a small handful of practitioners have been truly converted to the government’s point of view. Even many of those practitioners who thoroughly succumbed to brainwashing and actively tried to brainwash other practitioners have regained a clear mind, repudiated their actions, and published Solemn Declarations recently, and their doing so has greatly humiliated the communist regime. Second, the large number of Solemn Declarations is an indication that, despite its ferocity and some outward appearances of success, this persecution is not going at all well for the Chinese government. We have seen the limitations of brute force. It seemed to work pretty well to stop the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but it has been a dismal failure in stopping middle-aged ladies from protesting in Tiananmen Square since 1999. Daily reports tell of practitioners distributing flyers in major cities, exposing the inhumane and failing campaign against Falun Gong. Some have hung banners in public areas, calling for the restoration of Falun Gong’s status. Others have hung loudspeakers high in trees on crowded streets to decry Jiang Zemin’s brutalities. When a government abandons law and justice, and instead resorts to raw violence to force its citizens to comply with its wishes, what then, can it do when violence fails? They have indeed reached their limits, and the only thing left for them to do is to constantly increase the violence until even the thugs hired to do the dirty work are repulsed by it. Finally and most importantly, the large numbers of Solemn Declarations appearing on Falun Gong websites testify to the depth of resolve these practitioners have to live by the principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance." Even the combined forces of all the institutions of society controlled by a ruthless dictator cannot shake that resolve. Thousands are consciously taking the risk of being thrown back into labor camps to once again endure torture and suffering, rather than renounce their principles – such unshakable individual commitment to principle among so many deserves full recognition and broad support from the international community. "Coercion cannot change people’s hearts."