The Force Behind Falun Gong
What Lies at teh Heart of Falun Gong's Long-Standing Appeal on Tiananmen Square and Beyond
Starting in the fall of 1999, just two months after President Jiang Zemin issued a ban of Falun Gong in China, news reports first began to appear about Falun Gong practitioners making peaceful appeals on Tiananmen Square. Almost every day since that time, Falun Gong practitioners have appeared on Tiananmen Square, quietly assuming a Falun Gong meditation position or lifting banners above their heads, which read “Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance.” In a matter of seconds, uniformed and plain clothes police pounce on these practitioners, beat them to the ground and drag them away to nearby police vans. From Tiananmen Square, they are taken to detention centers, their “crime” of appealing for Falun Gong is recorded and the fate that meets them next is often brutal, sometimes fatal. Many are sent back to their local regions where they are detained for long periods of time, some are sent to labor camps without trial, others are tortured or even killed while in custody. And yet, to this day they continue to come, day after day. Sometimes alone and sometimes in small groups, but always with one purpose in mind — to make a peaceful appeal to all who will listen that “Falun Gong is good.”
Why Tiananmen Square?
For a people engaged in a personal, peaceful spiritual practice that has no interest in politics, why do practitioners of Falun Gong choose politically sensitive Tiananmen Square to make their appeals? The answer is perhaps simpler than many might guess ? they have no where else to go.
There is a branch of the Chinese communist government referred to as the ?Appeal Office.? Through this branch, citizens may legally file complaints or make an appeal regarding unjustices. Access to these offices is a right granted to all Chinese citizens by the Chinese constitution. Shortly after the ban on Falun Gong, however, Falun Gong practitioners were no longer permitted to appeal at these offices. Those who attempted to do so were immediately taken away by the police. It has been reported that the appeal office in Beijing near Tiananmen Square even removed its sign from the front door. Furthermore, other legal channels for making an appeal were promtly closed to practitioners shortly after the ban. For example, in the fall of 1999, the Chinese government began requiring all legal council to notify the central government before they represent a Falun Gong practitioner. This made it nearly impossible for practitioners to find a lawyer in pursuit of justice for the numerous human rights violations they had suffered at the hands of Chinese government authorities. Soon landowners in and around Beijing were even forced to refuse renting their apartments/ houses to Falun Gong practitioners. There are often police at train stations going into Beijing who stop and question passengers, search their bags or even require them to curse at a photo of the founder of Falun Gong before boarding a train for Beijing. Pressure was being applied from all sides.
Meanwhile, as more and more practitioners were being taken from their homes in the middle of the night, rounded up in stadiums and sent to labor “reeducation” camps without trial, the voice of Falun Gong practitioners was completely absent from the media. In China, virtually all major T.V., radio and newspapers are state owned. In fact, the media has been one of the most powerful instruments used by the Chinese government to further their directives and policies, dedicating hours of airtime every day to denouncing Falun Gong and disceminating propaganda about those who practice it. Therefore, with the government forces mobilized against them, appeal and legal channels closed to them, and with T.V., radio and newspaper pieces disseminated throughout the country demonizing them, Falun Gong practitioners found themselves left with no channel to communicate with their fellow citizens, let alone the rest of the world.
Beijing’s Frontyard, the World’s Stage
Tiananmen Square is not only a favorite among tourists (both domestic and foreign), it is a symbol of China located in the heart of China?s capitol city. Falun Gong practitioners turned to Tiananmen Square as a place that offered an opportunity amidst all of the closed opportunities. On Tiananmen Square, they found a place where they could make a peaceful appeal to the world and be heard. They found a place where a brief hint of the human rights violations they have suffered could be made known. They found a place where a small sampling of the brutality with which they are treated would be visible for all to see. But most of all, they found a place where they could lift a banner high above their heads and, in the hopes of breaking through the massive propaganda machine that has taken aim upon them, make known one simple ideal that has lies at the heart of each individual’s determination to secure freedom of belief, conscience and assembly ? they have found a place to let others know “Falun Dafa is good.”
And so, they have continued to come on an almost daily basis and despite the certainty of arrest, imprisonment or even torture, appealing to the Chinese government, passers-by and the world to end the ban on Falun Gong and stop the killing of Falun Gong practitioners. The appeals on Tiananmen Square continue to this very day as those who practice Falun Gong carry on a struggle for freedom of belief, assembly and conscience for Chinese citizens and people throughout the world.