Violent Suppression of 100 Million People
It’s one of the largest campaigns of religious persecution happening in the world over the past 20 years.
Millions of innocent people in China have been fired from their jobs, expelled from school, jailed, tortured, or killed simply for practicing Falun Gong (see Key Statistics for more details).
For the tens of millions of people who practice Falun Gong today in China, each day they live at risk of being taken away by Chinese authorities to be jailed, tortured—or worse.
Millions Detained, Imprisoned
For millions of people in China, the most basic reality of the campaign against Falun Gong has been long periods of detention in “reform through labor” camps or prisons – China’s Gulag system – after farcical or nonexistent trials. Others are held in makeshift detention centers or “black jails” — a network of extralegal detention centers within China.
Detainees are often forced to work up to 20 hours per day, producing – without pay – toys, Christmas tree lights, chopsticks, and soccer balls for export. Those who refuse are tortured (more about arbitrary detention and slavery).
Brainwashing and “Transformation”
Be it in labor camps, jails, or in special reeducation centers, detained Falun Gong practitioners are forced to undergo what can only be described as brainwashing. The Chinese Communist Party’s goal is to force these people to renounce their spiritual beliefs and come to view Falun Gong as dangerous, as well as to turn in others who are active in exposing the persecution.
The key ingredients of the brainwashing process, or what the Party calls “transformation,” is sleep deprivation, hours on end of staring at videos vilifying Falun Gong, threats, and Cultural Revolution-style “struggle sessions”. Some particularly “stubborn” individuals who refuse to transform are injected with psychotropic drugs in asylums as treatment for the mental disorder of incorrect political thinking (more about psychological persecution).
In a ground-breaking report by the Washington Post, the paper told the story of one man who had gone through this “transformation.” Upon his release he concluded: “In the past two years, I have seen the worst of what man can do. We really are the worst animals on Earth.”
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.
Common torture techniques include shocking with electric batons, burning with irons, tying the body in painful positions for days, force-feeding saline solutions through a plastic tube inserted up the nose, and prying out fingernails with bamboo shoots, to name a few. Rape and sexual torture of the Falun Gong in detention are prevalent as well.
The Party’s ultimate solution for the vast number of incarcerated Falun Gong adherents, however, is much more terrifying.
Estimates from multiple separate, independent reports indicate tens of thousands (possibly 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.
Livers, kidneys, hearts, and cornea are removed from the living, anesthetized Falun Gong adherents with matching blood-types and sold to Party officials and other desperate-yet-wealthy individuals from China and abroad. Undercover investigators’ phone calls to Chinese hospitals have caught doctors boasting about this practice on tape (more about organ harvesting).
Censorship and Propaganda Fuel Violence
But, as in every genocide of the twentieth century, extreme violence first required dehumanization of “the other” through propaganda. Indeed, one key measure in the Party’s suppression has been to limit, and distort, information about Falun Gong—both in China and elsewhere.
From day one of the suppression, the regime banned all books and informational media produced discussing Falun Gong positively. All websites relating to the practice were immediately blocked. Millions of Falun Gong books were forcibly seized and burned publicly. The regime feared people might learn, if they knew not already, that Falun Gong was a healthy, normal, and positive way of life embraced by millions (more about censorship).
These censorship efforts have, of course, extended to cyberspace, thanks in no small part to Western companies who have enthusiastically sold Internet surveillance technology to the Party’s security apparatuses. As a result, Chinese people are now in jail for posting evidence of torture online or simply downloading articles about Falun Gong (more about the persecution and the Internet).
Alongside censorship, the Party has sought to scandalize Falun Gong through an aggressive propaganda blitz. The regime has been determined to paint Falun Gong as dangerous, deviant, and abnormal.
Former Party Chairman Jiang Zemin led the way, attaching onto Falun Gong the label of “cult” three months after his ban as a means to further bend public opinion. Under CCP guidance, various ministries and state media outlets then launched numerous publications, radio and TV shows, and even plays, comic books, and exhibitions meant to demonize Falun Gong (more about this propaganda campaign).
Government officials around the world, meanwhile, report receiving defamatory materials from Party emissaries. These are often accompanied by attempts to pressure the elected officials to stay silent about abuses perpetrated against the Falun Gong, to rescind proclamations in recognition of Falun Gong’s contributions to the community, and to block local Falun Gong activities such as parades or conferences.
Business owners, journalists, and scholars have also been subjected to similar pressure tactics and threats (more about pressure overseas), leading to a sometimes eerie silence in Western press and academia (see “Why Haven’t I Heard About This?”).
Social & Economic Impact
With 100 million people targeted for their faith, including business leaders, academics, and government officials, it is hard to overstate the impact on the social and economic well-being of China.
Many Falun Gong practitioners, regardless of role or skill, are fired from their jobs, expelled from universities, stripped of health care and pensions, forced into homelessness, and a range of other forms of discrimination (more about: persecution in the family, persecution at work and school, and destitution).
Peaceful, Grassroots Resistance
When the persecution was launched in 1999, tens of millions of Chinese who practiced the meditation discipline were faced with a choice. One option was to again surrender to the Communist Party and abandon a practice that had brought them better health, spiritual guidance, and, invariably, newfound hope. A second option seemed to be to continue practicing quietly at home – but as raids quickly showed, this was impossible even if one were able to turn a blind eye to the persecution of family and friends. A final option was to openly resist the persecution in spite of knowing full well what the painful consequences might be. Whatever the chosen response, Falun Gong adherents have displayed remarkable resilience, with tens of millions still practicing in China today and some new people even joining their ranks.
For those who have chosen to more actively resist, Falun Gong practitioners have been consistent in refusing to adopt violence as an option, focusing instead on using every available peaceful avenue to have their voices heard. Adherents first tried to reason with Communist Party rulers through letters and petitions. When these fell on deaf ears, the Falun Gong turned to Tiananmen Square where – through quietly meditating or displaying banners before being arrested – they sought to call upon the conscience of the Chinese people as well as world leaders. As the persecution continued, the Falun Gong began countering state propaganda by distributing information exposing the persecution through leaflets, VCDs, emails, and phone calls.
Collectively, this resistance movement – composed of bold individual acts in spite of great personal risks – constitutes what is probably today’s largest nonviolent movement in the world (see “Peaceful Resistance”).