Questions & Answers
Why is the Chinese Communist Party persecuting Falun Gong?
The complex rationale behind the campaign can be broken into four elements: Falun Gong’s popularity, the role of Jiang Zemin, conflicting ideology, and the nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s system.
While a common misconception is that the gathering of 10,000 adherents in Beijing on April 25, 1999 is what led to the persecution of Falun Gong, oppression of the practice actually began at least three years earlier.
The more popular Falun Gong became, the more resistance it encountered. Party leaders fear any large, independent group, and Falun Gong was probably the largest. When Falun Gong books became bestsellers in 1996 they were banned; when state-run media estimated that over 70 million people practiced Falun Gong – more than the Party’s membership – media began attacking Falun Gong and state security began spying on and harassing adherents.
It was in response to these early abuses that adherents gathered in Beijing.
Fearing Falun Gong’s rapidly growing popularity was overshadowing his own legacy, then-Party leader Jiang Zemin ordered the practice “eradicated.” According to a 1999 Washington Post article, “Jiang alone decided that Falun Gong must be eliminated” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-11/12/062r-111299-idx.html. Journalists and inside sources have described Jiang as “jealous” of Falun Gong and “obsessed” with eliminating the group. As China analyst Willy Lam has argued, by creating a national campaign Jiang sought to both align power to himself and eradicate a group he saw as a threat to his power.
The ideological differences between the atheist Communist Party and the spiritual Falun Gong also played a role. While religion is again becoming increasingly popular in China, and the Party does allow some religious affiliations, religious groups must submit to the state and their leaders must be Party approved. Other groups who, like Falun Gong, have chosen to preserve their belief system and refused to tender to the Party have also met persecution, including Tibetan Buddhists and house church members.
Finally, as the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party (www.ninecommentaries.com) has argued, the persecution of Falun Gong is the latest in a continuum of violent campaigns that the Party uses to remind the population of its control. Mao Zedong once said that China should have a Cultural Revolution every seven or eight years. Indeed, since the 1950s not a decade has gone by without some violent state-led campaign aimed at the masses. From the suppression of “counterrevolutionaries,” the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the 1989 crackdown on the democracy movement, to Falun Gong, the Party has killed 60-80 million Chinese citizens.
The Chinese Communist Party isn’t stupid - it wouldn’t kill innocent people just like that, right?
Hitler isn’t stupid – he wouldn’t kill six million Jews just like that. Why did the Khmer Rouge kill one out of every four Cambodians? If Tibetan monks just want to piously worship and meditate, why are they still being tortured and killed in Chinese gulags? If teenage women in Darfur had done no wrong, why are they being raped? Mladic wasn’t stupid, why did he want to kill every Muslim man in Srebrenica?
It’s possible to see things from the perpetrators’ perspective somewhat and understand their economic or strategic motivation behind mass murder. But we find that at a certain point there is also evil that is sometimes very difficult to come to terms with – how could someone do such a thing to a fellow human being?
From another perspective, one of the reasons so many Chinese have either participated in the campaign or turned a blind eye to it is their visceral knowledge of the evil the Communist Party can perpetrate. After public executions, man-made starvation, cannibalism, and massacre – 60 to 80 million of their family members dead under the CCP all told – the evil perpetrated against Falun Gong has been all too familiar.
If Falun Gong is so good, why did it get banned? Why aren’t other groups being targeted like this?
First, many other groups have also been banned and are being persecuted. Christians who refuse to worship with the state-controlled church, Tibetan Buddhists, and of course democracy and other human rights activists have all been persecuted in China, in some cases for decades; other qigong groups have been banned as well and their adherents can no longer be found doing their slow-movement exercises in Chinese parks.
There is no need to compete for the title of “worst persecuted.” All these groups face egregious abuses that have brought tragedy to countless families. Moreover, these groups of innocent people face the same common aggressor.
If asked how the persecution of Falun Gong differs from what other groups face at present, the difference is as follows.
Quantitatively, Falun Gong was the largest group in society outside the Communist Party. According to the Chinese government’s own estimates, at least 70 million people practiced Falun Gong in the late 1990s, therefore the sheer number of people affected by the persecution reflects this ratio. As the U.S. State Department has noted, Falun Gong adherents have been estimated to comprise of nearly half of all Chinese detained in labor camps. Labor camp survivors have reported that over 90 percent of detainees in particular camps were the Falun Gong, and more adherents were being rushed in to newly expanded wards as late as winter 2007.
Qualitatively, Jiang Zemin and the Communist Party have launched a comprehensive campaign to eradicate Falun Gong. One common reaction from Chinese who witnessed the persecution’s early days was that it was eerily reminiscent of Maoist campaigns thought to be long-gone. In this regard, the Falun Gong resemble a group targeted during the Cultural Revolution, attacked through intense propaganda, door-to-door searches and beatings, public denunciations, and torture for which no one is being held accountable; like certain groups in the 1960s, the Falun Gong are being subject to destitution and mass banishment to remote labor camps in a systematic fashion and on a scale not seen since Mao’s death in 1976.
How did the persecution start?
The persecution was officially launched at 3pm on July 22, 1999 when China Central Television (CCTV) began its round-the-clock broadcast attacking Falun Gong and announcing the Communist Party’s new ban. Falun Gong adherents who then went to petition the government were put on buses and detained in gigantic athletic stadiums and conference halls. Quick to follow were public burnings of Falun Gong books, show trials, and rounds of arrests.
Two days prior to the broadcast launch, Falun Gong seen as key coordinators were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night throughout the country.
The previous month, on June 10, Jiang Zemin created the 6-10 Office explicitly for the purpose of destroying Falun Gong. Two months before that, dozens of adherents were arrested and beaten while picketing outside a magazine office that had slandered Falun Gong; the arrests lead to the famous gathering outside Zhongnanhai. During the preceding year, the Falun Gong began being closely monitored by secret police as they meditated in parks, and adherents were interrogated.
The very beginning of the persecution can be traced back to 1996, when the first article criticizing Falun Gong appeared in the Guangming Daily, marking the beginning of attacks on Falun Gong in state-run media.
Didn’t Falun Gong surround Zhongnanhai? Wasn’t that provoking the Chinese Government?
Over 10,000 Falun Gong adherents did peacefully gather outside the top leaders’ Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing on April 25, 1999. The gathering was legal and aimed at the State Office of Petitions next door, not the governmental compound.
Petitioning the government over abuses is a constitutionally guaranteed right in China. In fact, the previous day authorities in nearby Tianjin, where adherents had been arrested and beaten, told the Falun Gong to take their petition directly to Beijing http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-11/12/062r-111299-idx.html
The gathering was in response to state persecution already taken place. Specifically it was in reaction to three years of media attacks, the arrest and beating up 45 Falun Gong adherents in Tianjin, and the banning of Falun Gong books.
The gathering was entirely peaceful. No exits or entrances were blocked and traffic was unobstructed.
In fact, it could have led to a very different, happy outcome. That day then-premier Zhu Rongji met with the Falun Gong and promised to resolve their complaints; those detained in Tianjin were released. But hours after everyone dispersed, Jiang Zemin intervened to reverse the policy. He claimed Falun Gong had laid “siege” to Zhongnanhai and that it will be an international embarrassment for the Party if it cannot defeat the Falun Gong.
It seems like Falun Gong has changed in nature, and is highly political now?
First, even as Falun Gong adherents protest, sue Chinese officials, and encourage their fellow Chinese to withdraw from the Communist Party, Falun Gong remains staunchly disinterested in gaining power. Falun Gong’s founder and the practice’s adherents in China and overseas have repeatedly made it clear that they do not wish to take over power, only to stop the persecution. As the CCP has had years to reverse its genocidal Falun Gong policy but has not done so, the only way that ending these and other atrocities seems feasible is to dissolve the Communist Party.
Second, the above activities did not exist in any form before the persecution of Falun Gong was launched. The sum of Falun Gong’s activities before state pressure was meditating or reading Falun Gong literature in groups and introducing the practice to others. If anything, one could say that the Communist Party’s labeling of Falun Gong as political and persecuting it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Party banned Falun Gong and began arresting people; when adherents protested, Jiang Zemin could say: “See, I told you they are political.”
Finally, even if Falun Gong is political, what’s wrong with that? That is certainly not grounds for persecution in any free society or else many of us would be in serious trouble. Only under authoritarian rule the Communist Party’s, a regime that tolerates no competing ideology, can being political be perceived as a crime.
Source: Falun Dafa Information Center