On a blazing and humid July day in Washington, D.C., approximately 1,500 Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters stood together to condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ongoing persecution of the peaceful spiritual discipline Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a mind-and-body practice rooted in ancient Chinese self-cultivation traditions. Through meditation and living according to the tenets of truth, compassion, and forbearance, practitioners elevate their moral standards and discover inner peace. Immensely popular in the 1990s, Falun Gong spread throughout the world where it has taken root on nearly every continent. Yet, like all that represents traditional Chinese culture, Falun Gong has come under attack during the CCP’s 70-year regime.
Faced with brutal assault on their characters and persons, the approximately 100 million practitioners fought back with grassroots “truth-clarification” campaigns—distributing pamphlets and homemade DVDs to inform neighbors and the broader community about Falun Gong and the baseless persecution. At the core of the effort is the belief that the only antidote to slander is the truth—it has been the faith’s modus operandi since 1999, when the crackdown began, and has remained remarkably consistent.
The scene is familiar to Washington, D.C., and most metropolises: men and women in yellow t-shirts, carrying banners that read “Falun Dafa is Good” and “The World Needs Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance,” or bearing photos of those who have passed away in the oppression. Capitol Hill was conspicuously absent of the annual activities last year, due to the Wuhan virus pandemic.
Alan Adler, executive director of Friends of Falun Gong, opened the event by acknowledging the fact that though there was no assembly in 2020, the persecution—and efforts to stop it—never waned.
“Even during the pandemic, the CCP has not halted its misdeeds,” Adler said. “Minghui.org confirmed that in the first half of this year, 667 Falun Gong practitioners were sentenced to prison for their faith. Last year in March and April alone, the website also recorded nearly 2,000 cases of state-sanctioned arrest or harassment. But practitioners have continued to spread the truth.”
Representatives from NGOs and advocacy groups spoke at the rally.
Andrew Bremberg, Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, and president of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, mentioned that the U.S. is considering harsher sanctions against the perpetrators of forced organ harvesting. This proposed legislation would not have been possible without the many years of advocacy and research by dedicated supporters of Falun Gong and human rights.
Wendy Wright, president of Christian Freedom International, stated that it is not enough to penalize the perpetrators of forced organ harvesting, but we must also deter those “who are benefitting from the organ harvesting—those who take advantage of medical tourism.”
Freedom House’s Annie Boyajian highlighted the persecution’s extension into oppression of other groups, such as “other religious believers, lawyers, political dissidents, labor leaders, grassroots activists, and even regular internet users.” She mentioned the worsening situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang as examples.
USCIRF Supervisory Analyst Kurt Werthmuller remarked on his organization’s efforts to bring more government attention to the threat the CCP poses to religious freedom: “Since our very first annual report 21 years ago, USCIRF has consistently recommended that the State Department designate China as a ‘country of particular concern,’ or CPC, and we have urged the U.S. government to take consequential actions to hold the Chinese government accountable. We continue to urge the U.S. government to pursue a multilateral approach as well, working together with international partners to expose the CCP’s abuses and to impose targeted sanctions against Chinese officials and entities responsible for religious freedom violations.”
Executive Director of Save the Persecuted Christians, Dede Laugesen, gave an impassioned and heartfelt message to the Falun Gong practitioners present. “It is your family members … an entire community that has been sorely oppressed—disgustingly so. You first began to tell the world of your sorrows in the early part of this millennium,” she said. “You have been the heroic witnesses standing here and telling your stories no matter the threats from the wolf warriors. … But you will not be silent, and we won’t be silent either.”