It began in the middle of the night, July 20, 1999. Across China under the veil of darkness, police dragged hundreds of ordinary people from their beds. Many would be taken to holding centers and jails, others beaten, and some would die from torture.
Walking down the streets of Chinatown or witnessing a Falun Gong parade in recent years, one may have encountered signs referring to “X million people have quit the Chinese Communist Party.” What does this mean? What does it have to do with Falun Gong? Why has it not been more widely reported?
Large numbers of Chinese citizens detained for practicing Falun Gong continue to die because of brutality suffered at police stations, labor camps and prisons across China, says a new Falun Dafa Information Center report released Thursday. Drawing on both Chinese and international sources, the report, titled “Killed for Their Belief: Falun Gong Deaths from Abuse in 2009,” documents the deaths of 96 Falun Gong practitioners in 2009.
Among the thousands of reporters, athletes, and spectators arriving this week for the Beijing Olympics, most have likely heard of Falun Gong and the Communist Party’s often brutal campaign to crush it. But what few realize is the extent to which the violence meted out against these peaceful religious believers has in some cases taken place within walking distance of Olympic venues, hotels, and prominent landmarks.
Much of our information begins on the ground, with eye-witness sources in China or victims themselves of rights abuses. This is a network tens of millions large, involving the full body of adherents as well as family, friends, and those close to them. Volumes of emails, faxes, and phone calls from this contingency reach us or our affiliates every day...
Chinese people are getting fed up, and stating so publicly. Generations of Chinese have had to live in fear and under persecution. First it was the landowners. Then it was the artists, musicians, intellectuals, and the Buddhists. Eventually it was the Falun Gong’s turn. It seems that every few years a different whim has driven China’s Communist Party to deem another group “counter-revolutionary” or a “threat to social stability,” and imprison and kill them. Now, the regime that claims to belong to “the people” has been abandoned by 37 million of those very people.
The excessive caution many people show with respect to Falun Gong has the same source as the non-appearance of politicians when the Dalai Lama visits. That source is fear of what the Chinese authorities may do to them. For an American like myself, probably the worst possible is a harassing phone call from the Chinese embassy or denial of a visa. Since my research is about China, I value the opportunity to go there. But I do not believe that a free person in a free country should act differently than they would be inclined to, out of fear of a foreign autocracy. But many do.
It is an idea with staying power. A belief as old as Chinese civilization itself, having resonated with a stunning range of dynasties, provinces, and personalities. To generations has it spoken. In the very substrate of China’s culture is it firmly embedded.