After the Communist Party launched its ferocious campaign against Falun Gong in 1999, many Chinese people feared speaking out against the abductions, torture, and killing taking place around them, even if they felt Falun Gong practitioners were good people being wrongfully persecuted.
Now this is changing.
A growing number of ordinary people across China are signing their names to petitions calling on the government to release a neighbor imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong or otherwise redress an injustice against him. The Falun Dafa Information Center is aware of at least 19 such petitions initiated over the past three years. But the phenomenon has gained remarkable momentum since early 2011, despite the ongoing risks to those who break a Communist Party taboo.
A petition signed and thumbprinted by 15,000 Chinese calls for justice over the death in custody of a Falun Gong practitioner in Heilongjiang (The Epoch Times)
Such public advocacy for Falun Gong comes on the heels of 13 years of practitioners persistently using creative, courageous, and peaceful ways to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda against them and explain to fellow Chinese the reality of the persecution. As more Chinese come to see how the persecution threatens their own freedoms, they are speaking out against the injustices, be they lawyers, villagers, or even police officers.
As evident from the wording on the petitions themselves, central to the villagers’ appeal is the fact that the Falun Gong practitioners arrested were known as kind, generous members of the community. Also notable is how many people have signed with their real names, as well as thumbprints in red ink, a practice that has historically been used in China to make legal documents official.
In an indication of the appeals' broader importance, in May 2012, reports surfaced that a petition with 300 signatures and thumbprints had been circulated among top-level Communist Party officials. (news) The petition, one source revealed, had stirred fierce debate at the highest levels of the Party with some officials advocating a peaceful end to the Falun Gong persecution campaign waged by the regime since 1999.
Thousands petition for justice
The following are three recent examples of such petitions. Links to other such documents can be found in the column to the right.
June 2011 - Jilin province
On June 17, 2011, dozens of villagers signed a petition (see photo) to the government of Jilin city urging the release of fellow villager, 59-year-old Mr. Liu Zhichen, who had been detained for practicing Falun Gong.
"It is well-known that he [Mr. Liu] is a good person. He has been helping his fellow villagers all of these years…," says the petition. "The villagers hope that officials from the Jilin City government will help get Mr. Liu released."
August 2011 - Hebei province
On August 12, 2011, over 1,500 people in Qinhuangdao signed a petition titled “How Will You Treat This Public Opinion.” It calls on the authorities to release Mr. Zhou Xiangyang, a 38-year-old Falun Gong practitioner being held at Binhai Prison in Tianjin and reportedly in poor health due to torture.
Over 2,000 people signed a petition calling for the release of Zhou Xiangyang (left); his wife Li Shanshan (right) was sent to a labor camp for helping collect the signatures
“We look forward to seeing that Zhou Xiangyang is released, and that those who applied the ‘floor anchor’ torture in Gangbei Prison are investigated and dealt with according to law,” says the petition.
According to Amnesty International, as news of the appeal spread, more people signed onto the original petition for Zhou, with the total reaching over 2,300 signatures.
June 2012 - Heilongjiang province
In May and June 2012, at least 15,000 people in northeast China signed a petition (see photo above) voicing support for a young woman's demand that Chinese authorities investigate the death of her father, Qin Yueming, a well-known Falun Gong practitioner who was killed at Jiamusi prison in February 2011.
“As a [young] girl I do not have money nor do I have power,” wrote 23-year old Qin Rongqian in her petition asking others to support her appeal. “But I believe in justice and the Chinese people’s moral values. How can those who have power jail and murder ordinary people at will?”