BERLINER ZEITUNG: (German Newspaper) Silent Protest on the bridge

BERLINER ZEITUNG: Falun Gong practitioners protest with their exercises against the persecution in China
(German newspaper)

By Stefan Melle, August 21, 2001
(Excerpt)

For over a month now, posters line the centre railings of Jannowitzbruecke (Jannowitz Bridge). Protected by a plastic sheath, a number informs passers-by of the latest numbers of deaths. Every few days, the numerals are changed with a felt marker to denote the climbing numbers. The numbers show how many of the more than 70 million Falun Gong practitioners in China have died at the hands of Beijing’s government enforcers. The number is larger than 250, so say the Falun Gong practitioners who have erected a tent and set up a table on the bridge.

“We get the latest information from Chinese relatives’ letters, from incarcerated persons or from the Internet,” says 47-year-old Wolfgang Blau who has participated in this effort for weeks now. The railings display photographs of those murdered, framed in plastic flowers. In spite of their protest efforts, Mr. Blau and his co-protesters see themselves as non-political. Oblivious to the loud traffic noises, they are pursuing the ancient Chinese qiqong exercises. They close their eyes and slowly move their arms around their bodies. When doing Falun Gong it is not only the body that calms down. It is good for the soul also, says he, and so it is also written in the books by the former provincial government employee, Li Hongzhi [..].

In contrast to Mrs. Yi Wang-Hammelgarn, the organizer of the protest on the Jannowitz Bridge, Mr. Wolfgang Blau is new to Berlin. Mr. Blau, originally from the Palatinate in Germany, came to Berlin at the beginning of July, recently arrived from New York where he had worked as an artisan interior painter. It was in New York that he learned Falun Gong at a health fair. [..]

Jannowitz Bridge was not a chance location for the practitioners. The site is across the street from the Chinese Consulate [..]. This consulate is located in the building of the former Union headquarters of the old Communist Sector of Berlin’s Germany, behind a high fence, darkened windows and displaying plaster-of-Paris lions at the gate. Up until now the diplomats have not reacted to the goings-on across the street from their front door. They also refused to receive a letter, which 150 Falun Gong practitioners attempted to deliver to the consulate on July 21st, exactly to the day when, two years ago, Beijing authorities arrested the first Falun Gong practitioner.

The Chinese Consulate’s homepage displays a polemic message from the party organ “Remin Ribao.” And in a conversation, one of the diplomats [……] added that he knows nothing about persecution of those people in China, only about his country’s government’s diligent and above board work and labours.

The police issued a citation at the beginning of this action [on the bridge], because one of the placards displayed a swastika. But the Falun Gong practitioners were able to prove that the swastika is not a symbol of fascism, but instead an old Asiatic symbol of luck and fruitfulness. “The hooks are pointing in the exact opposite directions,” said Mr. Blau.
[…]

Gudrun Seyffert of the local school administration is the one dealing with questions about sects. She estimates the Berlin group to be a small one – at most a few hundred people. She had not yet had a single report of anyone having suffered any damage from this group. Nobody has even made any claims or asked any questions about them. Marion Gorek’ is the Berlin contact person for the Falun Gong group, listed in their newspaper. Her estimate of the group is even more conservative, maybe 25-30, who get together to perform the exercises in parks – in Tempelhof, the Zoo (Tiergarten) and Friedrichshain.

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