Belgium: Falun Gong Spokesperson's Speech at an Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and gentlemen:

I wish to thank Institute of Religion and Public Policy for organizing this important conference and for giving me this opportunity to speak about the Falun Gong spiritual movement and its plight in Communist China. As you may know, the Chinese regime’s persecution against Falun Gong has gone on for over five years. For those who have had to face it, the repression has been relentless, violent, and systematic.

Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese way of life. As a meditation system, it was first introduced to the public in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi. This meditation includes five sets of gentle-moving exercises, which harness and purify one’s energy so that it is in harmony with nature; the teaching is free and its activities voluntary. Several clinical studies by the Government have reported that routine exercise of Falun Gong is beneficial to health. According to these reports, the healing rate for most diseases has reached as high as 95%.

The U.S. News and World Report ran a story in February, 1999, in which an official from the China Sports Commission said, “Falun Gong and other types of qi gong can save each person 1,000 Yuan in annual medical fees. If 100 million people are practicing it, that’s 100 billion Yuan saved per year in medical fees. Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that. The country could use the money right now.” That comes out to more than ten billion U.S. dollars a year – no small sum.

In 1998, the Chinese Government statistics showed that there were 70 to 100 million people practicing Falun Gong. Its practitioners were from all walks of life, all ages, and of all geographic areas. Until July 1999, the Chinese Government had been promoting Falun Gong for 7 years and credited it for its “health benefits and contribution to society with high moral virtues.” As a result, the Chinese Government had issued numerous certificates of honors to Falun Gong and to its founder.

Another aspect, and perhaps the most important element, of Falun Gong is its spiritual component—the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. In persecuting Falun Gong, the Communist Party is also hacking away at thousands of years of Chinese intellectual history. In these principles of Falun Gong, we can hear the “Zhen” or Truthfulness of Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, and the “Shan” or Compassion from Buddhism, and “Ren” or Forbearance taught by Confucius. We can hear thousands of years of Chinese way of life and spiritual thought in the ideas of the union of mind and body, the retribution of karma and virtue, and of how the spirit continues on after death. These are not new ideas; they are ideas that have permeated the Chinese culture, and indeed many other cultures, for as long as anyone can remember. These are the ideas that form the bedrock of human faith. Just because these ideas have been suppressed in China for the past 50 years doesn’t mean that they have not stood, or will not stand, the test of time. In fact, the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance embedded in Falun Gong represent the essence of Chinese culture. Dr. Franz Susman, Professor for Catholic Church History in Austria, has noted: “Just like the most successful group of philosophers 2,000 years ago – the Buddhist-Pythagorean Essences – the Falun Gong movement today is the biggest hope of mankind, because the teachings and life are in harmony.”

Yet, the rapid growing popularity of Falun Gong made Jiang Zemin, former China’s President, feel threatened, as the 100 million Falun Gong practitioners had outnumbered the Communist Party membership (estimated around 40 million at that time). In addition, over the past 50 years, the Communist ideology, which was imported from the former Soviet Union, has always been clashing with the traditional Chinese culture and values. For example, the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s destroyed virtually all Buddhist temples, churches, and cultural relics; the political campaign against Confucius in the 1970s denounced classic Chinese philosophers; and now this persecution of Falun Gong in 1999 began the worse nightmare for the Chinese people, because their hope to return to their cultural roots was once again tramped upon. Such systematic crackdowns have always been brutal and violent. Jiang Zemin feared that the revival of the traditional Chinese culture such as Falun Gong would undermine the atheist Communist dictatorship.

Every era has its defining moments, its defining movements. I believe that the Falun Gong issue in China is precisely one of those issues that will affect the legacy of mankind today. Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Advocacy Director, T. Kumar, said: “Tens and thousands of Falun Gong members were arrested by the Chinese purely because they were practicing their own belief. These are the people who are ordinary citizens of China. They never harmed anyone… they are not criminals…. It’s shocking to see that China can get away with this for the past one year… arresting, imprisoning, torturing and harassing even the people who speak out against these crackdowns.”

Human rights groups have reported that over 100,000 people have been sent to labor re-education camps without trial, at least 1,000 have been given harsh jail sentences of up to 18 years, and more than 1,000 persons have died due to torture in police custody. And these are only the cases that have been reported and confirmed.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There are countless eyewitness accounts of the tortures and humiliations that practitioners have been subject to over the past year while behind closed doors in detention camps. Police are using some of the most inhumane tortures, such as sticking bamboo slivers under the fingernails and the device known as “Dilao” whereby prisoners are chained down in the most excruciating positions. They have sent over 1,000 completely healthy, normal people into mental institutions, where they keep the practitioners quiet by injecting them with nerve-damaging drugs and sedatives.

Women have been particularly targeted in this campaign of persecution. For example, pregnant women have been subjected to forced late-stage abortion, as late as 8 months pregnancy, rather than be released from jail to give birth to their child. In police or government custody, female practitioners have suffered from a variety of sexual assaults, such as being stripped naked and thrown into jail cells with male criminals, widespread use of electric stun devices to penetrate and shock genitalia, rape, and gang rape.

Yet the Falun Gong practitioners in China are still holding strong. Apart from their amazing stamina, what is remarkable about this whole situation is that the practitioners have maintained a stance of non-violence throughout -- they simply don’t fight back. They know that one cannot fight evil with evil. Scholars have noted that never has China seen such a sustained and peaceful resistance in all its years of history. And all these people want to tell the Government is that Falun Gong is a great Chinese cultural heritage, and that the Government should not deny their constitutional right to freedom of conscience, expression, and association.

Spiritual faith is an anchor when everything else turns murky and the currents are pulling everyone in every direction. China today needs nothing more than it needs moral values and a sense of meaning in life that goes beyond the material, and that, I think we all agree, is something that the Chinese Communist dictatorship is not providing.

To justify its human rights violations, China tries to portray Falun Gong as a “cult” and a “controversial” issue. But in reality, Falun Gong is a moral issue, and an issue to protect ancient Chinese cultural heritage. This is also about human dignity – about protecting individual’s right to freedom of conscience, expression, and association. Time and time again in history, we have seen that to not stand up to evil is to betray the good, and that injustice for one is injustice for all.

Falun Gong practitioners around the world have sued the man who is responsible for this bloodshed – the dictator of China, Jiang Zemin -- for torture, genocide, and crimes against humanity. At the current time, lawsuits around the world have been a real deterrent for those carrying out Jiang’s orders and have seemed to help prevent some incidents of torture and abuse inside Mainland China.

The Chinese regime claims its human rights record is improving and they try to prove that by playing the game of hostage diplomacy with the international community, releasing a dissident here, another there. Let us not be fooled. We must see through the insidious nature of this persecution. The mind control and methods of indoctrination and brainwashing are no less terrifying than those depicted in George Orwell’s classic depiction of Communism, 1984. The filth, the pain, the screams are all real.

There are brave individuals who have defied this evil system. Chinese army Dr. Jiang Yanyong risked his life in telling the true stories of SARS to the foreign press last year. And US citizen Dr. Charles Li is now serving a 3-year sentence in a Chinese jail for the “crime” of intending to expose the persecution of Falun Gong in China. A Shanghai-based US Consulate official said that Dr. Li has been physically tortured, forced to attend brainwashing classes, and do forced labor in jail.

Genocide doesn’t merely depend on the numbers of people who are killed – it depends on an intent and a system to exterminate a group of people. Jiang Zemin has expressed that intent since 1999 and he has set up a vast network of operatives and media and police to do his bidding. On the surface, things may seem calm and business as usual in Chinese society, but the truth is, the lives of millions of Chinese men, women, and children are being destroyed right before our very eyes. Every time an employee is fired from his job for his beliefs, every time a neighbor turns in a Falun Gong practitioner to the police, every time a child is forced by his teachers to denounce Falun Gong so that he may stay in school, the society becomes that much more corrupt and rotten. There are few in China who has not been affected by this persecution in some way.

The world has already spoken out against China’s brutal persecution of Falun Gong. Members of democratic society have condemned China’s brutal persecution of Falun Gong. The U.S. Congress and the European Parliament, for example, have specifically passed resolutions calling on China to stop the persecution of Falun Gong and supporting the human rights of Falun Gong.

We appreciate very much the kind support over the past five years from the international community including from many governments and NGOs such as Amnesty International, etc. We hope that participants at this conference will also lend your support and help stop this modern-day atrocity in China.

Today, I will end with this thought – that regardless of how difficult things may be, every time a person decides to stand up for what is right, no matter what the consequences, that person brings in courage and light. That may ultimately be the best weapon against evil and darkness that we can all carry with us in our hearts at all times.

Thank you very much.

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