April 25, 2017 was the 18th anniversary of approximately 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners peacefully protesting to the central government in Beijing. I was lucky enough to be one of those who experienced that extraordinary moment in Chinese history.
Practitioners from different provinces, various social classes, and multiple generations all stood quietly outside of the appeals office near the government compound for 12 hours. Though standing there from morning until night, no one complained or felt scared. There was no preaching, no shouting, nor any banners displayed. While waiting, some silently studied the Falun Gong books or practised the exercises. The whole group was surrounded by an atmosphere of serenity and solidarity.
I began to practise Falun Gong in 1995. In 1999, I went to Beijing to stay with my daughter and take care of her newborn baby. Two neighbours of my in-laws were Falun Gong practitioners. They took me with them to study the Fa every night and practice the exercises in the park every morning.
Proudly Joining the Peaceful Protest
The night before the April 25 event, the local coordinator told us that there was no morning practice the next day because practitioners from nearby Tianjin were coming to Beijing to appeal for the right to practice Falun Gong, and for the release of 45 of their fellow practitioners who had been arrested. We were welcomed to support them.
We thought that we needed to join the appeal to protect Falun Gong's reputation and uphold our right to freedom of belief.
But that day (April 25) was also my granddaughter’s first month birthday, and a big celebration was planned. I then talked to my family and convinced them to let me join the appeal in Beijing.
At 6:00 a.m., three local practitioners and I left together. We arrived close to the central appeals office, which was next to Zhongnanhai (the central Government compound of the Chinese Communist Party). A police officer then directed us toward Fuyou Street.
Practitioners From All Over the Country
More practitioners began showing up, and everyone stood on the pavement facing Zhongnanhai. Most of us did not know each other. We silently nodded our heads in acknowledgement, or asked in a low voice: “Where are you from?” Everyone was standing quietly or reading.
Then I heard the sound of applause for the Prime Minister. He was on the way to his office and saw the large gathering. He asked us not to worry and chose representatives to come inside the compound to have a talk.
Fellow practitioners around me were from Henan province, Zhengzhou, Baoding, Qinhuangdao, Tianjin, Handan and Beijing.
One Beijing practitioner in her 50’s was confronted by her family who asked her to go home with them. She calmly said that she came to appeal to the government with the truth about Falun Gong, and that there was nothing to be afraid of; it was not a bad deed! She insisted on staying.
Orderly Behaviour, and Peaceful Resolution
There was a public restroom not far away from our spot. I saw practitioners waiting in line there. There was no crowd, no loud voices and no one needed to maintain order.
At 11:00 a.m., Beijing practitioners, in several groups, came to pick up discarded items, such as paper scraps, water bottles and cigarette butts left by police officers. They held big bags and walked back and forth to collect trash. So the main road and pavements were very clean.
Five representatives were allowed to go inside Zhongnanhai at lunch time. After 2:00 p.m., police officers walked back and forth in the middle of the road asking us to disband. But we stayed to wait for the news from our representatives. After 5:00 p.m., another three representatives were allowed to go inside Zhongnanhai to talk.
In the evening, there was news that the government would respond to us, and we were asked to leave. So, in a short while, the crowd quietly dispersed like a gentle breeze.
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