United States: Friends of Falun Gong USA Board Member Ambassador Mark Palmer Gives Radio Interview on Persecution of Falun Gong

On Wednesday, July 16, 2003 Friends of Falun Gong USA Board Member, Ambassador Mark Palmer gave a radio interview about the repression of Falun Gong in China to the Batchelor and Alexander Show, 770 AM, WABC, New York's #1 rated night-time talk show. The show is broadcast nationally over the ABC Radio network, which has more than 4,600 affiliated radio stations and reaches 129 million people each week. The text of the thirteen-minute interview follows. The interview was re-aired Saturday night, July 19.

Mr. Palmer, when describing Jiang Zemin's repression of Falun Gong said, "...he is engaging in a human rights crime which is equivalent to what Saddam Hussein and Milosevic [did]. This is a real bad actor by any legal and moral standard. What's happening to the Falun Gong is simply a crime against humanity... Milosevic went to trial in the Hague, I think Jiang Zemin needs to be brought to trial if he won't cooperate in introducing democracy and tolerance in China."

John Batchelor: We're very pleased to be joined by Ambassador Mark Palmer, who has served and survived five administrations, sometimes in the state department, and sometimes looking in, as if he was in the state department, and he's joining us tonight as the founding member of the Friends of Falun Gong, from Washington. Mark, good evening to you.

Mark Palmer: Good evening to you, it's a pleasure to be with you.

John Batchelor: We rush to you Mark because through the SARS crisis we learnt that the explanation that the People's Republic of China's tyranny, that is, their central committee in Beijing had for why SARS was a crisis is this, and the dateline here is June 5th. Reuters: China has detained 180 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group for spreading rumours and recruiting new followers amid the SARS epidemic, state radio said. The practitioners were all arrested in the northern province of Hebei, it reported. Police officials were not immediately available for comment. And the quote from the official state radio is "They," the Falun Gong members, "spread doomsday theories in a bid to cause panic in society and claimed that the SARS outbreak in China was a warning to those who persecute and hate the Falun Dafa." Mark, we come to you for an explanation of how 1.3 billion people are ruled by a tyranny that manages to explain the SARS epidemic by the doomsday spreading of rumours-of which we did plenty on this show because SARS is scary-by the Falun Gong. Who is Falun Gong and why do these people, these 180 people frighten the central committee in Beijing?

Mark Palmer: Well, Falun Gong is a spiritual movement. It's based on ancient Buddhist and Taoist traditions of exercise. Anybody who's seen people do Tai Chi in a park in San Francisco or other places in the United States including Central Park in New York knows that these are classic exercise movements designed to improve your health and your spiritual well being. It is the largest single movement in China according to official Chinese media. A few years ago there were upwards of a hundred million members-people practising Falun Gong-therefore significantly more than the membership of the Chinese Communist Party.

Paul Alexander: What is the origin of Falun Gong? Where did it come from? Who invented it?

Mark Palmer: Well its leader is Li Hongzhi, who actually lives in New York City. There was a movement in the eighties, particularly, of these exercises throughout China, and he formulated his own approach to this and added his own view of spirituality and health, and in 1992 he launched the movement formally in China and it just swept like wildfire, and brought into it people within the party, the police, the military, peasants, workers. It's an incredible movement, and it's still very vibrant and alive not only in China but in this country.

Paul Alexander: Yes, in the United States as well. Why exactly is Falun Gong such a threat to the Chinese Regime?

Mark Palmer: Because any organised movement that they don't control is seen by them as a threat, and that shows how weak they really are and how vulnerable they really are. They see the Catholic Church as a threat, they see Muslims as a threat, and they see Falun Gong, because it's the largest spiritual movement, as a threat.

[...]

Paul Alexander: But Mr. Ambassador, this isn't a religious movement, I could understand why that would threaten the Chinese regime, this is like, I don't want to compare it to Yoga because there is a spiritual quality to it, but it has the same sort of effect, it's an uplifting and inwardly directed activity. I don't understand why...

Mark Palmer: You're exactly right, it's entirely peaceful, they never say anything, that is, their movements are silent. What really got this going was on April 25, 1999, ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners showed up at the appeals office in Beijing, and the security forces didn't know they were coming, didn't alert the leadership of China, and the appeals office is right next to Zhongnanhai, the part of the forbidden city where the leaders live. So they literally woke up one morning, looked out their window, and they saw these ten thousand people in peaceful rows, if you've ever seen them do their...

Paul Alexander: I have actually, I have friends who practise Falun Gong.

Mark Palmer: Then you know, ten thousand of the them peacefully out there doing their movements was to some of the Chinese leadership a completely normal and acceptable thing, and Zhu Rongji, who was the premier actually went out and joined them and said to them we would be pleased to register your movement and we will not ban you. But Jiang Zemin, who is the real dictator, got in his car with coloured windows and toured around and thought, no, this is the greatest threat we've seen and he compared it to Solidarity in Poland, which also of course was a peaceful movement, but brought down the communists, and I think that Jiang Zemin still believes that this movement can introduce democracy and tolerance into China and he doesn't want that.

[...]

John Batchelor: Lets emphasise Mark, lets emphasise for people who have read Falun Gong's name in a headline somewhere and have never read the next paragraph, and who hear persecution, that this is not the Moonie cult that it's represented to be. This is spiritual exercise by mostly middle aged and elderly people, can you generalise that the age group for this is older people?

Mark Palmer: No, I think there are lots of younger practitioners also, many millions of young people.

John Batchelor: All right, however, there is no obedience that is associated with the Moonies, there is no cultism that associated with the Maoists. What this is is spiritual exercises, generally from what I've seen, in the morning, and in American terms, it could not be more harmless. This is about getting up at 5:30 in the morning to do exercises: to follow the woman or man in leotards on the television.

Mark Palmer: No that's exactly right, and in terms of their spiritual practise their completely apolitical. They have been forced to become more active politically because of the repression. I mean it's important for people to understand that Jiang Zemin, in his persecution of Falun Gong has literally murdered something in the range of ten thousand women and young men.

Paul Alexander: For practising Falun Gong?

Mark Palmer: Yes!

Paul Alexander: Ten thousand people?

Mark Palmer: And over one hundred thousand have been in camps. I mean, he is engaging in a human rights crime, which is equivalent to what Saddam Hussein and Milosevic [did]. This is a real bad actor by any legal and moral standard. What's happening to the Falun Gong is simply a crime against humanity.

[...]

John Batchelor: Can we do some numbers Mark? We're speaking with Ambassador Mark Palmer, who is the founding member of the Friends of Falun Gong. How many people does your organisation believe are in jail in China right now, in the camps because of practising Falun Gong?

Mark Palmer: Upwards of a hundred thousand.

John Batchelor: And how many do you believe have been allowed to die-persecuted to death?

Mark Palmer: Not just allowed to die, but who've been tortured to death, starved to death, I think in the range of ten thousand.

John Batchelor: Ten thousand. That you lay to the Central Committee of the People's Republic of China.

Mark Palmer: Particularly to Jiang Zemin. This is a man who individually made this decision and he tries to hide behind his party and his ideology and Communism, and I don't think we should tolerate that anymore. We know from one dictator after another that these are individual decisions of the dictators. This is his decision, he went against many other people in his own politburo who did not want to do this to the Falun Gong, some of whom even practised the Falun Gong or had relatives who practised the Falun Gong. So we need to hold him accountable. I don't believe in this sort of obscuring individual responsibility.

John Batchelor: Alright, and I want to point out that there is a website here for people who want to inquire further. Its Friends of Falun Gong, which is www.fofg.org, is that correct Mark?

Mark Palmer: Right, it's a very good website.

John Batchelor: www.fofg.org, a way to start the education. [...]

Mark Palmer: Thank you.

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