Nine years ago, on April 25, 1999, in order to appeal for justice for Falun Gong and its practitioners and to ask for an open cultivation environment, around 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners went to peacefully report and clarify the facts to the government in good faith, and requested the government to stop the unfair treatment of practitioners by those who had ulterior motives. This led to the "April 25" incident.
I was a participant and a witness of the "April 25" incident. Although many practitioners have already reported about this incident objectively and truthfully, I still would like to write down my own experience and tell what I saw and heard at that time.
The Cause of the "April 25" incident
On April 24, 1999, reliable news from Tianjin said that the Public Security Bureau in Tianjin City unlawfully arrested many Falun Gong practitioners under the direction of higher authorities. Earlier, He Zuoxiu published an article entitled "I do not agree with adolescents practising qigong" in the magazine Science and Technology for Youth in Tianjin. The article used base and shameless means to attack Falun Gong with fabricated stories, slander and false accusations and to vilify Falun Gong and its founder. The magazine is a nation-wide publication for primary and high school students. Due to the coercive subscription imposed by administrations at various levels, the magazine has a large distribution. He Zuoxiu's article was very misleading and had a very adverse impact upon the great number of readers who did not know the facts, and it was especially poisonous to the minds of young people. At the same time, it had brought some very negative effects to Falun Gong. Seeing the adverse situation, many practitioners became very concerned.
I would like to point out that He Zuoxiu's article had a deep political background and purpose. He is known to be an academician from the Chinese Science Academy, and is engaged in science research. However, his academic level is very inferior. He used to engage in political affairs in the Chinese Energy Research Institute (currently known as Chinese Research Institute of Nuclear Energy), and he is the brother-in-law of Luo Gan, the then Minister of Public Security of the Communist regime. Luo Gan is the very political opportunist who had long harboured a desire to suppress Falun Gong. Because Falun Gong is very righteous, Luo Gan could not find anything he could use as an excuse to defame Falun Gong no matter how hard he tried. He tried every means, by hook or by crook, to provoke incidents, and He Zuoxiu acted as his willing accomplice. The Ministry of Public Security had issued many internal documents, assigned people and planted them as agents among Falun Gong practitioners, in an attempt to investigate Falun Gong, check out how many people were practising, the number of practice sites, who were the "organisers," if Falun Gong charged fees, how they contacted each other, what materials they used, and more. In their documents, it was made very clear that they would ban the practice first, then collect evidence to support the ban. The National Security Section (formerly called the Political Security Section) of the local Public Security Bureau where I live contacted me many times, and the local police also asked me for a list of names of Falun Gong practitioners (I never gave it to them). Many incidents took place around the country in which the police harassed people at practice sites, dispersed practitioners, seized tape recorders, or used high-pressure hoses to hose down practitioners. Several newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations openly distorted the image of the Falun Gong practice. He Zuoxiu alone made false accusations in his speeches on numerous occasions. He rushed around to inflame and agitate people, trying to stir up incidents. Many practitioners went to talk to him and told him the facts, but he would not listen and went from bad to worse in slandering Falun Gong. He was a political club in Luo Gan's hand to attack and suppress Falun Gong.
When He's article was published, many practitioners in Tianjin, feeling responsible to society and Dafa, started to call or write to the magazine to clarify the facts. Some also went there in person to request that the magazine correct their false report. Because there were so many people calling, the phone became really busy and many calls could not get through, so more and more people decided to go to the office in person. During the whole process, the authorities of the magazine never gave people a clear answer nor did they take an equivocal position. They kept going back on their own words. As the magazine's office was located in a school where other work units shared the same space, when there were many people gathering there, it would inevitably have an impact on other work units (it was said that several thousand people went to appeal at the time). Being anxious about any possible incident, the school called the Bureau of Public Security in Tianjin to send personnel to intervene. As a result, on April 24, 1999, an incident took place in which the police came to disperse people. They used clubs, high-pressure water guns and handcuffs to hit practitioners and they arrested more than forty practitioners. This incident directly caused a large number of practitioners to gather together, and many went to appeal at the Tianjin Municipality. As the incident expanded, departments concerned started to shift blame onto each other. In the end, the Bureau of Public Security and the Tianjin Municipality told Falun Gong practitioners, "We cannot take responsibility for this matter. Go to Beijing, the Ministry of Public Security already knows about this." This is what triggered the "April 25" incident.
The Group of Falun Gong Practitioners Is A Pure Land
I arrived at the south end of Fuyou Street in Beijing around 8:00 a.m. on April 25. There was a desk in the north-west corner of the footpath, where two or three policemen were sitting around and chatting with one another. Clearly, they had been assigned to be on duty there. A few practitioners and I walked along the footpath on the east side of the street towards the north, hoping to go to the west entrance of the State Council to directly report the incident to the reception office and to ask for the release of our fellow practitioners who had been unlawfully arrested. We would also request that such incidents never happen again and that Falun Gong practitioners be given an open and non-threatening environment in which to practice. We wanted to tell the state leaders how beautiful our lives had become through practising Falun Gong. At the same time, we wanted to warn the government to guard against a small number of people with ulterior motives who aimed to use Falun Gong for their own political gains. We were thinking about how to explain this to the government as we walked along. When we were about three or four hundred meters from the west entrance of the State Council, a young lady walked out from a group of people standing on the west side of the street. She crossed the street and walked toward us. She asked us with a smile, "May I know if you are fellow practitioners who have come to appeal?" I did not say anything for fear that she would stop us. One practitioner who came with us told her, "We are from xx district, we are here to appeal." The young lady said, "If that is the case, then please join us in the group." I said, "We will go to the reception office of the State Council to report the situation. We did not come to stand in a group." The young lady said, "I understand how you feel. Now that we are here, we are one body. We have all come for the same purpose. We have the same Master and cultivate the same Fa. We need to consider Dafa and the image as one body, and must not let bad people take advantage of any loophole." I immediately said, "Yes, you are right." Then we followed her and joined the appealing group of practitioners.
The number of practitioners increased rapidly. When we joined in, there were already three rows, stretching to four or five hundred metres long. Soon afterwards, another row was added and the gathering became wider and longer. Later, even the side lanes were crowded with people sitting by either side. Many were elderly people. At that point, some people suggested that we let the young people stand in the front four rows so that the elderly practitioners could sit down in the back. It was a very touching scene to see practitioners showing such respect to each other. From time to time, there would be a reminder passed along from the front rows: Please keep quiet and try not to move about too much. One young man was holding a poster board with characters: Quiet. Do not move about. He walked quietly back and forth in the gathering.
After lunch time, there was much litter that needed to be taken away. A few older practitioners bought some big black bags and walked around to collect litter and put it in the rubbish bins on the roadside. However, most practitioners put their litter in their own bags. People picked up every piece of litter where they were, even the cigarette butts thrown down by the police. When passers-by saw this, they said with admiration: "Falun Gong is truly a field of pure land."
The Police Officers Wanted to Read the Book Zhuan Falun
As the number of practitioners increased, the number of policemen and their cars also increased, and all the major intersections in Beijing set up check points. By around 11:00 a.m., buses driving past Zhongnanhai (the central government compound) and Fuyou Street were cancelled, and road entrances all had check points to question people who came to appeal. There was a police van parked near where I was, and five or six policemen were standing around. In the beginning, they looked rather tense and kept staring at practitioners. Later, they became more relaxed and started chatting and joking with us. At around 2:00 p.m., one of them, a relatively tall and overweight officer walked towards me. He stopped when he was about one and a half metre away and asked, "You are the group leader, aren't you?" I said, "We don't have any leaders. We are all Falun Gong practitioners." He then asked, " What is Falun Gong? Did you come here to practise Falun Gong?" I told him, "Falun Gong is a cultivation practice of the Buddha School. It can help people get rid of illnesses and become healthy. Most importantly it teaches people to be good people. We did not come here to practice Falun Gong, but to report to the appeal office of the State Council about the incident in Tianjin where the Bureau of Public Security beat and arrested people." He was surprised and asked, "Tianjin dared to beat and arrest people?" I said, "Yes, they did. The matter has to be handled by the State Council." He then asked, "You don't have any leaders, how come you act as one? Do you have any books? Let me take a look." I said, "It's a pity I didn't bring mine. Let me see if someone else has one." He said, "Thank you." As I was talking, a few people behind me said they had the book. I took a copy of "Zhuan Falun" from a female practitioner and presented it to the policeman with both hands. He also received the book with both hands and quickly browsed through it. He then said to two other policemen, "You two keep an eye on them. I'll go and take a look at the book in the van." The policemen looked at each other and smiled, and then they all went into the van.
Premier Zhu Rongji Received Practitioners
As more and more practitioners joined in, by 11:00 a.m., about 150 metres south of the west entrance to Zhongnanhai, countless people had gathered around. It was said that the crowd stretched from the south entrance of Fuyou Street to as far as the fly-over at Fuxinmen and to the north of Dahongluochang.
While we were waiting, I remember a few groups of representatives were called into the reception office of the State Council. Once, when a representative came out, he said, "We need practitioners who specialise in law. Those inside do not have much legal knowledge. We need to have law professional practitioners." Another time, a representative came out and said, "We do not have practitioners from the Research Association among us inside. Leaders of the State Council require that we must have responsible people among the representatives." He said if anyone knew Wang Zhiwen or the head of the general practice site, please call them to come straight away; otherwise the State Council would not receive us.
At around two or three o'clock, applause burst out among practitioners near the west entrance. I turned and looked, and saw a big group of people coming out from the west entrance and crossing over to the east side of the street. Regular police officers and armed policemen were standing outside. I heard people say that Premier Zhu Rongji had come out to meet the practitioners. Zhu Rongji went to greet and shake hands with practitioners, then he went back in. (I think the process lasted 1-3 minutes.)
Later, one practitioner asked, "Is Li Xiaomei here?" (Li was a Beijing practitioner. Later she was brainwashed in prison and did many bad things to help the evil. I hope she will soon become clear-headed again.) The reason they looked for Li Xiaomei was because representatives from the Tianjin Bureau of Public Security denied that they had beaten and arrested people. When the State Council leaders asked them if they had arrested people, they denied it. Practitioners wanted Li Xiaomei to give evidence to expose their lies. (Li Xiaomei had gone to appeal in Tianjin and was beaten and arrested.) Practitioner representative Li Chang said to the representatives from the Tianjin Bureau of Public Security, "In front of the leaders of the State Council, I should make a responsible statement. You say you did not arrest any practitioners, I say you did. There were practitioners from Beijing among those you arrested. We can call them to be witnesses." The representatives from Tianjin were speechless.
Luo Gan Sets Up the Trap; Jiang Zemin enraged
I would like to make it very clear here that although the number of practitioners continuously increased, all of us kept good order. We wanted to be responsible to Dafa, and to society and establish a good image of Dafa and practitioners to the people and the government, and at the same time, to guard against any bad people who wanted to make trouble and frame Falun Gong. Indeed, there were agents who mixed in among practitioners and tried to cause trouble and disturbances. About 50 meters from where I was, I saw a young man in the morning, who did not behave like a practitioner at all. He talked nonsense and encouraged people to go home. Later he took out a lighter and lit a cigarette [Falun Gong practitioners do not smoke]. His actions revealed his true identity, and he was driven out of the group. Although we identified some individual agents, we failed to recognise the political trap that was set up by the CCP.
This is what happened on that day: in the morning, as more and more people joined in, the police on duty at the south entrance of Fuyou Street asked the crowd to extend to the west on the north side of the road and did not allow people to come near the side of Zhongnanhai with the red wall. But later on, there appeared policemen who told the crowd to move eastwards along the red wall of Zhongnanhai. Looking back, their purpose was very clear. It was a trap set up by the Public Security Bureau to deliberately lead the crowd to surround Zhongnanhai. Later, the CCP indeed fabricated malicious lies in their propaganda media and documents about Falun Gong "surrounding Zhongnanhai."
At around five o'clock in the afternoon on April 25, Jiang Zemin secretly inspected the crowd in a bullet-proof car and he saw with his own eyes that among the appealing crowd there were army officers and police offers in uniform. He was enraged by that sight. Later, he shouted during a central committee meeting: "Falun Gong's contingent stood in such neat lines and had such good discipline, better even than our army troops. It would be good if our army troops and police forces could line up that neatly. There were even officers ranking higher than commanding officers in the crowd. You must check them out and strictly deal with them." (This is what the Party Secretary in my work unit told me in person when he called me in for a talk.)
Practitioners Went Home, the Street Was Clean, People Praised Practitioners for Their Exemplary Behaviour
At around three or four o'clock in the afternoon on April 25, a flyer was circulated among practitioners. It was a united notice from the central government, the State Council and the Public Security Bureau in Beijing. The general content of the notice included: Reinstate the three "no" policies towards qigong; the opinions of the appealers are clear; the gathering should be dismissed as soon as possible. As for the yet-to-be-reported incidents in various places where Falun Gong practitioners were harassed, people can send representatives to report them to the central government level by level. People from other cities or provinces may go back and report the incidents to the appeal offices in their own province. In Beijing, each county and district can send their representatives to report directly to the reception office of the appeal office of the State Council, and the director of the appeal office will receive them.
Practitioners remained calm and quiet after seeing the notice, and yet nobody left the scene because we knew that practitioners arrested in Tianjin were yet to be released. We would not leave until the issue of the arrested practitioners was resolved, and we even planned to stay overnight.
At around nine o'clock in the evening, a practitioner representative came out from the west entrance of Zhongnanhai and encouraged practitioners to leave and told us that all the practitioners arrested in Tianjin were released. Because practitioners did not know each other, and we did not know the name of the representative who was telling us this, it was not easy to move practitioners in the beginning. Questioned by practitioners, Li Chang announced loudly, "Please believe what I said. My name is Li Chang. I take full responsibility for what I'm saying. Tomorrow morning, at eight o'clock, each district and county in Beijing may send two representatives to gather at the appeals office in Yongdingmen, so that we can continue to report to the central government. Practitioners from other provinces and cities, please go back to your own province and city and report incidents to the local appeals office. Now please leave here." As soon as practitioners heard what he said, they started to leave. The whole process was very quiet and peaceful. After practitioners left, the whole street was very clean, without any litter left behind.
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