By Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times
Ten years ago on April 24, when Jinying Gao took a train to Beijing from her hometown in Liaoning Province, China was a different country.
Gao, who has practiced Falun Gong since 1994, set out on a mission of faith with little more than the shirt on her back for the six hour journey to her country’s capital. With her husband, also a practitioner, beside her, they arrived in Beijing in the middle of the night. Thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners were at the train station, waiting for dawn to arrive.
The travelers, whose numbers would eventually swell to 10,000, had come from all corners of China to appeal to the central regime about a case of 45 imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners in the city of Tianjin. The imprisoned practitioners were beaten and arrested by police on April 24, 1999, after days of appealing over a youth magazine’s slanderous article against Falun Gong.
“In China, the media blocked the news of [of the arrests],” recalls Gao who is now 64 years old and escaped to the U.S. close to 17 months ago.
Falun Gong is the most popular qigong practice in China. By 1999 it was estimated that between 70 and 100 million Chinese people were practicing it. But in the China of ten years ago, as today, to be popular with the public is to be suspect by the communist party.
Three years earlier, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and then-head, Jiang Zemin, began to view Falun Gong’s popularity as a threat. The Beijing Youth Daily had listed the practice’s main book, “Zhuan Falun” as a bestseller in 1996. Not long after, the regime issued a nationwide notice forbidding the distribution of all Falun Gong publications.