11 Years ago, on July 20, 1999, a persecution against a meditation practice called Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) officially started in Mainland China. The persecution of Falun Gong was the brainchild of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, who saw Falun Gong’s enormous popularity among 100 million Chinese and simply wanted to crush it.
I learned about Falun Gong from newspapers, first in one of Ian Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in the Wall Street Journal.
Johnson wrote a series of 10 articles (which you can see here) of which I only read one, but they were compelling enough to win the Pulitzer.
Here is part of Johnson’s article that I read 10 years ago from a piece called “Brother Li Love“:
As the campaign against Falun Dafa enters its second year, many wonder how the group has withstood the government’s security onslaught. The crackdown has involved a deployment of uniformed and undercover security agents not seen since the massacre of antigovernment protesters near Tiananmen Square 11 years ago.
Johnson’s work represented an incredible effort to pursue the truth. As the years have worn on, though, media coverage of the July 20 anniversary of the start of the persecution against Falun Gong has dimmed. Other dramas have occupied the global consciousness–namely for Americans, 9/11 and the ongoing battle against terrorists.
At a newspaper where I work as an editor, The Epoch Times, I have seen a completely different chain of events, however.
In the English edition where I work, the commitment to reporting openly and truthfully about the persecution of Falun Gong has remained strong. In fact, if you search the term, “Falun Gong” in Google news today you’ll see what I mean.
In an article from The Epoch Times Editorial Board, they state:
In the past 11 years, the world has witnessed the pain and suffering Falun Gong practitioners have gone through. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party], in addition to spreading outrageous lies, has tortured Falun Gong practitioners with means of torture used only in the darkest eras of humankind, such as the needle club, steel wire, copper whip, bramble whip, genital beating, rape, and the like. A report by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture listed at least 40 types of torture used by the CCP against Falun Gong practitioners. According to reports on Clearwisdom, a website run by Falun Gong practitioners, there have been at least 3,300 confirmed deaths of Falun Gong practitioners; over 100,000 have been sentenced to labor camps; thousands more have been sent to mental hospitals where the tortures may include nerve-damaging drugs. Untold numbers of practitioners have been forced to attend brainwashing classes, and untold numbers have been beaten, made to stand for hours or days on end, and extorted by law- enforcement officials. Because of the CCP’s information blockade, only a fraction of the abuses suffered in the ongoing persecution are known.
Despite such a severe persecution, though, the practice has not been crushed, as Jiang Zemin wanted it to be 11 long years ago. It has spread far and wide to every corner of the world. Reports the Epoch Times:
Eleven years ago, Falun Gong was practiced in 30 countries. Since then, Falun Gong has been calmly and peacefully spreading and is now practiced in 114 countries. Today, Falun Gong can be found in most areas in Asia, North America, South America, and Europe, and in some African countries. Falun Gong books have been translated into over 40 languages.
In another Epoch Times article, staff reporters interviewed international supporters who have fought over the years to help end the persecution. One of them, Edward McMillan-Scott, is Vice-President of the European Parliament. Scott told The Epoch Times:
“I think it’s really important for people to understand just what in the world does really take place in China—the prison camps, re-education through labor, child labor, forced labor, torture. This is the real China,” he said. “The worst thing they’ve done is choose a totally innocent group of people [Falun Gong practitioners], and torture them to death, and this has got to stop.”
In my opinion as a professional journalist, that’s something worth reporting at least once a year.