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The Inside Story: Why Falun Gong is Persecuted


The Inside Story: Why Falun Gong is Persecuted


Former Party head explains why regime acted

By Zhang Tianliang
May 9, 2009


A solemn procession remembers Falun Gong practitioners killed by the Chinese regime''''''''''''''''s persecution, on April 9, 2007, in New York City. (Jeff Nenarelly/Epoch Times)
Ever since the persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Gong began on July 20, 1999, journalists, China scholars, the Chinese regime, and Falun Gong adherents have discussed the role played by the events of April 25, 1999. A letter by Jiang Zemin, head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1999, sheds important light on this question.

On April 25, 1999, more than 10,000 Falun Gong adherents attempted to gather outside the Appeals Office in Beijing, but most ended up nearby in the vicinity of Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of the CCP.

Falun Gong had been harassed and subject to a potential ban ever since 1996, long before the Zhongnanhai gathering. Many Falun Gong adherents gathered there out of concern that a ban was just a matter of time. They wanted to turn things around by appealing to the regime.

Falun Gong adherents have always said the behavior of those who gathered on April 25 was exemplary, and gave no cause for the persecution that was to come.

To justify its crackdown on Falun Gong, the CCP has always alleged that Falun Gong adherents tend to commit various crimes. These allegations are strongly denied by Falun Gong adherents, who point out that the alleged crimes all go against Falun Gong teachings.

Most journalists and scholars have argued that the Zhongnanhai gathering was a provocation that scared the CCP leadership and led directly to the persecution.

Prof. David Ownby, the author of “Falun Gong and the Future of China,” is quoted in a recent New York Times article providing an even-handed version of this theory. He said, “Mr. Li and his followers may have made a tactical mistake by massing in Beijing, but … the Communist Party erred by interpreting their actions as a threat to its rule.”

Mr. Ownby claimed, “If either side had played their cards more intelligently, Falun Gong could have been co-opted by the government.”

The experience of other religious or qigong groups casts doubt on Ownby’s thesis or similar ones from Western journalists or other scholars.

Underground Catholics and house church Christians have never gathered in front of Zhongnanhai, but have also been persecuted.

Another qigong practice called Zhong Gong, which claimed to have 30 million followers, had been trying hard to cooperate with the regime. It sponsored quite a few official ceremonies for the CCP, including ones celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth and the 60th anniversary of Communist Party Army’s Long March. Nonetheless, it was banned on the same day as Falun Gong.

‘A New Signal’

The persecution was ordered by Jiang Zemin, the then-General Secretary of the CCP, and a justification for it can be found in a letter that Jiang wrote to other CCP Politburo members on the night of April 25, 1999. In 2006, this letter was officially released and published in mainland China in volume 2 of a book called “Jiang Zemin’s Article Collection”. “A New Signal” was added as the title of the letter.  

Jiang writes, “I feel very deeply sorry that we were not alerted earlier about such a kind of national organization, with many followers from the Communist Party, [Party or state] officials, scholars, soldiers, as well as workers and peasants. … With regard to the Falun Gong organization, we cannot underestimate the attraction of its religious color. The relevant departments must strengthen the research and preventative measures. Since the headquarters of Falun Gong is overseas, the possibility that this gathering was organized by overseas forces should not be excluded.”

In the letter Jiang returns again to the question of overseas connections: “Does Falun Gong have any connection overseas and to the West? Is there any ‘expert’ to plot and command this event? This is a new signal, which we must attach great importance to. The sensitive period has come. We have to take effective measures to prevent similar things from happening again.”

This letter was later printed by the Communist Party Central Office as a notice. A special remark was added: “Please be advised of the requirements of the Central Office: Study and Implement the notice. It is not for your comments and discussion.”

Different Levels of Explanation

After the persecution began on July 20, 1999, the CCP launched a worldwide campaign that claimed that banning Falun Gong was necessary because this practice had caused many tragedies in China. But in this letter Jiang is silent about the claims about Falun Gong that would be featured in his regime’s subsequent propaganda.

Instead, the letter shows him focusing on three aspects: Falun Gong is a national group with followers from all walks of life; Falun Gong has a religious character, which is fundamentally different from the atheism that is the basis of Marxism and Communism; Falun Gong is presumed to have connections outside China.

These same criteria can be used to explain why underground Catholics, House Christians, and Zhong Gong have also been harshly persecuted. Taking Tibetan Buddhism as a “national organization” for Tibet (rather than China), these criteria also help explain the harsh persecution of Tibetans.

That Falun Gong was labeled by Jiang as a “kind of national organization” is particularly important. The CCP has never allowed any organizations independent of it to exist. For example, during the Cultural Revolution several national organizations were formed to "safeguard" Mao, and named themselves “the Red Guard.” After he finished using them, Mao banned them.

Jiang’s claim, though, that he was “not alerted earlier” about the national character of Falun Gong should not be taken at face value. The entire Party hierarchy was well aware by 1999 of the approximate number and extent of those who practiced Falun Gong.

Jiang says in the letter that “The sensitive period has come.”

He then goes on to say: “This is the largest scale gathering in Beijing since the 1989 political event. I have emphasized many times that we need to suffocate what seems to be the beginning of an unwholesome trend.”

1989 was the year of the student movement in Beijing, which was crushed by the CCP’s tanks and guns. Obviously, this gathering reminded Jiang of that movement, although Falun Gong adherents have never linked Falun Gong or the event on April 25 with the 1989 democracy movement.

Jiang is so sensitive to a mass gathering that he blames Party officials in the letter, “The occurrence of this event illustrates what a poor job on ideology and people some of our offices and departments have done!”

Jiang feels the need to cast his opposition to Falun Gong as an ideological battle that Falun Gong seems to be winning. He suggests: “We must stick to the education of officials and the people with a correct outlook on the world, life, and values. Can the Marxism, Materialism and Atheism that our Communist Party members uphold not win the battle with what Falun Gong promotes? This is absolutely ridiculous!”

However, Politburo members, veterans of past Party campaigns, would not need to be reminded that the Party does not fight such battles on the grounds of “Marxism, Materialism, and Atheism” alone. Beginning on July 20, Jiang would turn all parts of society against Falun Gong adherents, and what he viewed as an ideological challenge would be met with mass detention, brainwashing, rape, and torture.

Once the persecution of Falun Gong started, Jiang Zemin and the CCP obscured the real reasons for it by leveling various untrue charges. Well-meaning interpreters of China have seen the persecution as an over reaction to a single day’s events. With this letter Jiang Zemin himself helps set the record straight.
Last Updated
May 9, 2009


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   12/01/14 11:28:17 PM
   05/27/09 08:29:54 AM
章先生您好,不知道怎么和你们联系。这几天关注邓玉娇的事情,常去看屠夫的新浪博客(追风的土匪),一直认为他是正义的汉子。可今天看他的博客里竟然以艾滋病研究所名义为邓玉娇捐款,而且帐号是他个人的名字吴淦。 我突然感觉这里面可能隐藏更大的阴谋:(也可能是我目前一点猜测),我怀疑屠夫或许是邪党在这个特殊的时期,想借邓玉骄的案子陷害胡佳或法轮功。屠夫的背景很神秘,是否是邪党派出这个神秘人物来冒出民运或法轮功的人,最后抓到他,让他自己承认是“民运的人”,借此加重中国人的误解。 而且有很多人在那个博客里捐款和留言,捐款人和博客里面的ID他们都可以知道。 (以上仅是我的猜测,请你们注意,如果不是,请删除这个留言。谢谢!)
   05/25/09 10:39:44 AM
   05/25/09 10:39:29 AM