July 20, 2021 marks 22 years of persecution against tens of millions of Falun Dafa spiritual adherents. Thousands of supporters gathered in front of the Washington Monument to peacefully raise awareness about the ongoing genocide in mainland China.

About 2,000 adherents performed the four standing and one sitting exercises of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong)–a Buddha School discipline based on the universal principles of truth, benevolence, and tolerance. Adherents aim to raise their moral standard, and voluntarily teach the exercises for free in many parks across the United States and abroad.

In 1999, former Chinese communist leader Jiang Zemin began defaming and persecuting anyone who joins Falun Dafa activities. The persecution continues to this day, as Jiang’s faction continues to exercise influence over the country’s repressive apparatus.

According to a Human Rights Watch, security forces throughout China quietly began arresting thousands of Falun Dafa adherents on the eve of July 20, 1999.

The first detainees included volunteer assistants who organized meditation classes in local parks. Other adherents were also arrested. The CCP’s aim was to have them renounce practicing Falun Dafa.

An unprecedented genocide has since begun. The repression continues to this day, and it has not been on such a large scale since the Tiananmen Massacre according to the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong in China.

22 years of killing

The Minghui website confirmed at least 4,641 adherents died from persecution in the past 22 years. The actual number is believed to be much higher since many important details are unavailable due to the Chinese information blockade.

In 2017, Freedom House reported “hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong adherents were sent to labor camps and prisons, where they were subjected to horrific forms of torture.” The report also found “credible evidence suggesting that beginning in the early 2000s, Falun Gong detainees were killed for their organs on a large scale.”

‘Organ Crimes,’ an oil painting by Xiqiang Dong, shows how organs are removed without consent from live Falun Dafa adherents in China. (Courtesy of Xiqiang Dong)

Reports from international organizations, independent investigations and resolutions from parliaments around the world have documented these believers face forced labor, torture, brainwashing, and even live organ harvesting.

In April 2019, the Independent Tribunal Into Forced Organ Harvesting of Prisoners of Conscience in China, led by renowned British lawyer Geoffrey Nice, ruled there is both “direct and indirect evidence of forced organ harvesting” occurring in China.

Popular ‘menace’ to regime

Falun Dafa was first introduced to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi in Changchun, China, during 1992. The spiritual discipline is freely and openly practiced in more than 100 countries around the world.

According to Minghui website, millions of people embraced the teachings and five gentle exercises. Through the discipline countless people have improved their health and general wellbeing while, at the same time, lifting their moral standards.

Falun Dafa in its heyday during the 1990s. Parks and squares were filled with people gathering before or after work to practice the exercises (Courtesy Minghui website).

However, Jiang considered the group’s growing popularity to be a threat to the CCP’s atheist ideology. On July 20, 1999 he issued an executive order to destroy the practice.

Under Jiang’s personal direction the CCP established the 610 Office, an extralegal security organization with the power to override police and judicial systems. The office’s sole function is to persecute Falun Dafa adherents.

Current Chinese leader Xi Jinping, under the guise of a so-called anti corruption campaign, has imprisoned multiple top communist officials linked to the organ harvesting system for life.

However, there is still a fierce power struggle between the Xi and Jiang factions. Despite no longer being in power, Jiang’s ‘hard’ wing still exercises control over key areas of the regime like diplomacy, the press, public security, and education.

Washington vigil

Adherents held a candlelight vigil on July 16 in Washington according to Minghui, a window into Falun Dafa activities in China and around the world.

As night fell, peaceful practitioners silently gathered in front of the Washington Monument, and raised their candles in solemn remembrance of those who were persecuted to death for refusing to renounce truth, compassion, and tolerance.

As night fell, adherents lit candles to mourn those who were persecuted to death for their beliefs. (Courtesy Minghui website)

Among those who attended were people who experienced persecution first-hand. Others knew family members who were victims of repression.

Adherents said despite the ongoing brutal persecution, their belief in Falun Gong is unwavering. They feel a great responsibility to raise awareness while offering others hope.

Persecuted father mourned

Xu Xinyang lives in the United States, and grew up in China where she experienced the CCP’s brutal persecution. She and her mother drove more than two hours to attend the candlelight vigil.

“My father was killed for his belief [and] I came here today to remember him,” the 19-year-old said according to the Minghui website.

L-R: Xu Xinyang and mother Chi Lihua hold photos of father Xu Dawei who was tortured to death for his beliefs. (Courtesy Minghui website)

Xu’s father, Dawei, was sentenced to eight years in prison for producing Falun Dafa promotional materials. After he was released from prison he suffered from a mental breakdown and was emaciated. He died less than two weeks later at just 34-years-old.

“When I look back, it makes me proud that my father did not give up his belief despite being imprisoned and abused for such a long time,” Xu said. 

Looking at portraits of other adherents, who were tortured to death, reminded her that she is not alone. Others have suffered persecution too.

“Seeing so many practitioners holding photos of the victims, there is a story behind every face—all of them were brutally tortured,” she said. “Perhaps they suffered even more than me except that today I have a chance to speak out and do something about it.”