Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional spiritual practice that consists of gentle, meditative exercises and a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

The practice became widely popular in China during the 1990s, and by 1999, according to Chinese state-run TV, there were 100 million people practicing Falun Gong in China. That’s a staggering 1 of every 13 people in the country.

Furthermore, as the Washington Post reported in 1999, many influential people in the Party, the government and the military practiced Falun Gong, in addition to those found in just about every sector of society; from farmers to university professors, factory workers to corporate leaders, high school students to members of the communist party’s top leadership.

Yet, in the summer of 1999, former communist leader Jiang Zemin ordered the traditional meditation practice be eliminated. China experts at the time say Jiang was jealous that Falun Gong’s widespread popularity was overshadowing his own legacy, and at the same time, Jiang hoped to use the campaign against Falun Gong to build up his own power base.

Over the past 20 years, millions of people have been abducted or imprisoned. Hundreds of thousands have been tortured or suffered terrible abuse in custody. Thousands have been tortured to death, and those are just the cases we know about.

Even more horrific are findings from independent investigators concerning the systematic killing of Falun Gong practitioners so their organs could be used to fuel China’s booming organ transplant business. In 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 343, which cites “persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners. ...”

In June 2019, an independent tribunal—chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who previously prosecuted war criminals—released its conclusion that Falun Gong practitioners have been, and continue to be, killed for their organs “on a significant scale.”

In its 2018 annual report, Amnesty International stated, “Falun Gong practitioners continued to be subjected to arbitrary detention, unfair trials, and torture.” In its 2019 annual human rights report, the U.S. State Department detailed how people who practice Falun Gong have been victims of “systematic torture in custody” by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The decimation of China’s social fabric due to this persecution is hard to overstate.

The persecution of Falun Gong hurled the country back to the dark days of the Cultural Revolution. I know it often doesn’t really appear so on the surface, especially in recent years. The Beijing Olympics normalized China for many. The skylines of China’s major cities are impressive and growing. China continues to exercise more and more clout on the international stage.

Starbucks and Armani have moved in. Widespread famine and communist Mao suits have faded into the past. It all seems almost exciting—as if China’s rise at the beginning of a new century could bring new possibilities.

And yet, beneath all the clout and glitter of the “new China” there lies this horrifying and ongoing atrocity.

As the 20th anniversary of this brutal persecution approaches, we implore the international community to speak up. We must give a voice to and take action for the tens of millions of people in China that have been targeted by the communist regime, and who live their daily lives under threat of arbitrary detention, imprisonment, torture, or worse simply for practicing Falun Gong.

Ben Maloney is the Director of Digital Outreach for the Falun Dafa Information Center.

This video was first published on the Falun Dafa Information Center’s website.