We celebrate anniversaries of positive things, such as man walking on the moon 50 years ago.
But for the anniversary of something negative, what should we do? And what if that negative thing continues today?
Twenty years ago, on July 20, 1999, the authorities began detaining, torturing, and sometimes killing people in China who meditate—Falun Gong practitioners.
You may not have heard about this before, but Falun Gong is not a small, isolated phenomenon.
Before the brutality began, an estimated 70 million to 100 million people in China practiced Falun Gong. When 1 of 13 people do something in such a big country, it’s not an isolated phenomenon.
So Falun Gong is something big, if quiet. A traditional personal practice of meditation and gentle exercises, Falun Gong also teaches people to live by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. And for this practice, millions of people have endured harsh persecution over the last 20 years.
Every year since 1999, Falun Gong practitioners gather around July 20, in many of the dozens of countries where people practice.
Some of those practitioners are Chinese expatriates, including those seeking asylum from the harsh treatment in China. Some are people born in other countries who found Falun Gong and cherish the goodness it has brought to their lives.
All of them gather to show the world how peaceful and beautiful Falun Gong is, and to tell the Chinese regime that they should end the persecution in China.
In Washington, on Thursday, thousands of Falun Gong practitioners gathered. They paraded through the streets with a marching band, banners, dancers, and memorials to the thousands who have died in the persecution.
They had a rally at the Capitol at which public officials and dignitaries expressed support for Falun Gong, and denounced the Chinese regime for continuing the persecution.
They convened at dusk for a candlelight vigil at the Washington Monument, with rows of yellow-shirted meditators holding the lit candles aloft.
In other national capitals across the world, Falun Gong practitioners commemorated 20 years of persecution, and expressed hope for its end.
The persecution campaign in China has never abated, through changes of the leadership guard from Jiang Zemin, to Hu Jintao in 2002, to Xi Jinping in 2012.
The official stance toward practitioners of Falun Gong has remained until today, even though their following the teachings actually brought to the country lower health care costs, higher productivity at work, and harmonious family relations—such is the power of Falun Gong.
The persecution was initiated by Jiang Zemin, who in a jealous furor, gave orders to “ruin their reputations, bankrupt them financially, and destroy them physically.”
Jiang saw that more people practiced Falun Gong in 1999 than belonged to the Communist Party (about 60 million).
It was the beginning of a vicious, senseless campaign that has caused an unknown number of deaths and continues to this day.
This persecution campaign has resulted in imprisonment, torture, loss of employment, loss of schooling, disability, orphans, widows, widowers, and death.
Perhaps the most soul-shaking aspect has been the harvesting of organs from practitioners while they are still alive in order to sell the fresh organs for transplant, which profits CCP officials. In response, some countries have passed laws against their citizens going to China for “transplant tourism.”
The organ harvesting has been condemned by researchers, an independent tribunal, and various governments, including the U.S. government. In June, Sam Brownback, the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said, “We share reports again, that others make, that Chinese authorities have subjected prisoners of conscience, including Falun Gong, Uighurs, Tibetan Buddhists, and underground Christians, to forcible organ harvesting. This should shock everyone’s conscience.”
Congress weighed in with a resolution passed unanimously in 2016, “Expressing concern regarding persistent and credible reports of systematic, state-sanctioned organ harvesting from non-consenting prisoners of conscience in the People’s Republic of China, including from large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on Thursday, July 18 said, “Everyone in this room knows, too, that the Chinese faithful need our support. In September of last year, Chen Huixia, a member of the Falun Gong, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison simply for practicing his faith.”
In recent addresses about the lack of religious freedom in China, Falun Gong has often been mentioned first among the groups suffering persecution.
The executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center, Levi Browde, said in a statement, “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.”
“Beneath all the clout and glitter of the ‘new China’ there lies this horrifying and ongoing atrocity,” Browde said.
“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.”
On this anniversary, remember that Falun Gong practitioners have always been peaceful and positive contributors to Chinese society, boosting moral behavior and exemplifying truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
The CCP’s justifications for the persecution are all fabrications. May the persecution end soon.