U.S. elected officials, China human rights activists, and Falun Gong practitioners attended a congressional forum in Washington on the topic of Falun Gong’s April 25, 1999, peaceful Beijing protest. The forum was held in the Rayburn Office Building of the U.S. House of Representatives on April 19, 2017.
Eighteen years ago, on April 25, 1999, approximately 10,000 practitioners peacefully appealed to the Chinese government in Beijing after the illegal arrests of fellow practitioners in Tianjin City. Three months later the regime’s campaign of human rights abuses officially began. (see Background below)
Marking the 18th year since the historic appeal, several victims of the persecution that followed the April 25 protest testified to the brutality with their own personal experiences.
A number of long-term Falun Gong supporters were in attendance, but even they, who had long known about the persecution, were shocked by the first hand experiences they heard. One person remarked, “Hearing it from someone who has personally experienced it makes it all the more real.”
Ellen Sauerbrey, former head of the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, said she was disheartened and angry, asking how a government could treat its people this way.
Testimony Puts a Face on Persecution
Fourteen-year-old Xu Xinyang showed two pictures of her late father Xu Dawei. The story she told brought many in attendance to tears.
Xu Xinyang’s parents were arrested in February 2001 for printing Falun Gong informational materials. Her mother, Chi Lihua, was pregnant with Xinyang when she was beaten by police in a detention center. Her father, Xu Dawe, was sentenced to eight years.
In 2009, Xu Dawei was released. A formerly healthy young man, Mr. Xu was reduced to skin and bones. His body was covered by wounds and bruises resulting from electric shock torture and beatings. His mind was also unclear. Only 13 days after his release, Xu Dawei passed away.
Residents in Mr. Xu’s community were shocked to learn about his tragic end. Within three days, 376 people courageously signed a petition protesting the torture he had been subjected to. The petition startled the central committee of the communist party. One of the then party heads issued orders to the local law enforcement, who then constantly harassed Chi Lihua’s family, their lawyers, and those who signed the petition.
Left with nowhere to hide in their hometown, Chi Lihua and Xu Xinyang managed to escape to the United States in 2013.
Yang Chunhua, another Falun Gong practitioner, described how she had been force-fed while confined in a forced labor camp. The camp guards poured boiling corn soup through a tube inserted in her nose, an excruciatingly painful torture.
Yang Chunhua’s mother and sister were both tortured to death because they refused to recant their belief in Falun Gong.
Du Haifan told the attendees that her father was arrested right after the persecution was launched. He was sentenced to three years in a labor camp, where he was beaten and burned by the guards.
In 2016, Du Haifan’s mother filed a lawsuit against former communist party head Jiang Zemin for launching and directing the persecution. However, she was arrested and recently sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
Another practitioner, Wang Chunyan, described the forced labor that she experienced during her 7-year prison term.
Support from Elected Officials
Ellen Sauerbrey hugged Chi Lihua and Xu Xinyang after hearing their heartbreaking story.
Ms. Sauerbrey had known about the persecution, but she said she didn’t know what actually happened to those who were arrested.
She said that reading the written materials about human rights violations in China is very different from hearing the victims’ own stories, which are beyond people’s imagination.
Congressman Chris Smith, a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Chairman of the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee, sent a supporting letter to the forum, in which he said that the persecution of Falun Gong in China is one of the biggest shames of humanity within the last 20 years. He also called upon the new American administration to help end the persecution.
Congressman Gerald Connolly also sent a letter to the forum. The congressman praised Falun Gong practitioners’ peaceful resistance, which he said has demonstrated true faith and has widely raised awareness about the persecution.
Chinese Human Rights Lawyer: “The book Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party reveals the nature of the Party.”
Chinese human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who was jailed and escaped to the United States a few years ago, spoke about his own experience of human rights abuses in China.
He said, “The party has no ability to civilize the nation, but is creative when it comes to inventing tortures.”
Chen Guangcheng believes that the party has committed countless crimes, and brings danger to human civilization and its basic values.
He strongly recommended the book Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,which he believes profoundly reveals the evil nature of the party.
Background on the April 25th Beijing Protest
On April 25, 1999, approximately 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered peacefully on the streets of Beijing after the unexplained arrest of some 50 fellow practitioners in the nearby city of Tianjin. The location was adjacent to the Central Appeals Office, where they hoped their case would be heard. Police on hand directed them to line up on several streets in the area, also home to Zhongnanhai, the Party’s central government compound.
The 10,000 left quietly later that day after meeting with Premier Zhu Rongji and securing the release of those wrongly arrested in Tianjin.
But Party leader Jiang Zemin had his propaganda ministry publicise the gathering not as the peaceful protest that it was, but instead as a “siege of Zhongnanhai”, the central government compound. This propaganda stunt was used to turn public opinion against Falun Gong, and as an excuse for launching the brutal persecution that began just a few months later. Nearly 18 years of atrocities have continued ever since.