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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Letter: Why April 25, 1999, matters

Taipei Times: Tuesday, Apr 24, 2007, Page 8 - April 25, 1999, marked a turning point in recent Chinese history. On that historic day, more than 10,000 peaceful Falun Gong practitioners turned up at the Zhongnanhai government compound to appeal the beginning of the persecution (of Falun Gong) in China by the Chinese Communist Party. This was undoubtedly the biggest spontaneous public gathering since students assembled on Tiananmen Square in 1989, the outcome of which is well-known by all.

Just as with the Tiananmen protests, the "Zhongnanhai appeal" sounded the alarm and sent shockwaves through the political elite in Beijing. On that fateful day, Jiang Zemin (江澤民) was seen patrolling the area in his big black sedan, hiding behind tinted windows and probably shaking with fear. That same night he wrote a letter to the politburo saying that the Marxists must defeat the Falun Gong.

Just seven years before the gathering at Zhongnanhai, Li Hongzhi (李洪志), a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, brought the spiritual practice of Falun Gong to the public. A combination of exercises, meditation and moral principles, Falun Gong quickly became popular throughout China. It was this popularity that would pose a dilemma for the Chinese regime, which displays zero tolerance toward any alternative voices.

To this day the persecution, which went into full swing in July 1999, has continued unabated.

Recently, news of organ harvesting from living practitioners in military and civilian hospitals has come to light. Human rights reports speak of 100 Stalinist-style torture methods used on practitioners to coerce them into abandoning their beliefs. Some China observers have labeled the Zhongnanhai event as the catalyst for one of the most vicious periods of oppression of a spiritual movement in modern times.

To commemorate this black day, practitioners will hold silent protests in various locations around the world. If you drive by the Chinese consulate in Vancouver, Canada, tomorrow, you will see a miniature reflection of what happened back in 1999. To underscore their request that persecution come to an end, Vancouver practitioners have, for the past few years, maintained a round-the-clock peaceful vigil at the consulate. It is a shame that Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan has caved in to pressure from consulate officials and chosen to take practitioners to court, using bylaws as an excuse.

Speaking out against torture and human rights abuses is a constitutional right that should be enforced, not diminished.

But in the face of brutalization by one of the most powerful and autocratic political groups in history -- a group responsible for the deaths of over 80 million people -- never once have practitioners resorted to violence. To this day, Falun Gong is still Falun Gong. Peace and justice will prevail, eventually.

Marie Beaulieu

A short version was published in the Times Colonist.

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