Once Celebrated, Now Persecuted
When Falun Gong was first taught publicly in China in 1992, it was met with approval and even praise from Chinese officials, who saw it as an effective means of improving public health and morality. Falun Gong's teacher, Li Hongzhi, was invited to give lectures in government agencies--including, notably, the Ministry of Public Security--and was even invited to teach his practice at Chinese embassies in Paris and New York as a way of promoting traditional Chinese culture. High-ranking Communist Party members, government bureaucrats, and military leaders began practicing Falun Gong.
But as Falun Gong grew in popularity in the mid- to late-1990s, some of China's communist leaders began to view the practice and its moral philosophy as ideological competition in the officially atheist state. Although Falun Gong is peaceful and possesses no political aspirations, the Communist Party of China does not tolerate large independent civil society groups--particularly spiritual or religious ones. As more people started practicing Falun Gong, the communist party and security agencies began harassing and monitoring them.
Finally, In July of 1999, Communist Party Secretary Jiang Zemin launched a campaign to "eradicate" Falun Gong. Jiang reportedly felt threatened by Falun Gong's size and independence, and felt that its moral teachings were at odds with the official ideology. To carry out this massive persecution, he formed a new, Communist Party-led security agency, the "610 Office." The office was charged with overseeing the eradication of Falun Gong, and was given extra-judicial power to execute its mandate.
The crackdown that followed has been characterized by the arbitrary arrests and detention of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong followers in prisons, forced labor camps, and detention centers, where they are routinely tortured and abused. In recent years, estimates place the number of imprisoned Falun Gong adherents at 100,000 - 200,000 at any given time, making them the world's largest group of prisoners of conscience.
In 2006, two-thirds of Chinese torture cases reported through the United Nations were committed against Falun Gong adherents. Over 3,300 people have been reported tortured to death, and thousands more are missing. The persecution has also been characterized by what Amnesty International calls a "massive propaganda campaign" to erode public sympathy for Falun Gong both inside and outside China. Practitioners are frequently denied jobs or educational opportunities, and have no ability to speak out in the press or seek legal representation.
The persecution continues to
this day; In 2010, the 610
Office launched a three-year
campaign to coercively
"transform" the minds of
millions more Falun Gong
practitioners in brainwashing
centers and labor camps. Reports
come out of China every day with
details of another victim of
torture and persecution.