Jared Pearman, Spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Association of Washington, DC, spoke on behalf of human rights and human dignity for the Falun Gong / Falun Dafa at the 2011 Human Rights Day Event held at the National Press Conference in Washington DC. Below are his remarks. R.E.A.L. has been reporting on Falun Gong human rights issues.
A YouTube Video is also available to provide the full video and audio of Mr. Pearman’s remarks on this issue.
Statement by Jared Pearman, Spokesperson for the Falun Dafa Association of Washington, DC, at the National Press Club on December 8, 2011
Hello Everyone, It’s an honor to be here today to mark World Human Rights Day. I’d like to especially thank Jeffrey and everyone at Responsible for Equality And Liberty for putting today’s event together.
Some people here may be familiar with the persecution of Falun Gong in China, but perhaps for others, this is the first you’ll be hearing about this in-depth. So let me begin with a brief introduction to the issue followed by some of the key developments we’re seeing in China today.
Falun Gong, which is often also called Falun Dafa, is a peaceful spiritual practice rooted in traditional Chinese culture. It consists of meditation, five gentle sets of exercises, and a moral philosophy centered on the values of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Practitioners of Falun Gong aspire to live in accordance with these principles in their daily lives. It’s a very simple, very effective method of achieving a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
Although it is rooted in ancient Chinese spiritual tradition, Falun Gong was first taught publicly in China in 1992. It spread quickly through word-of-mouth as tens of millions of Chinese citizens took up the practice. By the mid 90’s every park in every city of China had people practicing the graceful movements of the exercises. Today, Falun Gong is practiced in over 80 countries worldwide by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is always taught free of charge by volunteers, and can be practiced individually or in groups.
Unfortunately, as Falun Gong grew in popularity throughout the 1990s, China’s communist leaders began to view the practice and its moral philosophy as ideological competition. Although Falun Gong is peaceful and possesses no political aspirations, the Communist Party of China does not tolerate large independent religious or spiritual practices. Thus, on July 20th, 1999, China’s rulers began a campaign to eradicate Falun Gong. Since then, like underground Christians and Tibetan Buddhists, millions of Falun Gong adherents have been denied the right to peacefully practice their faith.
Falun Gong in 2011
Now, let’s talk a bit about what’s happening with Falun Gong today. In the last year, Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China continued to be the targets of a severe, centrally-coordinated suppression at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. Hundreds of thousands of practitioners are estimated to be detained extrajudicially in detention centers, labor camps, prisons, and in the network of ad hoc “transformation-through-reeducation” centers. In all these facilities, adherents of Falun Gong are subjected to varying degrees of psychological and physical torture and coercion as authorities seek to force renunciations of their beliefs. In the last several years, we’ve received verifiable reports of over one hundred deaths due to torture, and this year’s numbers sadly look to be on par with that, bringing our confirmed total to 3427. The real number could be many times higher.
The campaign against Falun Gong continues to be coordinated by what’s known as the 610 Office—an extrajudicial, Communist Party-based security agency named for the date of its creation on June 10, 1999. The 610 Office is overseen by the Central Leading Group for Dealing with Heretical Organizations, headed by Politburo member Zhou Yongkang. Corresponding local 610 Offices exist at the provincial, municipal, district, and neighborhood levels, as well as in some large workplaces and universities. Although they possess no legal authority, the 610 Office wields substantial influence in coordinating the anti-Falun Gong campaign, as well as the power to direct media entities, courts, and the state-based security forces.
In 2010, the central 610 Office ordered the launch of a three-year campaign to intensify the coercive “transformation” of Falun Gong practitioners nationwide. Transformation here refers to a process of ideological reprograming, the objective of which is to force the Falun Gong practitioner to renounce their belief in Falun Gong. If they fail to renounce their beliefs, they are sent to labor camps or sentenced in sham trials to lengthy prison terms.
In February, the Jiamusi Prison in Northeast China established a special unit to increase the transformation rate of incarcerated Falun Gong practitioners. Within two weeks of the unit’s establishment, three middle-aged, male Falun Gong practitioners were tortured to death in custody at the prison.
Although the majority of Falun Gong adherents unlawfully detained are held in reeducation-through-labor camps, in recent years a greater proportion of practitioners have been sentenced in sham trials to prisons. Most are tried under a vaguely worded provision that outlaws “using a heretical religion to undermine the implementation of the law.” Which laws are being undermined is never made clear. Moreover, as lawyers have pointed out, there are actually no laws in China that formally ban the practice of Falun Gong.
Lawyers who have sought to defend Falun Gong clients continue to face harassment by security agencies and the 610 Office. These lawyers have reported being denied access to clients, barred from entering courtrooms, or facing harassment, detention, imprisonment, and even torture for their advocacy on behalf of Falun Gong. Dozens of lawyers who have taken Falun Gong cases have been either disbarred or have been unable to renew their licenses to practice law.
Chinese authorities, under the direction of the Communist Party, have also continued to intensify the response to Falun Gong’s efforts to disseminate information to the general populace of China. This includes cracking down on underground “material sites” run by Falun Gong practitioners, which produce literature and information on the practice and its suppression. Ongoing crackdowns on black market satellite equipment, on the internet, and on shortwave radio broadcasts are also strongly linked in official literature to the anti-Falun Gong campaign.
Although the central 610 Office and Communist Party continue to pursue the eradication campaign as a national priority, grassroots opposition to the persecution has been steadily increasingly since approximately 2005, as has the efficacy of Falun Gong’s resistance to suppression. As I said, human rights lawyers continue to risk their careers and personal safety to defend Falun Gong adherents. In a series of wonderfully surprising events, thousands of ordinary Chinese citizens in multiple locales have openly petitioned for the release of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners—something that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago. Anecdotal reports from across China speak of local 610 Officers and public security agents who have grown resentful of the central orders to crack down on Falun Gong, and who secretly protect the Falun Gong practitioners they are charged with persecuting. Similarly, many judges and prosecutors participating in anti-Falun Gong cases now do so with disdain, and sometimes openly express admiration for Falun Gong (though they still comply with 610 Office directions).
Perhaps the best evidence of the waning support for the party’s anti-Falun Gong campaign comes from official documents themselves. Publicly available documents published online in recent years describe Falun Gong’s resistance efforts as a potential existential threat to the party—a “matter of life or death.”
This erosion of grassroots support for the anti-Falun Gong campaign is significant. As with other political “douzheng” (struggle) campaigns launched by the Communist Party, the anti-Falun Gong campaign has been carried out with the support and participation of the citizenry, co-opted through propaganda. Although many citizens do continue to participate actively in the suppression, a growing proportion now refuse to be complicit. Some of these—perhaps tens of millions of people—have gone so far as to symbolically disavow their affiliations with party organizations in a movement known as Tuidang, which literally translates as “quit the part.”
The trend lines are now clear: Falun Gong has not been crushed, and reports from China indicate that the number of practitioners is instead growing. Ordinary citizens are increasingly standing up in defense of Falun Gong and are refusing to participate in the persecution. At the same time, however, it is vitally important to make it clear that the Communist Party has not given up its campaign against the practice, and in all likelihood, it never will; to do so would be a potentially fatal admission of fallibility, one that would lay bare the truth of a campaign that has taken thousands of lives, costs billions of dollars, ruined innumerable families, and deceived a nation.
It is important to state here, that Falun Gong does not seek political power in China or elsewhere. The pursuit of worldly influence is viewed as being inconsistent with the transcendental objectives of our practice. Falun Gong has never prescribed what kind of system of governance China should adopt, nor participated in unrelated social or policy debates. Falun Gong is, and has always has been, apolitical. Our interest is purely to secure basic human rights.
Yet in the course of our efforts, we have presented an alternate vision of what China could be—an alternative way of conceptualizing Chinese national identity. Like Falun Gong itself, this vision connects with China’s moral and spiritual traditions of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism, and holds that the cultivation of virtue, honesty, and humanness are the true sources of national greatness. Put simply, Falun Gong is challenging the Communist Party’s hegemony over what it means to be Chinese, and has done so in a manner that is credible, accessible, and inspiring to the Chinese people. If this vision gains momentum over the Leninist / Legalist paradigm currently in place, it is our belief that the Chinese people will enjoy greater freedoms and security, and China will become a more transparent, cooperative, and stable partner for the world.