Falun Gong mass protests 21 years ago (April 25)
China continues to criminalize members of the meditation movement (Press Release)
On April 25, 1999, ten thousand followers of the Falun Gong meditation movement protested against the slander of the religious community in the Chinese state-run media. Now, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) would like to draw attention to the subsequent repression of the meditation movement by the Chinese Communist Party, which continues to this day.
Back then, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji had initially stated to be willing to talk. However, three months later, on July 20, 1999, the dictatorial regime had struck with mass arrests. Two days later, China's then President Jiang Zemin ordered Falun Gong to be officially banned on the grounds of an alleged threat to "social order". At that time, an estimated 70 million people in China were practicing Falun Gong.
"Since then, it is estimated that more than 4,300 Falun Gong members have died in police custody, in labor camps, or prisons," stated Hanno Schedler, one of the STP's experts on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. "Many followers of the movement were arrested several times." The authorities had especially focused on older women, who were often accused of publicly promoting Falun Gong. Also, practitioners are increasingly becoming victims of illegal organ removal. "The Chinese government should end its fight against Falun Gong and respect the right to freedom of religion, as guaranteed by the constitution," Schedler added.
Even in Germany, Falun Gong practitioners can become victims of persecution by the Chinese state: Thus, Chinese employees of the 18 Confucius Institutes in Germany are not allowed to be members of the meditation movement. "German policy must not allow the religious persecution of the Chinese government to continue on our territory," Schedler emphasized.
The Chinese government even persecutes people who merely dared to defend Falun Gong practitioners: Gao Zhisheng, one of China's most prominent human rights lawyers, has repeatedly advocated for people of Christian faith and for Falun Gong members. In 2017, the human rights activist, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice, disappeared without trace.
The Chinese government has consistently criminalized Falun Gong. According to article 300 of the Chinese criminal law, membership in the Falun Gong movement is a punishable offence. The Communist Party often refers to the movement – and to the massively persecuted Christian religious community Church of Almighty God – as a "heterodox doctrine" or a "malicious cult". Thus, Falun Gong is branded as a subversive organization, which, by definition, cannot be recognized as a religious community.