Here you can read about the events that took place in the run up to the persecution of Falun Gong in China launched by the communist regime in July 1999.
As Falun Gong becomes more popular, early signs of state oppression appear. Shortly after they are named bestsellers, Falun Gong books are banned from publication by a July 24th internal order from the China News Publishing Bureau, an entity under the Ministry of Propaganda. The document accuses Falun Gong of “spreading superstition”. The first major state-run media article criticising Falun Gong appears in the Guangming Daily on June 17th, 1996.
|The Public Security Bureau conducts an investigation into whether Falun Gong should be deemed an “evil cult”, but the investigation concludes: “no evidence found”.|
July 21st, 1998
Bureau No. 1 of the Ministry of Public Security issues Document No. 555, titled, "Notice of the Investigation of Falun Gong", claiming that Falun Gong is a heretical cult. The Ministry begins a series of investigations, seeking evidence in support of the conclusion. Means include tapping phone lines, monitoring volunteers, raiding homes, confiscating personal belongings. Various forms of (unlawful) harassment ensue at the hands of Chinese police, including disruption of public morning exercise sessions with water cannons and the closure of certain practice sites. Homes are ransacked in some areas.
Latter half of 1998
After receiving a deluge of letters of concern, Qiao Shi, who had just finished a term as Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and served on the Politburo, leads his own investigation, joined by other senior members of the Congress, into the Document 555 allegations. After months of investigating, the group concludes that, “Falun Gong has hundreds of benefits for the Chinese people and nation, and does not a bit of harm.”
The National Sports Commission of China launches its own investigation into Falun Gong. The head investigator, declared on October 20th that, “We’re convinced the exercises and effects of Falun Gong are excellent. It has done an extraordinary amount to improve society’s stability and ethics. This should be duly affirmed.”
A study conducted by China’s State Sports Commission estimates that over 70 million people are practising Falun Gong in China.
Attacks on Falun Gong escalate in state-run media even as positive reports continue alongside, suggesting internal divisions among China’s political leadership. Falun Gong adherents respond to criticisms by visiting, and sometimes petitioning outside, local newspaper or television stations, seeking greater accuracy in reporting. Such events take place in Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and other major cities.
February 14th, 1999
An official from China’s National Sports Commission, speaking with US News & World Report, intimates that as many as 100 million may have taken up the practice. The official highlights the costs the practice is saving China’s national health care system, declaring that “Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that”.
He Zuoxiu, a prominent Marxist-atheist, disparages Falun Gong and qigong in general in a Tianjin college magazine. Local Falun Gong practitioners gather in Tianjin, asking the magazine to repair the damage done to their reputation.
Although the gathering is peaceful, on April 23rd and 24th riot police are sent, 45 practitioners are arrested and some are beaten. When practitioners ask Tianjin authorities to release those who were arrested, they are told that the orders came from Beijing; if they want to petition, they are told, they must go to the capital.
The following day, on April 25th, over 10,000 Falun Gong adherents from Beijing, nearby Tianjin, and other cities in the area gather outside the State Council Office of Petitions in Beijing. This office is located right next door to Zhongnanhai, the Communist Party leaders’ residential compound. The petitioners come to voice their concern about the arrests and abuses in Tianjin the day before, and they request that those arrested in Tianjin be released, that the ban on publishing Falun Gong books be lifted, and that they be able to resume their practice without government interference.
The gathering was actually remarkably peaceful and orderly, in spite of the Party’s later accusations that Falun Gong "seized" Zhongnanhai.
Then-Prime Minister Zhu Rongji meets with Falun Gong representatives in his office. By the end of the day, those arrested in Tianjin were released and the gathering quietly dispersed.
Within hours, however, then-Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin opposes Zhu’s assuaging position, and states that if it cannot defeat Falun Gong, the Party will become a “laughing stock”.
April 26th, 1999
An article by the Associated Press states that China’s Falun Gong has “more members than the Communist Party—at least 70 million, according to the State Sports Administration”. Two New York Times stories the following day put the number of Falun Gong at 70 million, attributing the figure to the Chinese Government. The article states that the group “even by Chinese Government estimates has more members than the Communist Party”.
June 10th, 1999
The “6-10 Office” is established at the behest of Chinese Communist Party Head Jiang Zemin. It’s charge: to plan, orchestrate, and carry out a comprehensive suppression of the Falun Gong. Jiang grants it authority over all local levels of police, government, and courts. The 6-10 Office later became the primary tool for arresting, torturing, and killing Falun Gong practitioners.
On July 20th, 1999, Falun Gong is officially banned by the communist leadership of China.
From the April 25th gathering until mid July, adherents throughout China report being followed and interrogated by plainclothes police officers, as the Party collects lists of adherents and makes final preparations for the ensuing ban.
On July 20th, 1999, throughout China police begin arresting adherents that they consider to be key organisers and ransack their homes. On July 22nd, 1999, a media blitz commences. Airwaves, television screens, and newspapers columns are filled with attacks on Falun Gong. Sound trucks drive around city streets and college campuses warning people that practising Falun Gong is now illegal. Among the ban’s stipulations, protesting the ban is also banned (link to report).
Massive arrests ensue along with ransackings, abductions, and the confiscation of Falun Gong-related materials. A nationwide anti-Falun Gong propaganda campaign is launched in sync.