On April 23rd & 24th, 1999, police officials in Tianjin, a city near Beijing, assaulted and arrested dozens of Falun Gong practitioners who had gathered outside a magazine office to discuss errors in a recently-published article attacking Falun Gong. As word spread of the arrests and more Falun Gong practitioners enquired with officials, they were told they had to take their appeals to Beijing. The following day, April 25th, some 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners spontaneously gathered at the central appeals office at Fuyou street in Beijing. This is close to Zhongnanhai, the location of the central government compound. The gathering was peaceful and orderly. Several Falun Gong representatives were called in to meet with Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji, and members of his staff. That evening, the concerns of Falun Gong practitioners were met, the arrested practitioners in Tianjin were released and everyone went home.

The most peaceful protest in history is called a 'siege' by top party brass

Relabelled “laying siege to the government compound”

According to several sources within the Chinese government, in the months following the April 25th gathering, a fierce political struggle ensued within the top levels of the CCP brass. Then-CCP head Jiang Zemin called upon the government to "crush" Falun Gong, while other members of the Politburo saw no threat in the practice. CNN's senior analyst Willy Lam quoted senior officials saying the suppression of Falun Gong became very "personal" for Jiang Zemin. In July, Jiang formally ordered the suppression of Falun Gong.

The April 25th gathering was quickly re-characterised not as the peaceful appeal it was, and one that, in fact, was coordinated by Tianjin and Beijing officials themselves who told practitioners to go to the Beijing appeals office, but rather as a "laying siege" to the central government compound and clear "evidence" as to how Falun Gong is a threat.

Influence of this propaganda

The misrepresentation of April 25th as a "siege" of the central government compound politicised Falun Gong. This propaganda spread both in China and abroad. Thus, rather than seeing the CCP's persecution as the violent suppression of a religious minority, a narrative that Falun Gong and the CCP were vying for power began to evolve. Furthermore, some China watchers in the West believed Falun Gong brought the persecution on themselves by "challenging" the government on April 25th. This narrative has eroded the enthusiasm of many would-be supporters of human and religious rights, and remains the single greatest factor in the blame-the-victim phenomena that surrounds the investigation of and reporting on the persecution of Falun Gong more broadly.

State-run media labelled this peaceful and orderly demonstration as a siege of the central government compound.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Edmund Burke


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