Through universities and workplaces, the Chinese Communist Party could quickly extend its persecution of Falun Gong to the masses. In the People’s Republic every university and work unit has a CCP official responsible for carrying out Party directives and reporting back to superiors. Chinese bureaucracy under decades of Communist Party rule has reached an unprecedented depth and ability to quickly mobilise campaigns throughout the vast country.
Before the ban
Before the 1999 ban, students and teachers could often be seen practising Falun Gong together, as they currently do in Taiwan. “China’s MIT,” the prestigious Qinghua University, featured 11 different Falun Gong practice locations on campus with over 500 dedicated Falun Gong practitioners, including 100-200 professors.
In many a workplace Falun Gong quickly spread from one individual to the other as employees became intrigued and excited by the new exercise regimen and the discipline’s moral code. In some factories, workers gathered in the factory yard to practise Falun Gong’s slow-movement exercises in the early morning before work. Some managers even praised the practice for boosting employees’ morale and work ethic (see Falun Gong timeline).
Fired, dishonoured and expelled
Once the persecution, with its accompanying propaganda campaign, was launched, millions of colleagues, teachers, and classmates were suddenly ostracised. “Model workers” and honorary students who were Falun Gong practitioners were now reprimanded and even jailed. Friends who had only weeks earlier asked to borrow a Falun Gong book now urged practitioners to stop practising Falun Gong in order to stay out of trouble.
Employers and university principals immediately came under pressure if one of their workers or students publicly petitioned the government to end the persecution. One after another, Falun Gong practitioners were fired and students were expelled for their beliefs.
Universities and workplaces converted into propaganda centres and prisons
Meanwhile, workplaces and universities were forced to implement Cultural Revolution-style study sessions. These included public denunciations of Falun Gong based on People’s Daily editorials and other Party materials, which delineated the “correct view” Chinese people should have about Falun Gong.
Elementary school students are forced to line up and sign huge banners attacking Falun Gong and “superstition” more broadly while swearing allegiance to the progressive nature of Marxism and science.
High school students have to answer according to the official Party line on national standardised matriculation tests. Failure to provide the official answer means expulsion or denial of college education to otherwise qualified students.
Jailed adherents who refuse to “transform” are threatened that their resistance will cost their loved ones their jobs and education opportunities (more on persecution of loved ones). Survivors report that, in many cases, the threats are carried out.
Classrooms, offices, and dormitories have also been used as ad hoc detention centres for Falun Gong practitioners. One woman from Shanghai described how she was locked in the school in which she taught, as policemen took turns around the clock carrying out “thought work”.
Students of all ages have not been spared the persecution’s most brutal methods. Ms Wei Xingyan, a graduate student from Chongqing University who practised Falun Gong, for instance, was raped by a policeman in front of onlookers. When her case was exposed online she disappeared and the university went on to deny the woman ever existed (news).
Because of the deliberate way in which the persecution of Falun Gong has been carried out throughout China’s education system, former education minister Chen Zhili has been sued for crimes against humanity (report).