By Faith McDonnell
As a defender of religious liberty around the world, the Institute on Religion and Democracy is called to speak out not just for Christians, but for all those who are persecuted for their beliefs. Each summer for the past seven years, it has been my privilege to speak at a rally for freedom in China, sponsored by the Falun Gong. Along with Christians, Tibetans, Uyghur Muslims, North Korean refugees, and victims of China’s One Child policy, the practitioners of Falun Gong are persecuted severely by the Communist Party government of China.
Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline combining meditation, exercises, and moral philosophy that was introduced to China by its founder, Li Hongzhi, in 1992. In 1999, the Communist regime began a crackdown on Falun Gong because its practitioners had increased to tens of millions. Since that time, practitioners have been harassed, arrested, tortured, and killed. There is even evidence that they are targeted for the harvesting of their organs. In spite of severe oppression, Falun Gong has been responsible for two great accomplishments that have helped advance of freedom and democracy.
Although China has what is probably the most sophisticated system in the world for controlling digital communication, known to its opponents as the Great Firewall of China, a 37 year-old software engineer, Alan Huang, who is a practitioner of Falun Gong, managed to break through that control. He and some friends worked together in Huang’s garage and developed a program to foil government censorship and surveillance. They later joined with another group of Falun Gong practitioners who were working on a similar program to form the Global Internet Freedom Consortium. In addition to helping Chinese dissidents, the programs were used by Iranians during the green movement protests of 2009.
Falun Gong’s second great accomplishment is a book, Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, originally published as articles in serial form in Falun Gong’s Epoch Times newspaper, and the responding ”Quit the Party” Tuidang movement that is sweeping across China. Since the movement began in late 2004, almost 125 million people have renounced the Communist Party and quit membership in it and in the affiliated Young Pioneers. Falun Gong created a “Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party.” In my speech at the Falun Gong rally for freedom in China last July, I said “this rally is important because it reminds us that truth is a powerful weapon against evil. In fact, in the words of Jesus Christ, “the truth shall set you free.” The more the truth is revealed, I said, ”the more that those who want to change things will be empowered.” My closing exhortation to the rally attendees:
In a world in which more and more people in more and more nations, even, I fear, the United States of America, are being deceived about Communism and Socialism, and are relinquishing their freedom to allow the government to take care of them – you who know the truth about the lies, tyranny, and terror of Communism are a shining light. I hope that you will speak the truth about this evil to your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends who have not experienced persecution and lack of freedom, and remind them how grateful they should be to live in a country where they are still free.
Here is the video of my speech: