IN THE NEWS |  Falun Gong Followers Find a Voice

In Daj Hammarskjold Plaza outside the General Assembly of the United Nations, Falun Gong practitioners use silence to voice their protest. Instead of chanting their dissent, they are sitting with legs crossed, eyes closed, and their arms engaged in an ancient ballet, a form of qigong, now illegal in China. Their silent, graceful gestures stand in stark contrast to the photos of tortured prisoners on display nearby.

Falun Gong protesters say the photos are of their friends and family who were imprisoned and tortured for practice of Falun Gong, a meditative practice illegal in China since 1999. Since the outlawing of the practice, Falun Gong protesters are almost ubiquitous at public protest squares outside of China. Falun Gong followers say that the followers are ubiquitous in Chinese labor camps as well.

This year, days before the United Nations General Assembly, the silent Falun Gong protesters finally found a voice in the form of a petition to the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DOFAH), an international advocacy group based in Washington D.C, collected 23,000 signatures for the petition to Ambassador Rice.

Followers and advocates say that the Chinese Communist Party targets Falun Gong practitioners and uses them for live organ harvesting. The petition calls for the “full disclosure of relevant information about forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in China”.

With an estimated 70-100 million practitioners in China, Falun Gong followers became a target of the Chinese Communist Party in 1999, says the World Alliance Report. Falun Gong is rooted in ancient Chinese culture, a culture that predates the ruling communist party and, because of this history, followers say it threatens the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Ethan Guttman in World Affairs Journal says that torture and organ harvesting is thriving in China, and that Falun Gong followers are the main target of this practice of the CCP.

“The network of detention centers, labor camps, psychiatric centers, and ‘black jails’… contained a total of three to five million people; by the end of 2000, Falun Gong, very briefly, made up almost half of the detainees," Guttman said in World Affairs Journal.

As the Chinese organ harvesting industry grows, fueled in part by the increasing business of the Western organ tourist demand, Chinese doctors are honing the craft of organ harvesting by practicing on death row inmates and on Falun Gong followers in labor camps.

Guttman described the horrors of the industry, “Live organ harvesting was pioneered by 1994 and was a significant medical practice throughout at least one Chinese province by 1996," Guttman said. "Organ harvesters realize that organ donation success is more likely when organs are harvested from a live body."

Now, according to Guttman, prisoners are kept alive while their organs are removed.

For Jane Dai, a demure, petite woman present at the Daj Hammarskjold Plaza protests, the recent petition victory is a small reward for the suffering she endured since becoming a Falun Gong follower.

 Dai is the recipient of Australian Humanitarian Award and advocates for Falun Gong practitioners with Amnesty International. Dai began to practice Falun Gong when it was still legal in China and met her husband at a Falun Gong meeting.

A leader in the Falun Gong community, Dai’s husband drew the attention of the Chinese government, Dai says. One day, her husband could not be found.

“When he came home, his body was blue and he was quiet. He did not want talk about it though because I was pregnant,” Dai says in a quiet voice.

For the sake of their unborn child, a pregnant Jane fled the country to Australia. Eventually, her husband went missing again. Jane, still hiding in Australia, waited for news of her husband’s whereabouts.

When pictures of Dai’s husband’s dead and tortured body surfaced on the internet, Dai knew she could not return to China.

“My friends called me to tell me to go online and look for the pictures of my husband. I looked at my husband’s body on the screen," Dai says, "Then I looked at my baby daughter who was sleeping. There are no words to describe the heartbreak. My hair began to turn white," Dai says as tears spill out of her eyes.

Jane never returned to China. Instead, she organized the growing international community of Falun Gong followers demanding China cease forced organ harvesting.

Dai’s work eventually led to the petition that went before the UN General Assembly and US Ambassador Susan Rice. 

For Dai and her fellow practitioners, the international recognition and petition is just the beginning. While there are many Falun Gong followers still imprisoned in labor camps, Dai feels the urgency of her mission.

“I feel I am doing what my husband started with his courage. I am keeping his story alive. Change begins within China, but for us outside of China, we must stand up and say what is happening to our family and friends," Dai says in a voice that is finally being heard.

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Written by: Millicent Smith