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19 Years Later, New Yorkers Remember Historic April 25 Appeal in China

FLUSHING, New York—Nearly 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners from the New York area gathered on April 22, to mark the 19th anniversary of a day that’s both sad and also a testament to great determination.

On April 25, 1999, an estimated 10,000 followers of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa) gathered in Beijing to appeal for the restoration of a safe, legal environment to practice their faith. That day, the sidewalks near the Chinese Communist Party leadership compound were filled with polite, peaceful meditators wondering why their friends were starting to be arrested.

Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Three months after the April 25 appeal, then leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, launched a large-scale persecution of Falun Gong that continues until today.

Now, nearly 20 years later, the sidewalks of New York were filled with pedestrians who stopped to watch and record the whirlwind of colors from a marching military band, the meticulously designed floats, bustling dragon dance troupes, and cheerful ladies playing Chinese waist drums.

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A waist drum troupe, made up of Falun Gong practitioners, marches in a parade in Flushing, New York, on April 22, 2018, to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the April 25th peaceful appeal of 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing, China. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

The persecution remains arguably the most severe human rights issue in China today. Each year, the parade in New York, and others like it around the world, raise awareness about the brutal persecution and at the same time offer a  dash of beauty and traditional culture that seem to have been lost in modern times.

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Practitioners of the Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, meditation practice march in a parade in Flushing, New York, on April 22, 2018. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

One Who Was There in 1999

That fateful day in April 1999 still remains in the mind of Zhaohe You, now 65.

“We just stood there peacefully the whole time. We wanted people to know that the practitioners they arrested in Tianjin are innocent people,” said You, then a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law. “We wanted the society to learn about the truth and what kind of people we are.”

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The Tian Guo marching band in a parade in Flushing, New York, on April 22, 2018. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

“The policemen standing before us were nervous at first, but then relaxed after a while seeing how peaceful we were,” added You’s wife Lurai Wang, who was with her husband at the time.

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Falun Gong Practitioners Lurai Wang and Zhaohe You in Flushing, New York, April 22, 2018. (Bowen Xiao/Epoch Times)

Both Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department have cited sources suggesting that at least half of the inmates in forced labor camps across China were Falun Gong practitioners. The forced labor camp system was officially disbanded in 2014, but observers have noted that the camps have continued operating under different names.

Former Canadian cabinet minister David Kilgour has noted that former detainees whom he and international human rights lawyer David Matas have interviewed outside China “consistently indicated that Falun Gong were both the largest group in the camps and were singled out for systematic torture and abuse.”

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Practitioners of Falun Gong meditation call for the arrest of former Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin—the main architect behind the now 19-year persecution of Falun Gong in China—in a march in Flushing, New York, on April 22, 2018. (Larry Dai/The Epoch Times)

Studies by Kilgour and Matas and by investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann of forced organ harvesting in China report that large numbers of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience have been killed since 2000 to supply a lucrative trade in human organs.

From The Epoch Times