More than 300 Falun Gong practitioners and supporters gathered at Harry Bridges Plaza in San Francisco on July 15, 2023, to commemorate the upcoming date of July 20, which marks 24 years of anti-persecution efforts in China. The event included a grand parade through the city, aiming to raise awareness about the ongoing persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China.
The persecution against Falun Gong began on July 20, 1999, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a campaign to suppress the spiritual practice. Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and involves a set of slow-moving meditative exercises. By 1999, the practice had gained immense popularity through word of mouth, with an estimated 70 million to 100 million adherents in mainland China.
The parade started at Harry Bridges Plaza and headed north along The Embarcadero, passing popular landmarks such as Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, before concluding at Maritime Garden. The participants, dressed in colorful attire, carried banners and signs condemning the persecution and demanding an end to the mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners.
Just before the rally, Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.) expressed his concerns about Meng Zhaohong, the mother of one of his constituents, Doria Liu. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Mr. Kiley urged the Secretary to contact Chinese authorities and demand the release of Ms. Meng. She has endured over eight years of illegal detention, including two terms in forced labor camps and one unjust imprisonment. Reports suggest that she has been subjected to electric shocks, beatings, and forced feeding, resulting in a broken finger and permanent disability.
During the rally, Doria Liu shared her anguish about the separation from her mother due to the persecution. She expressed her fears for her mother’s safety, especially after Ms. Meng and another practitioner, Yuan Xiuhua, were arrested again in May. Ms. Liu, who came to the United States eight years ago and hasn’t seen her mother since, now has a family of her own, including an eight-month-old son.
The event also featured stories from other Falun Gong practitioners who have faced persecution in China. Linda Campbell, a resident of Sonoma County, highlighted the impact of the persecution beyond China’s borders. She emphasized the importance of raising awareness about the ongoing human rights violations and the need for support from the international community.
Wang Longbiao, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, shared his personal experience of persecution as a Falun Gong practitioner. After practicing with his father in 2009, he was thrown into a forced labor camp for two years. Mr. Wang eventually escaped to Europe and embarked on a journey through multiple countries in South America before finally reaching the United States.
Another speaker, Liu Zhitong, expressed her deep concerns for her mother’s safety after her detention in 2022. She explained that her mother was subjected to a “show trial” in April 2023, during which family members were not allowed to be present. The court has yet to announce a verdict, creating further anxiety for Ms. Liu Zhitong.
Kerry Huang, a Falun Gong practitioner, highlighted the purpose of the events as raising awareness about the 24-year-long persecution against Falun Gong in China. She mentioned that the persecution is ongoing, with reports of at least 120 practitioners killed in the first half of 2023 alone. However, due to information censorship, these numbers may only represent a fraction of the actual cases.
Participants in the parade included women dressed in white, symbolizing the individuals who lost their lives during the persecution. The colorful procession attracted the attention of passersby, including Amrita Dhar, who was visiting the city with her son. Shocked by the stories she heard, Ms. Dhar expressed a desire to learn more about Falun Gong and the persecution when she returned home.
Tourist Manon Gepuygt from France also acknowledged that she hadn’t heard about the persecution through other media sources. She stressed the importance of spreading awareness about the issue, emphasizing the need for more people to understand and take action against the human rights abuses in China.
Overall, the rally and grand parade in San Francisco aimed to shed light on the ongoing persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China. The participants shared personal stories of survival and highlighted the urgency of ending the mistreatment and securing the release of those unjustly detained. By raising awareness, they hope to garner support and bring an end to the decades-long persecution.