WASHINGTON—A double birthday celebration was held on Saturday, May 5 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The local practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) gathered to celebrate World Falun Dafa Day.

The practitioners performed Falun Dafa’s slow moving, meditative exercises, filling the grass covered mall in neat rows and wearing the practice’s distinctive yellow clothes. On the edges of the group, tourists who wandered by would sometimes spontaneously begin doing the exercises with the practitioners, and an individual would step forward to instruct them.

Several performances were staged: including Chinese classical dance, singing, reciting poetry, a dragon dance, and a performance by a waist drum troupe. On the sidewalk crossing the mall, an exhibit of art by Dafa practitioners was set up, as well as posters explaining how the Chinese regime persecutes this peaceful group.

In China Falun Dafa is called a cultivation practice—the individual cultivates his or her mind, body, and spirit by doing five sets of exercises and living according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

Handed down lineage style over millennia in China, Dafa was first introduced to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi in his hometown of Changchun in northeastern China on May 13, 1992. May 13 is also Mr. Li’s birthday.

The Epoch Times asked several Falun Dafa practitioners what Dafa Day means to them

Telling People About Dafa

The day is a time of celebration, but it also a time for remembrance and for taking action. When practitioners gather together for Dafa Day they commemorate those killed in the persecution, and they work to spread awareness of it, seeking to end it by bringing to bear the world’s condemnation.

Liu Dexi performing one of the Falun Dafa exercises on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Lisa Fan/Epoch Times)

Mr. Liu Dexi has fresh memories of being persecuted in China, having arrived in the United States on Dec. 7, 2017. Initially a little nervous about being interviewed, Liu soon began laughing and smiling easily as he recalled terrifying events he and his family had experienced.

A small business owner who sold men’s and women’s belts, Liu noticed immediate changes in himself after he began practicing Falun Dafa in September 1998.

His formerly hot temper cooled, and he began dealing more honestly in his business. Sometimes wholesalers would unknowingly overpay him by as much as $500 (a considerable amount, given that the average urban salary in China in 2016 was $8,685), but he would then return the money to them. This is something he said he would never have done before.

His competitors would sell fake leather belts as genuine leather belts, pocketing the substantial difference in price. Liu sold genuine leather belts as genuine leather and the fake belts as fake, letting his customers know what they were getting and charging them accordingly.

He also allowed customers to return items they were dissatisfied with, something that is hardly done in China. There the rule is let the buyer beware, no returns accepted.

“After I began practicing Dafa, I followed its principles in everything I did,” Liu said.

Three months after he began practicing, his wife, seeing the changes in him, also began to practice. Their five-year-old daughter was then raised in Dafa.

On July 20, 1999 the full weight of the Chinese regime came crashing down on practitioners like Liu. The then-paramount leader Jiang Zemin launched a campaign to eradicate this meditation practice. The media bombarded the nation with around-the-clock propaganda slandering the practice, and hundreds of thousands of practitioners were detained in sports stadiums around China.

In a letter Jiang sent to the Politburo on the night of April 25, he presents Falun Dafa as an ideological threat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and fears that the Chinese people will prefer the teachings of Dafa to the CCP’s doctrines.

He wrote: “We must stick to the education of officials and the people with a correct outlook on the world, life, and values. Can the Marxism, Materialism and Atheism that our Communist Party members uphold not win the battle with what Falun Gong promotes? This is absolutely ridiculous!”

Liu and his wife felt there must have been some mistake. They and their young daughter went to Tiananmen Square in November to appeal to the state, to try to let it know there was no reason to outlaw Falun Dafa.

They were arrested and sent back to their hometown of Taizhou City, in Zhejiang Province on China’s coast. He served 21 days in jail and was fined 30,000 yuan ($4,712); his wife served 7 days.

In January 2002, Liu tried appealing on Tiananmen Square again. He and another fellow hid a banner by wrapping it around the waist under their clothes. They got to the square, whipped out their banner and held it up.

 The police descended on them, punching them, kicking them, and grinding their heads into the pavement with their boots. He was sent back to Taizhou for more time in jail.

When Liu got out, he wrote letters to all of the Public Security Departments in China (the state’s administration is divided among 34 province-level units, including provincial level cities like Beijing, autonomous regions like Tibet, and special administrative regions like Hong Kong) telling them Dafa should not be persecuted.

This time, Liu did not get off easily. Arrested and sent back to Zhenjiang Province, he was sentenced to ten years in a forced labor camp. There he was tortured.

One time he was not allowed to sleep for seven days and eight nights. He showed scars on his wrists caused by his being hung up by hand cuffs. There was more scarring above one eye, a remnant of one or another beating.

Throughout his time in the labor camp, Liu studied and memorized copies of Falun Dafa teachings that were smuggled into the camp. After seven years and eight months he was released.

But soon he was arrested again, this time sentenced to two years. With the elevation of Xi Jinping to the head of the CCP, labor camps were officially abolished (although some simply changed their names), and in some parts of China the persecution became less harsh. Liu’s camp closed and he was released after one year and three months.

Then he filed a court case against Jiang Zemin, charging him with genocide and crimes against humanity. Liu was detained for 15 days.

Meanwhile, his daughter was attending graduate school at the University of Maryland. To the surprise of Liu and his wife, with a letter in hand inviting them to attend her graduation ceremony, they were able to get passports and escape to the United States.

When asked what celebrating Dafa Day in the United States means to him, Liu momentarily lost his sunny smile, and his voice grew a little thick with emotion.

“I feel so honored to celebrate Dafa Day outside of China,” Liu said. “I don’t know how to express my feelings. Yea, it is really good. It is great.”

Now, Liu spends his days at a table outside the Air and Space Museum on the mall in D.C. where he speaks to Chinese tourists, telling them about his experiences with Falun Dafa and how many of his friends in China are being persecuted right now.

“Wherever I am, I want to tell people the truth about Dafa,” Liu said.

Forgiveness

After Mr. Li introduced Falun Dafa on May 13, 1992, he gave 56 series of lectures, each usually taking nine days to complete, in cities throughout China. The last such lecture series was given on Dec. 31,  1994.

With lecture halls often only holding a few thousand people, these lectures would have reached directly at most a few hundred thousand. However, in 1999 Western news outlets quoted state officials as saying between 70 and 100 million people in China had taken up Falun Dafa.

The power of example and communication by word of mouth spread the practice.

Zhang Huidong had advanced to become vice general manager in Beijing in one of China’s largest real estate companies, before he was finally forced to flee to the United States. His family demonstrates how Dafa spread so widely.

Zhang Huidong at a Falun Dafa Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

After his mother began practicing Falun Dafa, Zhang saw the changes in her health, and he began practicing.

So, too, did his two sisters, his wife, and her sisters. When the persecution befell China, families like these could be shattered.

One week after serving three years in prison, Zhang’s mother died. His two sisters each served two years in prison. His wife’s older sister died after one month in prison. His wife served three years in prison.

Zhang himself was arrested three times. And he was tortured. He showed a scar on his brow, and he had pictures of extensive injuries inflicted on his arms.

He speaks about these disasters in an even voice, without anger.

“If I didn’t practice Falun Dafa,” Zhang said, “after having suffered so much, I would have hatred toward the Communist regime.

“Instead, I feel sympathy for those people who persecuted me, because they are also manipulated by the evil communist regime.”

The Minghui website, which serves as a clearinghouse for information about the persecution and a platform for sharing about the cultivation of Dafa, can confirm 4,213 deaths due to torture and abuse. Because of the difficulty of getting this information out of China, the true number of such deaths is believed to be much higher.

In addition, there are a large number of deaths from forced organ harvesting. Researchers have reported that Falun Dafa practitioners have since 2000 been the primary source for organs for a transplantation system that includes 865 hospitals.

According to researchers, when prisoners of conscience have their organs harvested, the surgeons take everything that is usable, including the heart, liver, kidneys, skin and corneas, killing the victims.

After the victim is killed, he or she is cremated, leaving no evidence of the crime. The families of the practitioners killed in this way are left never knowing what has become of their loved ones, and hoping against hope as the years go by that they were not murdered by the surgeon’s knife.

Health and Gratitude

Linh Pham migrated to the United States from Vietnam 10 years ago and works in D.C. with an insurance company. She began practicing Falun Dafa after she saw the changes her mother and aunt experienced after they began practicing.

Pham said her mother had 20 illnesses. She went to doctors everywhere in Vietnam, and even travelled to see doctors in the United States. With no reason found for her sickness, she was desperate and distressed, Pham said.

Her sister in the United States began practicing Falun Dafa, saw her own health improve, and then traveled to Vietnam to teach Pham’s mother the exercises. Her mother started practicing, and her 20 illnesses disappeared. Her mother stopped taking any medicine, not needing it any longer.

Pham herself had chronic insomnia. She took pills to sleep and developed numerous allergies. Seven days after she began practicing Dafa, she said her allergies were gone. Her insomnia also ended.

Practitioners very commonly report improvements in health. With the possibility of the regime banning Falun Dafa looming over China, practitioners took several surveys to try to demonstrate the goodness of the practice.

In Dalian, over 6,000 practitioners were surveyed about their health. 92 percent reported total disappearance of their symptoms, 7.74 percent observed moderate improvement, and 0.14 percent saw no obvious improvement. The longer one had practiced Dafa, the more positive the results.

Pham feels very grateful for the improvement in her health, and for Dafa helping her to become a better person. She wants to pass on to others what she has gained, the chance to live a better life.

“Some people need help in life and by changing yourself to be better you also change other people too,” Pham said. “My friends see that I changed to become a better person, and now they want to study Dafa too.”

A Safe Harbor

20 years ago in Frankfurt, Germany Bjoern Neumann was walking through a park on a bitterly cold day and saw a group of four of five people doing slow motion exercises. He felt a warm energy emanating from them, and when he walked back he stopped to talk to them.

Bjoern Neumann and his daughter Jinglian at a Falun Dafa Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Soon he had joined a Falun Dafa practice group in Frankfurt. Initially skeptical, Neumann gradually came to understand the practice.

When the persecution started, he felt that Dafa was being attacked because it is so good. In a few years, he moved to the United States and started his own landscape company, which specializes in ponds and fountains.

Neumann reflected on what Dafa Day means to him.

“In this world where non-belief and atheism, this cheating and not telling the truth and this age of fake news, to have in this world people who try to be truthful, kind to others, and to have forbearance, I think this is outstanding,” Neumann said.

“Right now, our politics is a mess. Wherever you are in this political mess, Falun Dafa is like an oasis. No matter how the world changes, if you establish yourself in this righteous mindset, this gives you strength to find your way, no matter what happens.

“This is the signal light tower, and you say ‘wow,’ because I know there is a safe harbor.”

Falun Dafa practitioners perform an ethnic dance at a World Falun Dafa Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

 

Nick Zifcak meditates during a Falun Dafa Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

 

People look at banners introducing Falun Gong during a Falun Dafa Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

 

A waist drum troupe performs at a World Falun Dafa Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

 

A young girl passes Falun Dafa flyers to passers-by during a Falun Dafa Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington on May 5, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

 

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