Jiang Zemin’s Bitter Legacy
Chinese dictator launched war on own people
practitioners hold banners on Tiananmen Square in Beijing on May 2, 2001. For
the first few years of the persecution, practitioners went to the square asking the Communist Party to reverse itself.
(Courtesy of Minghui.net)
On Friday, as part of a march commemorating the events of July 20, 1999, a
solemn procession of women dressed in white will walk through Washington, D.C.,
carrying photos wreathed in flowers. The
photos are memorials—each one is of an individual killed in the ongoing
persecution of Falun Gong in China—and together they suggest the bitter legacy
left by the former Chinese communist leader Jiang Zemin.
Jiang is now,
according to news reports, either dead or brain dead, hooked up to a respirator.
On July 20, 1999, Jiang was the paramount leader of the Chinese Communist Party
and he unleashed the most systematic campaign of human rights abuses seen in
modern China: the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual practice.
Li Hongzhi began publicly teaching Falun Gong in his hometown of Changchun in
May 1992. A qigong practice, Falun Gong involves five sets of meditative exercises and living according to the principles of
truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
Adherents claimed extraordinary
health benefits, as well as life-changing improvements in their character. The practice spread rapidly by word of mouth
across China and by 1999 Western media outlets, citing Chinese officials, said
70 million Chinese were practicing—an official with the Chinese Sports
Commission in an interview with U.S. News and World Report suggested 100 million
Before April 25, 1999, there are only anecdotes about Jiang’s encounters with
Falun Gong practitioners. On that date, however, over 10,000 gathered outside
the State Appeal Office in Beijing, which is just down the street from the CCP’s
leadership compound. They had come to quietly request an end to the regime’s
unofficial bullying of their practice.
Jiang was driven out in his
smoked-glass limousine to observe those gathered, standing in orderly rows.
Later that night, “seemingly in the grip of a spiritual crisis” as one Western
commentator put it, Jiang penned a letter to the Politburo demanding action. It
forshadowed the persecution that came just three months later.
refer to a litany of reasons, associated with the CCP ideology and history that
explain why Falun Gong—with its independence from the state, traditional
beliefs, and enormous numbers—might become a target for a political campaign.
But it’s clear that Jiang took it all very personally.
In his letter,
Jiang remarked that since 1992, when Falun Gong was first taught, it has “become
involved in the activities of a considerable number of social groups of Party
members and cadres, intellectuals, servicemen, workers and peasants.” This was
Jiang’s way of saying that Falun Gong was well liked and many people practiced
it. “Yet it has not aroused our vigilance. I am deeply ashamed.”
continued, that clearly, “ideological and political work”—referring to
indoctrinating the people with Party ideology—was not strong enough. “[We] must
use correct world views, philosophy, and values to educate the cadres … and the
masses,” he wrote.
The final paragraph explained what this meant: “Can
the Marxism our Communists have, the materialism and atheism we believe in,
really not win over that suit of stuff aired by Falun Gong? If that were not the
case, would it not be a thumping joke? Our leading cadres at all levels,
especially high-level officials, should become sober now!”
characterized the gathering as “the most serious political incident since June
4” (referring to the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989).
Alongside the Party’s primal urge for ideological struggle and societal
dominance—Communist Party propaganda had said Falun Gong was “competing for
popularity with the Party,” which is regarded as an unpardonable crime—Jiang was
highly vested in the campaign.
“By unleashing a Mao-style movement,
Jiang is forcing senior cadres to pledge allegiance to his line,” a Party
veteran told Willy Lam, a writer on Chinese politics, at the time. “This will
boost Jiang’s authority … at the pivotal 16th Communist Party Congress next year.”
“The Politburo did not unanimously endorse the
crackdown and … Jiang Zemin alone decided that Falun Gong must be eliminated,”
John Pomfret, a reporter for the Washington Post, wrote. “This obviously is very
personal for Jiang,” one Party official told Pomfret. “He wants this
With the April 25 letter, Jiang’s mind was made
On June 7, 1999, Jiang held a meeting with key confidants in the Politburo to
discuss the “Falun Gong problem.” He gave a speech, which was later leaked,
demanding that Party apparatchiks “take this issue seriously, do more in-depth
research, and take effective countermeasures.”
And at the same meeting he
outlined the propaganda strategy that would be played out on Chinese televisions
and in newspaper over the next several years, according to a book by James Tong,
a professor of Chinese politics at UCLA. The regime was to “expose” the
“political motives” of Falun Gong, show how the practice causes “deaths,
suicides, and schizophrenia,” and present a systematic critique of
“superstition,” which Falun Gong, a spiritual practice, was accused of.
An internal directive also went out after that meeting, mirroring the
language and tactics used in the Cultural Revolution, for all Communist Party
and Youth League members, to “immediately draw a clear line with Falun Gong,
break away from its groups, and return to the Party’s correct
Three days later, on June 10, the 610 Office was
established. The 610 Office is a Party organ, a secret task force sanctioned and
given sweeping funding and authority. It was “Jiang Zemin’s personal and private
tool to persecute Falun Gong,” according to a study compiled by the World
Organization to Investigate the persecution of Falun Gong. The 610
Office has frequently been compared to the Nazi’s Gestapo, used by Hitler to
As well as using national security forces to arrest and
torture practitioners, 610 Offices would be embedded throughout society to sniff
out believers and have them “transformed”—forced to renounce their beliefs—in
brainwashing centers, psychiatric hospitals, black jails, and labor camps.
Between April 25 and July 20, when the persecution was officially
launched, Jiang gave at least three speeches and issued 13 written policy directives on the subject, according to
The Central Propaganda Department used television stations, radio
stations, newspapers and magazines in a “study in all-out demonization,”
according to scholar of Chinese politics Daniel B. Wright.
days of the crackdown People’s Daily, the Party’s official mouthpiece had
published 347 articles attacking Falun Gong.
Hate propaganda against the
practice made its way into schools, government offices, and factories. Every
level of society was required to participate in the slander and persecution.
Given that it was Jiang’s personal crusade, he frequently got in on the act
himself. In September 1999 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in New
Zealand, Jiang personally presented anti-Falun Gong propaganda booklets to many
of the participants, including to then-President Clinton.
stunned diplomats,” John Pomfret wrote at the time. The booklet was chockfull of
the Chinese regime’s extreme propaganda. “This guy actually thought we needed to
know about this stuff,” one Western diplomat remarked afterward.
later in France, Jiang again took his Falun Gong crusade public. He told Le
Figaro that Falun Gong was an “evil cult,” and the remarks were widely
circulated throughout China. One month later, in October, the “cult” designation
was made official and became a staple in the anti-Falun Gong propaganda
Pomfret writes, “It was Jiang who ordered that Falun Gong be
labeled a ‘cult,’ and then demanded that a law be passed banning cults,” citing
a Communist Party source.
For those who refused to give up their Falun
Gong beliefs, Jiang’s instructions were clear: “carry out necessary
organizational measures based on the related regulations. … Firmly implement
these measures. … Maximally isolate and firmly attack those behind the scene and
the key planners and organizers, showing no mercy at all.”
The “no mercy at all” policy lies behind the large-scale persecution directed
at followers of all ages. Brainwashing classes, sexual abuse and rape, the
injection of mind-damaging drugs, and physical torture are all crucial elements
of the campaign.
According to the Falun Dafa
Information Center, at least 3,400 people are now confirmed dead from torture or
abuse. Getting information about such crimes out of China is very difficult, and
the center fears the real figure is in the tens of thousands. Nine new torture
deaths were reported in June.
The 44-year-old Huang Wei, an owner of a
small bookstore, is a typical case. He was abducted by police in 2009 and
subject to electric shocks, sleep deprivation, forced labor, torture, beatings,
and brainwashing. But it was the drug injections that killed him. When guards
noticed his difficulty breathing and walking, they sent him home. Emaciated and
mentally disordered from the injection, he never recovered. Huang Wei died two
and a half weeks later, on April 29.
Amnesty International reports that
former labor camp inmates say that Falun Gong practitioners “constituted one of
the largest groups of prisoners.” The center estimates that the number of
practitioners enslaved in labor camps is in a range from 200,000 to 1 million.
In the labor camps, in addition to being subjected to miserable food, labor for
extremely long hours, and torture, practitioners are vulnerable to being taken
for forced, live organ harvesting.
The researchers David Kilgour and
David Matas say that between 2000 and 2005, 41,500 organ transplant
operations were done for which the Chinese state cannot provide a source for the
organs. The two lawyers conclude the most likely source for the organs is Falun