“End Communism in China, save humanism” and “Stop persecution Falun Gong”, read the slogans on banners held by almost 100 Falun Gong members who were protesting on Princes Bridge near Flinders Street station in Melbourne to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the “Zhongnanhai Incident”.
In April 1999, 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners went to Beijing’s Zhongnanhai gardens to stage a peaceful appeal to stop defamatory coverage about the group in the state media. Falun Gong a Chinese religious spiritual practice that combines meditation and qigong exercises.
The local government at first supported the group, but their relationship changed and then the government refused to protect Falun Gong, calling them an “evil cult”. Soon afterwards, a ban of Falun Gong was announced nationwide, claiming the movement was a social disturbance.
Since then, the propaganda war between Falun Gong and the Chinese Communist Party has never ended.
From East to West, Falun Gong members are not only Chinese, but also include Australian and some other nationalities such as Vietnamese and Taiwanese.
The protest is called “wall of courage”, and in Melbourne it happened from 2pm to 5pm on ANZAC day, followed by a candle light vigil from 6.30pm to 8.30pm in City Square.
They divided into three groups near Flinders Street station. Some practiced Falun Gong, some told passersby about how the Chinese government deceived its citizens, some tried to collect signatures on a petition.
Few had time to stop and listen to the explanation, and some Chinese people were angered by the appearance of the group, who were wearing yellow uniforms with the slogan “Falun Dafa is good”.
Tianqing, an international student from China, said she felt little sympathy for the protestors.
“They are just trying to spread the stupid rumour about organ harvesting and persecutions against Chinese government,” she said.
“They are a heresy and Chinese government banned all kinds of heresy, not only them. They are banned because they united to make an anti-government organisation for propaganda.”
Alin Lee, 60, came to Australia two years ago from Beijing, seeking Australian’s protection from Chinese government under a refugee visa. She is now working as a cleaner in Melbourne.
Lee says she was invited to “drink tea” by the police in China, which means she was forced to renounce the practice by signing a guarantee document. All of the phone conversations of her family were taped to prevent them from practicing the movement.
“I’ve been followed and harassed by the police since I sued former dictator, Jiang Zemin, for persecuting Falun Gong members,” she said.
Lee has been practicing Falun Dafa since 1997, together with her mum, uncle and older sister. After China banned the practice, Lee’s mum and uncle stopped because they were afraid of punishment. But her older sister kept practicing, which led to her death later, Lee said.
“My older sister believed in the benefits brought by Falun Gong so she kept practicing. Until one day, she was jailed and persecuted very badly until dead by the Chinese government,” Lee said.
“However, I didn’t stop because I don’t want to give up my belief and I believe in justice.”
Daniel Cameroon, a 30-year-old Australian from Brisbane, has been practicing Falun Gong since he was 15, saying the practice has improvement his low blood pressure, while his mum and sister, who do not practice, are still experiencing health problems.
“When I’m able to treat medical, personal interests more lively and add accordingly three of the principles ‘Truthfulness, compassion and forbearance’ in my daily life, and then I do the meditation. They’re all very compliment to each other. I found that I had a lot more peace by doing so,” Cameroon said.
Cameroon says he supported Falun Gong because of human rights.
“They haven’t got the voice in China and they got persecuted. Here, we have that freedom to do so. We should look after each other, doesn’t matter who the person is, whether the same race, same country, we should all care for each other,” he said.
The president of the Falun Dafa Association of Australia’s Victoria Branch, Fan Huiqiang, says, through these street campaigns, Falun Gong’s practitioners hope to collect signatures on a petition that calls on the Australian Parliament to put pressure on the Chinese government.
“The signatures will be sent to the Supreme Court in China to stop persecuting practitioners,” he said.
“We hope the Australian Government can stand up to China to tell them to investigate the organ harvesting of Falun Gong’s practitioners.”
On May 11, Falun Gong members are going to hold a celebration for World Falun Dafa Day 2019.