H-ASIA: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture [H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU]
August 12, 1999
From: Christopher Corkery [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Subject: Falun Gong and Zhongnanhai
I am writing concerning two recent postings on Falun Gong which remain unclear on the origins of the Zhongnanhai demonstration in April. The way that the April demonstration outside Zhongnanhai is usually explained by the praticioners I know goes roughly as follows:
In mid-April, a fairly small and unknown periodical in Tianjin published an article which spoke of the beginnings of a new anti-spiritual polutions campaign. Unlike most things published on this matter, however, this article named Falun Gong in writing. Many practicioners in Tianjin, being a very important center of Falun Gong (if there is such a thing), were angered by the allegations that Falun Gong could fall under the rubric of spiritual polution. Its proximity to Beijing provided very easy access and thus, the incident was made. There was no official organization by Master Li Hongzhi, despite the fact that he seems to have been in China at the time. Had there been, the claim is usually made, the 10,000 practioners might have numbered closer to 10,000,000. Also, there seems to have been no specific demands. More likely, through the internet and by word of mouth, it took just two or three days to make it known to local practicioners that people would arrive at the gate of Zhongnanhai, at the designated time, for a group practice. While there, keeping with tradition, all would be orderly and peaceful, thus showing the world and the government that Falun Gong was, indeed, not what had been claimed. Though individuals may have had more specific demands, it seems likely that "the group" demand was little more than that: to show themselves as harmless, peaceful people.
The article, as well as pictures demonstrating the orderly conduct of the practioners, seems to have floated around Falun Gong circles and, with little effort, can likely be acquired from most any practicioner.
August 13, 1999
From: Scott Savitt
H-ASIA: Re: Falun Gong and Zhongnanhai
The problem with the above explanation is that it greatly oversimplifies why Falungong practitioners would resort to the suicidal measure of surrounding Zhongnanhai (which rest assured every participant understood marked the end of their existence as an apolitical exercise group).
I have seen a central propaganda circular from 1998 identifying Falungong as a target for a propaganda campaign aimed at reducing its influence by "whatever means necessary." The propaganda campaign against Falungong began in 1998, as did the group's attempt at organized resistance. Even (especially?) in China, you can't fight City Hall.