"Look, I think you can make the connections that...they are using prisoners, and they need prisoners who are relatively healthy, they need prisoners who are relatively younger. It doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination that some Falun Gong [practitioners] are going to be among those who are going to be killed for parts. It just follows, because remember you can't take very old people as sources of organs and you can't take people who are very sick. They, Falun Gong, are in part younger, and by lifestyle, healthier. I would be astounded if they weren't using some of those prisoners as sources of organs."
Elizabeth Perry, a Harvard Historian, writes that the basic pattern of the offensive was similar to "the anti-rightist campaign of the 1950s [and] the anti-spiritual pollution campaigns of the 1980s." As it did during the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party organised rallies in the streets and stop-work meetings in remote western provinces by government agencies such as the weather bureau to denounce the practice. Local government authorities have carried out "study and education" programmes throughout China, and official cadres have visited villagers and farmers at home to explain "in simple terms the harm of Falun Gong to them".
Human Rights Watch notes that the crackdown on Falun Gong reflects historical efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to eradicate religion, which the government believed was inherently subversive. Some journalists believe that Beijing's reaction exposes its authoritarian nature and its intolerance for competing loyalty. The Globe and Mail wrote : "...any group that does not come under the control of the Party is a threat"; secondly, the 1989 protests may have heightened the leaders' sense of losing their grip on power, making them live in "mortal fear" of popular demonstrations. Craig Smith of the Wall Street Journal suggests that the government which has by definition no view of spirituality, lacks moral credibility with which to fight an expressly spiritual foe; the party feels increasingly threatened by any belief system that challenges its ideology and has an ability to organize itself. That Falun Gong, whose belief system represented a revival of traditional Chinese religion, was being practiced by a large number of Communist Party members and members of the military was seen as particularly disturbing to Jiang Zemin. "Jiang accepts the threat of Falun Gong as an ideological one: spiritual beliefs against militant atheism and historical materialism. He [wished] to purge the government and the military of such beliefs".
Chinese authorities began filtering and blocking overseas websites as early as the mid-1990s, and in 1998 the Ministry of Public Security developed plans for the "Golden Shield Project" to monitor and control online communications. The campaign against Falun Gong in 1999 provided authorities with added incentive to develop more rigorous censorship and surveillance techniques. The government also moved to criminalize various forms of online speech. China’s first integrated regulation on Internet content, passed in 2000, made it illegal to disseminate information that "undermines social stability," harms the "honor and interests of the state," or that "undermines the state's policy for religions" or preaches "feudal" beliefs—a veiled reference to Falun Gong.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a form of spiritual qigong practice that involves meditation, Energy exercises, and a moral philosophy drawing on Buddhist tradition. The practice was first taught publicly by Li Hongzhi in Northeast China in the spring of 1992, towards the end of China’s "qigong boom."
Since July 1999, civil servants and Communist Party members have been forbidden from practicing Falun Gong. Workplaces and schools were enjoined to participate in the struggle against Falun Gong by pressuring recalcitrant Falun Gong believers to renounce their beliefs, sometimes sending them to special reeducation classes to be "transformed". Failure to do so has results in lost wages, pensions, expulsion, or termination from jobs.
Falun Gong's response to the persecution in China began in July 1999 with appeals to local, provincial, and central petitioning offices in Beijing. It soon progressed to larger demonstrations, with hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners traveling daily to Tiananmen Square to perform Falun Gong exercises or raise banners in defense of the practice. These demonstrations were invariably broken up by security forces, and the practitioners involved were arrested—sometimes violently—and detained. By 25 April 2000, a total of more than 30,000 practitioners had been arrested on the square; seven hundred Falun Gong followers were arrested during a demonstration in the square on 1 January 2001. Public protests continued well into 2001. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Ian Johnson wrote that "Falun Gong faithful have mustered what is arguably the most sustained challenge to authority in 50 years of Communist rule."
By late 2001, demonstrations in Tiananmen Square had become less frequent, and the practice was driven deeper underground. As public protest fell out of favor, practitioners established underground "material sites," which would produce literature and DVDs to counter the portrayal of Falun Gong in the official media. Practitioners then distribute these materials, often door-to-door. Falun Gong sources estimated in 2009 that over 200,000 such sites exist across China. The production, possession, or distribution of these materials is frequently grounds for security agents to incarcerate or sentence Falun Gong adherents.
In 2002, Falun Gong Activists in China tapped into television broadcasts, replacing regular state-run programming with their own content. One of the more notable instances occurred in March 2002, when Falun Gong practitioners in Changchun intercepted eight cable television networks in Jilin Province, and for nearly an hour, televised a program titled "Self-Immolation or a Staged Act?". All six of the Falun Gong practitioners involved were captured over the next few months. Two were killed immediately, while the other four were all dead by 2010 as a result of injuries sustained while imprisoned.
Outside China, Falun Gong practitioners established international media organizations to gain wider exposure for their cause and challenge narratives of the Chinese state-run media. These include the Epoch Times newspaper, New Tang Dynasty Television, and Sound of Hope radio station. According to Zhao, through the Epoch Times it can be discerned how Falun Gong is building a "de facto media alliance" with China's democracy movements in exile, as demonstrated by its frequent printing of articles by prominent overseas Chinese critics of the PRC government. In 2004, the Epoch Times published "The Nine Commentaries," a collection of nine editorials which presented a critical history of Communist Party rule. This catalyzed the Tuidang movement, which encourages Chinese citizens to renounce their affiliations to the Chinese Communist Party, including ex post facto renunciations of the Communist Youth League and Young Pioneers. The Epoch Times claims that tens of millions have renounced the Communist Party as part of the movement, though these numbers have not been independently verified.
International observers estimated that Falun Gong practitioners accounted for at least half of the total RTL population, amounting to several hundred thousand people. A 2005 report by Human Rights Watch found that Falun Gong practitioners made up the majority of the detainee population in the camps studied, and received the "longest sentences and worst treatment." "The government’s campaign against the group has been so thorough that even long-time Chinese Activists are afraid to say the group’s name aloud."
Falun Gong Practitioners outside China have filed dozens of lawsuits against Jiang Zemin, Luo Gan, Bo Xilai, and other Chinese officials alleging genocide and crimes against humanity. According to International Advocates for Justice, Falun Gong has filed the largest number of human rights lawsuits in the 21st century and the charges are among the most severe international crimes defined by international Criminal laws. as of 2006, 54 civil and Criminal lawsuits were under way in 33 countries. In many instances, courts have refused to adjudicate the cases on the grounds of sovereign immunity. In late 2009, however, separate courts in Spain and Argentina indicted Jiang Zemin and Luo Gan on charges of "crimes of humanity" and genocide, and asked for their arrest—the ruling is acknowledged to be largely symbolic and unlikely to be carried out. The court in Spain also indicted Bo Xilai, Jia Qinglin and Wu Guanzheng.
In 2007, Falun Gong practitioners in the United States formed Shen Yun Performing Arts, a dance and music company that tours internationally. Falun Gong software developers in the United States are also responsible for the creation of several popular censorship-circumvention tools employed by internet users in China.
Foreign observers estimate that hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of Falun Gong practitioners have been detained in "re-education through labor" camps, prisons and other detention facilities for refusing to renounce the spiritual practice. Former prisoners have reported that Falun Gong practitioners consistently received "the longest sentences and worst treatment" in labor camps, and in some facilities Falun Gong practitioners formed the substantial majority of detainees. As of 2009, at least 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners had been reportedly tortured to death in the persecution campaign. Some international observers and judicial authorities have described the campaign against Falun Gong as a genocide. In 2009, courts in Spain and Argentina indicted senior Chinese officials for genocide and crimes against humanity for their role in orchestrating the suppression of Falun Gong.
The United States Congress has passed six resolutions - House Concurrent Resolution 304, House Resolution 530,House Concurrent Resolution 188, House Concurrent Resolution 218, - calling for an immediate end to the campaign against Falun Gong practitioners both in China and abroad. The first, Concurrent Resolution 217, was passed in November 1999. The latest, Resolution 605, was passed on 17 March 2010 and calls for "an immediate end to the campaign to persecute, intimidate, imprison, and torture Falun Gong practitioners."
Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters also filed a lawsuit in May 2011 against the Technology company Cisco Systems, alleging that the company helped design and implement a surveillance system for the Chinese government to suppress Falun Gong. Cisco denied customizing their Technology for this purpose.
In 2012, Professor of Bioethics Arthur Caplan stated,
According to a report by Amnesty International, trials against Falun Gong practitioners are "Grossly unfair – the judicial process was biased against the defendants at the outset and the trials were a mere formality...None of the accusations against the defendants relate to activities which would legitimately be regarded as crimes under international standards."
Falun Gong practitioners who refuse to recant their beliefs are sometimes sent involuntarily to psychiatric hospitals, where they may be subject to beatings, sleep deprivation, torture by electrocution, and injections with sedatives or anti-psychotic drugs. Some are sent to the hospitals (known as ankang facilities) because their prison or RTL sentences have expired and they had not yet been successfully "transformed" in the brainwashing classes. Others were told that they were admitted because they had a "political problem"—that is, because they appealed to the government to lift the ban of Falun Gong.
Writing in 2015, Noakes and Ford noted that "Post-secondary institutions across the country – from agricultural universities to law schools to fine arts programmes – require students to prove that they have adopted the “correct attitude” on Falun Gong as a condition of admission." For Example, students are many universities are required to obtain a certificate from the public security ministry certifying that they have no affiliation with Falun Gong. The same is true in employment, with job postings frequently specifying that prospective candidates must have no record of participation in Falun Gong. In some cases, even changing one's address requires proving the correct political attitude toward Falun Gong.
In 2016, the researchers published a joint update to their findings showing that the number of organ transplants conducted in China is much higher than previously believed, and that the death from illicit organ harvesting could be as high as 1,500,000. The 789-page report is based on an analysis of records from hundreds of Chinese transplant hospitals.
In order to reach transformation targets, the government sanctioned the systematic use of torture and violence against Falun Gong practitioners, including shocks with electric truncheons and beatings. Amnesty International writes that "detainees who do not cooperate with the ‘re-education’ process will be subjected to methods of torture and other ill-treatment … with increasing severity." The "soft" methods include sleep deprivation, threatening family members, and denial of access to sanitation or bathrooms. The ill-treatment escalates to beatings, 24-hour surveillance, solitary confinement, shocks with electric batons, abusive forced feedings, "rack" torture and the "tiger bench," wherein the person is bound to a board and their legs are made to bend backwards.
The government’s use of "brainwashing sessions" began in 1999, but the network of transformation centers expanded nationwide in January 2001 when the central 610 Office mandated that all government bodies, work units, and corporations use them. The Washington Post reported "neighborhood officials have compelled even the elderly, people with disabilities and the ill to attend the classes. Universities have sent staff to find students who had dropped out or been expelled for practicing Falun Gong, and brought them back for the sessions. Other members have been forced to leave sick relatives" to attend the reeducation sessions. After the closure of the RTL system in 2013, authorities leaned more heavily on the transformation centers to detain Falun Gong practitioners. After the Nanchong RTL center in Sichuan province was closed, for Example, at least a dozen of the Falun Gong practitioners detained there were sent directly to a local transformation center. Some former RTL camps have simply been renamed and converted into transformation centers.