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The cases appear verifiable, and the great majority identify 1 the individual practitioner, often with age, occupation, and residence; 2 the time and location that the alleged abuse took place, down to the level of the district, township, village, and often the specific jail institution; and 3 the names and ranks of the alleged perpetrators.
Many such reports include lists of the names of witnesses and descriptions of injuries, Tong says. Due to the difficulty in corroborating reports of torture deaths in China, estimates on the number of Falun Gong practitioners killed under persecution vary widely. In , The New York Times reported that, according to human rights groups, the repressions had claimed "at least 2," lives. Chinese authorities do not publish statistics on Falun Gong practitioners killed amidst the crackdown.
In individual cases, however, authorities have denied that deaths in custody were due to torture. In , allegations emerged that a large number of Falun Gong practitioners had been killed to supply China's organ transplant industry. The Kilgour-Matas report    was published in July , and concluded that "the government of China and its agencies in numerous parts of the country, in particular hospitals but also detention centers and 'people's courts', since have put to death a large but unknown number of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience. It also tracked a significant increase in the number of annual organ transplants in China beginning in , corresponding with the onset of the persecution of Falun Gong.
Despite very low levels of voluntary organ donation, China performs the second-highest number of transplants per year. Kilgour and Matas also presented self-accusatory material from Chinese transplant center web sites    advertising the immediate availability of organs from living donors, and transcripts of interviews in which hospitals told prospective transplant recipients that they could obtain Falun Gong organs. In May two United Nations Special Rapporteurs reiterated requests for the Chinese authorities to respond to the allegations,  and to explain a source for the organs that would account for the sudden increase in organ transplants in China since Chinese officials have responded by denying the organ harvesting allegations, and insisting that China abides by World Health Organization principles that prohibit the sale of human organs without written consent from donors.
Responding to a U. House of Representatives Resolution calling for an end to abusing transplant practices against religious and ethnic minorities, a Chinese embassy spokesperson said "the so-called organ harvesting from death-row prisoners is totally a lie fabricated by Falun Gong. It remains to be seen how it could be possible that organ transplant surgeries in Chinese hospitals have risen massively since , while there are never that many voluntary donors available.
In , investigative journalist Ethan Gutmann published the result of his own investigation. Gutmann estimates that some 64, Falun Gong prisoners may have been killed for their organs between the years and In a report, David Kilgour found that he had underestimated. In the new report he found that the government's official estimates for the volume of organs harvested since the persecution of Falun Gong began to be , to , In June , the China Tribunal — an independent tribunal set up by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China — concluded that detainees including imprisoned followers of the Falun Gong movement are still being killed for organ harvesting.
The Tribunal, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, said it was "certain that Falun Gong as a source - probably the principal source - of organs for forced organ harvesting". The Chinese government's campaign against Falun Gong was driven by large-scale propaganda through television, newspapers, radio and internet. China scholars Daniel Wright and Joseph Fewsmith asserted that for several months after Falun Gong was outlawed, China Central Television's evening news contained little but anti-Falun Gong rhetoric; the government operation was "a study in all-out demonization", they wrote.
State propaganda initially used the appeal of scientific rationalism to argue that Falun Gong's worldview was in "complete opposition to science" and communism. Despite Party efforts, initial charges leveled against Falun Gong failed to elicit widespread popular support for the persecution of the group. In the months following July , the rhetoric in the state-run press escalated to include charges that Falun Gong was colluding with foreign, "anti-China" forces.
In October , three months after the persecution began, the People's Daily newspaper claimed Falun Gong as a xiejiao. Ian Johnson argued that applying the 'cult' label to Falun Gong effectively "cloaked the government's crackdown with the legitimacy of the West's anticult movement. Lee, because the Falun Gong was categorized in the popular perception as an "apolitical, qigong exercise club," it was not seen as a threat to the government. The most critical strategy in the Falun Gong suppression campaign, therefore, was to convince people to reclassify the Falun Gong into a number of "negatively charged religious labels",  like "evil cult", "sect", or "superstition".
The group's silent protests were reclassified as creating "social disturbances". In this process of relabelling, the government was attempting to tap into a "deep reservoir of negative feelings related to the historical role of quasi-religious cults as a destabilising force in Chinese political history.
A turning point in the propaganda campaign came on the eve of Chinese New Year on 23 January , when five people attempted to set themselves ablaze on Tiananmen Square. The official Chinese press agency, Xinhua News Agency , and other state media asserted that the self-immolators were practitioners, though the Falun Dafa Information Center disputed this,  on the grounds that the movement's teachings explicitly forbid suicide and killing,  further alleging that the event was "a cruel but clever piece of stunt-work.
The broadcasts showed images of a year-old girl, Liu Siying, burning, and interviews with the other participants in which they stated a belief that self-immolation would lead them to paradise. Falun Gong sources and other commentators pointed out that the main participants' account of the incident and other aspects of the participants' behavior were inconsistent with the teachings of Falun Dafa. IED's statement at the 53rd UN session describes China's violent assault on Falun Gong practitioners as state terrorism and that the self-immolation "was staged by the government.
Time reported that prior to the self-immolation incident, many Chinese had felt that Falun Gong posed no real threat, and that the state's crackdown had gone too far. After the event, however, the mainland Chinese media campaign against Falun Gong gained significant traction. In February, , the month following the Tiananmen Square incident, Jiang Zemin convened a rare Central Work Conference to stress the importance of continuity in the anti-Falun Gong campaign and unite senior party officials behind the effort.
Jiang's message was echoed at the National People's Congress, where the Falun Gong's eradication was tied to China's economic progress. In , a three-year campaign was launched to renew attempts at the coercive "transformation" of Falun Gong practitioners. Anti-Falun Gong propaganda efforts have also permeated the Chinese education system.
Following Jiang Zemin's ban of Falun Gong, then-Minister of Education Chen Zhili launched an active campaign to promote the Party's line on Falun Gong within all levels of academic institutions, including graduate schools, universities and colleges, middle schools, primary schools, and kindergartens. Her efforts included a "Cultural Revolution-like pledge" in Chinese schools that required faculty members, staff, and students to publicly denounce Falun Gong.
Teachers who did not comply with Chen's program were dismissed or detained; uncooperative students were refused academic advancement, expelled from school, or sent to "transformation" camps to alter their thinking. Falun Gong's response to the persecution in China began in July with appeals to local, provincial, and central petitioning offices in Beijing. These demonstrations were invariably broken up by security forces, and the practitioners involved were arrested—sometimes violently—and detained. By 25 April , a total of more than 30, practitioners had been arrested on the square;  seven hundred Falun Gong followers were arrested during a demonstration in the square on 1 January 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 , 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. In , 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 , 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?
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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 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. 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.
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. In late , 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. Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters also filed a lawsuit in May 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. Li Hongzhi began teaching Falun Gong internationally in March His first stop was in Paris where, at the invitation of the Chinese ambassador, he held a lecture seminar at the PRC embassy.
This was followed by lectures in Sweden in May Falun Gong's growth outside China largely corresponded to the migration of students from Mainland China to the West in the early- to mids. Falun Gong associations and clubs began appearing in Europe, North America and Australia, with activities centered mainly on university campuses. Translations of Falun Gong teachings began appearing in the late s. As the practice began proliferating outside China, Li Hongzhi was beginning to receive recognition in the United States and elsewhere in the western world.
In May , Li was welcomed to Toronto with greetings from the city's mayor and the provincial lieutenant governor , and in the two months that followed also received recognition from the cities of Chicago and San Jose. Although the practice was beginning to attract an overseas constituency in the s, it remained relatively unknown outside China until the Spring of , when tensions between Falun Gong and Communist Party authorities became a subject of international media coverage.
With the increased attention, the practice gained a greater following outside China. Following the launch of the Communist Party's suppression campaign against Falun Gong, the overseas presence became vital to the practice's resistance in China and its continued survival.
The main media outlet of the Falun Gong organization is the Epoch Times. Since , numerous Western governments and human rights organizations have expressed condemnation of the Chinese government's suppression of Falun Gong. House of Representatives Resolution called for "an immediate end to the campaign to persecute, intimidate, imprison, and torture Falun Gong practitioners," condemned the Chinese authorities' efforts to distribute "false propaganda" about the practice worldwide, and expressed sympathy to persecuted Falun Gong practitioners and their families. From to , Western media reports on Falun Gong—and in particular, the mistreatment of practitioners—were frequent, if mixed.
To counter the support of Falun Gong in the West, the Chinese government expanded their efforts against the group internationally. This included visits to newspaper officers by diplomats to "extol the virtues of Communist China and the evils of Falun Gong",  linking support for Falun Gong with "jeopardizing trade relations," and sending letters to local politicians telling them to withdraw support for the practice.
Although the persecution of Falun Gong has drawn considerable condemnation outside China, some observers assert that Falun Gong has failed to attract the level of sympathy and sustained attention afforded to other Chinese dissident groups. Ethan Gutmann , a journalist reporting on China since the early s, has attempted to explain this apparent dearth of public sympathy for Falun Gong as stemming, in part, from the group's shortcomings in public relations.