Xinhua News Agency, China's leading news service, yesterday published a feature story detailing suicide attempts by seven Falun Gong practitioners in Tian'anmen Square on January 23.
The tragedy once again demonstrates the evil nature of Falun Gong and sounded an alarm bell to those obsessed with the cult, officials said.
Five Falun Gong practitioners, including a 12-year-old girl, soaked themselves in gasoline and set themselves on fire at around 2:40pm on the eve of China's lunar new year. One died on the spot and the four others were injured.
Police on duty at the time rushed to the rescue and immediately sent the injured to a local hospital.
Officials said the follwers had been hoodwinked by the malicious fallacies of Li Hongzhi, founder of the Falun Gong cult. Two others planning a suicide attempt were found by the police and stopped.
At 2:41 pm, a man in his forties sitting cross-legged at Tian'anmen Square was found pouring liquid over his body from a green bottle.
All of a sudden, his body burst into flames and was covered with thick smoke, witnesses said. "Falun Dafa is compulsory for all," the man was screaming.
A few minutes later, four women who were not far from the man set themselves on fire. Fanned by the cold winter wind, the flames immediately spread, turning the women into screaming fireballs, eyewitnesses said.
"Uncle, help!" cried a short, slim girl on fire as police rushed towards the group.
Almost simultaneously, on the northeastern side of the square, a woman took out a plastic Sprite bottle, drank a few mouthfuls of the liquid and then poured it on herself, witnesses said.
Police on duty, who were alerted by the strong smell of gasoline, were quick to seize her lighter and stopped her from burning herself.
The woman kept yelling "Let me go to heaven."
On the western side of the square, a man, looking agitated and with the buttons of his overcoat unfastened, was discovered with two full bottles of gasoline tied to his body, witnesses said.
Police also prevented him from setting himself ablaze.
It took 90 seconds for police to put out the fire on the four women, officials said. One woman died and the other three were seriously burnt.
Three emergency ambulances from Beijing First-Aid Centre arrived in less than seven minutes and rushed the injured people to the prestigious Beijing Jishuitan Hospital.
A rescue team was formed, comprising well-known doctors. Special wards were prepared for around-the-clock monitoring. Doctors and nurses on holiday returned to work immediately. Nearly 10,000 millilitres of plasma and several thousand millilitres of blood were sent to the operation rooms.
Thanks to the efforts of the doctors, all the injured passed the shock stage.
A police investigation showed that the seven people who attempted suicide were from Kaifeng in Central China's Henan Province. All were avid Falun Gong practitioners.
The dead woman, Liu Chunling, had been obsessed with Falun Gong and persuaded her 12-year-old daughter, Liu Siying, to pursue the cult.
Wang Jindong, the organizer, started practising Falun Gong in 1996. Wang and his wife and child came to Tian'anmen Square on December 19 carrying pro-Falun Gong banners.
Hao Huijun, a music teacher at a Kaifeng middle school, had become silent and absent-minded since 1997, when she started practising Falun Gong.
Hao's 19-year-old daughter, Chen Guo, studied pipa in Beijing and also practised Falun Gong. The mother and daughter had participated in other illegal gatherings on Tian'anmen Square.
Liu Baorong, a textile factory worker who left her post due to an industrial injury in 1984, began practising Falun Gong in 1995.
"Everyone of us knew what we were going to do in Beijing before we left Kaifeng," Liu Baorong said. "We were prepared to set ourselves on fire and go up to heaven.
"Li Hongzhi often mentioned in his 'scripture' and speeches that there were still some people not 'standing out.' If I did not 'stand out,' I would not realize 'nirvana,' " said Liu, who believes that obtaining "nirvana" is to go to the heaven.
"It is a good thing to go to the heaven," she said. "It takes a mere moment and one would not feel pain."
For this purpose, Liu drank gasoline at Tian'anmen Square.
Liu Yunfang, 57, was a part-time worker at a paint shop in Kaifeng. He said that he planned to set himself on fire to cultivate his physical and mental capabilities, according to Falun Gong rules.
Liu explained that he was not able to burn himself because he has not reached a certain level.
Wang Jindong, Hao Huijun, Liu Yunfang, Liu Baorong, Liu Chunling and her 12-year-old daughter Liu Siying took the train to Beijing on January 16.
Chen Guo, a Falun Gong practitioner, met the six at Beijing Western Railway Station the next morning. They stayed with another Falun Gong practitioner and seldom left the premises except to buy food at a nearby supermarket.
Even their neighbours did not notice they had stayed for about one week. "I thought it was empty, no one was there," one neighbour said.
During the week, the seven people imagined how wonderful it would be to enter heaven. When Chen Guo was worried about the pain, Wang Jindong told her that unlike average people, Falun Gong practitioners would not feel pain when they were on fire. They would rise to heaven in a second.
Liu Yunfang created stories about "paradise" for Liu Siying, telling her she would become a "religious queen" once she entered "paradise" and that she'd have many servants if she became king.
Wang Jindong, 50, came up with the idea of using gasoline to set themselves on fire. They first tried plastic bags but failed to contain the gasoline safely. Then Liu Baorong suggested they should use plastic Sprite bottles because the colour of gasoline looks similar to Sprite and would not be identified easily.
They discussed when and where the event was to take place. Everyone had two lighters in case one failed to work on the spot.
With bottles of gasoline, blades and lighters, the seven arrived at the Square by taxi. Out of their expectation, the Square was temporarily closed in the morning for activities. They strolled nearby and agreed to light themselves at different locations at 2:30 pm.
"Thanks to the police. It was they who saved me," Liu Baorong recalled. Her watch was not working properly at the moment they were expected to light themselves, she said, explaining her delay.
Liu Yunfang was discovered and stopped by the police before she lit herself. But the other five members did not escape the "fire."
Chen Guo's relatives and teachers felt very regretful when they heard about the tragedy. She was an excellent student at school and performed in Singapore when she was only 12.
She began practising Falun Gong in 1996 and became even more involved when her father died in 1998. She wrote a letter to her teachers when they tried to help her, saying that Falun Dafa was "the most mysterious science in the world" and that "my life was created by Dafa."
Liu Baorong said they chose Tian'anmen Square because there was a rumour that an old woman practitioner in Northeast China saw in her dream the words "registration for Dafa followers" written on the Tian'anmen Rostrum.
She explained that they were driven to burn themselves by what Li Hongzhi said in the "scripture," such as "forget death and life " and "seek nirvana."
"These are absolute lies," Liu Baorong said. "Life is precious, indeed. We should never give it up easily. This was not worth trying at all since Li Hongzhi is enjoying life while we are suffering."
"Falun Gong has brought misfortune to the country and the people," she said. "Other practitioners should sober up when they learn the truth behind the fire."
Liu Siying, lying in a hospital bed with her head bandaged, was equally bitter.
"My mom cheated me," she said. The little girl had not yet been informed that her mother died.
The 12-year-old girl suffered severe burns to her face, head and hands. Though in pain and blinded, she described the beauty of "paradise" to the nurses, a world made of gold, from the roads to the birds to the people.
Also in the same hospital ward was 19-year-old Chen Guo, who suffered burns all over her body. Chen Guo suffered burn shock when she was rushed to the Beijing Jishuitan Hospital.
"I regret it very much," Chen managed to say. "I want to play Pipa in the future."
Doctors said that Chen, a music student in Beijing, can no longer play Pipa, an ancient flat stringed instrument, because her fingers are too damaged by the fire.
Li Chi, a chief doctor at the hospital, said it is too early to say whether all of the injured would live. Each faces further operations.
The fire caused all of them to become physically disabled. Some will not be able to live on their own in the future.
(China Daily 2001/01/31)