On April 25, 1999, more than 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners from Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia gathered all of a sudden around Zhongnanhai, the complex serving as the central headquarter for the Communist Party of China and the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China. The incident shocked the world but Li Hongzhi had stressed for many times that he hadn't known anything about it in advance and Falun Gong organization denied any connection with the incident. In order to reveal the truth, the author interviewed Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Ji Liewu, and Yaojie, the organizers and core members of the incident, and finally had the whole picture and got its facts.
I. The trigger event was the incident that Falun Gong practitioners besieged Tianjin Normal University
On April 11, 1999, Science Review for Juvenile, a magazine subordinated to Tianjin Normal University (Tianjin Normal University consolidated Tianjin Education College on April 8, 1999, and as a result became the publisher of the magazine) published on the fourth issue a special feature report written by He Zuoxiu, an Academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and entitled "I Disapprove of Teenagers' Practicing Qigong". He cited a case in the article that "a student of CAS Institute of Theoretical Physics practiced Falun Gong and refused to eat, drink, sleep, and talk; people could do nothing about him but to send him to a mental hospital. But he started to practice Falun Gong immediately after being discharged from the hospital and was sent to the hospital once again due to the same symptoms. He told the others that 'Master Li Hongzhi had his eyes on me' (Li Hongzhi is the leader of Falun Gong). Ever since I started to fight against pseudo-qigong, I had received nine reports about either their friends or relatives committing suicide by jumping out of building due to practicing qigong, resulting in eight deaths and one injury. Those publicizing pseudo-qigong and eulogizing its magic power are poisoning and killing the teenagers." At the publishing of the article, some practitioners believed that it "slandered" both Falun Gong and Li Hongzhi and went to the magazine office demanding for removing the article and apologizing for publishing it.
On April 15, Wang Zhiwen, an engineer working at China Railway Materials Commercial Corporation at the time who was in charge of running classes and explaining Falun Gong theories and practicing techniques at "Falun Dafa Research Institute", conveyed his support on the incident to Xu Jinfang and Fan Qijun, the core members of "Falun Gong Tianjin General Assistant Center and told them to send people to negotiate with Tianjin Normal University. Tianjin General Assistant Center sent three people to talk to Editor-in-Chief Zhou Shaolu and Deputy Editor-in-Chief Fan Junshi of Science Review for Juvenile. They had a good start and thought it was an easy case at the beginning. During the negotiation, words spread and more and more practitioners gathered outside the magazine office to exert pressure on magazine management.
On the second day, after consulting with Wang Zhiwen, the core members of Tianjin "Falun Gong General Assistant Center" proposed three conditions. The first was to make a public apology to remove the negative impact; the second was to recall and destroy all the distributed magazines publishing the article; and the third was to publish a notice forbidding any individual and press from citing or republishing the article. Since the conditions were too harsh and the rhetoric was fierce, the magazine declined their requests and the talk was deadlocked.
With the directions of both "Falun Dafa Research Institute" and "Falun Gong Tianjin General Assistant Center", starting on April 19, more and more Falun Gong practitioners gathered for a sit-in on the campus of Tianjin Normal University located on Gansu Road to bring on more pressure on the magazine. On April 21, Wang Zhiwen told the core members of Falun Gong Tianjin General Assistant Center, "Don't stop them, let them do it if they want to." Being emotionally initiated, the practitioners in Tianjin City as well as surrounding provinces and cities gathered and more than 3,000 practitioners took part in the sit-in demonstration on April 22, which greatly disturbed the teaching and living orders of the university. Falun Gong Tianjin General Assistant Center sent people to Beijing to report the event and Wang Zhiwen was "satisfied" at this, saying, "You can go there during daytime and go back home at night." Being encouraged and motivated by "Falun Dafa Research Institute", more practitioners gathered at Tianjin Normal University Gansu Road Campus and the scale of the event steadily grew into the trigger of besieging Zhongnanhai on April 25.
II. Li Hongzhi came back to China, planned and directed April 25 Incident
At the news, Li Hongzhi in US knew it was a good chance and sneaked back China. On April 22, 1999, Ji Liewu, Chairman and GM of China (Hong Kong) Nonferrous Metals Industry Trading Company and East Copper Co., Ltd. who was in charge of "Falun Dafa Research Institute" affairs in Hong Kong, received a phone call from the US made by Zhang Erping, the interpreter of Li Hongzhi, saying that Li Hongzhi would arrive in Beijing on that evening and telling Ji to go to the airport to pick him up. Ji Liewu hurried to the airport but missed the flight since he remembered the wrong arrival time. He then called Liu Guirong, a retiree who was in charge of accounting for Li Hongzhi, and learned that Li had arrived in Beijing and lived in an apartment in No. 16 Building of Fahua Temple Community in Chongwen District (Li Hongzhi took US Northwest Airline flight NW087 from New York to Beijing and arrived in destination city at 17:10 on April 22). With the approval of Li Hongzhi, Ji Liewu went to see him at his apartment at eight o'clock on the evening that day. Ji reported the process of practitioners' gathering on the campus of Tianjin Normal University and Li said he would study the case and didn't make clear his attitude on it. The two also talked about going back to Hong Kong together on April 25 or 26. Then Ji Liewu left the apartment of Li Hongzhi.
Early on the morning of April 23, Li Hongzhi sent for Li Chang (a retired police officer who used to work at the State Ministry of Public Security) and Wang Zhiwen. Ji Liewu and Wang Zhiwen arrived at his apartment at eight o'clock in the morning. Liu Guirong was already there but Li Chang was not. Wang Zhiwen reported to Li Hongzhi on the development and existing problems of Falun Gong in China, especially the event about practitioners' gathering on Tianjin Normal University campus. Then Falun Gong Tianjin General Assistant Center reported that Tianjin Police Department planned to stop Falun Gong practitioners from gathering for a sit-in demonstration and asked for instructions. Wang Zhiwen went to talk with Li Hongzhi and said, "There's nothing to be afraid of. This is a test, isn't it?" Wang told Li Hongzhi that Tianjin Police Department would interfere and asked the people gathering to leave unconditionally; otherwise, the policemen would arrest them. Li Hongzhi made it clear to them, "If Tianjin policemen arrested them, they should report it to the state authority."
On April 23, the number of practitioners gathering on campus increased to over 6,300 and most of them came from Anhui, Shandong, Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang Province. The large crowd caused great disturbance to the normal teaching and living orders at Tianjin Normal University.
The meeting ended at about ten o'clock that morning and Ji Liewu drove Wang Zhiwen to work. On the way, Ji received a call made by Wang Huizhong, the driver of Li Hongzhi, telling him to go back to the apartment of Li Hongzhi. At eleven, Ji Liewu went back to the apartment of Li Hongzhi. Li Hongzhi, Li Chang, Liu Guirong, and Wang Huizhong were there. Li Chang told Li Hongzhi about the incident occurred at Tianjin Normal University. Li Chang said if someone was arrested in Tianjin, those in Beijing would organize a large amount of practitioners to report the thing to the authority. Li Hongzhi said, "Old Li, you should grasp the chance. If you had organized more people to Beijing Television that time, the problem would have been solved long time ago." (At the end of May 1998, Beijing TV Station broadcast a program "Can Work Permit Remove Pseudo-Qidong" in Beijing Express. The story was about a doctoral candidate being paralyzed by practicing Falun Gong and the reporter suggested that the government should examine the qualification of qigong master and issue work permit. The report enraged the practitioners and more than 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners besieged the TV station for days. But Li Hongzhi said the besieging was not well organized and the influence was too small. As a result, he dismissed Li Xuejun from his post of deputy chief at Beijing General Assistant Center. This time, he decided to make use of the incident and turn it into a big event so as to realize his ambition of legalizing Falun Dafa.)
Li Chang proposed to talk to the leaders of the State Ministry of Public Security. Ji Liewu said, "We should go to the authority superior to the State Ministry of Public Security; we should go to the State Council, to talk to the Premier." Li Hongzhi agreed and said, "Let the student practitioners to do it by themselves and the Institute shouldn't interfere or get involved in political affairs." After the dinner, Li Chang left and Li Hongzhi told him to hurry up and to do it.
At the oral order of Li Hongzhi, Li Chang held at 13:30 on the afternoon of April 23 a meeting at the home of Ye Hao at 15 Door 30, No. 1 Courtyard on Capital Gymnasium South Road. Ye was a core member of "Falun Dafa Research Institute" and a retired carder of the State Ministry of Public Security, living in Canada now. The participants include Wang Zhiwen, Yao Jie (an employee of Beijing Huadian Real Estate), and Yu Changxin from "Falun Dafa Research Institute" as well as Tang Xuehua, Liu Shuren, Hao Jiafeng, and Liu Zhichun from Beijing General Assistant Center. Ji Liewu also attended the meeting. Li Chang briefed about the incident happened in Tianjin and told them about the decision made by Li Hongzhi. He proposed to encourage the practitioners in different places to make it known to the Premier and asked the participants to inform all the practitioners to gather outside Zhongnanhai early on the morning of April 25. He emphasized, "This is not for Tianjin alone but for publicizing and protecting Fa." In order to carry out the plan, they decided to go to details with the chiefs of Beijing assistant centers during the regular meeting of studying Fa held on April 24.
At six on the evening of April 23, the meeting hadn't come to an end but Ji Liewu hurried to the apartment of Li Hongzhi and reported to him about the meeting held by Li Chang on the afternoon as well as the plan and details. Li Hongzhi gave him his approval.
On the evening of April 23, in order to maintain normal social orders, Tianjin Police Department sent policemen to persuade practitioners besieging Tianjin Normal University Education College to leave the site. During the days, rumors said that the police arrested 45 people, some said 13, and some said none. No one could tell it for sure. At about 22 that night, the core members of "Falun Dafa Research Institute" gathered once again at the home of Ye Hao for the second meeting, during which Li Chang and Wang Zhiwen communicated their hearsay, "Tianjin cops arrested people, some talked about death and missing." Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Ji Liewu, and Yao Jie decided to send Li Xiaomei and Meng Qingguo to Tianjin to get more information. They also proposed three requirements for their "visiting" Zhongnanhai, to demand Tianjin Police Department to release those they had arrested, to give Falun Gong a loose environment, and to allow publishing the books about Falun Gong.
At seven on the morning of April 24, Ji Liewu went to see Li Hongzhi at his apartment and told him that something might happen in Tianjin and asked him if he wanted to leave for Hong Kong ahead of schedule. Li thought for a while and then decided to pack for Hong Kong. Ji Liewu didn't bring his driver's license along with him and so Li Hongzhi sat behind the wheel and drove to the airport together with Ji Liewu and Liu Guirong. He bought the ticket of flight CA111 leaving for Hong Kong at 10:20. But the flight was delayed due to mechanical failure so Li Hongzhi finally took flight CA109 leaving for Hong Kong at 13:30 and lived at the home of Ji Liewu at Kornhill. On the way to Hong Kong, he told Ji Liewu to tell Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, and Tang Xuehua to keep in mind one thing, that is, people from "Falun Dafa Research Institute" should stay behind the curtain as organizer and Wang Zhiwen should talk to Falun Gong assistant centers based in other places. He said they should get more people into this, "the more the better" and stressed that "this is the last chance".
III. Being motivated and planned by "Falun Dafa Research Institute", Falun Gong organization started to plot the gathering around Zhongnanhai
At 8:30 on the morning of April 24, a regular meeting on studying Fa was held at No. 7 Cangjingguan Alley in Dongcheng District, Beijing and the participants were core members from Falun Gong Beijing General Assistant Center as well as district and county assistant centers. In fact, the meeting serves as an important way for "Falun Dafa Research Institute" to convey the orders of Li Hongzhi and to direct Falun Gong practitioners. And the regular meeting held on this day was the third meeting they organized discussing the illegal gathering on April 25. Ji Liewu made to the meeting and told Li Chang and others about the orders that Li Hongzhi gave before he left for Hong Kong.
On the afternoon of April 24, Li Chang, Tang Xuehua, Yao Jie, Hao Jiafeng, and Liu Shuren gathered once again at the home of Ye Hao and discussed the issues about "reporting to" Zhongnanhai on April 25. Li Chang and Wang Zhiwen made specific arrangements according to the requirements of Li Hongzhi, deciding on the gathering time on early morning of April 25. Li Chang was elder and more experienced. Having worked at the State Ministry of Public Security, he used to organize some large-scale activities and therefore chaired this meeting. They agreed at the meeting that on the gathering site, the chiefs of assistant centers were in charge of security, traffic, order, and sanitation and should maintain smooth connections with each other and deal with emergencies and possible problems. The participants also decided on several rules for the gathering, the practitioners shouldn't shout slogans, bring banners with them, distribute pamphlets, or say anything radical; while the publicization should not mention either "Falun Dafa Research Institute" or assistant centers. At the meeting, they also decided that Liu Zhichun, deputy chief of Beijing General Assistant Center, was in charge of informing all the districts and towns in Beijing, while Wang Zhiwen was responsible for informing those in other places.
They communicated the words said by Li Hongzhi on the purpose of this gathering, "In order to protect Fa, this is the last chance of achieving consummation." At the same time, they told the district and county assistant centers to tell the practitioners that to fight for a loose environment of practicing was a way to "publicizing" and "protecting" Fa; the purpose was to encourage them participate in the activity and to show to the outside world that they did all these out of their own free will and as a result they would be responsible for their individual behavior.
On the afternoon of April 24, Li Chang, Ji Liewu, and other chiefs from "Falun Dafa Research Institute" and Beijing General Assistant Center held the fourth meeting about the illegal gathering on April 25 at the home of Ye Hao. Li Chang conveyed the order of Li Hongzhi and said, "Master said this was the last time and there would be no other chance." At the meeting, they further clarified the on-site work division of the gathering to be held on April 25, Li Chang and Ji Liewu were in charge of general affairs, Wang Zhiwen was in charge of connections with other places, Liu Zhichun was responsible for communicating with districts and counties in Beijing, Yao Jie was in charge of communicating with the gathering site, while Liu Shuren was in charge of press release through Internet. They also decided to set up a "command post" at the home of Yao Jie located at Dizang'an of Yuetan Street in Xicheng District and an on-site contact station at the home of Ke Ming near the Palace of Nationalities. They assigned Chen Dongyue and Li Yueqiu as liaisons to report the latest news about gathering site at Zhongnanhai to the "command post". At last, Li Chang stressed again and again that no chief at the level of general assistant center should go to the gathering site at Zhongnanhai.
After the meeting and according to the agreed work division, Wang Zhiwen made more than 770 calls in the name of "Falun Dafa Research Institute", telling the chiefs of Falun Gong organizations located in Hebei, Shandong, Liaoning, Tianjin, and Inner Mongolia that "things happened in Tianjin and we plan to talk to Beijing authority, so tell the practitioners to join us if they can" and that "Master said this was the last chance of achieving consummation", asking them to organize Falun Gong practitioners to gather at Fuyou Street of Zhongnanhai in Beijing on early morning of April 25 to "protect Fa".
The intention of Li Hongzhi had been conveyed to the chiefs of general assistant centers through "Falun Dafa Research Institute" and then reached all assistant centers and practitioners. So far, the preparations for April 25 gathering had been done.
IV. Li Hongzhi directed April 25 Incident by giving orders from Hong Kong to "Falun Dafa Research Institute"
At 21:40 on April 24, the first batch of about 40 Falun Gong practitioners arrived at the north gate of Zhongnanhai.
At seven o'clock in the morning, the number of practitioners increased in the area around Fuyou Street at the west gate of Zhongnanhai. On the morning of April 25, there were more than 10,000 practitioners gathering for the sit-in. On the afternoon, the number of people gathering illegally kept growing. At about six in the afternoon, the crowd had extended to the front entrance of Beihai Park, resulting in the traffic disruption at Fuyou Street.
According to the plan, early on the morning of April 25, over twenty people including Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Ji Liewu, and Liu Zhichun arrived at the "command post" at the home of Yao Jie in Yuetan area. They contacted with the gathering site at Zhongnanhai with mobile phones and kept giving orders. Li Chang went to the west gate of Zhongnanhai and was satisfied to see the large crowd there.
At about 9:45, four representatives of Falun Gong practitioners went into Zhongnanhai to "have a dialogue" with the staff of China Bureau of Letters and Calls but couldn't make it clear what they really wanted. They sent another four representatives but they came out in a short while because they didn't know what they wanted to do. The onsite chief Zhou Decheng asked "Falun Dafa Research Institute" and Beijing General Assistant Center to send someone to talk to the authority. Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, and Ji Liewu discussed it and, with the approval of Li Hongzhi who was in Hong Kong at the time, decided to send five representatives including Li Chang and Wang Zhiwen who were not supposed to show up during the gathering to Zhongnanhai for the "dialogue". After getting the approval of Li Hongzhi, Li Chang found someone to drive him home to get changed. Putting on a grey business suit and a pair of yellow police pants, he held a briefcase under the arm and was ready to go to Zhongnanhai for "negotiation".
At 13:00 on the afternoon, five representatives from "Falun Dafa Research Institute", namely Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Hao Jiafeng, Zhou Decheng, and Liu Shuren, started the "dialogue" with the authority. They talked to Li Zhijian and other leaders of Beijing CPC Municipal Committee about their requests on Falun Gong and left the meeting room after the officials promised to pass the messages to the superior authority. They then talked to the deputy secretary-general of the State Council and three chiefs of the State Bureau of Letters and Calls. The five representatives of "Falun Dafa Research Institute" said that some authorities violated national policies of "no support, no publicization, and no objection" when dealing with the issues concerning Falun Gong and they hoped the central government would know about these things. They hoped that Tianjin government to solve the issues about practitioners' sit-in demonstration, that the authority should consent to the publishing of books about Falun Gong, including Zhuan Falun, the practicing of Falun Gong, and that practitioners should have a loose environment. The leaders of the State Bureau of Letters and Calls didn't promise them anything about these and asked them to dismiss the crowd surrounding Zhongnanhai unconditionally.
The dialogue lasted till nine o'clock in the evening and they failed in reaching any agreement. The leaders of the State Bureau of Letters and Calls asked them to come back and continue the talk on the second day. Li Chang came out and thought that their goal had been achieved for the central government had listened to them and that he didn't want to take the responsibility in case that something happened to such a large crowd after the night fell. So he proposed to dismiss the practitioners.
Li Hongzhi gave orders from the home of Ji Liewu in Hong Kong to "Falun Dafa Research Institute" by making phone calls. Early on the morning of April 25, he called the core members of "Falun Dafa Research Institute" and got informed of the gathering at Zhongnanhai. During the event, he kept contacting the "command post" in Beijing and giving orders to remote control the gathering. Beijing "command post" also kept calling Li Hongzhi about the updates and for more instructions. On April 25, they made more than 20 calls, during which he ordered them to "get more people from other places, more people". Ji Liewu also reported the latest news to Li Hongzhi. When the number of practitioners increased to over 10,000, Ji Liewu called Li Hongzhi and told him about it. Li Hongzhi said, "Good, are there many practitioners from other places?" After two batches of representatives went into Zhongnanhai for "dialogue", Ji Liewu made a report to Li Hongzhi and Li said "alright". When the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and State Bureau of Letters and Calls proposed that "Falun Dafa Research Institute" and Beijing General Assistant Center should send representatives to talk to them, Ji Liewu asked Li Hongzhi for opinion. Li Hongzhi said, "They want to talk to you, why you don't go." At the same time, Li Hongzhi called from Hong Kong Ji Liewu who was at the "command post" asking about the result of exerting pressure on central government. Without receiving the order from Li Hongzhi, no one gathering illegally around Zhongnanhai dared to leave the site.
When Beijing Municipal Government demanded the practitioners to leave the site, Ji Liewu reported it to Li Hongzhi immediately and asked him whether they should dismiss the practitioner gathering around Zhongnanhai. Li Hongzhi asked, "Have the representatives come out?" Ji Liewu said, "Not yet." Then Li Hongzhi said they shouldn't dismiss the practitioners.
At about nine in the evening, after Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen and others came out, Ji Liewu reported once again to Li Hongzhi. Li Hongzhi asked, "How about the talk?" Ji Liewu said, "To be continued tomorrow." Since the leaders of General Office of the CPC Central Committee and State Bureau of Letters and Calls demanded that all practitioners should leave the gathering site immediately, Ji Liewu called Li Hongzhi asking whether they should leave that night. Li Hongzhi answered, "Leave if Old Li (Li Chang) says so." At the order, Ji Liewu informed the "command post", "tell them to leave". The "command post" then told the practitioners to leave the site and ordered, "the disciples living in Beijing should take care of others and invite those coming from other places to home for a night."
That was the end of the illegal gathering around and besieging of Zhongnanhai on April 25 planned and directed by Li Hongzhi.
At about six early on the morning of April 26, when Li Hongzhi learned that Li Chang and others hadn't talked to the leaders of central government, he called Ji Liewu and scolded him, "They didn't talk to the leaders of the central government, why did Li Chang tell others to leave?" He said they should organize the practitioners from other places to gather once again around Zhongnanhai that day.
At eight, Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, and Ji Liewu reached the home of Yao Jie. Ji Liewu said, "We shouldn't have retreated last night; Master thought we had talked to the leaders of central government. The information hasn't got through." "Master demanded to tell the practitioners in other places that Master wanted them to come to Beijing and to gather around Zhongnanhai; the more the better." Ji Liewu also said, "People practicing (Falun Gong) are afraid of nothing, not even death. If necessary, people should shed blood, it's good to see blood." But since practitioners have left the site and Beijing Police Department started to take strict control measures, "Falun Dafa Research Institute" was unable to organize another large-scale gathering around Zhongnanhai. They could do nothing about it.
At the home of Yao Jie, Ji Liewu discussed with Li Chang and Wang Zhiwen such issues as how to communicate with the State Bureau of Letters and Calls and flew to Hong Kong at ten o'clock that morning to report the entire process of besieging Zhongnanhai to Li Hongzhi. Then Li Hongzhi took Cathy Pacific Flight CX103 to Brisbane, Australia. In early May, Ji Liewu accompanied Li Hongzhi and took part in the lecture teaching the Fa held in Sidney.
On the afternoon of the second day, a dozen people including Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, and the representatives of "Falun Dafa Research Institute" went to the Bureau of Letters and Calls at the State Council to talk about the discrimination facing the practitioners. The staff received them but the talk was fruitless.
In late April, Shanghai correspondent of the American Wall Street Journal called and interviewed Li Hongzhi and Li denied that he was a wire-puller of the Zhongnanhai incident, insisting that he knew nothing about it. On May 2, Li Hongzhi was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Sydney Morning Herald and Agence France Presse and said, "I knew nothing in advance about the incident in Beijing when I was on the way from the United States to Australia." He added that "I didn't learn about it until I was in Brisbane", thus trying to evade any responsibility for the incident.
The lies of Li Hongzhi enraged his faithful followers including Li Chang and Yao Jie once told the media, "Master told us again and again that this was the last chance of achieving consummation; all of us wanted to reach the consummation," "the entire thing is a deception", "it was a deception from the beginning to the end and Li Hongzhi is a big liar".
In May 2008, Li Chang talked to a journalist and rebuked Li Hongzhi angrily, "Be a man and tell people whether you'd been to Beijing or not... (The way he does it now) is irresponsible for individuals, for the history, and for so many Falun Gong practitioners. He shouldn't have done this in terms of personal morality."
Ji Liewu said, "Li Hongzhi was definitely wrong when he said he had never been to Beijing; it's a fact that he planned April 25 Incident, for no one could have done it without him and he has played a decisive role in it."
(Facts.org.cn, April 25, 2010)