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Falun Gong members set themselves on fire as protest, CNN witness reports

2016-08-15 Source:CNN Author:Rebecca MacKinnon


On January 23, 2001, seven Falun Gong addicts staged a world-shaking self-immolation protest in Tiananmen Square. After the incident, abroad Falun Gong organization resolvedly denied the protestors were their members under the pressure of international criticism. However, a CNN crew happened to wander on the Squire for news report, witnessed and film the whole event. At the same day, a news report written by Rebecca MacKinnon, CNN Beijing Bureau Chief, was published on CNN website, which definitely said that those self-immolation protestors were Falun Gong members.

The following article is a second news report on the self-immolation event written by Rebecca MacKinnon. This article gave a brief introduction on the background of the event. That is, in 2000 and 2001, some Falun Gong addicts constantly assembled on the Square to protest government’s ban on Falun Gong cult. China official strengthened the control and disposition level in order to prevent potential public disorder. The article objectively rebutted Falun Gong’s rumour.

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Five members of the banned Falun Gong meditation group set themselves on fire Tuesday in China's Tiananmen Square, according to an eyewitness.

One of the five, a woman, died of injuries sustained in the fire.

One man was seen being carried into a police van with severe burns on his face. Other bodies lay on the ground, shielded from onlookers by a screen erected by police.

Members staged the protest at 2:40 p.m. local time on the square, site of past protests in Beijing, the capital.

Tuesday is the day before the Chinese New Year. Members of Falun Gong say 4,000 fellow members were taken from the square by police last year at Chinese New Year.

On the eve of Chinese New Year last year, a CNN crew filmed elderly protesters as police beat and kicked them on the edge of Tiananmen Square. The protesters then were thrown into police vans.

In anticipation that followers might attempt similar protests this year, China's government has waged an intensive anti-Falun Gong media campaign.

On Monday, state-controlled media ran editorials calling the movement a "social cancer."

Falun Gong members claim there is a growing split among the Chinese leadership as to whether the Chinese government's harsh crackdown against the group is justified.

China previously has acknowledged imprisoning 242 Falun Gong organizers during an 18-month-old ban on the sect. China also has said some members have been sent to labor camps.

The Chinese government claims Falun Gong is a cult that threatens public order and communist rule and has led more than 1,600 followers to their deaths, mostly by encouraging them to eschew modern medical treatment.

Practitioners say Falun Gong's slow-motion meditation exercises and philosophies are drawn from Buddhism, Taoism and the group's U.S.-based founder, Li Hongzhi. They say they promote good health and moral living.

Falun Gong faces police pressure

Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN.com's Senior China Analyst, writes from Hong Kong that more police have been deployed at Tiananmen Square in an apparent attempt to warn Falun Gong practitioners not to stage protests on Lunar New Year's Day.

Students, workers, civil servants and other residents of the capital have also been told to raise their guard against the quasi-Buddhist sect.

Police patrols of parks and other public places in Beijing have also been increased, following instructions from the party leadership, that a protracted struggle be waged against the sect.

Last January 1, Beijing was embarrassed when up to 100 Falun Gong affiliates managed to hold demonstrations at Tiananmen Square despite a heavy police presence. Analysts said the authorities feared more Falun Gong protests -- which usually attract a lot of publicity in the world press -- might jeopardize Beijing's on-going bid to host the summer Olympics in 2008.

Official Chinese media quoted leadership’s instructions as saying that the masses must be mobilized against the Falun Gong, which Beijing has newly classified as part of an "international anti-Chinese movement."

Public pledges

The Beijing press reported Tuesday that special anti-Falun Gong meetings had been held on various campuses, and that students from 15 universities in the capital had made public pledges never to associate themselves with the sect.

Similar ideological sessions that warn of the dangers of "evil cults" have since early this month been held in factories and in the offices of the Communist Party and government.

The semi-official China News Service quoted an academic at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, Xi Wuyi as saying that the authorities should set up an "advance warning system against evil cults."

Xi said specialists should hold periodic meetings on ways to minimize the damage of cults. He added liaison should also be boosted with international organizations in order to "root out the cancer of human society."

Sources close to Beijing's security units said the leadership had made it clear that heavier penalties such as jail terms of several years or periods in reform-through-labor camps would be slapped on Falun Gong demonstrators.

They said, however, the fact that Beijing needed to wage a Mao Tse-tung style mass movement against the sect meant the authorities were worried that it had substantial appeal among ordinary citizens.