About 1,500 demonstrators paraded through downtown Flushing recently to mark the 10th anniversary of a crackdown on practitioners of Falun Dava, or Falun Gong, in China.
On Saturday, April 25, a legion of supporters, including scores of symbolic mourners dressed in traditional white and carrying portraits of persons they say have died in custody, paraded to Kissena Boulevard, between the Free Synagogue of Flushing and the Public Library, where they demonstrated.
The parade featured dragon dancers animating the legendary creatures; a brass marching band, a company of drummers clad in golden yellow, a color preferred by Falun Gong; and numbers of women dressed in traditional robes.
This year’s event was completely peaceful according to police – unlike last year’s demonstration, which was marred by “spontaneous counter-demonstrators,” allegedly bused to the scene by Chinese consular employees.
The self-proclaimed “meditation group” was branded a “dangerous sect” by the Chinese government, after some 10,000 practitioners gathered outside a government office on April 25, 1999, to appeal the arrest of 42 of their fellow practitioners in a nearby city.
According to reports, the group was disciplined and peaceful; it gathered and dispersed without so much as littering, leaving authorities wary of its power and leading to stepped-up persecution.
China’s official position is that “Falun Gong brainwashes people into believing the practice can cure them of illness.”
“The Falun Gong cult violates human rights by controlling people’s minds,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu at a regular press briefing on Thursday, April 23.
The Flushing demonstration was reportedly one of the largest worldwide, from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, to Slovakia.
International human rights groups, the United Nations and numerous Western governments have reportedly criticized China for using “reeducation through labor” as a provision that allegedly allows imprisonment without trial, to punish practitioners.
Falun Gong spokespersons claim that, since 1999, some 3,200 members –104 last year – have died in custody, and as many as one million have been arrested and detained.