US embassy cable - 99BEIJING7008

FALUN GONG CRACKDOWN, DAY THREE

Identifier: 99BEIJING7008
Wikileaks: View 99BEIJING7008 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beijing
Created: 1999-07-22 11:37:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PHUM SOCI CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 221137Z JUL 99
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5187
INFO NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 
AMCONSUL SHENYANG 
AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 
AMCONSUL HONG KONG 
AMEMBASSY TOKYO 
AMEMBASSY SEOUL 
AIT TAIPEI 1497
ZEN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIJING 007008 
 
NSC FOR LIEBERTHAL/KEITH 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/22/2009 
TAGS:  PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, CH 
SUBJECT:  FALUN GONG CRACKDOWN, DAY THREE 
 
REFS:  A) BEIJING 6941, B) FBIS OW2207035699, 
 
(U)  CLASSIFIED BY JAMES F. MORIARTY, ACTING DEPUTY CHIEF 
OF MISSION.  REASON:  1.5(D). 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
1. (C)  IMPLEMENTING A DECISION OF THE POLITBURO STANDING 
COMMITTEE, THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT ON JULY 22 OFFICIALLY 
ANNOUNCED A BAN ON THE FALUN GONG SECT, DECLARING IT AN 
"ILLEGAL" ORGANIZATION.  THOUSANDS OF SECT MEMBERS TOOK 
TO BEIJING'S STREETS IN DEMONSTRATIONS THAT WERE 
NOTEWORTHY FOR THE GENERAL RESTRAINT AMONG PROTESTERS AND 
POLICE ALIKE.  FEW PRACTITIONERS OFFERED RESISTANCE AS 
POLICE CORRALLED AND LOADED THEM ONTO BUSES.  MANY 
REPORTEDLY ARE BEING HELD IN STADIUMS IN WESTERN BEIJING, 
ALTHOUGH FOR NOW WE BELIEVE THESE ARE TEMPORARY HOLDING 
SITES, FROM WHICH PROTESTERS WILL SOON BE SENT HOME.  THE 
REGIME'S STRATEGY APPEARS TO BE TO SEEK TO NEUTRALIZE THE 
FALUN GONG BY DECAPITATING ITS CORE LEADERSHIP, WHILE 
REFRAINING FROM REPRESSION OF ORDINARY MEMBERS.  ALTHOUGH 
BEIJING CLEARLY HOPES THAT THE CULT WILL DISAPPEAR 
WITHOUT RESISTANCE, IT MAY HAVE TO RECONSIDER THIS 
STRATEGY IF PRACTITIONERS CONTINUE TO TAKE TO THE STREETS 
AND GATHER IN PARKS FOR DAILY EXERCISES.  END SUMMARY. 

FALUN GONG OFFICIALLY ILLEGAL 
----------------------------- 
 
2. (C)  DURING A NATIONAL BROADCAST AT 3:00 P.M. ON JULY 
22, CHINA CENTRAL TELEVISION (CCTV) ANNOUNCED AN OFFICIAL 
BAN ON THE FALUN GONG MOVEMENT.  CCTV READ A CIRCULAR 
ISSUED BY THE MINISTRIES OF CIVIL AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC 
SECURITY WHICH DECLARED THAT FALUN GONG WAS AN "ILLEGAL" 
ORGANIZATION AND BANNED FURTHER PUBLIC GATHERINGS. 
CHINESE MEDIA REPORTEDLY PLAN TO REPEAT THE ANNOUNCEMENT 
REGULARLY OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS.  AN MFA SPOKESWOMAN 
ALSO ANNOUNCED THE BAN DURING THE MINISTRY'S REGULAR 
PRESS BRIEFING THIS AFTERNOON. 
 
POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE DECISION 
------------------------------------- 
 
3. (C)  ACCORDING TO A WELL-CONNECTED SOURCE, THE 
POLITBURO STANDING COMMITTEE APPROVED THE SUPPRESSION OF 
FALUN GONG DURING A JULY 19 MEETING.  AS REPORTED REF A, 
SECURITY FORCES ARRESTED DOZENS OF SECT LEADERS 
NATIONWIDE THE NEXT DAY.  AS OF JULY 21, GOVERNMENT AND 
PARTY OFFICIALS HAD BEGUN TO ATTEND MANDATORY SESSIONS TO 
STUDY AN AUTHORITATIVE STATEMENT ON THE FALUN GONG 
DELIVERED BY STANDING COMMITTEE MEMBER HU JINTAO ON JULY 
19.  HU REPORTEDLY ASSERTED THAT THERE WERE 2.1 MILLION 
FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS, OF WHOM ONE-THIRD WERE PARTY 
MEMBERS.  THE OFFICIAL GUIDANCE INSTRUCTED PARTY MEMBERS 
WHO PRACTICED FALUN GONG EITHER TO HALT THEIR INVOLVEMENT 
IN THE SECT OR RESIGN FROM THE PARTY.  THOSE WHO FAILED 
TO COMPLY WOULD BE EXPELLED FROM THE PARTY. 
 
JIANG "PREOCUPPIED" BY FALUN GONG 
--------------------------------- 
 
4 (C)  IN HIS STATEMENT, HU JINTAO REPORTEDLY CITED KEY 
REMARKS ON THE FALUN GONG BY PARTY GENERAL SECRETARY 
JIANG ZEMIN.  ACCORDING TO OUR SOURCE, JIANG ASSERTED 
THAT HE HAD RECENTLY BEEN "PREOCCUPIED" WITH THE PROBLEM 
OF FALUN GONG BECAUSE ITS FOUNDER, LI HONGZHI, WAS A 
"SWINDLER OF THE HIGHEST ORDER."  THE PARTY GENERAL 
SECRETARY REPORTEDLY ACCUSED LI HONGZHI OF EXPLOITING 
"DECEITFUL TRICKS AND HERESY TO CONFUSE PEOPLE AND TALK 
NONSENSE."  "SOME" PRACTITIONERS, JIANG CLAIMED, 
"OBSTINATELY STUCK TO THE WRONG COURSE," AND FALUN GONG 
WAS AN "IMMENSELY HARMFUL" (WEIHAI JIDA) GROUP. 
 
FOCUSING ON THE LEADERSHIP 
-------------------------- 
 
5. (C)  MEDIA REPORTS SUGGESTED THAT THE CHINESE 
GOVERNMENT HAD DETAINED THOUSANDS ACROSS CHINA ON JULY 21 
AND 22, AS PRACTITIONERS TOOK TO THE STREETS TO PROTEST 
THEIR LEADERS' ARRESTS.  AFP ANNOUNCED THAT LARGE 
DETENTION CENTERS HAD BEEN ESTABLISHED IN STADIUMS IN 
WESTERN AND SOUTHWESTERN BEIJING (REF B).  OUR WELL- 
CONNECTED CONTACT PREDICTED THAT THE AUTHORITIES WOULD 
RELEASE THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THESE PERSONS. 
CITING A TRADITIONAL CHINESE SAYING THAT A MASS OF 
DRAGONS WAS EASILY COWED WHEN IT HAD NO LEADERS (QUN LONG 
WU SHOU), HE ASSERTED THAT BEIJING BELIEVED THE SECT 
COULD EASILY BE CONTROLLED ONCE ITS CORE LEADERSHIP WAS 
NEUTRALIZED.  HU JINTAO, HE NOTED, HAD DECLARED THAT THE 
PARTY INTENDED TO STRIKE HARD AGAINST "A VERY SMALL 
NUMBER" OF PRACTITIONERS. 
 
FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS:  BUSINESS AS USUAL 
------------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C)  DESPITE THE CRACKDOWN, HUNDREDS OF FALUN GONG 
MEMBERS AGAIN GATHERED IN MAJOR CITY PARKS THIS MORNING 
TO CONDUCT THEIR DAILY PROGRAM.  POLOFFS OBSERVED GROUPS 
NUMBERING AS MANY AS THREE HUNDRED IN THE TEMPLE OF 
EARTH, TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, AND PURPLE BAMBOO GARDEN PARKS 
(IN NORTHERN, WESTERN, AND SOUTHERN BEIJING, 
RESPECTIVELY).  AS USUAL, PRACTITIONERS OF OTHER SCHOOLS 
OF QIGONG REMAINED DISTINCTLY SEPARATE FROM THE FALUN 
GONG AND EACH OTHER.  IN THE TEMPLE OF EARTH PARK, POLOFF 
WATCHED AS PLAINCLOTHES SECURITY PERSONNEL OBSERVED AND 
VIDEOTAPED FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS.  APPARENTLY 
UNCONCERNED ABOUT THIS OFFICIAL ATTENTION, THE SECT 
MEMBERS WORKED THROUGH TO THE CONCLUSION OF THEIR PROGRAM 
AND SOCIALIZED BRIEFLY BEFORE QUIETLY BREAKING UP. 
 
PROTESTS NEAR ZHONGNANHAI CONTINUED 
----------------------------------- 
 
7. (C)  THE AUTHORITIES WERE, NONETHELESS, WELL-PREPARED 
TO DEAL WITH CONTINUED PROTESTS.  AT ABOUT 8:00 A.M., 
POLOFF OBSERVED A CROWD OF APPROXIMATELY 500 
PRACTITIONERS GATHERED ON XI'ANMEN STREET NEAR THE 
NORTHWESTERN CORNER OF THE ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP 
COMPOUND.  ITS MEMBERS WERE PACKED SHOULDER-TO-SHOULDER 
ABOUT FOUR TO FIVE DEEP ON THE SIDEWALK, WITH THEIR BACKS 
TO THE SHOPS ALONG THE STREET.  ABOUT 200 UNIFORMED 
POLICE OFFICERS SURROUNDED THEM ON THE OTHER THREE SIDES. 
OBSERVING THIS STAND-OFF FOR ABOUT AN HOUR, POLOFF 
WITNESSED NO VIOLENCE FROM EITHER SIDE.  THE 
PRACTITIONERS REMAINED LARGELY SILENT, WHILE THE POLICE 
OFFICERS MOSTLY CHATTED AMONG THEMSELVES.  THE POLICE 
PERMITTED REGULAR PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE TRAFFIC TO PASS 
THE AREA UNHINDERED. 
 
FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS ALLOWED TO COME AND GO 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
8. (C)  THE ATMOSPHERE AT THIS SITE WAS COMPARATIVELY 
RELAXED.  IN FACT, POLICE OFFICERS PERMITTED ABOUT A 
DOZEN PRACTITIONERS TO CROSS THE SECURITY PERIMETER AND 
LEAVE THE SCENE AND ANOTHER DOZEN OR SO TO JOIN THE 
CROWD.  POLOFF OBSERVED PRACTITIONERS ENGAGING IN BANTER 
AND EVEN EXTENDED CONVERSATIONS WITH POLICE OFFICERS. 
 
FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS CHEERED AS BUSED AWAY 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
9. (C)  TWO LARGE ARTICULATED BUSES ARRIVED AT THE SCENE 
AT ABOUT 8:15 A.M., AND POLICE OFFICERS PROMPTLY BEGAN 
LOADING THE CROWD ONTO THEM.  FALUN GONG PRACTITIONERS 
APPARENTLY BOARDED VOLUNTARILY.  WHEN THE FULLY-LOADED 
BUSES PULLED OUT, THEIR PASSENGERS AND SECT MEMBERS 
REMAINING ON THE STREET CHEERED AND APPLAUDED.  THIS 
SCENE REPEATED ITSELF APPROXIMATELY EVERY 15 MINUTES, 
UNTIL BUSES HAD CARRIED AWAY THE REMAINDER OF THE CROWD. 
 
PROTESTERS FROM THE NORTHEAST, GOING BACK 
----------------------------------------- 
 
10. (C) DURING A BRIEF CONVERSATION WITH POLOFF, A POLICE 
OFFICER ON BREAK SAID HE HAD BEEN AT THE SCENE SINCE 
ABOUT 6:00 A.M.  AT ITS PEAK, THE OFFICER STATED, THE 
CROWD HAD TOTALED APPROXIMATELY ONE THOUSAND 
PRACTITIONERS.  MOST, HE STATED, WERE FROM OUTSIDE OF THE 
BEIJING MUNICIPAL REGION. (AN ELDERLY RESTAURANT WORKER 
SEPARATELY TOLD POLOFF THAT THE PROTESTERS WERE FROM 
NORTHEASTERN CHINA).  ASKED WHERE THE BUSES WERE CARRYING 
THE PRACTITIONERS, THE PSB OFFICER SAID MERELY THAT THE 
PROTESTERS WOULD BE SENT BACK TO WHERE THEY HAD COME 
FROM. 
 
ONE INCIDENT OF STRONG-ARM TACTICS 
---------------------------------- 
 
11. (C)  POLOFFS OBSERVED ONLY ONE ACT OF POLICE VIOLENCE 
IN THE COURSE OF THE DAY.  AT A POLICE STATION NEAR 
ZHONGNANHAI, OFFICERS REPEATEDLY STRUCK A 60-YEAR OLD MAN 
ON HIS BACK WITH A NIGHT STICK WHEN HE REFUSED TO BOARD A 
BUS.  THE MAN QUICKLY GAVE IN AND JOINED HIS FELLOW 
PROTESTERS ON THE VEHICLE. 
 
SCENE REPEATED THROUGHOUT THE DAY 
--------------------------------- 
 
12. (C)  WE BELIEVE THAT PROTESTS OCCURRED THROUGHOUT 
BEIJING DURING THE COURSE OF JULY 22.  A WESTERN NEWS 
MAGAZINE'S BUREAU CHIEF TOLD US THAT SHE HAD OBSERVED 
POLICE DETAIN AND BUS AWAY A CROWD THAT INITIALLY 
NUMBERED ABOUT TWO THOUSAND PEOPLE.  DRIVING THROUGH 
DOWNTOWN BEIJING IN THE EARLY AFTERNOON, POLOFF COUNTED 
DOZENS OF EMPTY BUSES PARKED ALONG CHANG'AN BOULEVARD -- 
THE MAIN EAST-WEST ARTERY -- IN DOWNTOWN BEIJING.  THE 
POLICE HAD SET UP TEMPORARY POSTS AT INTERSECTIONS, AND 
POLOFF OBSERVED OFFICERS STOPPING PEDESTRIANS AND 
INSPECTING THEIR IDENTIFICATION CARDS.  ACROSS THE STREET 
FROM THE MAIN ENTRANCE TO ZHONGNANHAI, POLOFF WATCHED AS 
POLICE LOADED APPROXIMATELY EIGHT CITIZENS INTO A POLICE 
VAN.  TWO OF THE EIGHT BRIEFLY ARGUED WITH THE POLICE, 
BUT NONE OFFERED ANY PHYSICAL RESISTANCE AND ALL QUICKLY 
BOARDED THE VEHICLE. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
13. (C)  THE CRACKDOWN ON FALUN GONG IN BEIJING TODAY 
APPEARED TO BE REACTIVE, AS AUTHORITIES DETAINED 
PRACTITIONERS WHO TOOK TO THE STREETS TO PROTEST THE JULY 
20 ARRESTS.  ALTHOUGH WE DOUBT THAT THE INCIDENT CITED IN 
PARA 11 WAS THE SOLE OCCASION WHEN POLICE EMPLOYED 
VIOLENCE, BOTH THE FALUN GONG AND THE POLICE DISPLAYED 
NOTEWORTHY RESTRAINT IN WHAT WAS CLEARLY A POTENTIALLY 
UNSTABLE SITUATION.  FOR NOW, WE ARE INCLINED TO ACCEPT 
OUR CONTACT'S ASSERTION THAT THE AUTHORITIES WILL SOON 
RELEASE THE MANY RANK-AND-FILE FALUN GONG MEMBERS 
DETAINED SO FAR DURING THE PROTESTS.  THE SITUATION 
NONETHELESS WILL REMAIN FLUID FOR AT LEAST THE NEXT FEW 
DAYS.  WHAT WILL HAPPEN, FOR INSTANCE, IF FALUN GONG 
PRACTITIONERS -- HOWEVER ORDERLY -- REFUSE TO RETURN HOME 
AND ABANDON THEIR PROTESTS?  NOW THAT FALUN GONG 
ACTIVITIES ARE BANNED, HOW WILL THE REGIME DEAL WITH CULT 
MEMBERS WHO OPENLY GATHER IN PARKS TO CONDUCT DAILY 
EXERCISES?  BEIJING SURELY HOPES THAT THE SECT WILL GO 
QUIETLY INTO THE NIGHT, BUT THIS ALMOST CERTAINLY IS 
WISHFUL THINKING.  ZHONGNANHAI MAY SOON DECIDE IT HAS NO 
CHOICE BUT TO ABANDON ITS COMPARATIVE RESTRAINT IN FAVOR 
OF A TOUGHER APPROACH. 
 
MCCAHILL 

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