Tianjin and Zhongnanhai protests

The Communist party ‘s relationship with Falun Gong was getting increasingly tense by the late 90’s and reports suggested that there was discrimination and surveillanceagainst Falun Gong practitioners. At the same time they were still holding peaceful demonstrations when media outlets spoke against them and their beliefs. All investigations that had been held on Falun Gong mentioned the conflict between the elitists in China on how to handle the growing number of Falun Gong practitioners.

An article criticizing Falun Gong in particular was published in April 1999 in Youth Reader magazine. It said that the practice of qigong and Falun Gong was harmful to young people and described the practice as superstitious. Falun Gong members responded to the article by picketing the magazines offices asking for the magazine to retract the article. Instead of a peaceful protest three hundred riot police stormed the demonstration, Falun Gong members were violently attacked and forty-five were arrested. Other people at the demonstration were told that they should take the matter up with the ministry of public service in Beijing.

After this Falun Gong practitioners quickly responded and over ten thousand of them gathered at the central appeals office. They asked that they be left alone and for the release of the people arrested during the Tianjin demonstration. They wanted the leaders of the country to stop the harassment against them but did so quietly and politely. A journalist at the time wrote that security members were expecting them and moved the group onto a street in front of the government building were many read or sat quietly.

During this time, five Falun Gong practitioners met with the Premier Zhu Rongli and other senior members of the government to assure them that the practice was to support exercises to improve health and thatthey were not anti-government. After this resolution the crowd of Falun Gong protesters left. The general secretary Jiang Zemin was annoyed when he heard about the demonstration, which was the biggest since the Tiananmen Square demonstration ten years prior. He wanted some kind of solution in order to suppress them and thought the Premier wasn’t harsh enough with them. Later that day he wrote a letter in which he described wanting to ‘defeat’ Falun Gong. He also wrote about his unease at the growing number of practitioners and the large quantity of members who were also part of the Communist party. He claimed that their moral teachings were against Marxist philosophy and was therefore competition.

Falun Gong blamed Jiang for the suppression they received and believed that he was jealous of the founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi. Jiang was believed to be jealous of the mass appeal of Falun Gong and their ideology, which prompted the crackdown of the practice. Some believe that Jiang wanted to suppress Falun Gong so that he could get more power within the Communist party. Members of the Communist party and important members of the elite reportedly did not all share the opinion that the crackdown on Falun Gong was a positive measure.