From Bangkok to Washington, D.C., events were held this week to commemorate nearly two decades of persecution that Falun Gong practitioners have undergone in China.
Most of these simple acts of remembrance held around July 20 typically receive little media attention, much like the persecution itself — a phenomenon echoing sentiments put forward by a group of authors in an article published in Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal last month.
“Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that has been targeted for eradication by the Chinese regime since 1999,” stated the article authored by Maria Cheung from the University of Manitoba, Torsten Trey from Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, human rights lawyer David Matas from University of Manitoba, and legal expert Richard An.
“In comparison to the documented cases of genocide, the genocide of Falun Gong stands out as anomalous because it is virtually ignored,” they wrote.
The persecution of Falun Gong was instigated by the then-communist leader Jiang Zemin on July 20, 1999. The article said that Falun Gong’s “moral principles, spiritual teachings, and beneficial health effects appealed to the Chinese population. However, in the mid-1990s, when the Chinese Communist Party/state found that 70 million Chinese citizens were practicing Falun Gong, there occurred a change in Party/state attitudes toward the practice. The Party started harassing Falun Gong practitioners, leading to [the crackdown].”
Overseen by a Gestapo-like organization known as the 610 office, the persecution has been brutal.
“Falun Gong practitioners have been exposed to a wide range of torture methods, including brainwashing, forced labor, sleep deprivation, sexual violence, psychiatric and other medical experimentation, and forced organ harvesting,” the article stated.
The article went on to provide details on credible reports of organ harvesting in China that first came to light in 2006.
“The Chinese Communist regime’s selective targeting of Falun Gong practitioners for forced organ harvesting on an industrial scale evinces an intention to kill Falun Gong practitioners in large numbers. This is an intention to destroy Falun Gong in whole or in part,” the article said.
“After more than a decade of operation, the act of forced organ harvesting — an extraordinary cruelty — has been institutionalized and normalized as a healthcare policy.”
The most recent report, Bloody Harvest/The Slaughter: An Update published in 2016, said an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 transplants are performed each year in China. The main organ harvesting target to supply these transplants, the report said, is Falun Gong practitioners.
As opposed to a “hot” genocide, which occurs with a short, furious intensity, the authors indicated what has occurred to Falun Gong is a form of “cold” genocide, citing other academics who describe cold genocide as “slow-motion genocide or genocide by attrition.”
“In contrast with a hot genocide, which highlights the immediate unleashing of violent death, a cold genocide recognizes subtler forms of structural violence, which eventually lead to the annihilation of the targeted group,” said the article.
“Acts such as ideological conversion, propaganda, and demonization are not independent from the physical genocide, but part of the same project to annihilate Falun Gong, aiming for a thorough elimination of the practice and its practitioners,” it said in reference to the massive propaganda campaign against Falun Gong that helped fuel the persecution.
Watch this China Uncensored episode about one of the propaganda efforts against Falun Gong:
“The society in which a cold genocide takes place often normalizes the genocide. In past Chinese Communist regime eradication campaigns, the perpetrators expended extensive effort to normalize their acts of cruelty by inculcating the Chinese populace with philosophies of violence against the designated enemies of the state or counterrevolutionaries,” stated the article.
“These techniques of normalization are similarly observed in the present-day genocide of Falun Gong.”
In conclusion, the article made a call to action.
“The eradication campaign of Falun Gong has persisted for  years, with little opposition outside the Falun Gong community,” it said. “It is well past time for the international community to take a stand on this eradication campaign and take steps to end the abuse.”
Watch this 10-minute short film by Swoop Films on the persecution of Falun Gong: