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Sunak Commends Falun Gong Practitioners on Eve of April 25 Anniversary

Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: April 27, 2023
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak talks to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during bilateral talks at 10 Downing Street in London, Thursday, April 27, 2023.(Image: AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, pool)

The UK Prime Minister’s Office on April 19 sent a letter in response to the local Falun Dafa Association that commended adherents of the traditional Chinese spiritual practice for upholding their faith in the face of protracted communist repression.

Also called Falun Gong, Falun Dafa is a Buddhist-school meditative discipline founded by Master Li Hongzhi in 1992. An estimated 100 million people took up the practice before it was subject to a brutal persecution campaign by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in July 1999.

Since then, Falun Gong practitioners around the world have spoken out to end the persecution, such as by holding public events to mark important anniversaries.

On April 11, the British Falun Dafa Association had invited PM Rishi Sunak to attend a rally to commemorate the April 25, 1999 appeal, in which over 10,000 Falun Gong adherents gathered before the CCP headquarters of Zhongnanhai to calmly address the state’s growing pressure on their faith.

Sunak’s office declined the invitation, citing the PM’s busy schedule, but added that “being an advocate for world peace, the Prime Minister appreciates the time you have taken to extend your kind gesture. It is a commendable achievement for the Falun Gong practitioners to uphold their practice in such a way and I would like to extend my congratulations for their peaceful appeal to have reached 24 years.”

Falun Gong practitioners gather near Zhongnanhai to peacefully appeal for their freedom of belief on April 25, 1999. (Image:

The April 25th appeal saw then-Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji grant an audience with several Falun Gong practitioners, and assure them that their rights to freedom of belief would not be infringed upon.

However, Communist Party head Jiang Zemin saw the appeal as a further excuse to suppress Falun Gong, claiming that Master Li’s spiritual teachings were anathema to the CCP’s Marxism and atheism.

Jiang’s anti-Falun Gong campaign, which began on July 20, 1999, would see millions of people imprisoned, with many thousands suffering torture or forced labor; according to incomplete statistics, more than 4,000 individuals have been confirmed dead at the hands of the Chinese authorities.

Human rights investigations suggest that tens of thousands of Falun Gong adherents were executed by forced organ harvesting, an atrocity that is now also suspected of being used on China’s Christians, Muslim and Tibetan minorities, and even everyday citizens.