Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, includes four standing exercises and a sitting meditation. Practitioners also study moral teachings on how to live by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. The practice has roots in ancient Chinese culture.
Falun Dafa was first introduced to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi in China on May 13, 1992. May 13 later became World Falun Dafa Day and is celebrated by practitioners worldwide.
Due to its health benefits, Falun Dafa spread by word of mouth and quickly attracted millions of practitioners. Chinese government statistics showed that close to 100 million people were practicing Falun Dafa by the late 1990s.
In July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched a violent campaign of persecution against Falun Dafa. This type of persecution is typical of the Chinese communist regime, which has been oppressing religious and ethnic minority groups in China for decades.
Falun Dafa practitioners in China have been subjected to imprisonment, harassment, torture, and even death since 1999.
Outside China, however, Falun Dafa is welcomed and celebrated in countries around the world.
The parade on May 11 this year was presented by practitioners living in the San Francisco Bay Area. They dressed in traditional costumes or yellow T-shirts and celebrated the practice with banners, colorful flags, balloons, drums, dance, and music.
Zhang Hong, a female practitioner and one of the parade organizers, said that she has been practicing Falun Dafa for more than 22 years.
She told The Epoch Times that before she started practicing Falun Dafa, she suffered from many diseases, including low kidney function and pulmonary fibrosis. She used to take over 60 pills on a daily basis. After she had practiced Falun Dafa for only two months, she became healthy again.
Practitioners who joined the parade ranged from children to people over 80 years old.
Lv Jianhua, another female practitioner in the parade, has practiced Falun Dafa for more than 23 years. She said that she has been following the teachings of the practice and trying to improve herself to become a better person.
When Falun Dafa was introduced to the public in 1992, it was not long after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China, as well as the collapse of the communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and other eastern European countries. It was a time when many Chinese people were questioning whether they had been brainwashed to believe communist ideology.
For many people, Falun Dafa provided a path to reconnect with Chinese traditions, which had nearly been destroyed since the communist regime took control of China in 1949. However, the Chinese Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin, viewed the popularity of Falun Dafa as a threat to his rule.
Jiang started the persecution in fear that the traditional values brought back to China’s society by Falun Dafa would make the regime lose its control over the people.
Before Lv came to the United States in 2009, she was sent to a labor camp and jail for a total of five years for her belief in Falun Dafa. She was tortured and harassed many times in prison. However, Lv said she never had any doubts about what she believed.
Lv said the reason she joined the parade was to help Chinese people see through the lies that the Chinese communist regime has been spreading about Falun Dafa.
Many Falun Dafa practitioners living in the Bay Area are from China and have had experiences similar to Lv’s.
Da Fong, a Falun Dafa practitioner living in San Francisco, told The Epoch Times her personal story of being persecuted by the Chinese regime.
“I escaped from China in 2011 and came to San Francisco. Back in China, my little sister was tortured to death at the labor camp because of her practice of Falun Dafa. My brother was imprisoned for 12 years because he wouldn’t give up his beliefs,” said Fong.
Fong said that she was tortured with electric shock devices when she was jailed, but she was eventually able to escape to the United States.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated in its 2019 annual report: “Throughout 2018, authorities harassed, detained, and intimidated Falun Gong practitioners simply for practicing their beliefs. There were reports that many of the detainees suffered physical violence, psychiatric abuse, sexual assault, forced drug administration, and sleep deprivation.”
The parade in San Francisco was led by a marching band with over 80 musicians. They celebrated the practice as well as their freedom in the United States by playing songs such as “America the Beautiful,” “Falun Dafa is Good,” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”