Former U.S. Ambassador Mark Palmer hosted the rally, introducing supporters from congress and human rights groups, and others.
The gathering at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. followed a weekend of cultural events and demonstrations, including performances of traditional Chinese music and dance in the Constitution Concert Hall.
Rally Welcomed by Bipartisan Support from the House
Tuesday's rally began in the mid afternoon heat after more than one thousand Falun Gong practitioners completed a symbolic march from the Chinese (PRC) Embassy to the West Lawn of the Capitol building. They carried banners reading, "Together we end the persecution," and "America: We thank you for your support."
Former US Ambassador Mark Palmer, Vice-Chairman of the Board of the human rights organization Freedom House, hosted the rally, which included speeches and statements from several congresspersons, dignitaries, and representatives of non-governmental religious and human rights organizations.
Representative Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), who is also Chairman Emeritus of the House International Relations Committee, received a standing ovation from the crowd for his long-term support. "China's suppression of Falun Gong is systematic and thorough. They wish to destroy the religion and the practitioners; the Chinese regime fears the popular appeal of your movement," he said to the crowd. He continued, "If the regime in Beijing wants to take its place among civilized nations, it must end the repression and persecution the Falun Gong and other religions, and end it now."
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, was another who received a rousing welcome from the Falun Gong practitioners in attendance as she is the representative who had initiated Resolution 188 in the House, calling on the Beijing regime to stop persecuting Falun Gong practitioners. The resolution was co-sponsored by 100 offices when it went before the House Tuesday. During the rally, Ros-Lehtinen addressed onlookers, saying, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. Therefore, I call on my colleagues to render their support to the Falun Gong."
The next day, Wednesday July 24th, the resolution passed by a 420-0 vote.
Practitioners Express Thanks for Growing Worldwide Support
Spokesperson for Falun Dafa, Gail Rachlin, said during the rally: "To those of you who are here with us today, on behalf of the millions of Falun Gong practitioners the world over, and the many millions in China who suffer as we speak, I would like to thank you. And thank you deeply. Your support has been simply remarkable. As United States representatives, civic leaders, and leading non-governmental institutions, you have taken a stand for justice, and we are grateful. You, too, have faced pressure and difficulty. And you, too, have touched our hearts. You have given us hope and strength, just as you have given the same to the people of China."
Among those representing NGO's were Yuri Mantilla of the Family Research Council (FRC), Reverend Clark Lobestine of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC), Olga Vives of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism who is also former Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Similar rallies and events to mark the third year of the persecution against Falun Gong were held in cities around the world, including Paris, London, Munich, Brussels, Dublin, Seoul, Taipei, Canberra, Melbourne, Auckland, Ottawa, as well as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Most notably, a rally was also held in Hong Kong, where many human freedoms are currently under threat from pressure from Beijing. Hong Kong officially reverted from British rule to Chinese rule five years ago, but is legally bound to be governed under "one country, two systems" for another 45 years. Hong Kong residents have expressed dismay at the mounting pressure from the Mainland's leaders to adopt the policy of repression toward Falun Gong and other spiritual groups.
"Sounds of Brilliance and Promise" Concert
An evening of traditional Chinese music and dance welcomed attendees to Monday evening's "Sounds of Brilliance and Promise" concert at the Constitution Concert Hall. Performances included traditional Chinese instruments such as erhu and guzhen (a kind of Chinese zither), graceful dances, and traditional costumes.
One of the highlights of the concert was a song by a dozen Western Falun Dafa practitioners who had traveled to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to appeal to the Chinese regime to stop its persecution. The song, sung in Chinese, was a heartfelt plea to the people of China not to miss this chance to uphold something so beneficial to China, to embrace something that reflects China's rich heritage, and to support Falun Dafa, just as the rest of the world supports Falun Dafa.
Host Michael Mahonen explained the idea behind the concert: "We wanted to give people in Washington [DC] a chance to enjoy the rich culture from the homeland country in which Falun Gong originated." Monday's performers, some professional, others amateur, all have one thing in common: they engage in the spiritual practice of Falun Gong.
The evening concluded with a rousing rendition of the song Falun Dafa Hao (Falun Dafa is Good), echoing the very same words written on banners routinely displayed by peaceful appealers on Tiananmen Square.
In China, however, that same song would likely land the singers in a prison labor camp without trial.