The CCP has also used political and financial influence around the world to either keep journalists silent, or drive false narratives about Falun Gong. The result? This systematic campaign of abductions, torture, and death targeting tens of millions of Chinese people remains largely hidden from view. Yet, by pulling together reports from the United Nations, the U.S. government, human rights organizations, and a few quality pieces of investigative journalism, the real scope and scale of this persecution campaign emerges with much clarity. The following are key indicators quantifying this human rights crisis. 70–100 Million Falun Gong Practitioners There were 70–100 million people practicing Falun Gong in China before July, 1999. While some have attributed this estimate to Falun Gong sources, the number actually originates from Chinese authorities. Specifically, these numbers come from a survey conducted by the Chinese government in the latter part of 1998, and were cited on multiple occasions by Western media outlets such as the New York Times and Associated Press prior to the ban in July 1999, and even sporadically in the months that followed. The following are some of the sources for this figure December 1998: A study conducted by China’s State Sports Commission estimates that over 70 million persons are practicing Falun Gong in China.February 14, 1999: An official from China’s National Sports Commission, speaking with U.S. News & World Report, suggests as many as 100 million may have taken up the practice. The official highlights the costs the practice is saving China’s national health care system, declaring that, “Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that.”April 26, 1999: The Associated Press publishes "Growing group poses a dilemma for China" by Renee Schoof, which states: “But with more members than the Communist Party – at least 70 million, according to the State Sports Administration – Falun is also a formidable social network…”April 27, 1999: The New York Times publishes "In Beijing: A Roar of Silent Protestors," by Seth Faison, which states: “…the Government’s estimate of 70 million adherents represents a large group in a nation of 1.2 billion.”April 27, 1999: The New York Times publishes "Notoriety Now for Movement’s Leader," by Joseph Kahn, which states: “Despite that elusiveness, or maybe because of it, Mr. Li has become a guru of a movement that even by Chinese Government estimates has more members that the Communist Party. Beijing puts the tally of his followers at 70 million. Practitioners say they do not dispute those numbers, but they say they have no way of knowing for sure, in part because they have no central membership lists.” Interestingly, China's own state-run T.V. aired a news program before July 1999, in which the anchor tells the audience "over 100 million people are practicing Falun Gong." -- a number corroborated by China's National Sports Commission official interviewed by U.S. News & World Report. https://vimeo.com/383124018/532f415611 In 1998, China's state-controlled TV openly promotes Falun Gong, declaring "100 million people around the world are learning Falun Dafa." Shortly after the launch of the persecution, however, the Chinese regime changed their estimate dramatically to 2 million as part of its propaganda campaign and a means of downplaying the scale of violations. This is noted in a New York Times article, "Banned Movement's Heads Urges Talks with China" published on July 24, 1999. Not all media followed Beijing's propaganda point. On November 13, 1999, the Associated Press published "4 From Chinese Spiritual Group are Sentenced" in which the article states: "Before the crackdown the government estimated membership at 70 million -- which would make it larger than the Chinese Communist Party, with 61 million members." The New York Times published this article on the same day. Unfortunately, many other media did follow Beijing's lead, and either reduced the official estimated number or changed the source, attributing the estimate solely to "claims" by Falun Gong, rather than what they truly are -- official figures from the Chinese government at the conclusion of a comprehensive survey done in 1998. Several Million Detained While it is not possible to know the exact numbers of people detained for their Falun Gong practice in China (such figures are considered a "state secret"), several indicators suggest that, at a minimum, over the past 20 years, the total number is several million. The following are a few data points to consider... According to Ethan Gutmann’s survey-based estimation, from 2000 to 2008, an average of 450,000 to a million Falun Gong practitioners were detained in forced labour camps (also known as reeducation through labour) at any given time. (Ethan Gutmann, The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem, published by Prometheus Books, 2014). Considering that most individuals were detained for1-3 years in forced labor camps, or even just several days or weeks in other facilities, this estimate alone suggests a total of 2-4 million detained between 2000 and 2008.In 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak reported that in 66% of all alleged torture cases in Chinese detention camps, Falun Gong practitioners were victims. Recognizing the unlikelihood that Falun Gong practitioners were the only people being tortured, this figure implies Falun Gong practitioners constitute the majority of detainees in Chinese vast labor camp and detention facility apparatus.In the U.S. State Departments Human Rights report for 2009, it states: "Some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in RTL camps, while Falun Gong sources overseas placed the number even higher." This observation is telling in that it corroborates the findings of UN Special Rapporteur (see above) that over 50% of all inmates are Falun Gong. However, the 250,000 number should be viewed with suspicion given that this is the Chinese regime's officially reported number, which is undoubtedly low, perhaps dramatically so. In fact, the Laogai Foundation estimated there were 3-5 million prisoners in China's labor camps in 2010. Using this estimate, there would have been 1.5 - 2.5 million Falun Gong practitioners in labor camps in 2010 alone.A 2015 special report from Freedom House, The Politburo's Predicament, states: "Hundreds of thousands of adherents were sentenced to labor camps and prison terms, making them the largest contingent of prisoners of conscience in the country."In 2013, the New York Times published a story on the Masanjia Labor Camp, in which it states: "According to former inmates, roughly half of Masanjia’s population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners or members of underground churches."Also in 2013, Amnesty International's report on China, “Changing The Soup But Not The Medicine?” : Abolishing Re-Education Through Labour In China states: "Evidence suggests that Falun Gong constituted on average from one third to in some cases 100 per cent of the total population of certain RTL camps." Hundreds of Thousands Tortured Guards shocked Ms. Gao Rongrong on the face with electric batons for over 7 hours. She died of subsequent torture on June 16, 2005. She was 37. (Image from secret camera recording by her family, when visiting Ms. Gao in prison) Since early 2000, the use of torture on Falun Gong detainees has been widely documented by major media, human rights organizations and the United Nations. There are at least 100,000 cases of torture documented by Minghui.org, and reason to believe the true number is several times higher. The following is a sampling of this documentation... In a Pulitzer-prize winning series of articles published throughout 2000, the Wall Street Journal's Ian Johnson reported cases of torture. In the final article of that series, "Death Trap: How One Chinese City Resorted to Atrocities To Control Falun Dafa", Mr. Johnson writes: "Rising out of the North China Plain in a jumble of dusty apartment blocks and crowded roads, this is an unremarkable Chinese city in every respect but one: Local police regularly torture residents to death." (our emphasis)In a 2001 ground-breaking report by the Washington Post, Beijing bureau chief John Pomfret identified torture as a key ingredient mandated by China's security forces. Quoting a government advisor, the report demonstrates how torture was not only tolerated, but explicitly named as a key part of the strategy to suppress Falun Gong: "The crackdown has always been associated with police and prison brutality, but the adviser said it was only this year that the central leadership decided to sanction the widespread use of violence against Falun Gong members." (our emphasis)In 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak reported that in 66% of all alleged torture cases in Chinese detention camps, Falun Gong practitioners were victims.In 2013, the New York Times published a story on the Masanjia Labor Camp, in which it states: "According to former inmates, roughly half of Masanjia’s population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners or members of underground churches... All agreed that the worst abuse was directed at Falun Gong members who refused to renounce their faith. In addition to the electric shocks, they said, guards would tie their limbs to four beds, and gradually kick the beds farther apart. Some inmates would be left that way for days, unfed and lying in their own excrement." (our emphasis)A 2015 special report from Freedom House, The Politburo's Predicament, states: "The CCP devoted considerable resources to suppressing Falun Gong and coercing adherents into renouncing their beliefs, typically through the use of violence." (our emphasis) Thousands Confirmed DeadTrue Number Many Times Higher There are over 4,000 documented cases of Falun Gong practitioners dying as a result of torture and abuse in police custody since July 1999. Discovering and verifying information inside China related to wrongful deaths is difficult and dangerous. Some who have exposed the torture and killing of Falun Gong practitioners have, themselves been tortured and killed. It is, therefore, widely believed that this number is just a fraction of the true number of people killed for their Falun Gong faith in China. In the U.S. State Department's 2007 Human Rights report, it states: "Since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999, estimates of the number of Falun Gong adherents who died in custody due to torture, abuse, and neglect ranged from several hundred to a few thousand." Killed on "Significant Scale" for Organs Estimates from two separate, independent reports indicate tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners may have been killed in order to extract their vital organs, which are used to fuel a booming organ transplantation business in China. The first report from David Kilgour (former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific) and David Matas (renowned human rights attorney) is Bloody Harvest, The killing of Falun Gong for their organs. The other report is from author, investigative journalist, and China specialist, Ethan Gutmann, called The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem. Additionally, in 2017, Freedom House published a special report, The Battle for China's Spirit, which cites "credible evidence suggesting that beginning in the early 2000s, Falun Gong detainees were killed for their organs on a large scale." On June 17 2019, an independent tribunal in London – chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who worked at the International Criminal Tribunal and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic – released its Short Form Conclusion and Summary Judgment. The judgment states: “Forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners have been one - and probably the main - source of organ supply.… The Tribunal has had no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled and absent a satisfactory explanation as to the source of readily available organs concludes that forced organ harvesting continues till today.” 200,000 Underground "Materials Sites" Today, across China, there are 200,000 or more underground printing houses in what likely constitutes the largest non-violent, grassroots resistance in the world. From the very first days of the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners have believed that the key to a peaceful resolution rests with the Chinese people themselves. After all, it has been people who carry out the day-to-day suppression—the small-town police departments and labor-camp administrators, the school teachers forced to turn in unrepentant Falun Gong students, the neighbors who report on neighbors. Falun Gong practitioners reason that if the people knew the truth, they would no longer be complicit in such injustice. Beginning in 2001 and continuing to this day, Falun Gong practitioners have set up underground printing houses in nearly every county and district in the country—China’s equivalent of the Soviet samizdat. From their living rooms, practitioners have established secure internet connections, accessed websites outside China by using proxy servers, downloaded censored literature on the persecution of Falun Gong, and used it to produce homemade leaflets. Others volunteer to distribute the literature, usually by night. These actions are always taken at great risk. Untold thousands have been arrested and many killed for possessing and distributing these materials or for operating the production sites. Abundant evidence of these underground printing houses comes from a multitude of sources: from official statistics on police seizures of Falun Gong informational material to anecdotal accounts of citizens regularly waking up to find CDs or leaflets about the persecution waiting outside their front door. Chinese government and Communist Party websites routinely report on efforts to limit the circulation of Falun Gong-related literature. In the spring of 2009, for instance, the Fujian Provincial Transport Administration issued a notice ordering that among the items to be targeted as part of a nationwide crackdown on illegal publications were those that “slandered the country’s political system, distorted the history of the Party, … publicized Falun Gong.” 20–40 Million Engaged in Civil Disobedience There are an estimated 20-40 million people in China practicing Falun Gong and actively engaged in civil disobedience activity. In May 2009, Falun Gong's main Chinese-language website, Minghui.org, reported that approximately 200,000 underground "materials sites" exist across China. Materials sites are places where Falun Gong practitioners print leaflets, produce DVDs, etc. the content of which unveils the persecution and debunks anti-Falun Gong propaganda. These sites are operated at a grassroots level across China and usually located in the back-room of a private residence. Each site provides materials to 100-200 Falun Gong practitioners, who then distribute the materials in their locales. These numbers indicate 20-40 million Falun Gong practitioners are actively working to expose the wide-spread suppression they face in China. How many more people are practicing Falun Gong in China and yet do not take part in this form of peaceful resistance is not known. In 20017, Freedom House published one of the most comprehensive third-party reports on Falun Gong called "Falun Gong: The Battle for China's Spirit." The report states: "Over 17 years after Falun Gong’s ban, there is reason to believe that millions, and possibly tens of millions, in China continue to practice." 1. First-hand Accounts Mr. Tan Yongjie was tortured with hot iron a total of thirteen times. He was able to escape, even though severely injured, from China to the US. Photo is from a Houston hospital, 2001. Hundreds of people who have escaped from China bring with them not only heart-wrenching tales of abuse, but often scars and sometimes even photos, videos, or police paperwork that corroborate their tales. Dozens who were rescued by international efforts from Chinese prisons are also among those whose personal accounts help fill in the story. Lastly, those who died from persecution, yet their stories were captured on camera and smuggled out of China, are also a source of first-hand account evidence. Read our collection of personal accounts of persecution. 2. Vast Network Inside China Local residents read leaflets posted, likely in the middle of night under cover of darkness, detailing the plight of Falun Gong, exposing the tyranny of the CCP. Over the past two decades, Minghui.org editors have received tens of thousands of first-hand reports from across China — more than any other organization in the world. This vast and resourceful network of heroic citizen journalists spans every province in China, and provides day-to-day reports of what's happening on the ground, often at great risk to themselves. Read more about Minghui.org 3. Independent Documentation Over the past two decades, a wide range of international human rights groups and international bodies such as the United Nations have independently documented and recounted the systematic rights abuses – including torture and deaths in custody – suffered by those who practice Falun Gong in China. The following are a few examples… Freedom House, 2017:"Falun Gong practitioners across China are subject to widespread surveillance, arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and torture, and they are at a high risk of extrajudicial execution. Freedom House independently verified 933 cases of Falun Gong adherents sentenced to prison terms of up to 12 years between January 1, 2013, and June 1, 2016, often for exercising their right to freedom of expression in addition to freedom of religion."• Read: Freedom House reports on Falun Gong Amnesty International Annual Report, 2018:"Falun Gong practitioners continued to be subjected to persecution, arbitrary detention, unfair trials and torture and other ill-treatment."• Read: Amnesty International reports on Falun Gong Review our complete collection of independent documentation 4. Investigative Journalism When the Chinese Communist Party launched the persecution campaign against Falun Gong 20 years ago, the world was, understandably, caught off-guard. After all, most in the west had never heard of Falun Gong. While it took some time to sort through the facts amidst the Chinese regime’s web of propaganda, many in western media soon gained their footing. The Wall Street Journal won a Pulitzer Prize exposing the violent campaign against Falun Gong practitioners. The Washington Post and others followed with their own ground-breaking coverage, exposing Beijing’s top-down orders to use torture and propaganda to “break” Falun Gong. Ethan Gutmann, a US investigative writer, human rights defender, China watcher, and an widely published author is best known for his two books: Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal and The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China's Secret Solution to Its Dissident Problem. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the European Parliament, and the United Nations. Unfortunately, in more recent years, the CCP's political and economic influence has often resulted in a lack of coverage of Falun Gong in western media, or perhaps worse, driving false narratives about Falun Gong -- crafted by the CCP -- to be headlined in western media. Review our complete collection of investigative journalism 5. Chinese Government Admissions Ironically, many cases of abuse and trends can be cross-checked with local Chinese government websites who sometimes unwittingly confirm details of the campaign against Falun Gong. This is not overly common, but does occasionally provide further evidence of abuses against Falun Gong practitioners.