In July 1999, China¡¯s president, Jiang Zemin, began a nationwide crackdown on Falun Gong, a peaceful practice guided by the universal principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance. This ancient practice for mind, body, and spirit has benefited millions of people in over 50 countries around the world. Threatened by its growing popularity in China, Jiang Zemin is now leading a brutal and unrelenting campaign against Falun Gong. To avoid condemnation from the world, Jiang has been using every means within his power to carry out this persecution.
The most highly publicized example of Jiang Zemin¡¯s strategy is the self-immolation that took place in Tiananman Square on January 23rd, 2001. Five people set themselves on fire. Jiang¡¯s regime used this horrific event to turn popular opinion against Falun Gong. What is the real truth behind this tragedy?
¡¾Title¡¿ Self-Immolation in Tiananmen Square: A Staged Tragedy?
--- Analysis of CCTV¡¯s Self-Immolation Video Tape
According to China¡¯s state-run news agency, Xinhua, at 2:41pm on January 23rd, on the northeast side of the People¡¯s Hero Monument, a man named Wang Jindong set himself on fire. ¡°Four policemen immediately surrounded the man with several fire extinguishers.¡± ¡°In less than one minute, the fire was put out.¡± A few minutes later on the north side of the People¡¯s Hero Monument, four women also set themselves on fire. A minute and a half later, the police had put out those fires. The entire scene played out in less than 7 minutes.
Somehow, the Xinhua News Agency broadcast its report of this incident to the whole world within two hours of the time of occurrence. Normally, every report from Xinhua must be approved by all levels of government before it can be broadcast to the public. However, news of the self-immolations was broadcast in an unusually short time. This strange occurrence surprised the foreign correspondents in Beijing at the time.
[Subtitle] Expected or Unexpected ?
The Beijing Evening News reported on February 16th that ¡°there were 3 or 4 policemen putting out the fire of each self-immolator.¡± Altogether, they had about 25 pieces of firefighting equipment.
This story differed significantly from the program broadcast by Chinese Central TV on the day the incident occurred. The CCTV program showed that there were only 2 police cars at the scene. Police officers who patrol the Square do not normally carry firefighting equipment with them and the footage doesn¡¯t show any firefighting equipment in Tiananmen Square.
In Beijing, the closest building to the People¡¯s Hero Monument is at least 10 minutes away. Where did the policemen get the equipment and how did they get it so quickly? Why would 2 police vehicles be carrying 25 pieces of firefighting equipment to patrol Tiananmen Square? Were they expecting to put out a fire that day?
[Subtitle] Suicide or Homicide?
The Xinhua News Agency claimed that Ms. Liu Chunling died from self-immolation, but a closer look at the video shows she might have died from a hard blow to the head. If we slow the video down, we can see that while Ms. Liu struggles in the fire, she is struck on the head by something from behind. We see Ms. Liu knocked to the ground; we also see the object that hit her bounce off her head into the air. If we pause the tape, we can see someone¡¯s arm waving very close to Ms. Liu¡¯s head. We can also see a man wearing an overcoat standing at the spot where the object came from. His pose suggests someone who has just used force.
We can clearly see that the stick-shaped object bounces off Ms. Liu¡¯s head on impact. It is not carried along in the flow from the fire extinguisher. Instead, it flies the other way, against the force of the extinguisher. The flying object is bent; we can see how hard the impact is. Ms. Liu falls immediately. We can even see that as she falls, she tries to raise her left hand toward her head. The question arises: Did Ms. Liu willingly set herself on fire? Why would someone want to knock her down? Why didn¡¯t that person try to save Ms. Liu from burning to death?
From the Chinese Central TV program, we can see that the camera follows the policemen to the site where the fire began and even zooms in and out to catch just the right details of the drama as it unfolds. Normally, the surveillance camera in Tiananmen Square covers a fixed area. But on this particular day, the camera follows the police to the scene and zooms in to focus on the incident. It seems as if this camera was set up specifically to tape the self-immolation.
The Chinese media claims that it was CNN journalists who recorded the close-up shots. But the head of the International Department of CNN stated that CNN did not film anything because at the very beginning of the incident, CNN reporters were arrested and their equipment confiscated. CNN did not have a chance to shoot any footage.
When we look again at the tape from Chinese Central TV, we can see a man carrying a camera bag at the scene. He seems to be shooting the whole incident from close by. Who is he? Why didn¡¯t the police stop him the way they stopped the CCN reporters?
Why would the government lie about the source of the videotape? Why wouldn¡¯t they reveal the source of the close-ups, even if they were taken by a policeman who just happened to be there on that day?
The CCTV footage also shows the police officer behind Wang Jindong holding a fire-extinguishing blanket. He doesn¡¯t use the blanket immediately, as one would expect. He is just holding it, and looks as if he is waiting for a signal from the burning man or waiting for the photographer to take a picture. Is it coincidental that this footage was shot within 1 or 2 minutes after the fire broke out, and that it was shot from the best angle?
[Subtitle] Were They Really Falun Gong Practitioners?
Let¡¯s take a closer look at some of the self-immolators, who the Chinese government claims are Falun Gong practitioners.
First, let¡¯s examine the man who set himself on fire. Government officials say he is a Falun Gong practitioner named ¡°Wang Jingdong¡± and that he is responsible for coordinating the incident. In the Chinese Central TV film, we see a policeman waiting behind him. Only after Wang Jingdong shouts does the policeman cover him with the blanket. A person¡¯s respiratory system is usually the first to suffer in a fire, due to smoke inhalation and exposure to the hot air. Yet this man¡¯s voice seems in good shape -- he shouts loudly and clearly. The words Wang shouts in translation are: ¡®this universal Dafa is something that everyone has to get through...¡¯
Anyone who has read Falun Gong material knows that this statement has no basis in Falun Gong. In actuality, Falun Gong emphasizes that people have predestined relationships with the Fa, or the Law. And in his book Zhuan Falun, Mr. Li mentions many times that not everyone can obtain the Fa.
Nevertheless, these words, and the way Wang Jingdong is sitting are the basis of the Xinhua news agency¡¯s claim that the self-immolators are Falun Gong practitioners. There are no other corroborating facts. Indeed, the way Wang is sitting is not characteristic of Falun Gong either.
Falun Gong requires practitioners to sit with both legs crossed while meditating. The position is called the full lotus position. Beginners are allowed to sit in half lotus position, with just one leg crossed over the other, until they develop the flexibility to sit in the full lotus. As we can see in the video, the man Xinhua claims to be a Falun Gong practitioner is not even sitting with one leg crossed. The media reported that Wang Jindong had been practicing Falun Gong since 1996. For someone who had practiced for so many years, isn¡¯t it strange that he is unable to sit in the full lotus position?
Wang also fails to correctly form the very basic hand position called ¡°Jie Ying¡± which is the first position in all Falun Gong exercises. All Falun Gong practitioners learn to form the Jie Ying position correctly by slightly touching the tips of both thumbs together. We can see that Wang overlaps his thumbs in a completely incorrect manner.
Many people have noticed that the way Wang Jindong sits is exactly like a Chinese soldier. Some suspect that the man who set himself on fire was a spy hired by the police to put on this show.
When we compare this man to a photo provided by the government, which shows Wang prior to the self-immolation, we can see that the scalp line of the self-immolator is very neat all the way across the top of his forehead; we can¡¯t see his hairline. It even looks like he might be wearing a wig or a mask.
It is common knowledge that human hair burns very easily and quickly. It was reported that Wang Jindong was seriously burned, yet we can see that his hair remains untouched and forms a clear-cut line above his forehead. Wouldn¡¯t his hair be one of the first things to burn? How can it be so neat after he was engulfed by flames? And oddly enough, he stays seated while on fire. Footage of burning victims shows that they experience intense pain, and they usually do not remain in one position. Could Wang Jindong be wearing fireproof clothing? He looks bundled up, as if he¡¯s wearing layers of extra clothes.
Even the ears of the Wang Jindong in the CCTV film don¡¯t match those of the man in the photograph. Look at the photo of Wang: the ear is close to the head and the shape of the ear is long, whereas the self-immolator¡¯s ear is small and round. Was the man who set himself on fire the real Wang Jindong?
Notice the plastic Sprite bottle between the man¡¯s legs. It looks brand new as if the flames never touched it. Government officials claim that Wang Jindong drank gasoline from the Sprite bottle before he set himself on fire, and that he was very seriously burned. How is it possible that a plastic bottle filled with gasoline, encompassed by a burning man¡¯s legs, remains in perfect condition?
There are more discrepancies in the stories reported by the Xinhua News Agency. One involves Liu Chunling, who was the self-immolator apparently knocked down by a stick-like object thrown at her. Ms. Liu is the mother of the 12-year-old who also set herself on fire. According to a detailed government report dated January 30th titled, ¡°Documentary of Self-Immolation,¡± Ms. Liu started practicing Falun Gong before March 1999, before the Chinese government launched the persecution of Falun Gong.
However, a story published by the Washington Post reveals a different fact. Phillip Pan, the Washington Post reporter who wrote the story, went to Ms. Liu¡¯s hometown in Kaifeng City, Henan Province, to find out more about her. Ms. Liu¡¯s neighbors told him they had never seen her practice Falun Gong.
The article published by the Washington Post attracted a lot of attention. To cover up the discrepancies, Xinhua News Agency reporters quickly changed their story. In a February 8th news program, Xinhua reporters stated that Ms. Liu started to practice only after the crackdown of Falun Gong began in July 1999. They said she practiced at home and didn¡¯t let other see her because she was afraid that her neighbors would find out she was a Falun Gong practitioner. This attitude is not characteristic of Falun Gong. Practitioners are encouraged to practice outside, and they welcome the opportunity to tell people about the practice.
This report also claimed that Ms. Liu frequently beat her mother and daughter, behavior that is again in direct conflict with the teachings of Falun Gong, which promote compassion and tolerance. It is hard to believe that this woman was a Falun Gong practitioner.
Xinhua¡¯s embellishments to the story continued. Another alleged self-immolator, Liu Baorong, was never mentioned in the news agency¡¯s first report, and there is no footage to show she was in Tiananmen square. However, a week after the incident, she appeared on a Chinese Central TV program to speak against Falun Gong. She claimed she was prepared to self-immolate but changed her mind at the last minute when she saw the others burning. She said she drank half a bottle of gasoline on that day to prepare.
[Liu, Baorong] ¡°I drank about half a bottle, and wanted to pour the rest on my body¡±
Drinking one tenth of an ounce of gasoline per pound of body weight will cause death. For her weight, half a bottle of gasoline would be enough to kill her. Even if she could be saved in time, she would suffer severe symptoms from having been poisoned. But if you watch her on TV, you can¡¯t see any evidence that she drank that much gasoline.
[Subtitle] What Was the Hospital Covering Up?
¡¾Li, Chi, Deputy Director of the Burn Department in Beijing¡¯s Jishuitan Hospital¡¿¡±We received four patients. They all had serious inhalation wounds to the trachea. They were in danger of choking at any time. So at the same time we operated on their surface burns, we also immediately performed a tracheotomy.¡±
In a tracheotomy, a tube is placed in the throat below the vocal chords so the patient can breathe. The patient cannot use his mouth to breathe, and air cannot get to the vocal cords and larynx, so the patient cannot speak. It takes many days for an adult to adjust to this condition, and much longer for a child. If a patient really wants to speak, he has to cover the tube opening, but the voice will be intermittent and unclear. Yet the reports from an interview of the 12-year-old victim by the Xinhua News agency present a different picture.
The little girl was in such serious condition; her trachea was cut open, yet she could talk with the interviewers so loudly and clearly after only four days.
Furthermore, standard medical procedure dictates that patients with large areas of burned skin to be placed in an isolated, sterile room, because the burned area needs to be exposed to the air. This prevents infection and makes it easier for the nurse to apply medication and clean the wounds. Doctors and nurses treating these patients are required to wear masks and sterile clothing when entering the room.
Yet, when we look at the CCTV footage, we see that the patient is in an open room. We also see that the patient is wrapped in thick layers of gauze bandages and that the nurse is not wearing a mask. Neither is the reporter wearing a mask, gloves, or any sterile clothing. Why would a patient in such critical condition with such serious burns be treated so casually?
Authorities did not allow any reporters other than those from the Xinhua News Agency to interview 12-year-old Siying, nor did they allow any of her family members to visit. The authorities even threatened her grandmother, to such an extent that the elderly woman was terrified to be interviewed by any reporters.
Two months after the incident in Tiananmen Square, the hospital announced the sudden death of Siying. Did this 12-year-old, who was able to sing just a few days after a tracheotomy and major burn surgery, really die? How did this happen when she was in such remarkable condition after the event? And why was she under such tight security that even her family was not allowed to visit?
Since its introduction to the public in 1992, Falun Gong has been spread in over 50 countries. In the 7 years prior to the onset of the persecution, there had never been a single case of self-immolation among Falun Gong practitioners in China, nor has it ever been know to happen to any practitioners outside China.
Since July of 1999, Falun Gong practitioners have endured the vicious persecution waged by the Jiang Zemin regime. Practitioners have been fined exorbitant amounts, fired from jobs, expelled from school, beaten and gang raped by police, held captive and drugged in mental hospitals, and even tortured to death. The state-controlled media has launched a massive slander campaign that includes trying to link Falun Gong with cults that believe in suicide and killing. This is despite the fact that the teachings of Falun Gong prohibit violence, suicide, and killing of any kind. Because of their deep convictions, Falun Gong practitioners have always appealed in a totally rational, peaceful, and non-violent way.
The purpose of this apparent staging of multiple self-immolations is clearly to incite hatred among the Chinese people toward Falun Gong practitioners and to discredit Falun Gong in the eyes of the world. However, all information about the self-immolations that occurred in Tiananmen Square was blocked. Access to the victims and the scene after the incident was restricted. Only Chinese government officials were allowed to conduct any investigation. The interviews of the victims, conducted by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, resulted only in more questions about the authenticity of the self-immolations and further speculation about the role that Jiang¡¯s regime had in orchestrating it. No third-party investigation has ever been allowed to uncover the true facts.
The horror of this self-immolation incident truly reveals the lengths that the Jiang Zemin regime will go to in its attempt to wipe out the practice of Falun Gong.