Shortly before this year’s 17th anniversary of over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners’ peaceful appeal at Zhongnanhai, Chinese leader Xi Jinping gave unusual speeches on petitions, religion, and political and legal issues.
This was interpreted as Xi giving hints to indicate his attitude. He also tackled issues that former Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao had no courage to touch on.
On April 25, 1999, over 10,000 practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline went to the State Council Appeals Office near Zhongnanhai in Beijing to ask authorities to release 45 Falun Gong practitioners who were unreasonably detained by authorities in the city of Tianjin.
The incident is considered the largest and the most peaceful and rational petition in China’s history.
Zhu Rongji, who was the Premier Minister at the time, personally met with representatives of the spiritual practitioners and promised to release the detained practitioners and to give them the legitimate right to practise. The issue was resolved at that point.
However, Jiang Zemin, the Communist leader at the time, labelled the incident “besieging Zhongnanhai.” He initiated a massive and cruel suppression against Falun Gong practitioners starting on July 20, the same year without the consent of the remaining six members of the Politburo Standing Committee.
The harsh suppression has lasted 17 years. Each year, April 25 is considered a sensitive date. However, right before this year’s anniversary, Xi undertook a series of unusual and high-profile movements.
The important message he released has triggered wide attention from the outside world.
Petition issue
On April 21, state-run media published Xi and Premier Li Keqiang’s assertiveness on the issue of petitioning. Xi spoke of “devoting great efforts to deal with the outstanding petition problems, and properly resolving the issues of people’s legitimate and lawful demands.”
Li called for “striving to resolve the conflicts and protect people’s legitimate rights and interests.”
The timing of the above remarks drew wide attention.
For the past 17 years, Falun Gong practitioners have been subject to defamation, illegal sentencing, torture, and other ways of persecution. These torture tactics have gradually begun to be applied to many common Chinese people.
Now, as China’s civil rights movement continues to rise, more and more people are beginning to fight for their rights through petitioning.
Shi Cangshan, a Washington-based expert on China issues, believes that Xi chose to endorse people’s petitioning rights and gave the instruction to handle the petition issue properly right before April 25.
“Xi Jinping used a “you-should-know” style to show his stance on the Falun Gong issue, expressing his dissatisfaction with Jiang Zemin’s persecution,” Shi said.
Meeting on religion
From April 22–23, Xi presided over a top-level meeting about religious issues. Five Politburo members—Li Keqiang, Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, Liu Yunshan, and Yu Zhengsheng—attended the meeting.
This was the first time the highest leader had presided over the religious meeting in 15 years. Previously it was chaired by the Secretary for Religious Affairs.
Xi made a high-profile speech on religious matters at the meeting. “Organize and unite the majority of religious followers,” he said.
State-run media made a quick high-profile coverage of the news, which is significantly different from when Jiang presided over the meeting.
In 2001, Jiang staged the Tiananmen self-immolation hoax, in which TV footage showed several individuals who apparently set themselves on fire. State-run media widely broadcast the footage, claiming that the self-immolators were Falun Gong practitioners.
This was part of Jiang’s full-scale defamation campaign against Falun Gong through the Communist regime’s propaganda system. At the end of the same year, Jiang presided over the national religion meeting, but he increased the strength of the suppression against Falun Gong.
The details of the meeting were reported a few years later.
Officials arrested
At the same time, several officials from the Political and Legal Affairs system were punished by Xi’s authorities before the April 25 anniversary.
On April 24, authorities announced the news that four officials from the Political and Legal Affairs system had been disciplined. The Political and Legal Affairs system has been the most vicious party during Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong.
Since Xi took power, there has been some major clean-up in the Political and Legal Affairs system. Several key officials have been sacked, including the former secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, Zhou Yongkang.
On April 16, Zhang Yue, secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of Hebei Province, was dismissed from the position for further investigation. Zhang is one of Zhou’s trusted followers.
Zhou took the role of Minister of Public Security and Deputy Director of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission in 2002. Zhang was appointed as the head the Ministry of Public Security’s “26th Bureau” in 2003. This is the notorious “610 Office,” an illegal organization established by Jiang and his supporters for the sole purpose of suppressing Falun Gong.
Zhang became the direct accomplice of the Jiang faction in the public security system. After being moved to the Hebei Political and Legal Committee in 2007, Zhang became the person directly accountable for the brutal persecution of Falun Gong in Hebei Province.
He was on the investigation list of the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG).
On April 25, state-run media reported on Xi’s five must-follow requirements for the Political and Legal Affairs system.
The Falun Gong issue
Before the 17th anniversary of April 25, more than 200,000 people have lodged complaints against Jiang for his persecution of Falun Gong. Some analysts believe that as the international community becomes increasingly concerned about the illegal persecution of Falun Gong, Xi has to face the Falun Gong issue.
Xi, Hu, and Wen all do not want to be the scapegoats of the persecution, but Xi is handling the issue differently.
The book “The True Jiang Zemin” revealed that when Jiang initiated the persecution on July 20, 1999, the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee did not support him. They were Li Peng, Zhu Rongji, Li Ruihuan, Hu Jintao, Wei Jianxing, and Li Lanqing.
On April 26, 1999, the day after the appeal, the Politburo Standing Committee had a meeting to discuss the Falun Gong issue.
Zhu Rongji said, “Let them do the exercises.” Jiang stood

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