Walking around Manhattan today, my girlfriend and I came across what looked at first like a marching band. Coming closer, we realized that it was more of a Chinese thing, with a set of dragon dancers along with a set of lion dancers.
Even closer, we found out that this wasn't for any holiday. (This was a bit comforting, as neither my girlfriend nor I could remember anything which would warrant such a presence.) The dancers/musicians were the vanguard for a protest against the Chinese Communist Party. Looking more closely, it became clear that the people were gathered to protest the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China.
The amazing thing, at least to me, was that they had managed to get the city to cordon off the streets for their protest, which had to consist of hundreds of people. The police stood by to make sure everything went ok as they marched down Broadway. After a while, my girlfriend and I decided we'd had enough and walked along the sidewalk. One of the marchers saw that we had been watching them, and excitedly came over to hand us a couple of newsletters about Falun Gong. I experienced a bit of a paradigm shift when I realized the people around the lady who approached us were speaking Korean.
Along with the pamphlets came a tidbit of information. She explained to us that a couple of reports had surfaced of a concentration camp in Shenyang, China, where Falun Gong practitioners are allegedly being vivisected in order to harvest their organs. According to the nice little lady, the remains are then apparently cremated in order to get rid of the evidence. "China's the only country without an organ shortage... guess why?" She proceeded to inquire whether we were Chinese or not; I answered Korean. She revealed to us that she was an adopted Korean from Sweden who travelled to New York in order to participate with the protest. I was floored.
My girlfriend managed to pull me away with my mouth still hanging wide open. This organization actually managed to bring people from that far across the world to ... march in New York? And the allegations were also pretty crazy. The newsletter that we received was half filled with Falun Gong factoids and information, with the other half being pictures and stories of persecution at the hands of the CCP. The stories sounded far too outlandish to be true to me, but then again, the same reaction was given when news of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany surfaced.
Who knows. I'm not sure one way or the other regarding those stories... all that I'm sure about is that I can understand why the Chinese government is scared of this organization. If they can gather hundreds of people to march in New York, surely they must have a broad and strong power base.
Just as an addendum, this is NOT part of the RumourQuest 2006 effort. I actually saw these people marching, and one of my friends told me this morning that there were more protesters in Washington, DC regarding the same issues.