There are times when you travel to discover one place and end up discovering somewhere else, half way around the world. This happened recently during a weekend trip to Amsterdam. In the centre of Dam Square stood several people meditating in bright yellow shirts. Each of them looked tranquil and somewhat happy. I soon learned that they were engaged in a peaceful protest against the barbarity of the Chinese Communist Party and their treatment of those arrested for practising the peaceful art of Falun Gong.
As I started to snap pictures of these peaceful, happy people, who slowly moved their bodies in the mid-afternoon sunlight a woman approached me. I took my eye away from the camera and saw her nosing around my bag. She stood up and kissed her hands raising them above her head and smiling. I looked down and realised she’d attached a pink, laminated tag in Chinese. As I stared at it another man came over and spoke to me in fluent English about their protest and the concept of Falun Gong. He handed me a leaflet describing the practice as ‘China’s big secret.’ It went on to say how Falun Gong is rooted in thousands of years of Chinese culture. But those who practise are living in constant fear, as the Communist Party detain anyone looking to practise the lost art.
China has always been a black hole of media blackouts, their strict Internet censorship means that many of us in the West only hear about a small percentage of the violence and suffering of those living in China. This has lead to hundreds of thousands of innocent people arrested for their belief in Falun Gong. The leaflet went on to explain that the Communist Party are doing all they can to hide their barbaric arrests and treatment by barring human rights groups from prison camps to assaulting foreign journalists, imprisoning their informants and threatening their news outlets, while the prisoners are subjected to sexual assaults, murders to harvest their organs and daily beatings.
Many people are unaware of what is really happening in China. It seems like an exciting place when watching it from afar, but you should always be mindful of what is happening when you scratch beneath the surface. So whether you live there or would like to travel there someday, remember things are not always as they seem in this secretive part of the world.