Today I visited the art of Zhen Shan Ren exhibition which (at the current time) is is displaying at the Corn Exchange in Leeds.
For those who are not familiar, the exhibition draws attention to the suppression faced by practitioners of Falun Gong within China.
I'd prepared myself for what I was going to see on an intellectual level but it couldn't prepare me for the raw emotion involved in such an exhibition. This is not an exhibition for those who just want to see pretty pictures! What I saw gave me an insight in to a horrific world where abuses that would seem completely alien to a westerner are the tragic norm. This is a world where people are taken without warning, tortured without mercy and even murdered, all with the tacit approval of the state. And what monstrous crime could these people have committed? Their only crime was following a system of belief that the state does not endorse. A system of belief that the state does not control.
It's origins are varied but it draws heavily from Buddhism. Falun Gong became publicly known in 1992 where it enjoyed popularity. Unfortunately, it proved to be an influence to rival the Communist Party. In 1999 the Communist Party of China executed a nationwide crackdown on this "heretical" organisation. Since then Falun Gong practitioners have faced a merciless campaign of intimidation and torture by a government which has been seen to enjoy increased respectability in recent years.
At first I was intrigued by the spiritual element of the exhibition. I've been interested in Buddhism for a while and as a result found those parts of the exhibition to be fascinating.
Later I saw a representation of the repression, horror and violence that Falun Gong followers in China face every day. The images I saw hit me with the force of a bomb. The reality was hit home. People are taken from their homes, indoctrinated, and tortured until they reject their "heretical" beliefs. This is not something I expected to see in the 21st century. This is something that I'd expect to read about in history books. This sounds more like the Spanish Inquisition than the present day.
Seeing image after image of tortured soul I felt a well of anger building up. This was not directed against just against the government orchestrating these acts, it was against the governments and peoples who tacitly approve these acts - myself included. We do business with the PRC, we lend legitimacy to them and their actions. WE are just as responsible because WE support them. Through our moral cowardice we failed to make a stand against a holocaust in our own time. I don't want to know how history will judge us. The only thing I'm sure of is that we are just as morally bankrupt as as those who said they were "only following orders".
Innocent men, woman and children are taken in to custody under the auspices of the "6-10 office". They are subjected to indoctrination, torture, even murdered.
"Murdered" is putting it lightly. In some instances, they are carved up for their organs, body parts - while they're still alive! Some 3200 Falun Gong followers are believed to have been murdered by the regime. Many have been orphaned and ostracized for their parents beliefs.
As cold as I may seem, even I found it difficult to avoid breaking in to tears. Despite all of this, Falun Gong practitioners still believe in good. After living through such horrors (which only seeing accounts of, make me think that the world is rotten and that humanity i s doomed) they still see a hope that I will probably never understand. the fact that they can cling to such belief in humanity demonstrates not only the strength of their resolve but their hope for humanity.
I've said before that Edmund Burke once said - "All that is necessary for evil to triumph if for good men to do nothing"
We do nothing.