They waved banners reading "Chinese Communism Collapsing," and chanted Chinese slogans denouncing the ruling communist party as a merciless tyrant. They called for former Chinese president Jiang Zemin to be brought to justice for alleged crimes against humanity, and hammered Tang drums to drive away evil spirits.
More than 100 Chinese-American activists rallied yesterday at the gateway of Chinatown Park in defiant celebration of a milestone of dissent: They contend that more than 30 million people in the past three years have renounced their membership in the Chinese Communist Party.
Organizers, many of whom are adherents of Falun Gong, an outlawed dissident group, said the demonstration was meant to call attention to the Chinese government's intensifying repression of government opponents and to show solidarity for their native countrymen.
"There are a lot of people in China crying out for change because they are suffering," said Michael Tsang, one of the rally organizers and the coordinator of the Falun Dafa Association of New England. "This is to show that we are with them and are speaking out for them."
The Chinese government banned the spiritual movement in 1999, and human-rights activists accuse China of systematically persecuting practitioners, including imprisonment imprisoning them and harvesting their organs to be sold for transplants.
Tsang and other protesters said that most of the 3 million people had disavowed their affiliation with the communist party through personal statements on the website of a China-focused newspaper, The Epoch Times. The international paper, which is published in English in the United States, is sympathetic to Falun Gong and consistently critical of the Chinese government. The Chinese Communist Party, founded in 1921, has an estimated 73 million members. China has 1.3 billion people.
Visitors to the site declaration.epochtimes.com are forced to sidestep China's restrictions on Internet access, and most use aliases because of a fear of reprisal, organizers said.
That suppression has given Chinese-Americans a sense of obligation to speak out against the Chinese government, organizers said.
"We want to send a message to Tiananmen," said Te Chen, an organizer, referring to the Beijing government and the site of a 1989 massacre of demonstrators. "Here you can raise your voice, there you cannot."
Chen and others said they were confident the communist party would eventually collapse under the weight of its corruption and misdeeds, but said that many Chinese, who are indoctrinated into the communist party at a young age, remain reluctant to speak out against the government.
"They are taught to think that their only mother is the CCP," Chen said. "But the CCP is not China."