36 tourists shoved into police vans after photos on Tiananmen Square, what did their banner say?

“The way the policeman looked at me when he beat me, it was as though he hated the fact that I was a Westerner,” recounts Leeshai Lemish about the time he was beaten by a Chinese policeman back in 2001.

“His eyes were saying, ‘If you were not a Westerner I’d kill you right now. I hate that I can’t kill you.’”

In November 2001, Israeli-born Leeshai Lemish arrived at Tiananmen Square, where the Chinese military’s massacre of students that took place in 1989 shocked the world. Lemish and the 35 other Westerners from 12 countries who were with him knew that they would encounter danger in coming to this place to expose the truth that Beijing had been hiding.

“The purpose of the trip was to try to tell the Chinese people about Falun Gong, to tell them about the persecution, about what the government was doing to Chinese citizens,” explained Dr. Alejandro Centurion, a neurologist in Carmel, California.

Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a traditional meditation practice handed down from ancient China based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. The 36 Westerners who went to Tiananmen Square benefited from the practice both physically and spiritually, as have millions of others inside and outside of China.

Despite the peaceful, non-political nature of Falun Gong, in 1999 the Chinese regime launched a brutal campaign of persecution against practitioners on the order of then Communist Party head Jiang Zemin, who came to power after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

Video: The Persecution of Falun Gong, Swoop Film

The current president, Xi Jinping, has shown some signs that he doesn’t want to continue Jiang’s brutal campaign, but the persecution continues unabated. Maybe one reason for that is the huge profits made from killing Falun Gong prisoners of conscience for their organs to supply China’s highly lucrative transplant industry.

“Already the persecution was unbelievable enough, but here someone was killed for doing the same thing that I do—Falun Gong, freely, in Australia. I’ve had so many health benefits, so many spiritual benefits and improvements in my relationships with everyone my family and friends,” said Kay Rubacek, an Australian artist and producer with Swoop Films in the United States.

On a sunny afternoon on Nov. 20, 2001, a group of Western practitioners had their photo taken on Tiananmen Square while holding a banner stating Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance.

Such a harmless expression would have been no problem in a free and democratic country, but in China the group was immediately surrounded, arrested, and beaten. If they had not been from the West, they might have ended up suffering the same fate as their Chinese fellow practitioners.

“I’ve had discussions in the past about China’s approach to the Falun Gong. This time I have been particularly focusing on how they treat individual Falun Gong members, and my message is that they have human rights that must be respected”, said Mary Robinson, former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002).

Joel Chipkar, owner of a real estate business in Canada, was one of those who went to Tiananmen Square that day. He said practitioners in China have been “dehumanized in the eyes of Chinese society” and finding justice is difficult, to say the least.

“If they go for legal representation, their lawyers are persecuted. As Westerners, we must support them,” he said.

Also present was Pirjo Svensson, a nurse from Sweden, “I just felt it was the most righteous thing I have ever done to sit there and stand up for Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance, to stand up for those three simple words and for the practitioners in China,” she said.

“[The Chinese people] were deceived by the Beijing regime into thinking that we were a cult, and that was so unfair. I really wanted to talk to them to have them see, look, we are from so many countries and we practice Falun Gong,” said Helene Tong, the business director of the French edition of Taste of Life Magazine, explaining her reasons for going to Tiananmen Square.

From top to bottom, left to right: Leeshai Lemish, Kay Rubacek, Mary Robinson, Joel Chipkar, Pirjo Svensson, Helene Tong, Dr. Dafna Lemish, Adam Leining, John Nania

Leeshai’s mother, Dr. Dafna Lemish, said she saw how practising Falun Gong benefited her son, “but we never thought that he would take the step of going to China.”

Adam Leining, an entrepreneur from the United States who also was part of the 36, said he worries for the police and prison guards who are participating in the beating and torture of detained or imprisoned practitioners in China.

“I see them as being among the greatest victims,” he said. “I mean, look at what they’re being forced to do. … because maybe they didn’t know Falun Gong very well, and they were being fed the lies that are just ridiculous.”

According to John Nania, chief editor of America Daily Media, “[The persecution of Falun Gong] isn’t something for Chinese people in China, but this is global issue. There’s something going on here that concerns people of every race, every nationality.”

Watch the full movie “Journey to Tiananmen Square” for more