By Edith G. Alejandro

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 22) - The Saipan Falun Dafa Association held a peaceful march and a candlelight vigil Sunday to pray for the eventual conclusion of the alleged killings of their members in China, which the group says has been going on for the last four years.

Saipan Falun Dafa president Vincent Perez said the organization began the march 7am Sunday from the Pacific Islands Club to the American Memorial Park. The group converged again at 7:30pm at the Mount Carmel Cathedral grounds for the candlelight vigil.

Peres explained that the Falun Dafa Association is a group that exercises the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. It is an ancient form of qigong similar to Taichi exercise that began in China and has spread to more than 50 countries around the world with an estimated 100 million practitioners.

Perez said the activities were held in celebration of the Falun Dafa's fourth year anniversary on Saipan. He explained that the activities were held in hopes to raise awareness on the reported killings and tortures of Falun Dafa members in China.

"This has been going on for how many years now and our members are missing, reportedly taken by the government. We are not doing anything, we are just practicing the traditional self-cultivation that improves the mind and the body," said Perez.

The Saipan Falun Dafa Association held the vigil fronting the highway. Candles lit up the area as they meditated. The group began their practice around 7:30pm and finished about 10pm.

Also, pictures of missing members were pasted on a cardboard set up at the Mt. Carmel grounds where the group converged for the vigil.

According to Perez, since the number of Falun Dafa grew, the Chinese government has conducted unwarranted crackdown. He added that joining the association is free and its objective is to improve the physical and mental state of its members.

Falun Dafa was introduced to the public in 1992 and by the end of 1998; it has over 100 million members around the world. It became the largest voluntary organization in China

"While it received overwhelming support from the U.S. Congress and other government and human rights groups, it remains a target of suppression by the China government. This led to the crackdown beginning in July 1999," the group stated.

The organization added that in the past year, at least 50,000 practitioners have been detained, over 10,000 were sent to labor camps without trial, and more than 1,000 were sent to mental hospitals, while thousands were sentenced to prison terms. To date, over 756 practitioners have died as a result of police brutality, it added.

July 22, 2003

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