- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 24, 2005

More than 3 million members of the Chinese Communist Party have publicly renounced their membership through a dissident Web site over the past six months, adherents of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement said.

Every week up to 20,000 people post statements on a Web site set up by the Epoch Times, an unofficial mouthpiece of the Falun Gong, announcing that they are quitting the Chinese Communist Party.

Independent China analysts were not able to verify the authenticity of the claims, and some expressed skepticism that so many people in China would have the ability to access such a Web site.

“If it is true and they could publicize this in China in a credible way, it would be very important,” said John Tkacik, senior fellow in China studies at the Heritage Foundation.

To officially resign from the party, one has to report to a plenary session of the party branch to which one belongs, Mr. Tkacik said.

An overwhelming majority of these renunciations come from mainland China, and they use false names to avoid persecution, Sherry Zhang, a reporter for the Epoch Times, said at a Falun Gong rally in front of the Capitol last week.

“Many more would quit if they had access to the Internet. Others are just too scared of the consequences,” Miss Zhang said.

In November, the Epoch Times published a nine-part polemic called “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party” that was distributed clandestinely in China and outlined the Communist Party’s history of repression and human rights violations.

“The goal is not to overthrow the [the Communist Party], but to give people information so they can make their own moral judgment,” said Shujia Gong, a practitioner of Falun Gong and student at George Mason University, who said he has 10 friends in China who have quit the party.

Many of the Internet messages from people who have withdrawn from the party stated that “Nine Commentaries” marked the first time they had learned of the abuses of the party, Mr. Gong said.

Li Jingtian, deputy head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee’s Organization Department, was quoted by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua two weeks ago as saying that there had not been a mass exodus of party cadres in recent months.

He rejected the claims of foreign Web sites, calling them “false rumors spread by people with ulterior motives.”

In 2004, 2.4 million Chinese joined the party and an additional 17.4 million applied for membership, Xinhua reported. More than 69 million Chinese are party members.

The party has initiated a nationwide re-education campaign titled “Maintain the Advancement of the Communist Party,” in which members are required to take loyalty oaths.

The Chinese government has orchestrated a series of arrests of Falun Gong members over the past few months in response to the release of “Nine Commentaries,” Miss Zhang said.

“You know something is happening when the authorities feel the need to respond,” she said.

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