The yoga group

The Chinese woman came to me. Immediately after her “hello,” and without making a pause for letting me reply to her greetings, she started to tell me her story. She was not in Times Square as a tourist she was there working for a group which aim is fighting against the organ harvesting in prisons of China.

At the time she was talking, I was thinking first, that this was just another way for taking my money. I imagine the next phrase like: “…and now, we need a collaboration, it doesn’t matter the amount of the donation…” but, nevertheless, I also can not stop of imaging that situation she was narrating me, and influenced by all the stories one can hear about her country, this one was not so hard to believe.

I remember being around Duffy Square the whole afternoon. But before my arrival, they already where there. I saw five people. Three on the ground, practicing yoga, and the other two holding a kind of banner. All of them were Asians. The poster had English and in Mandarin sentences, but I did not pay attention to its content.

Immediately, came to my mind something I read on the official website of Times Square about an event of doing yoga there. I remembered watching some pictures of a lot of people in the Square over blue yoga mats, and that massiveness I saw online contrasted dramatically with those three lying on the ground. However, However, I thought they were doing something related to that activity, and I just continued with my walk around the Square.

Solstice in Times Square: Mind Over Madness Yoga, is a yearly event carried out in this place, either June 20, 21 or 22 —depending on the day in the calendar—, as its name indicates, for celebrating the summer solstice. During the whole day, the longest of the year, and during the 2018 edition, there were seven classes of one hour of yoga, from 7:30 to 20:45.

This is a free – sponsored event organized by the Times Square Alliance. “We like to think of ourselves as innovators here in Times Square, but we can’t take credit for the creation of the summer solstice (…) what better place to celebrate (it) than in Times Square – for the past hundred years, America’s center for creativity, energy, bright lights, and over-the-top artistic expression.” (Solstice in Times Square, n.d)

Finally, it was a pause, an awkward one. The Chinese woman was looking at me, waiting for a reply, and I was just there, immersed in my thoughts. Then, a few seconds later, and perhaps because I continued in the same attitude, she kept talking to me in a hurry.

Immediately, due to her voice in the air, I got connected to the reality once more. I tried to interrupt her, giving this time my opinion about what she was telling me, but now, she did not care too much about what I was thinking of it, and she just ignored me. Then, she continued with the second part of her story.

I was wrong. Yoga was another completely different thing to the activity those three people were doing on the ground. The yoga group was not practicing yoga. It was Falun Gong. Falun Gong or also called Falun Dafa is a set of practices that combines meditation, some slow-moving exercises, and philosophical doctrine that blended compassion, truthfulness, and forbearance.

Falun Gong practitioners in Times Square

The idea is getting some inner peace, purifying body and mind, using the cosmos energy. For a person like me, that is out of those kinds of practices and doctrines, at first sight, both, yoga and Falun Gong were the same.

Without ending of talking, she showed me a flyer where one can read more about that situation happening in the prisons of China. Some charts were explaining the increase of transplanting organs in her country. Also, it was suggesting a possible kind of international traffic-organ organization aimed, or at least sponsored, by the Chinese Government.

A silhouette of a seated woman painted blue was announcing the price of some organs: cornea, $30.000; heart, $130.000 – $160-000; lung, $150.000 – $170.000. Those feeds, according to the flyer, were published on the website of China International Transplant Network Assistance. This information disappeared after 2006, but below the blue woman shape, one can find a link for going to the page through web.archive.org.

Falun Gong is a recent movement. It started in northern China in 1992, under the guidance of a man called Li Hongzhi. The group started to grow up quickly and became famous around the country. Due to this exponential dispersion, in 1999 the national government took this movement as a threat to its control and authority, starting a campaign against Falun Gong practitioners.

Extra-legal detentions, Isolation, Long sentences for more than a decade, re-education centers, systematic tortures and death in custody (Cook, 2015; Amnesty International, 2015) were the methods applied against this collective. They, the six, were part of the same group: Falun Gong practitioners that resolved to do something against their Government that decided exterminate them.

Their weapons are propaganda, performances, and information. Under the flyer she showed me, it was a format for signing a petition against the organ harvesting. One just needed to write it down some personal data: name, zip code, city, state and in the case of international visitants, one should add the country of origin.

Flier and petition against Organ Harvesting in Chinese prisons

The Yoga group doing Falun Gong remained until evening in the same place. The people on the ground changed their positions from time to time, but the whole performance was there for more than five hours since I arrive in the Square.

And about Chinese woman that was in front of me, after the signing process, she gave me another flier with the five exercises of Falun Dafa and extra information, and immediately she continued with her work around Times Square. This time, she went towards a group of three that was beside me.