China's Tuidang Movement Part 2: Who's Behind China's Largest Anti-CCP Movement?

China's Tuidang Movement Part 2: Who's Behind China's Largest Anti-CCP Movement?

Yesterday we brought you Part 1 of a special series on a grassroots movement that's challenging China's leadership. It's a movement that's more moral than political in nature. And this week, it marked a milestone as the number of people who've joined the movement reached 100 million. Now, we bring you Part 2: where the Tuidang movement is taking place, and the unlikely source behind it.

A grassroots movement is sweeping China. But much of it is also happening all around the world.

There are more than 100 volunteer service centers outside China for so-called "quitting the CCP." They're part of the Tuidang movement - people withdrawing from the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party and its affiliated organizations.

It's the most visible side of a movement that may be determining China's future.

Information booths like this one, at a lookout on the way to Hong Kong's Victoria Peak, allow Chinese tourists to withdraw from the CCP on the spot.

[Ms. Liao, Tuidang Volunteer]:
"When they see these displays, they're shocked. Plus, some are already aware of what the CCP is like. So, as soon as we explain to them, they're just waiting for us to help them withdraw [from the CCP]."

Yi Rong is the Vice President of the Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party, a nonprofit organization headquartered in the United States. Her group says they've received more than 100 million statements from people withdrawing from the CCP. The statements began in November 2004, after the Chinese-language version of the Epoch Times newspaper published an editorial series called "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party".

[Yi Rong, Vice President, Global Quit CCP Service Center]:
"The statistics are compiled from many sources. It's mainly from The Epoch Times website, but there are a lot of ways for people to participate."

Ways like volunteers making phone calls to China to convince people to withdraw, one by one.

"Now you can use an alias, or your nickname, and make an announcement on an overseas website, and you can withdraw [from the CCP] that way."

[Ms. Tao, Tuidang Volunteer]:
"When they agree, I will write down their names, and when I have a few dozen names, I'll ask someone to enter them into the Epoch Times Tuidang website. They'll get the registration numbers, and I'll keep a copy, and that's the whole process."

[Yi Rong, Vice President, Global Quit CCP Service Center]:
"In Flushing, our volunteers at the five information booths here will give us these forms with the names, like these. We will enter these names on the computer and assign each name a number, a registration number."

These information booths and phone call groups are not funded by any government, corporation, or wealthy donors. They're put together by volunteers with hardly any central authority. But they're unified in purpose: helping people withdraw from the CCP.

Who are these volunteers? The majority are people who practice Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual practice. Falun Gong became widely practiced in China after being taught to the public in 1992. But in 1999, the communist regime banned Falun Gong, and began persecuting its adherents.

Falun Gong itself should seem an unlikely source for a political movement, since its spiritual principles are distinctly non-political in nature. But many of its practitioners, like Chen Fengyu, have supported the Tuidang movement as a way to respond to the persecution in China.

Chen is a volunteer at the New York branch of the Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party. He says Falun Gong practitioners initially tried to stop the persecution by appealing to the communist leadership, but the persecution only intensified with time.

[Chen Fengyu, Tuidang Volunteer]:
"But after a few years, we found there was no use [appealing], and they would not listen - because the thought process of the Communist Party follows phoniness, wickedness and fighting, and it controls the people through violence and lies. So since 2004, after the Nine Commentaries very clearly exposed the nature of the CCP, we began to tell more Chinese people to leave the CCP...Only when the CCP is dissolved can the persecution stop."

Most of the volunteers promoting the Tuidang movement may be Falun Gong practitioners, but the bulk of its participants are not.

They include people like renowned human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng; former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin; and former Chinese intelligence officer Li Fengzhi. All of them have publicly renounced their ties with the CCP.

And now many people who don't practice Falun Gong are helping actively promote the Tuidang movement, too.

[Qiu Mingwei, Former Employee of People's Daily]:
"I hereby call upon all the CCP members in China to take this brave step. Only this step can speed up China's progress towards democracy. Tuidang is loving your country. Drawing a clear line between yourself and the Communist Party is to save the country."

[Xu Yi, Democracy Activist]:
"I sent my own Tuidang statement to everyone I knew at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Linguistics. Even if we, ourselves, have not done anything wrong, if I stay in the CCP, I'm in fact giving it strength."

[Wang Wei, Democracy Activist]:
"The CCP's corruption, degeneration, its disregard for human nature, and its violence are for all to see. I'm here calling on everyone inside China to get rid of the Communist Party, this malignant tumor, and return to us a democratic China."

From what started as a response to an editorial in a Chinese newspaper, the Tuidang movement has now become a way for Chinese people to express their hopes for their country's future.

(Reporting by Karen Chang, Shelley Zhang, and Matt Gnaizda. Video editing by Lia Onely.)

Disclosure Note:
NTD has an affiliation with The Epoch Times, publisher of the Nine Commentaries editorial series that is regarded as the catalyst of the Tuidang movement. In 2005, NTD created a video version of the Nine Commentaries and broadcast it via satellite into China, as well as in other places around the globe. This may have had an impact on the Tuidang movement's spread. Watch the Nine Commentaries in English.