Police investigations have found that the self-immolation tragedy by five Falun Gong practitioners last month in Tiananmen Square was a direct result of incitement and spiritual control by cult leader Li Hongzhi, and a conspiracy by his diehard followers.
The direct organizers of the tragedy, Liu Yunfang and Xue Hongjun, have been arrested, while another mastermind of the horrible scene, Wan Jindong, has been hospitalized since he set himself ablaze together with four others on January 23.
According to the investigations, Liu Yunfang, 57, was a former factory worker in Kaifeng City, Henan Province in central China. He started practicing Falun Gong in 1997.
Not long afterwards, he began to boast of his "heavenly eyes" that allow him to see "life and substances in another space". He also claimed to be one of the top ten disciples of Li Hongzhi.
Since May 2000, in his lectures Li Hongzhi has repeatedly urged practitioners to "devote their lives wholly to Falun Gong" so that they can achieve "nirvana".
Liu told his fellow practitioners Wang Jindong, Hao Huijun and Xue Hongjun that he had realized what "nirvana" was. According to him, it meant giving up everything and thereby gaining access to " heaven".
Liu declared later that while he was practicing, he saw his spirit carrying a lighter and gasoline to Tiananmen Square and setting it on fire. Whereupon he saw his "Buddha body" spraying fire from the mouth and displaying a brilliant light."
Liu told this to Xue Hongjun, who then spread the story among other Falun Gong practitioners.
Meanwhile, another practitioner, Wang Jindong, claimed that he had come to realize that the supreme form of achieving "nirvana" was to burn oneself in Tiananmen Square, and still better, on the eve of the Lunar New Year.
Following the latest instruction of Li Hongzhi which urged his followers to sacrifice everything for Falun Gong, Liu, Wang, Xue and Hao met on January 10, 2001, and agreed to burn themselves to death in Tiananmen on the eve of the Lunar New Year, which fell on January 23.
Xue further suggested that more people should be organized to join them. And so Liu Yunfang and Wang Jindong called Liu Baorong, Liu Chunling and her 12-year-old daughter Liu Ying, while Hao Huijun phoned her daughter Chen Guo, who was studying in Beijing and also a practitioner.
On January 16, Liu Yunfang, Wang Jindong, Hao Huijun, Liu Baorong, Liu Chunling and Liu Siying left Kaifeng for Beijing. Xue went to the railway station to see them off, and said he would meet them in "heaven".
The six arrived in Beijing the next morning, and met Chen Guo. They found lodgings at the house of a Beijing practitioner, but were transferred to another apartment by the local Falun Gong organization on the same day.
The seven thereupon started their preparations. They bought 40 litters of gasoline, which they poured into 14 empty Sprite bottles. Perfume was sprayed over the bottles to cover up the smell of gasoline. The time for the self-immolation was fixed at 2: 30 p.m., January 23.
On the fatal day, Hao Huijun, Chen Guo, Liu Chunling and Liu Siying took a taxi to Tiananmen Square. They poured gasoline on their bodies in a nearby toilet and set fire to themselves on the square.
About 10 minutes later, Liu Yunfang, Wang Jindong and Liu Baorong arrived at the square in another taxi. The latter two set themselves on fire, but Liu Yunfang did not. He didn't even pour gasoline on himself.
Liu Chunling died on the spot, while the other four were seriously injured and were immediately rushed to hospital.
"I did not set myself on fire, because the 'master' wanted me to stay. He want me to live so that I can speak," Liu Yunfang explained to the police.
"They had a deeper belief than I, so they attained 'nirvana'. I had not reached their level so I changed my mind," Liu added.
Xue Hongjun was reluctant to admit his role in the tragedy. But pressed by reporters, he gave a long sigh, and said, "I'm a sinner. "
Upon learning that Li Hongzhi has denied that the victims were followers of Falun Gong, Xue said, "They are telling lies. Li Hongzhi is shirking his responsibility, but God will not forgive him." His hands trembled with anger.
With her body entirely wrapped in bandage, 12-year-old Liu Siying said her biggest wish is to go home and continue with her schooling.
"I must catch up with my lessons. My classmates are going into the sixth grade, I don't want to be left behind alone," she said.
Chen Guo, a music college student, said she wanted to return to school so that she could be a music teacher upon graduation.
However, doctors at the Beijing Jishuitan Hospital said the four are still in a critical condition.
"We have transplanted skin for all four of them. But the burns are massive, and the danger of infection is high," said Li Chi, the doctor in charge of the burn unit.
Even they survive, they face a difficult life, as their faces are seriously deformed and their hands are actually non-existent, the doctor said.