It all began with a book.
Since then, hundreds of millions have been inspired, fueling the largest grassroots movement in China since the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989.
Back in November 2004, the Chinese-language Epoch Times published an unprecedented editorial series, “Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party,” that explained the history and inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since its founding.
Elucidating the Party’s dark crimes, the series compelled many Chinese with the desire to dissociate themselves from the CCP and its affiliate organizations, the Youth League and the Young Pioneers.
The Chinese-language Epoch Times then set up an online platform for its Chinese readers and others to record their public statements of quitting the Party organizations.
Since then, a “Tuidang”—or “quitting the Party” in Chinese— the movement has led to more than 318 million Chinese publicly announcing their desire to end ties with the CCP.
Inside China, the Nine Commentaries has sparked an uproar. People print copies of the series underground and pass them among each other.
This year, the Epoch Times also published “How The Specter of Communism Is Ruling Our World,” a follow-up editorial series exploring communism’s reach into the West.
The Tuidang Center, a nonprofit established in 2007 to coordinate Tuidang efforts around the world, recently published a report documenting the impact of the movement in the nearly decade-and-half since it all began.
Reaching Inside China
Of the over 318 million individuals who announced they have quit the Party, the majority are from within mainland China.
The CCP considers such a withdrawal a dissenting act since the Party does not allow its members to leave. They can only be expelled by the Party.
Every day, volunteers throughout China risk their lives in order to tell Chinese citizens about the Tuidang movement and help them record their announcements on the Epoch Times platform—as the Chinese regime has a history of punishing dissenting voices harshly.
The volunteers primarily spread awareness via face-to-face interactions and making phone calls to CCP members. Others find ways to stealthily hang banners and posters in public spaces so that more Chinese citizens can be exposed to the message.
Volunteers often use pseudonyms for the Chinese citizens who quit the Party in order to protect their identities.
During periods of mass protests or civil unrest, the number of people quitting the Party would increase, the Tuidang Center report found. For example, in April 2017, locals in Kunming City, Yunnan Province protested against a police officer who beat up a street vendor. The immediate days following the protests saw a flood of Tuidang announcements.
The Tuidang Center report also found that drops in the number of announcements usually coincided with major CCP political events—which are considered “sensitive” occasions during which the CCP would tighten censorship and clamp down on dissent speech. Those are the times that firewall-bypassing software would fail to work, impeding the ability for citizens to register their announcements on the Epoch Times platform.
Tuidang Center volunteers around the world have also set up booths at major tourist attractions where mainland Chinese are likely to visit, in order to tell them about the Tuidang movement.
Taiwan has over 40 Tuidang sites, including at popular sightseeing locations such as the National Palace Museum, Sun Moon Lake, and Alishan National Scenic Area.
The United States alone is home to 26 Tuidang sites in 12 cities. Tuidang centers also have a presence in Canada, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Finland, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Turkey, and Malaysia.
Scores of Chinese tourists quit the Party daily. In Taiwan, where many mainland Chinese visit annually, an average of 710 people quit the Party per day.
At New York’s Rockefeller Center, an average of 15 people quit daily. At Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, more than 80,000 have withdrawn from the Party in the past four years that a volunteer couple has staffed the site.
A Worldwide Effect
The impact of the Tuidang movement has also been felt throughout the world.
Since the Nine Commentaries editorial series was translated into more than 30 languages, readers around the world have also learned about the CCP’s origins and its agenda.
In May this year, U.S. lawmakers, Chinese dissidents, and U.S. human rights activists convened at a panel on Capitol Hill to discuss the Tuidang movement.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) drafted a proclamation to the House of Representatives to officially recognize the effect of the Tuidang movement, which he explained was not a political movement but “simply helps Chinese people reclaim their God-given conscience.”
Members of European Parliament and former New Zealand prime minister John Key are also among those who have sent letters and other messages expressing support for the Tuidang movement, according to the report.
Experts have described how the movement has implications beyond those living in China.
Trevor Loudon, a New Zealand-based author and documentary filmmaker, said at the Capitol Hill event in May: “[T]he Tuidang movement is probably the most important thing that’s being done on this planet right now, because how that goes is going to determine what happens to not just China but freedom-loving people everywhere.”