By the end of the 1990s, a hundred million people were practicing Falun Gong. Jiang Zemin, former head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), perceived the spiritual discipline's growing popularity as a threat to the CCP's atheistic ideology and on July 20, 1999, issued an order to ban the practice. Since then, thousands of practitioners have been confirmed to have died as a result of the persecution, and many more have been imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for organs.