Recently, at a campaign event in Virginia on Oct. 5 a Falun Gong practitioner shook hands with President Obama and handed him a letter. The letter was handed by Karen Gao, from the Washington D.C. Falun Dafa Association, in an attempt to update the President about the live, forced organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners by the Chinese Communist regime, and asked him to help end this atrocity. Is this really happening and if so why? On this article we will expose the two sides of the story.
Falun Gong was first introduced to the public in China by Mr. Li Hongzhi, in 1992. The people who initially tried the practice not only found powerful healing effects, but many also found answers to their deepest questions in life. As they continued to practice, their friends and family started to notice how they were becoming healthier and becoming better people overall. Thus, almost entirely by word of mouth, the numbers of enthusiasts kept growing. Falun Gong spread into 50 countries and attracted people from all walks of life and all cultural backgrounds.
What is Falun Gong?
According to the group’s literature, Falun Gong – or Law of the Wheel – originated in prehistoric times but only came to public notice in 1992 when Li Hongzhi, a man in his late forties referred to as “the master”, set up a study centre in Beijing. Falun Gong includes a mixture of Buddhist and Taoist beliefs; followers have a religious devotion to Master Li. In China, hundreds of people gather together in squares and parks throughout the country.The most public manifestation of Falun Gong is the practice of a range of exercises related to the ancient Chinese art of qigong – a kind of breathing meditation.To the accompaniment of special Falun Gong music, they perform routines with names such as “Buddha showing the thousand hands”, “The way of strengthening supernatural powers” and “The Falun Gong way to heavenly circulation”.
Originally, the Chinese government promoted Falun Gong, because the tremendous health benefits it offered eased the burden on China’s crumbling health care system. However, in seven years the number of Falun Gong practitioners grew to outnumber Communist party members almost two-to-one (there are around two million members according to the Chinese government).
In April 1999, an article critical of Falun Gong was published in Tianjin Normal University’s Youth Reader magazine. The article was authored by physicist He Zuoxiu who, as Porter and Gutmann note, is a relative of Politburo member and public security tsar Luo Gan. The article cast qigong, and Falun Gong in particular, as superstitious and potentially dangerous. Falun Gong practitioners responded by picketing the offices of the newspaper requesting a retraction of the article. That event was the beginning of the so called Tianjin and Zhongnanhai protests.
Falun Gong followers say they are a peaceful law-abiding group, following a philosophy and regime of exercises which lead to spiritual enlightenment and improve health. The authorities in China see Falun Gong in a far more sinister light.
Acting on orders from the government, police began harassing practitioners, preventing them from practicing together, and threatening them with arrest. Meanwhile, certain newspapers began printing negatively articles.
What supporters say about Falun Gong
Conversion program: Falun Gong supporters claim that the Chinese regime aimed at both coercive dissolution of the Falun Gong denomination and “transformation” of the practitioners. By 2000, the Party upped its campaign by sentencing “recidivist” practitioners to “re-education through labor”, in an effort to have them renounce their beliefs and “transform” their thoughts. Terms were also arbitrarily extended by police, while some practitioners had ambiguous charges levied against them, such as “disrupting social order”, “endangering national security”, or “subverting the socialist system”.
Deaths and torture: Falun Gong supporters accuse the Chinese Government to be responsible for torture and deaths. Since 2000, the Special Rapporteur to the United Nations highlighted 314 cases of torture, representing more than 1,160 individuals, to the Government of China. Falun Gong comprise 66% of all such reported torture cases, 8% occurring within Ankangs. Some estimates on the number of Falun Gong adherents killed under persecution vary widely. In 2009, the New York Times reported that, according to human rights groups, the repressions had claimed “at least 2,000″ lives. Amnesty International reported that at least 100 Falun Gong practitioners were believed to have been killed in the 2008 calendar year, either in custody or shortly after their release. Falun Gong sources have reported approximately 3,400 deaths. Journalist Ethan Gutmann of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies produced a median estimated death toll of 65,000 based on a refugee testimony, while researchers David Kilgour and David Matas produced an estimate of 41,500 killed from 2000 – 2005.
Organ harvesting: In March 2006 the Falun Gong-affiliated Epoch Times published a number of articles alleging that the China was conducting widespread and systematic organ harvesting of living Falun Gong practitioners. The website alleged that practitioners detained in labour camps, hospital basements, or prisons, were being blood- and urine-tested, their information stored on computer databases, and then matched with organ recipients. Within one month, third party investigators including representatives of the US Department of State, said that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation. Former Canadian Secretary of State David Kilgour and human rights lawyer David Matas were commissioned by Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong to investigate the allegations. In July 2006, they published “Report into Allegations of Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China”, which concluded that large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners were victims of systematic organ harvesting throughout China, while still alive. US embassy staff visits showed an alleged location to be a normal hospital.
Ethan Gutmann, adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, approached the allegations by conducting extensive interviews around the world with a variety of former prisoners from Chinese labor camps and prisons, including Falun Gong practitioners and non-practitioners. He calculates that the number of practitioners killed for organs could be as high as 120,000, with a low estimate of 9,000, and 65,000 being the median. Estimates have been revised downwards from earlier numbers to reflect changing estimates of the overall Laogai System population by the Laogai Research Foundation. Chinese officials have repeatedly and firmly denied the organ harvesting allegations in the report.
Psychiatric abuse: Falun Gong and human rights observers began reporting widespread psychiatric abuse of mentally-healthy practitioners since 1999. Falun Gong says that thousands have been forcefully detained in mental hospitals and subject to psychiatric abuses such as injection of sedatives or anti-psychotic drugs, torture by electrocution, force-feeding, beatings and starvation.
What the Chinese Government says about Falun Gong
Falun Gong as a cult: The Chinese government allegates that Falun Gong is “propagating feudal superstition”, that Li had changed his birthdate, and that the practice exploited spiritual cultivation to engage in seditious politics. In exposés such as “Falun Gong is a Cult“, ”Exposing the Lies of the ‘Falun Gong’ Cult“, and “Cult of Evil“, they allege that Falun Gong engages in mind control and manipulation via “lies and fallacies,” causing “needless deaths of large numbers of practitioners.” State media seized upon Li’s writing in which he expressed that illnesses are caused by karma, and that Li has stated on several occasions that the sign of a true practitioner is to refuse medicine or medical care. Li was portrayed as a charlatan, while snapshots of accounting records were shown on television, “purporting to prove that [he] made huge amounts of money off his books and videos.”
Opposed to the CPC: Xinhua News Agency, the official news organisation of the Communist Party, declared that Falun Gong is “opposed to the Communist Party of China and the central government, preaches idealism, theism and feudal superstition.” Xinhua also asserted that “the so-called ‘truth, kindness and forbearance’ principle preached by Li has nothing in common with the socialist ethical and cultural progress we are striving to achieve”, and argued that it was necessary to crush Falun Gong in order to preserve the “vanguard role and purity” of the Communist Party. Other articles appearing in the state-run media in the first days and weeks of the ban posited that Falun Gong must be defeated because its “theistic” philosophy was at odds with the Marxist-Leninism paradigm and with the secular values of materialism.
Threat to national security and stability: According to a press release from the Embassy of PRC in the USA “The government has worked to educate the majority of Falun Gong practitioners, while cracking down, according to law, on a handful of those who have engaged in criminal activity and jeopardized the public safety.” The official statement continues by saying that “So far, the cult has been directly responsible for 1,500 deaths– more than the number killed by the Ugandan “Ten Commandments of God” cult. Meanwhile, over 600 people have become mentally ill after practicing Falun Gong.”
Tool for mind manipulation: According to Chinese official statement Li Hongzhi used the lies and fallacies to manipulate the minds of the “Falun Gong” practitioners and caused needless deaths of large numbers of practitioners. Over 1,000 practitioners died because they followed Li’s teachings and refused to seek medical treatment for their illnesses. Several hundred practitioners committed self-mutilation or suicide. Over 30 innocent people were killed by mentally deranged practitioners of “Falun Gong”. In view of the serious violation of human rights and other criminal activities of “Falun Gong” cult organization, the Chinese Government outlawed this cult according to law in 1999 and issued a hue and cry for the arrest of the suspects including Li Hongzhi. According to the officials Falun Gong is against modern science, preaches the end of the world, forbids its followers watching TV or being treated in hospital and maintains that diseases do not exist and that ailments are due to sins people commit. They preached that UFOs had arrived on earth; aliens had taken over human bodies, and were trying to annihilate humanity through the control of TV and radio.
Is Falun Gong a cult?
Hongzhi Li wrote he could personally heal disease and that his followers can stop speeding cars using the powers of his teachings. He wrote that the Falun Gong emblem exists in the bellies of practitioners, who can see through the celestial eyes in their foreheads. Li believes “humankind is degenerating and demons are everywhere “extraterrestrials are everywhere, too and that Africa boasts a 2-billion-year-old nuclear reactor. He also said he could can fly. But if classic characteristics of cults are taken into account, according to an article published by the Time Magazine back in July 2001, Falun Gong is not a cult.
|Typical Cult Techniques||Falun Gong’s Record-|
|- Exerts tremendous pressure on people to join||NO|
|- Fosters an us-versus-them approach to life||YES|
|- Believers remove themselves from society||NO|
|- Uses jargon that outsiders don’t understand||YES|
|- Believers required to donate large sums of money||NO|
|- Led by a charismatic master||YES|
For further information:
Falun Gong, from sport to suicide
Timeline of persecution
The Chinese Government’s Crackdown on Falun Gong