August 7, 1999
CHINESE CRACKDOWN ON FALUN GONG
The biggest threat to the Chinese
Communist government is a group of mostly elderly Chinese citizens who used
to gather in parks in mornings to practice traditional "aigong" exercises,
moving their hands around an imaginary wheel to music and Buddhist
meditation called Falun Gong (The Law of the Wheel Breathing Exercises).
The number of Falun Gong is
somewhere between the government's estimate of 2 million and the group's own
figure of 100 million. The group has no apparent organization or buildings,
charges no fees, and had no political agenda, except to defend its own right
to cultivate Xinxing (mind nature and moral level) in public.
And there's the rub. Communists
fear any kind of independent group, particularly one with a religious
agenda. As a State Department expert said, ''They are very conscious of the
role religion played in Eastern Europe.'' Falun Gong denies that it is a
However, while people are
exercising, they listen to tapes of the group's founder, Li Hongshi, 48, who
emigrated to America January, 1998. What is ''Master Li'' saying?
''You should always display
compassion and kindness towards others and think of others before doing
anything. There will not be any problems if the first thing that you will
think of, whenever encountering a problem, is whether others can put up with
this matter and if it will hurt anyone. Therefore, you should follow a
higher and higher standard for yourself when you practice cultivation.''
Falun Gong's philosophy is built on
three universally admired qualities: ''Zhen-Shan-Ren,'' which translate as
Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. The movement has no advertisements
and has spread from heart to heart, which has enabled it to be propagated
quickly. When Li stopped teaching it in person four years ago, there
were only 20,000 followers.
As he puts it: ''The Great Law is
being promulgated far and wide. Those who have heard about it are looking
for it. Those who have attained it are delighted with it. Practitioners are
increasing day by day and they are countless.''
In May, 1998 a physicist criticized
Falun Gong for promoting pseudo science on TV. This infuriated the group and
days later several thousand followers appeared at the TV station demanding
apologies. After a few days, the station caved in, fired the reporter
hosting the show, and praised the good deeds of Falun Gong.
What good deeds? An October,
1998 study of practitioners in Beijing Zizhuyuan (a large park in Beijing)
revealed remarkable healing results. Of 700 questionnaires designed by
such experts as the Deputy Chief Physician of the People's University of
China Hospital, 584 were returned, a big 84 percent of whom 174 were male
and 410 female and two-thirds, aged 51-98. They were intellectuals: 39
percent were college educated; 21 percent had two years college.
In such an elderly group, 58
percent had cardiovascular problems before Falun Gong; two-thirds suffered
digestive problems; while 6 percent had incurable diseases. Their average
annual medical expense before participating was 3500 Yuan.
Practitioners said their costs
plunged to an average of 70 Yuan, and 418 had zero medical expenses, 87
percent of those who answered that item. I interviewed Erping Zhang,
interpreter of founder Li Hongzhi, who said he was cured of liver and
No wonder Falun Gong practitioners
are deeply committed. When governmental leaders called the movement a
cult and began arresting its leaders, an E-mail call sparked 10,000 to
20,000 Falun Gong followers to gather in silent protest at the famed
Tiananmen Square. A stunned Chinese Premier Jhu Rongji (who visited the U.S.
last spring) met
with the group's leaders. (They were later arrested.)
A front page story in the
''People's Daily'' newspaper said the government was not opposed to Falun
Gong practice, which is good for healing; that it was only a rumor that it
would extradite Master Li from America. ''Months later, they are eating
their own words,'' said Zhang.
On July 22, Falun Gong was banned
for practicing ''evil thinking'' and threatening social stability. In 30
cities, police rounded up tens of thousands of followers, put them in sports
stadiums where they were interrogated over days and forced to sign letters
disavowing the group. ''In scenes reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution,
more than 2 million
books and instructional tapes were pulped or crushed by steam rollers,''
said TIME. And 1,200 Community Party officials involved in Falun
Gong were sent to re-education camps.
The parks are empty today. But the
repression is infuriating and politicizing millions.
Have not Chinese leaders heard that
by the blood of martyrs, Christianity was built? I predict that today's
repression is temporary.
Copyright 1999 Michael J. McManus.