Archive | June, 2009

Falun Gong excluded from Asian fest

30 Jun

A small skirmish erupted at last weekend’s Asian festival, pitting festival organizers against Falun Gong practitioners.

Festival spokesman Michael Kwan, a judge in Taylorsville, said the problem was simply a matter of the group not following the rules and pleasing the sponsors, while Utah’s tiny Falun Gong community claims it’s about Chinese politics.

Sometime before the festival, Patrice Loung, a practitioner of Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa, as it is also called) applied for a booth at the popular event. The group, which says it preaches a unique set of meditative exercises meant to understand the truth of human life and to cultivate higher levels of existence, had space at the 2007 Asian event. Members decided it was a good venue to dispel some myths about their beliefs and practices.

Initially, organizers approved the Falun Gong application. After further investigation, organizers denied it.

The rejection was based on a negative experience at the 2007 event, Kwan said.

Falun Gong came in at the last minute without properly applying, and, while performing on the stage, covered up sponsors’ banners with their own.

“They went overboard with not paying for their booth and offending sponsors,” he said. “Because of this, the committee decided they would not be allowed to participate for five years.”

Falun Gong members also distributed fliers about how the Chinese government had persecuted some 70 million Falun Gong practitioners during the past few decades.

“I have no problem with their religion,” Kwan said, “but we are here to celebrate our culture in Utah. It’s not a place for political messages about China or anywhere else.”

A Falun Gong practitioner said the 2007 banners simply read, “Truth, Compassion and Tolerance,” and “Falun Dafa is good.”

Falun Gong representatives then sought help from Sen. Bob Bennett’s office, Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s office and Linda K. Oda, the state’s director for Asian Affairs.

Festival organizers plan to meet with Falun Gong members in the coming weeks.

“We have no interest in not letting groups participate,” Kwan said, “but you also can’t break the rules.”

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Slovakia bans Falun Gong protest

30 Jun

Slovak authorities have banned a demonstration by human rights organisations planned during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit in Bratislava Thursday.

Bratislava’s town council banned the demonstration officially because the square in front of the presidential palace is reserved for the president’s office.

The gathering was planned by six non-governmental groups including Amnesty International, Falun Gong Association and Friends of Tibet Society during the meeting between Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic and his Chinese counterpart.

Hu is to arrive Thursday from Moscow for his first-ever visit to Slovakia. The former communist country will be his only European stop.

The six NGOs have called on top Slovak officials to discuss human rights with the Chinese president.

A spokesman for the Slovakian president said the country would not seek to meddle in Chinese domestic affairs.

“Slovakia, as an E.U. member state, respects the E.U.-China strategic partnership and even though there are certain differences between both partners concerning human rights, neither Slovakia nor the E.U. will interfere in Chinese internal affairs,” Marek Trubac told AFP.

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I cheated by the instructor

30 Jun

I am Dai Hongjin. I used to be a Falun Gong practitioner in Nantong City, Jiangsu Province. My neighbors always praise my daughter, saying that she’s getting more and more beautiful and smarter and smarter. That’s true, because my sister, a kindergarten teacher, has taught her how to sing and dance since her childhood. Days before, my daughter was selected to attend the TV show Lovely Babies organized by the provincial TV station and she was awarded Lovely Baby. At that moment, being her mother, I felt I was the happiest woman in the world. I leant my head in my husband’s arms and couldn’t hold back my tears… My husband caressed my hair, because he knew exactly why I cried: We suffered too much to have such a lovely angel, and the woeful past recurred slowly to me.

In 1999, I was a senior in a university in Nanjing. Bewitched by the temptation of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance, I began to practice Falun Gong. One of my classmates, who was also my boyfriend then, told me that Falun Gong was a dangerous cult and asked me to stop at once. But I turned a deaf ear to his words, and tried to persuade him to practice with me. Being a faithful lover, my boyfriend refused the offer from an abroad university in order to save me. He married me soon after graduation since he believed family life would cut off the connection between Falun Gong and me.

When we walked out of the marriage register office, suddenly I saw my instructor of Falun Gong standing in the shade of the trees on opposite side of the street. He stared at me and walked away slowly after a while. I felt my soul was abstracted by him, so I said to my husband, “I have something to do,” and then I followed the instructor away. When we arrived at the practice spot (his home), he asked me seriously about what I had done. I was afraid of telling lies to him, so I told him all. He told me calmly that he had already known about it. That made me so shocked that I couldn’t utter a word. He said uncannily that the Master sent him all these messages by his magic power beyond the sea. It’s so amazing that I couldn’t believe it. He said, “You’re a novice at the lower level; if you could reach my level, you could interact with Master, too.” I believed him somewhat: He was a professor in the university and at a higher level, so I should learn from him. He detected my thoughts; he told me to discard all my feelings and devote all myself to the practice. He stared at me and added: “Although you registered your marriage, you should not sleep with your husband.” I asked him why. He told me virgin would “get twice the result with half the effort” in the cultivation.

I followed his instruction and refused to sleep with my husband for more than two years after getting the marriage certificate. Naturally, there were quarrels in our daily life. When his parents knew about it, they asked their son to divorce me.

At a stormy night, the instructor called me to his home to practice. This time, he gave me the special course. During the practice, I found his eyes were emitting strange lights that I never saw, suddenly, he put his hands on my chest; he explained that was for transporting his power more quickly. So I let his hands moving all over my body. After a long time, he asked me to have sexual intercourse with him and called it “Male-Female Dual Cultivation,” he told me that could help me reach Consummation sooner. I refused him instinctively and I asked him about the “virgin cultivation” he had preached. He was taken aback. Before he recovered I rushed out, staggered along like a somnambulist and returned home.

So I dared not practice Falun Gong in the instructor’s home. One day, I heard his legs were broken in a car accident. I wanted to visit him with my husband, so I phoned him. He told me on the phone that nothing was serious, and he would recover soon by means of close-door practice. When I asked him the location where he was practicing, he refused, saying only the Master knew it. My husband overheard his words and, behind my back, asked relatives and friends to help, and soon pinpointed him. To my surprise, the instructor was at a private orthopedic clinic! I refused to accept it. My husband took me there by car. Through the glass, I found my instructor lying on the bed, legs fixed in the plaster cast and the nurse was measuring his blood pressure, and I saw pills bottle on the cupboard around him…

Seeing this, I felt cheated. It hurt me so much that I cried day and night, wishing I had already been dead. For my own good, my husband decided to send me to a law school run by the community. In a period of one month, the society gave me lots of help and love, and made me a normal person again. Three years after getting the marriage certificate, we became the real couple, and then I gave birth to our lovely girl.


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Falun Gong marchers disrupt Auckland traffic

16 Jun

Protesters who held up Queen St traffic on Saturday afternoon are blaming the incident on the Auckland City Council.

About 100 Falun Gong supporters were blocked midway through their march by the police and told to march on the footpath.

They were commemorating the 1989 Tianamen Square Incident.

The president of the Auckland Council for Civil Liberties, Barry Wilson, says the council had refused the marchers permission to walk up Queen St.

Radio New Zealand’s reporter at the scene says at least three police patrol cars and about 10 police officers blocked the march on Queen Street.

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Gish Jen: Falun Gong Show

16 Jun

My siblings and I took my parents to the Radio City Music Hall “Chinese New Year Splendor” show out of a mix of nostalgia and excitement. Nothing had spelled America more to my Chinese immigrant parents than Radio City’s Christmas show, and we were all looking forward, first of all, to revisiting the Art Deco bathrooms. Also, though, we were looking forward to seeing something we never could have imagined when I was growing up: something “Chinese” on the Great Stage. It’s true we had never pined for “representation” in such venues; if you gave my father a choice between people who looked like us and the real-live camels of the Christmas pageant, I’m sure he would pick the camels. If you gave him a choice between the typically Asian-legged and the Rockettes, too–well. Still, how amazing to imagine the stage populated with the former, just this once.

Most of the show was the sort of boilerplate Chinese entertainment we might have found on a cruise ship–one part flowing sleeves, one part Intro to Chinese History and Culture. The founding of Chinese culture by the Yellow Emperor 5,000 years ago. The story of the woman warrior, Mulan. Happy minority dances from happy places like Tibet. No bare leg. The Divine Performing Arts group did seem to place more emphasis on the “divine” in their name than one might have anticipated: The Yellow Emperor was flanked by buddhas and bodhisattvas; and, in another number (a most Chinese version of the Prometheus myth), poor earthlings trying to jot things down with chisels were suddenly granted a miraculous “system upgrade” (as the announcer put it). First, an erstwhile solid mountain opened, James Bond-style. Then out of its maw jetted a bodhisattva bearing–ta-daa–a writing brush! Jetting bodhisattvas were, in general, a theme, as were mountains giving way, with one turning into a heap of rubble–an eerie echo of last year’s Sichuan earthquake. Mostly, though, the show was, as my father put it, “chow mein.” The pretty music and pretty costumes, well-steeped in “authenticity,” made for many a happy Asian and non-Asian face in the sold-out hall, my parents’ among them. Then began, to our surprise, a program of Falun Gong Dafa agitprop.

A soprano sang feelingly, “For whom do we brave the elements? … / Standing on the sidewalk, followers of Dafa / Leaflets in hand born of effort and compassion / For but one purpose: to spare you misfortune / Knowing the true picture, the road ahead will be clear to you … . / We wish only to share with you a hopeful tomorrow.” This was followed, a bit later in the program, by “Heaven Awaits Us Despite Persecution,” in which wholesome, golden-shirted Dafa practitioners living peacefully in a village were beaten mercilessly by thugs with red hammer-and-sickles emblazoned on their black jackets. Then came “Dignity and Compassion,” in which a Dafa prisoner was tortured but appeared as a bodhisattva to his sleeping torturer, who was then converted and redeemed; a glowing, gold-lit land above the clouds, dotted with pavilions and deities, appeared on an enormous backdrop screen, from which more bodhisattvas came zipping down. The grand finale featured a backdrop of enormous rotating cosmic wheels in front of which danced Dafa practitioners with such uniformly beatific faces that with a few changes of clothing–Red Army uniforms for the men, for example, instead of golden shirts and khaki pants–they could have been a dance troupe in the Cultural Revolution.

So much for our great moment of inclusion. Though some in the audience clapped with wild enthusiasm, many clapped, as did we, with an exchange of incredulous looks. “Political stuff,” my father commented with a laugh. For myself, I was trying to remember why in the world we’d gotten my parents tickets to this thing instead of, say, South Pacific.

This particular Chinese New Year’s show was, of course, part of a more general phenomenon of minorities coming to occupy stages hitherto unimaginable. The Inauguration, with its rich racial panoply, capped an already momentous period that saw, for example, the staging of Toni Morrison’s opera, Margaret Garner, in Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater in 2007. The event was greeted with such palpable excitement by the many African Americans in the audience that it was impossible not to be moved. And the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics elicited a similar feeling for many Asians and Asian Americans: While I, personally, felt spooked by its exaltation of mass conformity, my mother stood up in front of the television and sang the Chinese national anthem–which, I should say, was hardly typical behavior for her.

I am all for inclusion. At the same time, I do have to wonder if the previously excluded will at times bring more on their coattails than we bargained for. I suspect that, like us, many of the audience members did not realize in advance that their tickets were supporting Falun Gong. (The manager’s welcome note in the program does mention that many of the dancers of the troupe are Dafa practitioners, but nothing in its promotional advertising suggested any religious link.) I likewise wonder whether wfas-ny, which advertised the show heavily, or any of the troupe’s many supporters (the thank-you list at the back of the program lists some 44 assemblymen, city councilmen, congressmen, and mayors, including Michael Bloomberg) had any idea what was afoot. My guess is that they simply thought, “nice Chinese dance group,” and coughed up their blessing.

Meanwhile, this canny arts group now has three large troupes touring worldwide. There is a breathtaking chutzpah to their approach: As my husband observed, it was the first time he found himself paying to be proselytized. Online reactions to the show range from warnings to “avoid, avoid, avoid” this group to ecstatic claims that everything about the show “comes from heaven” and that it will “save us all.” My own reaction, besides amazed outrage, included an increased appreciation of why the mainland Chinese government might be leery of Falun Gong. I am, please note, not in favor of its forcible suppression. This is, however, a most worldly otherworldliness, now successfully tapping the West via the large vein that is American ethnic sentimentality: What can a Chinese arts group be, after all, but sweet poor people who of course need a helping hand? As for what inclusion means to them, well: Is not all the world a platform?

Gish Jen is the author of the novels Typical American, Monain the Promised Land, The Love Wife, and Who’s Irish?, a book of stories.

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Shattered dream of cultivation practice

16 Jun

My name is Zhang Wenhong. In the past, I was so bewitched by Falun Gong that I couldn’t extricate myself. In order to practice Falun Gong, I tried to keep away from my child and husband and finally I got divorced; in order to protect, I took part in mobbing the office of Chengdu Business Morning Post; in order to seek “Consummation” and “Ascension,” I went twice to Beijing to protect the Fa. I dreamed to “ascend” to enjoy the glory and splendid life in “Heaven.” I devoted myself to Falun Gong, but when I looked back, I realized it’s totally a fool’s daydream.

“Fairy tale” – I love fairy tales since my childhood. The Elvens and fairies are so beautiful that I envy them and dream of being one of them one day. As I grew up, I went to school, then began to work, then got married and gave birth to baby. The dream once faded from my memory for the busy life. However, it was not until the end of 1980s that I got more free time to enjoy myself. It was just in such period that Qigong got popular all over China and I then got obsessed with the breathing exercise. In the first five years of 1990s, I learnt Wild Goose (Dayan) Qigong, Zhong Gong, Yang-style Tai Chi, and so on. But I still felt they were too far away from my “fairy dream.”

“Love at the first sight” – On a Sunday morning in the summer of 1996, I went to Chengdu Natatorium, Sichuan Province. When I passed its gate, I found lots of people sitting cross-legged on the groud with their eyes closed. Out of curiosity I sat down and practiced as they did. When the music stopped, I opened my eyes and asked the woman beside me about the name of this exercise. She told me it’s called Falun Gong, then gave me a book named Zhuan Falun to study at home. After I went back home, I read it through quickly. Wow! Li Hongzhi would help me to be a fairy if I practiced it. It’s fantastic! It seemed my dream would come true soon.

“Totally bewitched” – Since then I made up my mind: I should read Zhuan Falun to the best of my abilities and I’d better recite it and make it my guide. If I do as Li Hongzhi ordered, I could definitely be immortal. I did so. During these 11 years, I cared nothing but Zhuan Falun; I prevented myself from watching TV and reading newspapers, to say nothing of travelling and card-playing. In order to have more time to study Fa and practice Gong, in 1997, I found a job in Wenjiang Huaheng Hotel, which provided all meals and the shuttle between home and work. I seldom returned home to look after my child. After work, I spent all my time doing Falun Gong practice. Every morning I went to the practice site and then took the shuttle to the hotel. I usually sat on the corner of last row so that I could make use of the 50 to 60 minutes to read Zhuan Falun on my way to hotel, ignoring the jolt of the bus and the noisy talks among the fellows. After lunch, I always hurried back to my room to read Zhuan Falun or practice Gong. My roommate laughed at me saying I was obsessed (I thought she was praising me at that time). In the afternoon, when I finished my work, I always hurried to the dining hall to have supper, then I took the bus to the practice site, also sat on the corner of last row to read Zhuan Falun on the way, then went home. Even before sleep, I still spent an hour studying Fa. In this way my life was reduced to as simple as going between three points, the dormitory, the practice site and the workplace. This life lasted for years. My soul was totally controlled by Falun Gong and Li Hongzhi.

“Stuck in the middle” – I gave my heart and soul to Zhuan Falun completely, so nothing around me could interest me though I stayed in the busy areas, and lived a thriftily city life with to-and-fro vehicles and people. I tried to be away from the family and the friends. Sometimes I regarded them as a heavy burden. Eventually there came the crisis in my relationship with my parents, sisters and brothers. In 1999, my husband couldn’t stand anymore and wanted to divorce. I agreed with him without any hesitation.

In 1999, the government banned Falun Gong, but I didn’t make any change, because I still did the daydream to become Buddha or fairy, and believed firmly the Consummation Li Hongzhi had promised. And I got on the train to Beijing to “protect Fa” with other Falun Gong practicers at the end of October 1999… Later, I was sent back by the policemen in Shahebao Police Station. I told them I won’t take part in the riot seemingly, but I did not give up. I quitted my job and then went to Beijing alone to “protect Fa” in December 1999. Because of my illegal actions, I was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. In the jail, I refused to accept any help and persuasion from the wardress, and I acted as the leading role on the hunger strike and the practice…

“Look back” – It’s painful to get rid of Falun Gong. When I looked back I found I got nothing for reward. Now, I have to admit that all the people are ordinary and Li Hongzhi is no exception, so he is not a god, and doesn’t have any magic power. And practicing Falun Gong doesn’t help, either. Anyone who sank into Li Hongzhi’s fairy tale would be the next victim controlled by the cult.

Fortunately my daydream is over and I have returned to what I should be as a normal human being.

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Patsy Rahn: Is Falun Gong a ‘cult’ ?

10 Jun