Archive | February, 2010

The Falun Gong: Beyond the headlines

26 Feb


The purpose of this paper is to look beyond the headlines of the past year and to give an objective analysis of the Falun Gong. I will provide an evaluation of the Western press coverage of the Falun Gong, an evaluation of the potentially problematic areas of the Falun Gong as a teaching and an organization, and an evaluation of the Chinese government’s concerns. In my conclusion, I suggest that there needs to be more independent verification of information coming out of China and a broader coverage of the topic. Regarding the Falun Gong; I suggest that research needs to be done on the group here in the United States, and if possible, independent research done in China. I also suggest that there are a number of elements in the Falun Gong as a teaching and an organization that we should be aware of because they are potentially problematic. Regarding the Chinese government’s response, I suggest that it is important to go beyond the simplistic terminology that “Falun Gong is an evil cult” or that “the Chinese Government is an evil empire.”

Falun Gong has been closely associated in the press with the issue of human rights in China. While the topic of human rights is very important, it is not the focus of this paper. I would like to emphasize, however, that my research and critical evaluation of the Falun Gong in no way implies that I support human rights violations, which need to be addressed whenever and wherever they occur. The goal of this paper is to increase understanding of the group itself and of some of the issues surrounding it. I will first review the media information concerning Falun Gong. Then I will examine problematical aspects of the group and, lastly, the concerns of the Chinese government.

Media Information

Media information on the Falun Gong has generally come from four sources: the Chinese government, the Western press in China, the Falun Gong itself, and the Information Center on Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

The Chinese Government

Since the Chinese government banned the group in July of 1999, the government has put on a major publicity campaign to discredit the group and to justify its actions. Most people in the West see the campaign as unnecessarily exaggerated and harsh, similar to political campaigns waged during the Mao era or even the earlier imperial age. Information on the Falun Gong from the Chinese government is therefore seen as propaganda and generally dismissed in the West. It is rarely reported on in the Western media. Verification by outside sources of the Chinese research on the Falun Gong is difficult if not impossible. In addition, the role of the media in China is closely linked to the propagation of government policy, and although there has been some broadening of independent reporting by the Chinese press, in areas as politically sensitive as this, the press must not contradict the party line.

The Western Press in China

Western reporters in China have a difficult job since the government puts restrictions on their movement and ability to conduct research or interviews, and people are often unwilling to speak their minds to reporters. Also, according to James Mann, foreign policy columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of About Face: A History of America’s Curious Relationship with China from Nixon to Clinton, the American press tends to pick a particular image or concept for reporting on China in any particular decade, and in the 1990’s, according to Mann, the media has reduced their reporting to the topic of a repressive China. Therefore most stories tend to center around this theme and refrain from covering other angles. This has been true of the coverage of the Falun Gong. Most stories on the Falun Gong have centered around the theme of human rights abuses in China.

The Falun Gong

A major source of information to the Western press has been the Falun Gong office in New York through the Rachlin Management and Media Group, owned by Falun Gong spokesperson Gail Rachlin who is a practitioner. Information is provided via press releases, interviews with Li Hongzhi (interviews with Li have been discontinued since the summer of 1999), and information provided on the Falun Gong Web site. The information from this source is understandably biased and serving self-interests. This raises the larger question of the use of the Internet for information and the absence of any standard of accuracy, verification, or accountability for information provided on personal and interest group Web sites, as well as the Web sites’ impact on individual internet users, the news media, and political policy.

The Information Center on Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China

This is an organization based in Hong Kong and run by Lu Siqing, also known as Frank Lu. According to Lu, the three main news sources: Associated Press (AP), Agence France Presse (AFP), and Reuters, issued in 1998 1,110 reports that were based on his Center’s information. Lu’s organization is a one-man operation and he receives his information via phone calls from mainland China. Lu states that he gets his information out faster than “other famous” human rights groups and that his reports are quoted “first” by the western press.

I believe that there needs to be more independent verification of information. If it cannot be verified, then that should be stated, as did the New York Times when it added in several of its reports that “This information cannot be independently verified.” Also, sources of information should be identified more clearly whenever possible. It will also be beneficial if the American press continues a trend it has already begun, which is to cover the Falun Gong in fuller context and in broader scope.

An Evaluation of the Falun Gong: Potential Problems

I think there are four areas of the Falun Gong teaching and organization that are problematic and that deserve further study and a continuing awareness. They are:

1. Li’s absolute authority
2. A strong us/them division with a highly negative view of “ordinary” people
3. An environment conducive to abandoning medical care
4. The use of misinformation to influence practitioners

Li’s Absolute Authority

Li insists that his practitioners believe his teachings 100%. You are not allowed to read any other books that touch upon the topics of philosophy, religion, new age beliefs, qigong, etc. There can be no room for doubt, no room for questions, no room for complaints. You must accept it all to be considered a true practitioner. Any feelings of doubt are seen as a trial, a test of your faith that you must overcome. In essence, you are asked to drop personal evaluation and critical thinking and to accept his version of reality.

Since Li’s teachings contain a number of irrational and strange ideas, coming to believe in these and accept them as truth becomes part of one’s initiation. This may be a particularly meaningful test for western practitioners when they come upon Li’s teachings about demons, animal spirit possession and aliens, to name a few. Although Li insists that Falun Gong practitioners must not reinterpret his teachings or modify them in any way, it is possible that American practitioners may begin to do so. As one practitioner said of Li’s demon warnings, they can be likened to Western medical concepts such as multiple personality disorders. Another practitioner admitted that she was initially “wary” of these aspects of Falun Gong and at first chose to believe only the parts she liked and to ignore the others. But, as she says, she has since “”refined her understanding”” so that now “I accept everything totally. It all makes sense to me now (italics added for emphasis).

As an example: to be a true practitioner, one must not only believe that the three principle characteristics of the universe are Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance, but one must also believe that there are people living in the ocean who are half-fish and half-human.

There are often references in the teachings to being a “true” practitioner as opposed to someone who is not, and there are consequences for failing to live up to the requirements. If you somehow fail to be a true practitioner, Li will take back all the good things he has given you and return the bad things. You will become susceptible to illness again, you will lose the instantly high level of enlightenment he gave you, and you will lose his guaranteed protection from harm and his unconditional love. If you fail to be a true practitioner and fall back down to the level of the “ordinary person,” then you have no hope of ever being saved.

The Us/Them Split and the Negation of Ordinary People

Li says all non-practitioners are “ordinary people.” These ordinary people are degenerate, likely to be bad, likely to disturb you, and likely to contaminate you. Li tells his practitioners that after reading his book or watching his videotape, there will be a great gap between themselves, the practitioners, and “ordinary people.” He warns that if you have contact with a non-practitioner you run the risk that he may possess something “evil,” so “you had better not have contact with him”. One of the potential effects of a strong negative “us verses them” distinction is the possibility of isolating practitioners from family and friends as well as non-practitioners in general. It can also help create a feedback loop in which practitioners only relate to other practitioners, thereby mutually reinforcing belief in the teachings, identification with the group, and eradication of any conflicting or alternative views.

Li’s strongly negative view of ordinary people is also found in his talk about the Last Days of Havoc, the Ending Period of Catastrophe, and the annihilation of humans. Li’s theory is that humans were originally all kind and composed of Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance, but through association with others into communities they became bad and dropped down to lower and lower dimensions until they reached the earth and “this dimension of ordinary people.” In the lecture “Degeneration of Mankind and Appearance of Enlightened Beings” Li says,

You are expected to become enlightened and return as soon as possible…This is what the enlightened beings think, so they have opened a gate for you. If you fail to return, you have to continue to live in the cycle of birth and death until you have accumulated so much karma that you have to be annihilated. Therefore, the Earth has to go through many catastrophes. To put it in another way, the Earth is a rubbish center of the universe….Those who can go up will go up…Those who are left behind will become more and more corrupt and there’s no way out for them but to be annihilated. The rubbish has become rotten. So it has to be annihilated lest it should pollute the universe.

Medical Care

As Falun Gong practitioners will point out, Li does not specifically say anywhere in his writings that you must not take medicine or receive medical care. However, the teachings create an environment that is conducive to abandoning medical care. Illness becomes a test, and the refusal of medicine or medical care becomes the sign of a true practitioner.

To begin, Li suggests that once you have become a Falun Gong practitioner, “you will never be sick”. He tells people that “in order to be responsible to cultivation students, we [Li] must adjust your bodies to the state where there is no more illness. Only then can you cultivate toward a higher level”. Having been adjusted by Li so that you will no longer be sick, Li tells people that “After awhile it is not permissible for you to have diseases”. When you feel sick, he says, you are not really sick but experiencing a trial and tribulation. He tells them that “Taking medicine during cultivation implies that you do not believe in the disease-curing effect of cultivation”. Illness becomes a test of your faith in Li, and a “disease-karma tribulation” and “karma elimination process” along the path of enlightenment.

This environment is particularly a concern when it involves children. One eight-and-a-half-year old girl from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania spoke in a testimonial on the Falun Gong Web site. In it she describes how she could not eat lunch for several days but did not tell her parents because “I knew it was Master purifying my body.” Another time she had a fever for two days and “felt very uncomfortable” but she said she was going through “another disease-karma tribulation.” In another instance, she cut her hand but said “I knew there was nothing to worry about” because she was a practitioner. When going to Falun Gong group practice in the park with her parents, she reports that “I even threw up and cried twice because of the cold. When holding the wheels, my hands got frozen. But whenever it was really cold, I could feel a Falun Rotating between my hands”. For this eight-and-a-half-year old girl, “pain is karma dissolution. Without getting rid of the negative things in my body and not enduring pain I would not be able to return to paradise.”

In another testimonial on the Falun Gong Web site, one eight-year-old girl tells of her four-year-old brother who refused medicine at school saying, “I fell over today. Teacher wanted to give me medicine, and I refused it. I endured.” His mother replied that he was a “true practitioner.” The eight-year-old girl then tells us that she had a sister who died of a high fever and how “Once I had a high fever. Because my father did not cultivate, he forced me to go to hospital and take medicine.” But her mother, a practitioner, asked her “Do you think you are ill?” And she said “No, it is my karma elimination process. I won’t go to hospital.”


I am concerned that the Falun Gong organization may be using misinformation in order to influence or manipulate practitioners. A specific case in point is the Falun Gong’s use of “Awards” and “Proclamations.” In November of 1999, some FLG practitioners in China sent a letter to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. In it they state, “Many US city and state governments have acknowledged and awarded Falun Dafa.” What they are referring to are several dozen documents listed as “Awards” on the Falun Gong Web site. These “Awards” are prominently displayed visually on the Falun Gong Web site and widely used in Falun Gong information packets. The awards include titles such as:

• Proclamation of Li Hongzhi Day in Baltimore City by Mayor Kurt L. Schmocke
• Washington D.C.’s Falun Dafa Week proclaimed by Mayor Anthony A. William
• Chicago Master Li Hongzhi Day
• Houston Texas Named Master Li: Honorary Citizen and Goodwill Ambassador

The Falun Gong Web site states, “the meaning of the award is profound. It represents the understanding and recognition of the Falun Dafa by human beings and society.” (italics added)

However, these “Awards” are documents routinely obtained by groups from public officials in the US for public relations purposes. They are easy to obtain and routinely given out. There is a daily high volume of requests for these awards. All you have to do, for instance with the California Governor’s office, is to call and leave a message as to whether you want a “proclamation” or a “commendation” and what day you need it by. You can also fax in your request, sending them a sample proclamation which they will then use. So it is probably the Falun Gong that is requesting these documents, and it may well be the Falun Gong that is writing these documents. They are “rubber-stamp” documents meant for public relations purposes only. Yet the Falun Gong states that the meaning of these awards is “profound” and “represents the understanding and recognition of the Falun Dafa by human beings and society.”

I believe it is possible that these “Awards” are misleading the Falun Gong practitioners in China to believe that the American government supports Master Li and his Falun Gong teachings. Barend ter Haar, professor of Chinese history at Leiden University, commented on this:

The public endorsement by figures with official status is a fundamental aspect of socio-political organization in modern China, as it was in the past… Thus I can easily imagine that Chinese of all backgrounds, including Falun Gong members…would interpret such statements of support as much more than what they have been intended to.

And it may not be only the practitioners in China who misunderstand these “Awards.” In November of 1999 Falun Gong practitioner Matthew Kutolowski of Pennsylvania wrote a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal in response to an article they printed titled, “American Dream Finds Chinese Spiritual Leader”. Mr. Kutolowski complains that after reading the article in The Wall Street Journal, readers will “still remain unaware that ten major US cities and four states have honored Li with various awards and proclamations.” He then lists several of these awards, ending by stating that “the city of Houston even went so far as to name Li an `Honorary Citizen’ and `Goodwill Ambassador.'” Mr. Kutolowski concludes that “These accolades tell readers much more about Li than some irrelevant New Jersey estate” story.

Several of these “Awards” to the Falun Gong and Li Hongzhi have since been rescinded including the “Certificate of Honorary Citizenship” given to Li by the governor’s office in Maryland, and the “Li Hong Zhi and Falun Dafa Days” award ironically requested from the City of Seattle for the dates November 29 – December 5, 1999, the week of the tumultuous World Trade Organization meeting. The Falun Gong organization blames the Chinese government for pressuring these U.S. officials into rescinding these “Awards”. However, I was assured by the Mayor’s office in Seattle that it was an internal decision, and the governor’s office in Maryland explained that “the governor personally is not aware of the issuance of these certificates for honorary citizenship, which is routinely issued to a foreign visitor to the state upon the request of a Maryland constituent while the visitor’s background is `not usually investigated’.” It also stated that “the issuance of this honorary citizenship…conveys no legal or official status in any way”. It is likely that Mr. Kutolowski was not aware of this.

I suggest that these awards are misleading as they are currently represented on the Falun Gong Web site. I suggest that they have given Falun Gong practitioners, particularly Falun Gong practitioners in China, a misconception about Li’s status in the United States and the false impression that Li’s teaching is being supported by U.S. elected officials. As a commonly engaged in public relations act, these awards are not “profound” and they do not represent the “understanding and recognition of Falun Dafa by human beings and society.”

Here is an example of a proclamation from the Township of Edison, Office of the Mayor:

Whereas, Falun Dafa’s positive impact on individuals and society, as well as the remarkable contribution to humanity by Mr. Li Hong Zhi have been widely recognized and honored in the United States, and

Whereas, Falun Dafa has helped over 100 million people worldwide to improve their health, elevate their mind, uplift their spirit, and deepen their understanding of life, humanity and the universe, and

Whereas, Falun Dafa has also helped numerous young people and adults turn away from alcohol, drugs, violence, and other bad habits to pursue a more meaningful life; and

Whereas Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) is a pure cultivation and practice system of mind and body at high level with ancient historical roots; and

Whereas, Mr. Li’s teachings emphasize high moral values and contribute significantly to the improvement of our society.

Now, therefore, I George A. Spadoro, Mayor of Edison, Middlesex County, New Jersey, do hereby proclaim and declare Saturday, October 9, 1999 as Master Li Hong Zhi Day

And encourage all Edison Residents to recognize and honor Mr. Li for improving the quality of life of people around the world.

In Witness whereof have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of Edison to be affixed, on this the Ninth Day of October, in the Year One Thousand Nine-hundred and Ninety-nine.

The Chinese Government’s Concerns

The Chinese government criticizes the teachings of Li Hongzhi as being harmful to practitioners, anti-scientific, full of feudal superstition, and a cult that is duping China’s people. In the West, many people have concluded that the Chinese government banned the Falun Gong because they fear its political ramifications and not because they believe Li’s teachings are harmful. I suggest that the ban is due to a combination of these reasons.

Everyone in China knows the stories about various popular uprisings in China led by charismatic rebel leaders who proclaimed various religiously backed supernatural powers. It is part of the lore, part of the cultural fabric of Chinese life. Everyone in China also knows about the Mandate of Heaven and how, when the current ruler of China no longer deserves to rule, the mandate is broken, and such things occur as popular uprisings and natural disasters, along with decadence and corruption in a weakened government. A loss of the Mandate of Heaven means that the current ruler is no longer fit to rule.

Today, China is experiencing a huge change in its society. There is a great deal of insecurity both ideologically and on a practical level for individuals. The ideology of Communism has been replaced by the goal of economic growth and material well-being with the market as the means. Yet economic growth and material well-being have not developed as quickly or as successfully as hoped for, leaving many in need and enduring hardships, while the previous safety nets of a life-time job, free health-care and free education are now gone. Some have managed to “get rich quick,” but the majority have not seen an improvement.

Everyone in China is also aware that there is a serious problem of corruption in the government, even as the government is aggressively taking actions to stop it. This fits right in with the broken mandate scenario. Mother Nature has also contributed to this scenario in that China recently experienced a catastrophic earthquake and flooding. Moreover, there have been numerous sightings of UFO’s; perhaps validation of Li Hongzhi’s theories about aliens taking over human society, or perhaps signs of anxiety and a looking to the heavens for portents of change. The unexpected appearance in front of the Beijing government buildings of 10,000 members of a spiritual group, whose leader is now living abroad, startled the leaders, not only for political reasons but because they know how well all this fits into the Chinese lore of the Mandate of Heaven in this time of insecurity and change.

They also know that the above conditions make China ripe for a charismatic leader to offer a simple solution. The people and leaders of China have lived through the Cultural Revolution and the “personality-cult” of Mao. They have seen what faith in an unquestioned leader can do. They have experienced the trauma caused by a people giving themselves up to the power drive of one man. The Chinese government feels that where Mao’s communist ideology has failed and where its replacement of economic well-being has not yet become a reality, the dependency on a charismatic leader who offers protection, enlightenment, and supernatural powers through simple-exercises, the reading of his books, and the non-questioning acceptance of all his teachings, could fill the void with yet another personality cult. Although Li disclaims any interest in politics, Li also says that the Chinese government is unfit to handle China’s problems and that only by the Chinese people becoming Falun Gong practitioners can China resolve its problems.

On a political level, the government feels that if it allowed the Falun Gong to hold massive public demonstrations and to make demands of the government regarding their own interests, then it would be inviting every other group with a special interest to do the same. The government is already worried about separatist movements in Tibet and Xinjiang and Taiwan. They fear that if they don’t hold China together it will, like the USSR, disintegrate, and the concept of a united China won by the first Emperor in 255 B.C. would end and chaos would take the place of order for 1.2 billion of the earth’s inhabitants.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European communist states deeply worried Beijing. They set up a panel to research the reasons for this collapse, and one of their main findings was the strong role that the Church played. Could a qigong group like the Falun Gong play a similar role? Since the Falun Gong has members in the government, the military, members who are teachers, housewives, students, laborers, could such a populist group along with its new strategic tool of the Internet, offer the beginnings of a demanding civic-society that could ultimately bring down the one-party rule of Communism in China? How many massive qigong groups are there in China that might be the beginnings of such a civic-society, a society that they are not prepared to handle, and therefore a society that “jeopardizes social stability” not to mention the rule of the Communist Party. This is the government’s fearful scenario.

In the United States, there are many disparate groups and, regardless of whether we agree with their ideas or not, we believe that an open society of ideas is healthier than a society of repressed or banned ideas. In China on the other hand, the leaders deemed it important to stop this group, a group that seemed not only willing but also able to hold mass gatherings and continued protests, the teachings of which they saw as anti-scientific, anti-social, and part of a personality cult with the potential to become a political threat. The irony is, that by banning the group they have politicized its practitioners and drawn international attention and criticism onto its actions. The potential political aspect of the Falun Gong thus became a reality.


Politically, the Falun Gong is a group that has focused attention on China and induced outside sources to put pressure on the Chinese government to broaden its concept of and increase its respect for human rights and civil liberties.

As a movement and teaching in its own right, the Falun Gong has moved outside of China into roughly thirty countries, having at the time of writing sixty-two Web sites in the United States alone. It is difficult to state with any accuracy the size of the movement, but for the past year the Falun Gong has been claiming one hundred million followers. It remains to be seen how the teaching is accepted outside of China and how the originally Chinese-based beliefs will be accepted or changed by practitioners outside of China. It also remains to be seen whether the aspects of the Falun Gong teaching that appear potentially harmful, will have harmful affects, and if so, to what degree. Certainly further study and observation is indicated.

I believe that it would be beneficial if the press continued to broaden its coverage of the Falun Gong beyond the human rights issue in China, if researchers studied the group in the United States, if the Chinese press were allowed more freedom to research and report on the issue, and if the Chinese government allowed independent research to be conducted within China. Finally, as I suggested at the beginning, I feel it is important to avoid demonizing anyone, whether it be the non-practitioners that Li Hongzhi demonizes, the Falun Gong that the Chinese government demonizes, or the Chinese government that political elements in the West demonize


For an excellent discussion of media issues see Media Studies Journal: Covering China 13, no.1 (Winter 1999).

James Mann. “Framing China.” Media Studies Journal: Covering China 13, no.1 (Winter 1999) 102-107.

As an example: In the 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: China it states that “late in the year, according to some reports, the Government started confining some Falun Gong adherents to psychiatric hospitals.” And in the Human Rights Watch Report of its China Update 2000 (which came out in February), it stated that “A police officer did confirm a report that fifty FLG members, reportedly repeat offenders, have been held in a psychiatric hospital near Beijing since December.” In a 16 February 2000 report by John Leicester of the Associated Press, he interviewed 7 of the 54 people who had been held at the psychiatric hospital in the suburbs of Beijing. They said they had not been treated as psychiatric patients. Apparently, they were locked up because they were known to be “repeat” protestors and it was to “stop them from protesting during the December 20 hand-over of Macao” that they were locked up. But the impression was given that the FLG members were being locked up for psychiatric treatment because of their belief in Falun Gong.

Erik Eckholm, “Beijing Quickly Detains Sect’s Protesters” New York Times 26 Oct.1999. “Followers abroad have reported dozens of cases in which arrested members were mistreated by police, although the accounts cannot usually be independently verified.” Numbers reported by the Rachlin Management Media Group and also from the Information Center on Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, are often higher than numbers reported from western press on location in China. Example: FLG practitioners protested in Tiananmen Square over a three-day period in 1999 on Oct. 25, 26, 27. Renee School, “China Police Seek End to Protest” Daily News 27 Oct. 1999, described it as “three days of low-key protests” where “dozens” had been arrested. In this article she quotes Gail Rachlin as saying that more than 1,000 had been arrested. And on the FLG Web site called Minghui the numbers arrested ranged from 500 to 1,000 to 5,000 arrested on Oct. 25th alone, with “about 10,000” arrested on Oct. 26th alone. Another example: On 13 April 2000 Falun Gong practitioners protested in Tiananmen Square. Two reports that quoted the Information Center as their source said that “as many as 200” and “at least 200” practitioners were “arrested”, while a BBC news report, using eyewitnesses, said that “at least 100” were “detained.” I believe a full analysis of the media reporting on this issue and its influence on the American reaction and policy would be a study worth doing.

For another analysis of Western media coverage of the Falun Gong see Danny Schechter, “Falun Gong: Demonized in China, Downplayed in America.” 7 Apr. 2000 < /4/7/8513.html>. Schechter agrees that the western media has primarily used a “repression” frame to cover the story, but argues that they have not done enough to cover the “resistance” story. He also feels that the Western media has not done enough to explore the Falun Gong belief system. I differ in that Schechter feels the Western press has tended to “echo” the Chinese government’s use of pejorative words to describe the Falun Gong, whereas I have found that the Western press has generally described the Falun Gong along the lines of: “a spiritual movement that combines traditional meditation and slow-motion exercise with ideas drawn from Buddhism and Taoism.”

Li Hongzhi . Zhuan Falun. Lecture 6 Chapter “Mind Must Be Upright” 6 of 6. (English version 1998) <> accessed 2 Aug. 1999.

In one anecdote in Zhuan Falun Li tells of a “true” practitioner who, in a dream, was told by Li that his place was “full of various evil qi gong books” and so the practitioner “cleaned up his room by either burning or selling” all his other qi gong books. Thereupon, “Li’s Law Body returned” to the practitioner because he had passed the test. In another story, Li tells the story that “As one of our practitioners was turning the pages of a qigong book, a giant snake jumped out of it.” He then adds: “Of course, I’m not willing to go into details.”

Note on citing Li Hongzhi’s works: The copies of Li’s works I quote were obtained via downloading from the Falun Gong Web site. These versions of the books do not have consecutive page numbers. Zhuan Falun is organized into Lectures which have a number. Within each lecture there are Chapters with a title. Each chapter is numbered staring at page one. Therefore, I give the Lecture number, Chapter title, and page x of y. Zhuan Falun II is a bit different: it has no lecture number but only chapter titles, with each chapter numbered starting at one. China Falun Gong is organized in the same manner; chapter titles, each chapter starting with number one. As of around December 1999 Zhuan Falun II was removed from the list of books available in English on the Falun Gong Web site, but the Chinese edition remains available.

Charlotte Mangin “Keeping Li’s Wheel Spinning: An Audio Documentary on the Boston Practitioners of Falun Gong.” This work is part of her Masters program at Harvard University. Received via email (24 Jan. 2000).

Mangin 10-11

Li Hongzhi. Zhuan Falun II “Preaching the Law at Lantau Island.” 8 of 8 (English version 1996) <> accessed 31 Aug. 1999.

For example, you can fail the test of being a true practitioner if you: take medicine, question Li’s teachings, have doubts, or do any action that would bring bad publicity on the groupsuch as commit a crime, suicide, harming oneself or others.

Li Hongzhi. Zhuan Falun Lecture 8 Chapter “He Attains Cultivation Energy Who Does the Cultivation.” 6 of 7

Li Hongzhi. Zhuan Falun Lecture 6 Chapter “Mind Must Be Upright” 4 of 6

Li Hongzhi. Zhuan Falun II “Mankind in the Ending Period of Catastrophe.” 1- 4

Li Hongzhi. Zhuan Falun II “Degeneration of Mankind and Appearance of Enlightened Beings.” 2 of 4

One of the Chinese government’s main arguments against the Falun Gong is that it has caused the death of over 1,500 people, mainly due to their refusal to take medication or receive medical treatment.

Li Hongzhi. China Falun Gong Chapter V “Questions and Answers” 10 of 34. rev. ed. (English version 1999) accessed 28 Dec. 1999. He tells his practitioners that “after you finish with this class, you will never get sick.”

Li Hongzhi. China Falun Gong Chapter V “Questions and Answers” 6 of 34

Li Hongzhi. China Falun Gong Chapter V “Questions and Answers” 19 of 34

Li Hongzhi. China Falun Gong. Chapter V “Questions and Answers” 5 of 34

Li Hongzhi China Falun Gong Chapter V “Questions and Answers” 6 of 34

XiaoYing Zhang, “I Determined to be a Little True Disciple of Master Li” <> accessed 4 Aug. 1999. Note: Some of these early articles may no longer be available on the Falun Gong Web site.

Cathy Ashfield, “Never Too Small To Practice Falun Dafa.” <> accessed 4 Aug. 1999.

“A Letter to Secretary General Kofi Anan of United Nations from Practitioners in Henan, China.” “Some practitioners from Nanyang, Henan Province” 11 Nov. 1999. < henan.html> accessed 13 Nov. 1999.

Barend ter Haar made this comment regarding a posting to H-Asia by Patsy Rahn. “H-Asia Threads. Patsy Rahn, UCLA, USA. `The significance of recognition.’ Date Posted: Fri, 19 Nov 1999.” Barend ter Haar’s Falun Gong Web site at Leiden University < html#Contents.>

Matthew Kutolowski “A Letter to Editor of the Wall Street Journal.” 4 Nov 1999. <; accessed 2 Feb. 2000.

Keith Orton, Chief International Specialist, 24 Feb 2000 “Proclamation & Falun Gong” email (24 Feb. 2000).

“Maryland apologizes for honoring Falun Gong leader.” China Daily 3 Dec. 1999.

While I think that many people in the Chinese government and general public agree with this criticism of the Falun Gong, they also appear to be critical of the government’s handling of the situation as heavy-handed. see “The Controversy about the Falun Gong: What Do Chinese People Think?” A survey by the Voices of Chinese < surveyrpt.shtml.> accessed 29 Mar. 2000. This report was based on 1064 valid email responses by well-educated Chinese who are living overseas. 21% said they were Falun Gong practitioners, 68% said they were not FLG practitioners, and 11% did not say. Some results of the survey showed: Opinions about Li Hongzhi were more negative than opinions about Falun Gong as a practice. 59% said Li was an imposter, and 55% said Li’s works were “fallacious”. Of the non-practitioners, 95% said Li was an imposter. 64% of the total group agreed that Falun Gong was “anti-scientific”. Of the FLG practitioners, more than 90% said they felt positive about all aspects of Falun Gong. Of the total group, 62% said FLG was banned because of the government’s concern over its “political influence” (and some said this concern “wasn’t necessarily a bad thing”) – 50% said the government’s actions were inappropriate – and 43% said the government violated human rights.

For analysis of conditions in China see: Elizabeth Perry, “Reinventing the Wheel? The Campaign against the Falun Gong.” Harvard China Review (Spring/Summer 2000) 68-71. Received via email (Feb. 2000) Also: Jacque deLisle, “Who’s afraid of Falun Gong?” Asia Times 10 Aug.1999.

Michael Langone, “Clinical Updates on Cults.” Psychiatric Times (July1996) 14-18 suggests that there are ten factors which make for a receptive environment to cults. A case could be made that all of these conditions apply to the current situation in China. The factors are:

1. a high level of stress or dissatisfaction
2. lack of self-confidence
3. unassertiveness
4. gullibility
5. desire to belong to a group
6. low tolerance of ambiguity
7. naïve idealism
8. cultural disillusionment
9. frustrated spiritual searching
10. susceptibility to trance-like states

Southern Weekend Guangzhou, China, quoted in Seth Faison , New York Times, 17 August 1999 “If it’s a Comic Book Why Is Nobody Laughing?” “We are familiar with the cult of personality created by Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong and Li’s claim to be a savior…This is the legacy of the Cultural Revolution, as the `savior’ kind of idolatry fabricated by Lin Biao and Jiang Qing and their ilk are deep-rooted in the hearts of the Chinese people.” Also: Sima Nan, a lecturer in China who tries to dispel the superstitious side of qi gong teachings, stated that “The devotion to Rotating the Law Wheel (Zhuan Falun) is exactly `how Mao’s Little Red Book was used in the Cultural Revolution'”.

See: Jacques deLisle “Who’s afraid of Falun Gong?” Asia Times 10 August 1999. Several people, including Jacques deLisle of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, point out that the Communist Party came to power as a populist organization, with much of its legitimacy based on its support of the masses, particularly the peasantry. deLisle suggests that Falun Gong may be more “disconcerting” to the CCP than the pro-democracy dissidents, since pro-democracy movement tended to be students and “educated elites” while the Falun Gong shows appeal to the “urban mass base” as well as those in government positions.

See: “Syncretic Sects and Secret Societies: Revival in the 1980s” Chinese Sociology and Anthropology 21, no.4 (Summer 1989) ed. and trans. Robin Munro. For a more recent discussion of qigong groups as a form of civil society see Evelyne Micollier, “Qigong groups and Civil Society in P.R.China.” IIAS Newsletter 22 June 2000.

This is particularly important in China for several reasons: 1) being “scientific” is a major part of Marxist, Leninist, Mao Zedong Thought. 2) China is sensitive to being seen as “backward” or “superstitious” and prefers to be seen as modern and scientific. 3) China is trying to educate its public and modernize itself to be a leading figure in the international world order. Having major portions of the population believing in “feudal superstition” is seen as detrimental, both internally and externally. For an excellent article on the issue of superstition and religion in China, see Stephan Feuchtwang and Wang Ming Ming: “The Politics of Culture or a Contest of Histories: Representation of Chinese Popular Religion” Dialectical Anthropology 16 no. 3-4 (1991).


I would like to thank David Rapoport, professor emeritus of Political Science, UCLA, for aiding me in gaining full library research access and for his overall support. I also wish to thank Barend ter Haar for his support and early discussions on this topic, and for his generous spirit.

An earlier version of this paper was presented to the American Family Foundation Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington, April 28, 2000.

Patsy Rahn is studying modern and classical Chinese at UCLA in preparation to enter a graduate program in Chinese studies. She has two book reviews forthcoming in Nova Religio and is writing a second paper on the Chinese government and the Falun Gong: “The Alchemy of a Conflict: The Chinese Government and the Falun Gong.”

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Shen Yun delivers dose of Falun Gong politics with its song and dance

26 Feb

Ticket buyers to two shows Friday by Shen Yun Performing Arts at St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater may be in for a surprise. The production is billed as Chinese classical dance and music, and while that is accurate as far as it goes, it doesn’t tell the entire story.

There’s also controversy about Shen Yun because of its politics. Based in New York, the group is basically a mouthpiece for Falun Gong, a quasi-religious movement that has been banned in China by Communist authorities and subjected to harsh censure. Critics say its performances include heavy-handed depiction of human rights abuses in China.

Raymond J. Reboulet, an Atlanta resident, wrote a letter to the St. Petersburg Times decrying Shen Yun as “little more than the propaganda arm” of Falun Gong. Reboulet and his wife had attended a performance by the group this month and expected to see “some of the same precision and pageantry the world saw during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.” But instead, he went on, “we were subjected to what amounted to an indoctrination session and paid dearly for the privilege.”

As Reboulet and others point out, Shen Yun does not clearly state its cause in promotional material for its tour, which had performances Tuesday and Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale and will be in Jacksonville Saturday and Sunday. Ticket buyers — and the top ticket price for Friday’s shows in St. Petersburg is a hefty $107 — deserve to know what they’re getting into. The production has some political baggage that catches many viewers by surprise. In 2008, a reviewer for London’s Telegraph termed it “one of the weirdest and most unsettling evenings I have ever spent in the theatre.”

Nevertheless, the production has received the endorsements of Gov. Charlie Crist, Sens. Bill Nelson and George S. LeMieux and many other state and local elected officials. Crist’s proclamation praises “the excellence and grandeur of classical Chinese dance and music” but says nothing about the politics of Shen Yun.

Nicole Landry, a spokeswoman for Mahaffey, said the production is a rental at the theater. On Wednesday, advance ticket sales amounted to about 50 percent capacity for the 11 a.m. Friday performance and 75 percent capacity for the evening show, she said. Shen Yun, which tours constantly, was previously at the theater in 2008. “It has been a nonissue for us,” said Landry, adding that Mahaffey management is aware of the political nature of the production. “We have not received any negative feedback or phone calls regarding their presence at our theater.”

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Propaganda or my experience?

26 Feb
I was not really surprised to read what people had to say about me in response to my Dec. 2 guest column on Falun Dafa.

Of course, like Sophia Bronwen said in her column, I am ignorant because I came from China and grew up with Chinese Communist Party propaganda, and as a result, I don’t know the truth about Falun Gong.

I have to admit it is a cheap but effective way to discredit someone, even though I said in my last column that I am not brainwashed by Chinese government.

Isn’t it ironic that I have to be told that I am ignorant about things that happened around me and witnessed in my own country by people who likely were not even there?

Feel the power of Chinese propaganda!

It saddens me that I have to defend myself first to express how I feel about things. To tell you the truth, propaganda works only to a certain degree.

It cannot change what you see in your real life, and it works better on people who don’t have the ability of critical thinking. If the Chinese government told me that my mom is actually a Russian spy, would I believe that? I think I can tell truth from lies through my personal experience, things that happen in front of my eyes.

As a matter of fact, if the original topic were about Christians getting arrested and tortured in China, I wouldn’t have said a thing. Because incidents like that indeed happened and I am ashamed about it (I had a Christian friend who got arrested in China and later deported; I’ve also seen an underground church get raided.)

Now, back to Falun Gong. Let’s forget what I have seen on television, because it could be staged like many have claimed. My hatred toward Falun Gong (there, I admit it, I hate it very much) was based on my own experience.

I’ve seen the change of my close buddy in high school who practiced it, when he transformed from a normal, outgoing person to someone addicted to so-called meditation and talking about a “wheel” (falun) inside his body.

I have read the original books of Falun Gong and got totally disgusted by its self-conflicting content and concepts stolen from other religions or practices, namely Taoism, Buddhism and Tai Qi Gong.

I have witnessed my co-worker lose his job because he would rather practice Falun Gong at home instead of going to work. And, I sincerely hope all that was not staged by Chinese government.

Still, I am not going to label anyone who claims that I am ignorant (e.g. Sophia Bronwen) as ignorant, because I do not know what they really know.

And I would rather focus on telling what I saw and how I feel instead of disrespecting and discrediting people who have different opinions.

At last, as I said in my last column, Falun Dafa today is very different from what it was in its early years.

I don’t think I would label it as a cult anymore, yet people have to understand its history and why it got banned in China.

Blaming everything on Chinese government and its propaganda is not always fitting.

Now, maybe I should follow Sophia’s suggestion and go speed up the recovery of my mind: This is the last time I am writing in on this topic.

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