Falun Gong divided on leader

1 Jun

Falun Gong followers in Hong Kong and the United States are squabbling over assertions by a woman in the southern Chinese territory that she is the “true master” of the spiritual movement, having taken over from its founder, Li Hongzhi, who has dropped from view.

The assertion that the woman, Belinda Pang, 37, is the “Lord of Buddhas” has led to more of a cat fight than catharsis for the movement, which went underground on the mainland after Beijing banned the group a year ago. Mr. Li, who is now based in New York, and Ms. Pang have traded accusations on competing Web sites.

The dispute began on May 11 — celebrated as Buddha’s birthday and, Mr. Li says, his birthday, too, though birth records in his hometown in China show otherwise. Ms. Pang, a tireless organizer in the Hong Kong chapter, organized a march through the city. Although only 24 people turned up, along the way most of them said they had experienced a vision of Ms. Pang seated in outer space while angels flew around her plucking flowers and dropping them to Earth. The flowers turned into raindrops when they hit the skin, said Mary Qian, one of those who said they saw the image.

“That’s when we realized Ms. Pang was the Lord of Buddhas,” Ms. Qian said by telephone today. They reported the finding on their Web site.

Falun Gong representatives, while clearly annoyed, say Pang’s movement does not threaten to divide the group, since she claims at most 30 followers. Li’s followers claim he has 100 million believers worldwide.

Li, a former government clerk who moved to New York after founding Falun Gong in 1992, has denounced Pang and her followers, saying anyone who follows teachings other than his own are not genuine practitioners.

“I am the principal being,” Li wrote on Falun Gong’s official Web site. “Nobody should pay attention to what that saboteur in Hong Kong has instigated or give her an audience.”

Pang’s followers responded by launching their own Web site that features glowing accounts of their realization May 11 – celebrated as Buddha’s birthday – that she was their master.

Letters from Li denouncing Pang were fakes, Qian said, adding that she and others believe that Li has finished his mission and left the world, allowing Pang to take his place.

Gail Rachlin, a Falun Gong spokeswoman in New York, said Li is alive and that Pang, formerly an active participant in the group’s Hong Kong chapter, is no longer regarded as a practitioner.

Falun Gong attracted millions of followers, most of them in China, with its combination of slow-motion exercises and philosophy drawn from Taoism, Buddhism and the often unorthodox ideas of founder Li.

Chinese leaders declared the group a public menace and threat to Communist Party rule last July.

text from: http://www.facts.org.cn/Reports/World/201004/t109738.htm


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