Archive | August, 2010

Falun Gong-linked media venture makes waves, raises questions

31 Aug

Editor’s Note: When a protester shouted at Chinese President Hu Jintao during his visit to the White House last month, she brought attention not just to China’s harsh treatment of Falun Gong practitioners, but to a growing, U.S.-based media company linked to the spiritual group. Eugenia Chien is a reporter and Chinese media monitor for New America Media.
SAN FRANCISCO–Until a Falun Gong protester used press access issued to the Epoch Times to shout over Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House last month, few outside the Chinese community were aware of the newspaper’s connection to the spiritual group.
“President Bush, stop Hu Jintao’s persecution of Falun Gong! Stop the killings!” Wang yelled before being escorted away.
In interviews after the incident, Wang told the international press that her outburst stemmed from her concern about organ harvesting in China, an issue that the newspaper has covered for months. The Epoch Times has run stories reporting that the Chinese Communist Party is harvesting organs from living Falun Gong practitioners.
Religious groups and political movements have historically turned to the media as a way to express their opinions. But the New York-based Epoch Times, with its vast distribution and access to the Chinese community, presents a unique and influential way to bring solidarity to an embattled religious group that aims to have its voice heard. Along the way, some critics have called the newspaper’s credibility into question.
 Soon after Falun Gong was banned, a group of overseas Chinese who were Falun Gong practitioners founded the Epoch Times in 2000 in Atlanta, with a mission to “uphold universal human values, rights, and freedoms,” according to the newspaper’s Web site.
The Epoch Times now distributes in over 30 countries worldwide, with a weekly circulation of 1.5 million. Its circulation, like many ethnic newspapers, is not audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. The newspaper’s English edition launched in New York in 2004 and rapidly grew. In New York alone, the newspaper has a 150,000 weekly distribution, in addition to 40,000 home deliveries, according to the newspaper.
Chinese-language editions of the Epoch Times are scattered in Chinese restaurants, supermarkets, and Chinese bookstores in 500 American cities including Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Houston. Shiny newspaper boxes of its English edition rest on tree-lined suburban sidewalks and busy downtowns.
Some in the overseas Chinese community see the Epoch Times as one of the few newspapers not controlled by the Chinese government. But others see it primarily as a mouthpiece for Falun Gong.
The newspaper frequently runs editorials critical of China and is heavy on stories of human rights abuses, particularly against Falun Gong practitioners. Coverage often includes pictures of Falun Gong practitioners the paper describes as scarred by electrodes or bruised by severe beating.
Typically a 16-page broadsheet, the Epoch Times also runs mainstream newswire stories and can resemble a community newspaper, with reports of local school budget, recipe swaps and a community calendar of jazz concerts.
The newspaper denies any direct ties to Falun Gong.
“We are not funded by Falun Gong, we don’t speak for Falun Gong, and we don’t represent Falun Gong,” said Epoch Times spokesperson Stephen Gregory.
The Epoch Times is hardly the only newspaper owned by a religious group in the United States. In fact, the Christian Science Monitor, founded by the Church of Christ, Scientist, and the Deseret Morning News, founded by the Church of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, and The Washington Times, owned by the Unification Church, are prominent examples of newspapers owned by religious groups.
Though some of these newspapers have been criticized for shying away from negative news about their parent organizations, many of them viewed as independent.
“The Christian Science Monitor is considered one of the most even-handed, sober, and unsensationalistic newspapers,” said James Bettinger, a Communications professor at Stanford University and the director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships.
Though the Washington Times is perceived as conservative, Bettinger said, it does not proselyte church doctrine.
“The owners of the Washington Times have always guaranteed the newspaper’s editorial independence, an independence which I have never known them to violate in my 19 years here,” said Fran Coombs, managing editor of the Washington Times.
In contrast, many in the overseas Chinese community see the Epoch Times as a Falun Gong newspaper.
“Among the readers from mainland China, this is a kind of propaganda for Falun Gong group,” said Liu Kang, the director of the Program in Chinese Media and Communication Studies at Duke University. “It is not viewed as an independent objective news media,” he said.
“Even if the Epoch Times is not associated with Falun Gong, if they consistently write about Falun Gong in the same perspective, or if there are no articles examining Falun Gong, people would perceive it as being not credible,” Bettinger said.
Many of the Epoch Times’ critics, including Liu, say the paper does not adhere to basic journalistic standards of professionalism and objectivity.
In the newspaper’s stories of human rights abuses, many sources are unnamed. For example, in the article that prompted Wang’s outburst at the White House, transcripts of telephone conversations between unnamed sources in Chinese hospitals and an unnamed Falun Gong researcher were used to support allegations of organ harvesting.
Cindy Gu, communications director for the Epoch Times, said that the newspaper needed to protect the identity of their sources.
“We have the names of the hospital employees in the original recording of the conversation, but we had to omit them for their safety,” Gu said.
Gregory characterizes the newspaper as a start-up business run by people who share the same passion to defend human rights. He says that many Epoch Times staff work part-time and that revenue comes from advertising.
Wang, Gregory says, worked closely with witnesses of organ harvesting and was “calling attention to the most important human rights abuse in China.”
“She knew we are facing a crisis in China, where Falun Gong practitioners are being killed. She knew the story wasn’t covered in China. She had no choice,” he said.
Gregory said he was not concerned with any possible fallout from Wang’s protest.
“If we lose press access in the White House, that’s not the worst thing in the world,” Gregory said. “It wouldn’t damage our credibility as a newspaper — our reporting stands for itself.”
Duke University’s Liu isn’t so sure.
“The Epoch Times’ credibility is damaged as media professionals,” Liu said. “I think they have done a disservice to themselves.”

text from:


Falun fad

31 Aug

This Sunday, the dim-sum place was packed. We waited nearly 40 minutes for a table. While standing outside, a woman scurried about thrusting pamphlets into people’s hands. Big bold letters announced to me to the all-too-familiar cause du jour of west-coast activists: “why is this peaceful meditation practice being persecuted?”
I was immediately reminded of Jianshuo’s recent post. He doesn’t post about Falun Gong in particular, but laments the black eye that China is being given over SARS. Jianshuo is in MSFT Shanghai office andmaintains some of the best SARS-related news from China available on the web(Adam Morris also has a good SARS-related blog he maintains from Beijing or nearbyTianjin). Now, I am more pessimistic than ever before about SARS. The disease is basically out of control in spreading now, has been mutating rapidly, and now has a 15% death rate. I am convinced that SARS is something we will all have to learn to deal with. But I also would not be too quick to criticize China about the spread of the disease. I have a feeling things will be much worse in the U.S. when SARS catches hold with full force here, if only for the reason that it’s practically impossible in the U.S. to quarantine 1000 people at a time.
Anyway, the point is that I have never really understood theFalun activists, and always have this uncomfortable feeling that they are simply serving (at least in the west) as a focal point for attracting anti-China activists — many of the same anti-China activists who populate the “free Tibet” movement. Both issues are rather similar, and puzzling to me for the same reasons. The people attracted to both causes are typically the same people who will fight most strongly against school prayers in the west, but they are supporting religious monarchy (in the case of Tibet) and a massive religious cult (in the case of Falun) over an athiest government.I’m not saying that Tibetan Buddhism or Falun Gong are necessarily bad belief systems; just that I have a bit of trouble understanding the motives of their western supporters. When India funnels money to the “free Tibet” movement, the reasons are obvious –but there seems something deeply incongruous about the stance of the typical birkenstock-clad college kid who claims to be a supporter of Tibet or Falun Gong.
Now, I am admittedly ignorant about Falun Gong. But I have formed some impressions:
They claim to not have an organization, but their .org is as slick and masterful as any Sun Myung Moon or Church of Scientology site. They have an 800 number and a line of merchandise. Driving around Vancouver, B.C., I see massive Berlin-1933 style posters, and I have seen what appear to be apartment complexes taken over entirely by practitioners. They send blue-eyed Canadian college kids to do stupid things and get arrested in Tiananmen, with newspaper cameramen ready. And they market themselves even more fiercely than Hare Krishnas (when was the last time you had Hare Krishnas soliciting at your restaurant?). They claim they do not have an organization, but I have learned far more than I wanted to about their founder and spiritual leader. Every web page or pamphlet heaps adulation on the founder, and the lack of detractors within Falun Gong would make even the Pope envious. I have formed the impression that if their founder said “jump”, they would all jump. They make me nervous.
By the same token, there are plenty of Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Muslims and others within China who manage to avoid systematic persecution.Admittedly, it’s not as if China makes life easy for these other religions, but Falun Gong has done a very poor job of maintaining a low profile. Massive public displays of solidarity to non-communist causes and sneaking in offoreign activists to stage protests are textbook examples of how to freak out the communist party. Does the Zhuan Falun require that practitioners deliberately poke a stick in the eye of the communist party? I highly doubt it.
So do you have any theories why the Falun Gong insists on being so highly visible and provocative toward the Chinese leadership? My theory is that it’s a two-pronged way to generate membership. In China, being perceived as “everybody is doing it” is a great way to attract more customers. And in the U.S., getting persecuted by the Chinese government is a great way to gain mystique and credibility among the seeker-activists (Richard Gere, Tom Cruise)and patterns the “Free Tibet” movement. And the two trends feed off of one another (Westerners figure it is “authentic” if lots of Chinese people do it; Chinese people figure it must be good since everyone including foreigners is doing it).

text from:

Getting things straight in PRC v. Falun Dafa debate

31 Aug

I have lately come across something rather unsettling. I have heard from people and seen in some major US news sources, that the situation between the Chinese government and the Falun Dafa/Falun Gong religious movement is that between a “totalitarian government” and a “peaceful group.” There are two unsettling things about this whole debate.

Although the PRC may be unfair in their outright ban of the group (though I don’t want to commit to this because I don’t know the circumstances), I think many people in the US have been hoodwinked by the Falun Gong’s claim to be a “peaceful philosophy”, something which is neither a religion nor objectionable. I heard a friend (unaffiliated with the group) in a conversation the other day claim that the group only promotes exercises and health philosophy, and is against human rights violations of the PRC.

This is, in fact, misinformation. First, if Falun Dafa is not a religion, then neither is anything else. It comes replete with gods, talk of Buddhas, and everything else one would associate with a religion.

Second, although perhaps the sect should be allowed to exist and practice, their doctrine is far from unobjectionable. Li Hongzhi, the founder and leader of the Falun Dafa group, has promoted views such as that homosexuality is disgusting, and (what I find most revolting) that those of mixed-race are somehow corrupted and perhaps evil, and that there are various “heavens” for different races. This kind of doctrine, I think, is certainly not only wrong, but offensive. However, these doctrines are often ignored by those unfamiliar with Falun Dafa and instead the group’s opposition to the ban by the PRC is emphasized.

Regardless of which side is right in the battle between the PRC and the Falun Dafa movement, we should at least get straight exactly what both sides promote, and what they don’t. And being a proponent of human rights myself, I don’t think that a group whose spiritual leader promotes racism and homophobia has very much moral force in a debate on human rights.

text from:

Former follower of Falun Gong speaks out

24 Aug

A one-time Falun Gong follower has apparently decided to end her association with the group and spoke out recently against the “cult,” reports the South China Post.

The Chinese-born American resident was locked up in China for almost three years due to a Falun Gong related conviction and did an interview upon her release from prison.

Apparently disillusioned she said, “Falun Gong is purely an evil cult.” And added, “It has a definite political aspect.”

That “political aspect” is not lost on the Chinese who have always suspected “cult” leader Li Hongzhi of seeking power beyond simply his cult following within China.

There are still others who sadly are willing to follow Li Hongzhi and do his bidding, even when that means criminal acts.

Two Chinese-Americans were recently ordered deported due to sabotage, reports the South China Post.

While Hongzhi sits safely and comfortably in the United States his followers suffer the consequences of their leader’s self-centered agenda. Some have even committed suicide in demonstrations of fanatical devotion.

Hongzhi has been repeatedly exposed as a racist, bigot and apparent delusion-ridden megalomaniac.

text from:

Case replay: Wang Guofei hanged himself for ‘Consummation’

24 Aug

Wang Guofei, male, was born in 1968 in Luoqiao Town, Funing County, Yancheng City, Jiangsu Province. He was a temporary worker for the ship repair yard of Yancheng Department of Waterway Management, processing lathe parts expertly with his brother Wang Guoya. Due to  obsessing with Falun Gong and running after the so-called Consummation, he hanged himself at the small garden in Dongzha Village, Tinghu District on September 12, 2005. There were some CDs and small pieces of paper written “Falun Dafa is good”, and “Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance is good” around him. Wang Guofei had a virtuous wife and a lovely daughter. Why did such a diligent young man with a happy family take the road of no return?

With history tracking back to June, 2004, Deng Huailiu, Wang Guofei’s father-in-law, was sick. Wang accompanied him to Yanfu Hospital in downtown Yancheng. The examine result showed he had lung cancer at advanced stage. The accepts doctor was Jiang Chenghui , the director of Invasive Surgery( former director of Invasive Surgery of a hospital in Haerbin, Heilongjiang Province, was employed by Yanfu hospital, a Falun Gong addict). Jiang knew the condition about this old man, he said to Wang and Deng: “I’m afraid medicine can’t heal your cancer. You should practice Falun Gong.” He gave Wang and Deng a few amulets with words “Falun Dafa is good”, and “Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance is good” on them.

Wang’s father-in-law didn’t believe in Falun Gong totally, he persevered in medication after back home. But Wang was very curious about this, because he was interested in demons and ghosts very much since he was a child. A few days later, Wang came to Yanfu Hospital alone and asked for Jiang Chenghui’s advice. Jiang gave Wang some Falun Gong DVDs and books secretly, and asked Wang to buy a MP3 player for listening to the records. Since then, Wang contacted with Jiang, and exchanged thoughts and experiences every a few days. As time goes by, Wang was obsessed with Falun Gong more and more deeply.

In June 2005, Wang Guofei’s father-in-law died of lung cancer. Wang believed it was retribution because his father-in-law didn’t believe Falun Gong. He was obsessed with Falun Gong and talked nonsense all the day. On the hundredth day after his father-in-law’s death, his family asked Wang to kowtow. He stared at them and said:”He died just because he neither believe the Master nor practice Falun Gong with us. His death was not a pity.”

On the evening of September 11, 2005,Wang Guofei sat in meditation and kept saying as usual:”Consummation is coming. It’s Falun’s world.” His wife Deng Hongxia didn’t notice something unusual, then she went to bed. She never thought that her husband would hang himself the next day.

When Deng Hongxia mentioned her husband, tears were in her eyes. “Guofei was in a trance after he practiced Falun Gong. He didn’t communicate with others; slept for only two hours every night just practiced on the bed. He was very anxious after I hide his books. He said he would die if the books were missing.”

When talking about the death of Wang Guofei, his brother Wang Guoya regretted deeply: “After Guofei practiced Falun Gong, he always processed bad lathe parts. He was in a trance especially in the last week, neither wanted to do housework or his process job, nor watch TV even we asked him…The Falun Gong was too bad. ”

text from:

Falun Gong: ancient wisdom or mere Scientology?

24 Aug

First learned of the Falun Gong sect during the summer of 1999. I had been working for a magazine in Beijing, and the city’s ancient parks, places with names like “Temple of heaven park” were daily playing host to groups of practitioners standing in quiet circles moving to the music of the sect’s home grown new age music and their own inner chi.

Then the crackdown hit — the groups rising popularity disturbed the elders of the Mao Tse-tung hair club for men, especially in light of their own sagging esteem among their own 1.2 billion reluctant constituents,. Popular movements have always made despots nervous.

Official Chinese media fell in line, demonizing the sect and praising the government’s swift bud-nipping. Thanks to the party’s resolution, the people of China were safe from the threat of stationary mobs of peaceful chi-gong practitioners.
So why, six months later, is the group are still alive in the face of ongoing brutality that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) usually reserves for Tibetan nuns? What sort of belief system could be powerful enough to keep it’s members going under such a heavy test of fire? Back from China for a few months, I decided to find out. Falun Gong is as popular with overseas Chinese as it is back in the home country, with the added bonus of not being considered a major felony anywhere outside of China. The group has an enviable web presence, giving it a wider demographical reach than the People’s Daily enjoys.
I did a search on the internet, and quickly linked up with some Chinese university students in my area. They invited me out to a meditation practice in a local park, where I practiced their brand of Chi Gong for about three quarters of an hour while listening to a tape of music and motion commands in Mandarin.
As I was leaving, one of the members offered to sell me an English translation of one of Master Li’s books for six bucks. I didn’t have any cash, so they gave it to me and told me to pay them next time. He invited me to come to a meeting in the evening during the week. “You must read the whole book before the meeting” he told me. Always the dutiful student, I took the book into a bar, and read about half of it over a few pints of hard cider. Only after the third pint did it even begin to make any sense to me.
China Falun Gong is a 175-page soft back with surprisingly few photos of actual chi gong practice. Most of the book is filled with transcripts of Li Hongzi’s wacky theories on subjects from the big bang (there were actually nine of them, according to Li) to demonic interference. This confused me, so I skipped to the fifth chapter, which was devoted to Q&A.
I generally understood the Q part, but the A’s often stumped me. The first set was
Q — What is Falun composed of?
A — Falun is an intelligent entity composed of matter of high energy. It can transform matter into cultivation energy. It does not exist in our space.
And it just got weirder from there on in.

Q — Can I let myself go to sleep when sitting cross legged? 
A — How can you sleep when in practice? Sleeping in practice is a kind of demonic interference. As for coma, this should not occur.
Official Chinese media has a knack for exaggeration, and as such their claims about the sect need to be taken with a big dose of skepticism. But baseless they aren’t: Falun Gong is serious, supernatural, and more than a little weird. The stories of ill practitioners refusing medical treatment that daily grace the People’s Daily seemed more plausible after reading selections from Li Hongzhi’s chapter “Treating Disease by Qigong and treating disease in hospitals,” where he writes of a hypothetical patient:
“The root cause of his disease is an evil spirit found in another space. … curing a disease in our Falun cultivation system aims to remove the evil spirit and pull out the root of the disease”
Master Li refers to illness throughout the text as being “a tribulation which the practitioner must pass through” and says that those who follow his way would never need to see a doctor again. Being uninsured, I found this an excellent selling point, and was looking forward to their meeting.
Having acquainted myself with Li Hongzhi’s Sino-Scientological mysticism, I was gearing myself up for an evening of exciting cult indoctrination at the meeting. Sadly this was not to be. The meeting was held in the apartment of a young couple from Mainland China. I showed up a few minutes early to find them listening to one of Master Li’s many tape recorded lectures. Enough of the terminology overshot my Mandarin ability by just enough to really confuse me, but the voice coming through the speaker didn’t sound that much more threatening than Anthony Robbins. The “study session” was a two hour reading session of Master Li’s “intermediate text,” partially in Chinese and partially in English. There was no stop for discussion or reflection, just straight rote method reading. It was duller than an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Utah.
Where was the fire breathing, pulpit thumping anti government rhetoric I had read about in the People’s Daily? Where were the nubile young devotee chicks handpicked by the master to lure horny sheep into the fold? The Hare Krishna’s have beautiful (and celibate, but they only tell you that after you’ve joined) women, and they feed you before wearing down the ego through boredom. That’s the hallmark of a real cult — implied orgies and drugged food. Master Li has a bit of homework to do if he wants my soul. If Falun Gong is a cult, it’s a damned dull one.
Of course, Falun Gong does preach something that does seem to make the ruling party of this single party dictatorship a bit anxious, namely self-empowerment. The CCP tends to get a bit reactionary whenever it gets wind of any large-scale movements of independence, whether of the personal or political variety. Much has been said about practitioner’s claims of being able to heal disease through practice of Falun Gong. China once enjoyed a comparatively high level of the one thing that any self respecting People’s Democracy should have: Nearly free universal medical coverage. As China has moved towards a less socialized economy, such programs get privatized into oblivion, making a religion that offers health unlimited an attractive prospect. While the messenger may have a creative way of discussing the message, the exercises themselves seem to be based on solidly ancient chi gong principle.
So is Master Li a savior or a charlatan? Perhaps some from column “a” but more from column “b”. On that basis alone, Americans should deplore the CCP’s reactionary handling of Falun Gong. America generally holds religious charlatans in high esteem. If Li Hongzhi were an American religious leader with the same following, he’d be contributing enough to both parties to be assured of bi-yearly white house sleepover prayer sessions.

[Joshua Samuel Brown is a writer and raconteur who has made his home in China, Taiwan, and Boulder, Colorado. He has dined in the underground buffet bunker of the People’s Daily in Beijing, and written for The Nation, The Taipei Times and The American Spectator (Online). He can be reached at Joshua.]

text from:

A farce of ‘Ascension in Broad Daylight’

17 Aug

I’m Huang Cuiyan, 49 years old and live in Niulanshan Town, Shunyi District, Beijing. Due to obsessing with Falun Gong before, I lost my decent job, the family was broken and my son refused to live with me, but I still remained impenitent. And then my eldest sister and other relatives sent me to the psychological treatment center. On arriving at the center, I rejected  drinking, eating and talking.

During the second night after arriving at the psychological treatment center, I dreamed about the “Master” vaguely. He said at 12:00 am tomorrow a group of disciples and I would reach “Consummation”, while the sight of “Ascension in Broad Daylight” would appear on the occasion. I couldn’t believe it was true when I woke up. But on the second thought, I remembered the words of Master: “Consummation takes many different forms…In our practice system, I use the method of Ascension in Broad Daylight for those who are to go to the Falun Paradise… I can tell you, though, that with so many people reaching Consummation this time, I will definitely leave a profound lesson for the people who didn’t believe. So when my disciples Consummate in the future it will very likely be a magnificent sight, one that human society will never forget.” (Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Switzerland, September 4–5, 1998) I got so excited at the thought of the magnificent sight. After a long night, the day broke finally. I was bursting to tell the staff of the treatment center the good news and asked them firmly to return the confiscated things about Falun Gong. At the same time, I invited them to see this great magnificent feat。

I was in a state of great excitement all morning, and then I tried to control my emotions and began to study the Fa, practice and sit in meditation according to routine. At about 11 o’clock, I started packing up the things returned by the center. The volunteers of the center advised me not to take too much stuff, because the heaven has everything. I turned my back on them and made a decision to myself that in no case should I keep Master’s treasures for them.

At 11:30 am, holding the Zhuan Falun and other books in my bosom and pockets, I walked up to the yellow cushion in the open space with a banner printed with “Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance” over my shoulders and Li Hongzhi badges as well as “Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance” medals on my chest. Then the staff of the center came over and said: “Here are three suggestions for you. First, please take the three practitioners with you, I hope you can reach Consummation together. Second, don’t fly over the Capital Airport because there would be death if you clash against the plane, then you couldn’t reach Consummation on this vital link. Third, if you don’t need the flesh body, don’t pollute the air when the body goes through Light-Transformation in the air.” I nodded my head and said: “I will try my best.” Thereupon, I said to the three fellow practitioners: “Just go to prepare, or it will be too late.” Then, four of us began to sit in meditation silently waiting for the Master to pick us up.

As the minutes ticked away, the sun began to set behind the mountain, but there was still no sign for flying. My heart became anxious, then uneasy, impatient and helpless. Finally, other three fellow practitioners stood up and left full of grumble…But I could not be reconciled and kept waiting. The sun would set soon but I still didn’t fly up. I couldn’t support myself any more like a pricked balloon and fell in a faint at last.

It was dark when I woke up and I was so grieved to find myself still lying in bed. Thinking about the things I did for Dafa in more than a decade: I stepped forward to validate the Fa in the face of pressure; in order to totally repudiate the arrangement by all the evil old forces, I made every effort to “clarify the truth, send forth righteous thoughts and save sentient beings”; in order to protect the Fa, I cut off affection, flung away my wife and child resolutely, but in the end, I got nothing! I burst into tears at the thought of this. Instead of comforting me, the volunteers staying by my side let me have my cry out to release the sufferings and grievances of these years.

After the farce of “Ascension in Broad Daylight”, I understand with the volunteers’ help that the way I had passed was so evil and ruthless. But nowadays, with the help of cadres in community, I find a job as a warehouse keeper in a private company of Shunyi District and my son comes back to me again. I really have great passion for the work and great expectation for the life!

text from: