Archive | July, 2011

Doubts cast on organ harvest claims

22 Jul

Federal officials have cast doubt on the credibility of a report by a former MP who claimed Falun Gong practitioners in China were killed to harvest their organs.
Former Alberta MP David Kilgour and his co-author, Winnipeg lawyer David Matas, have travelled the world speaking about the alleged atrocities they claim to have uncovered in their 2006 report, a subsequent update and a book version called Bloody Harvest.
They contend thousands of Falun Gong adherents in China were killed so their kidneys, corneas and other organs could be sold for transplantation into wealthy foreigners.
The Chinese government vehemently denies the allegations but the report continues to make international headlines and is routinely referenced by critics of China’s human rights record.
An internal document from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) obtained by the Citizen shows the federal government was far from convinced by the Kilgour-Matas report. The unofficial assessment, prepared to brief DFAIT officials, dismantled the report’s methodology and conclusions. It says the authors appear to believe that “since all evidence is consistent with the allegations, the allegations must be true.”
“This conclusion may not be consistent with social science research methods in that the simultaneous/concurrent occurrence of two or more phenomena does not prove that a causal relationship exists between them.”
Though the Chinese government has admitted that it has used the organs of executed criminals without consent, a practice they have now supposedly outlawed, no credible human rights organization has corroborated the allegations that Falun Gong members were slaughtered en masse for their organs, as Kilgour and Matas claim.
They cite basic facts about China as evidence of the atrocity, such as the absence of an established organ donation network, and “that transplant operations are done in a secretive way suggesting cover up of a crime.”
The federal assessment contends, “the sources cited in this investigation as evidence to support the allegations are almost exclusively Falun Gong practitioners,” and many of them provided second-or third-hand information. Neither Kilgour nor Matas were allowed to travel to China to research their report and most of the source material comes from “anecdotal and circumstantial evidence available primarily in Canada,” the assessment says.
Kilgour could not be reached for comment on the DFAIT assessment but Matas said it was full of errors. “Virtually everything there is wrong or illogical or not credible,” he said.
He rejected the suggestion that he and Kilgour believed the allegations were true because they were consistent with some evidence. “They’re trying to make us look ridiculous. We didn’t take that position.” He contends most of the source material for the report comes from the Chinese government websites.
The U.S. Congressional Research Service said the report contained little new information or independently-obtained testimony and relied on logical inference.

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Experts call for global action on harmful cults

22 Jul

SHENZHEN, Guangdong – Researchers at an international symposium on cult studies called for global coordination in combating threats posed by destructive groups.
“Destructive cult groups study the law, they evade regulations, they update their communication techniques and they evolve quickly,” said Pierre Picquart, an expert on China from the University of Paris.

The symposium concluded in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Friday.
Picquart was among 21 scholars in the fields of religion, history, psychology, law and ethics from home and abroad who spoke at the two-day symposium sponsored by the Institute of Religious Studies of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
Although concepts and definitions of cults differed in many countries, Picquart said, most destructive cult groups represented a danger to individual liberty, health, education, social institutions and governments to the benefit of the cult leaders who gained wealth and power.
Ye Luhua, a researcher from the Institute of Religious Studies, also noted that the activities of cults were becoming rampant in some places around the world.
It was also a problem in China, which faced groups from overseas as well as those inside the country such as Falun Gong, which was identified as a destructive cult group by the government and was banned in 1999, Ye said.
Ye suggested the government should improve the functioning of community groups and organizations so that people, especially the migrant population, could settle down rather than feel lost – a feeling that could prompt them to seek support from cults.
David Clark, a cult intervention specialist from the United States, pointed out in his paper that Falun Gong, founded by Li Hongzhi in China in the 1990s, was a typical destructive group that continued to deceive and harm people in the US.
Describing it as one of the most difficult groups he had faced during his career working with many families affected by cults, Clark said, “I have observed the growth of the Falun Gong in my own country where Li Hongzhi now lives The central focus of Falun Gong was on religious and civil liberty issues. That ignored the real harm done by those who seek such protection under the banner of freedom.”
Yan Kejia, director of the Institute of Religious Studies, told China Daily that the symposium aimed to provide a platform for scholars from around the world to share their views on cult trends and to seek effective countermeasures.

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Classical music has a cult following

22 Jul

Classical music and an “evil cult” are unlikely bedfellows. But my fun story Stockhausen, chaotic music and communism about the oboist of the Divine Performing Arts Orchestra proved to be a bit more serious than I thought. Several readers have pointed out that the orchestra and The Epoch Times newspaper which ran the story are closely connected with Falun Gong.

A BBC website is headed ‘Falun Gong – an evil cult?’ and goes on to say ‘Claiming to be an ancient technique of self-development, Falun Gong is an eclectic mixture of Taoist and Buddhist principles with a sprinkling of extraterrestrials … On 22 July, 1999, Falun Gong was declared an ‘evil cult’ by the Beijing authorities, and totally banned, meriting ‘a serious ideological and political struggle that would have a bearing on the future of the Communist Party and the State … in terms of typical cult techniques, Falun Gong is given a 50:50 Yes/No rating by Time Asia. While it is led by a charismatic leader, fosters an ‘us versus them’ attitude, and uses jargon that outsiders don’t understand, it does not exert pressure on people to join, its believers do not remove themselves from society, nor are they required to donate large sums of money, their homes, jobs, and so on, to a central organisation.’

An unconnected bit of trivia is that I was in Guyana shortly before the dreadful Jonestown mass suicides in 1978. On a much more positive note Georgetown, Guyana, which we were visiting, was the birthplace of the Berlin Philharmonic’s first black conductor.
Header image showing Falun Gong members is from a useful article in The Johnsonian, newspaper of Winthrop University. Report broken links, missing images and errors to – overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk.

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Massoud Malek: Mind control is a basic means used by a cult leader

5 Jul

Cult leaders such as Jim Jones (the People’s Temple) and David Koresh (Branch Davidians) boasted that they were God or God incarnate.
Mind control is a basic means used by a cult leader to consolidate his “divine” position and keep his disciples loyal to him. Also, every cult head fabricates heretical ideas to deceive and entrap the people.

Another prominent feature of a cult is its hierarchical structure, through which practitioners strictly follow the instructions of the leader of the organization, and are willing to sacrifice themselves for this spiritual leader.
Master Li Hongzhi made up a series of heretical ideas, such as the “doomsday” theory and the “explosion of the Earth” fallacy, so as to frighten his disciples into following his instructions without question.
Before the organization was officially banned in China in 1999, 136 Falun Gong practitioners had committed suicide at the instigation of Li Hongzhi, who called for his followers to “go to the Heaven” and “achieve real completion.”
Many innocent people have been killed by Falun Gong cult followers in practicing the cult’s doctrines of “clearing crimes committed in a previous life” or “complete oneself in this life” either by killing
themselves or killing others. Chen Fuzhao, a 29-year-old dermatologist who had mental problems, was one of them.
“When I was reading the doctrines on Feb. 17, I suddenly felt Master Li Hongzhi told me to do bad things, which though contrary to my usual practices, would help promote my power,” Chen said, “and I felt the bad things included killing, setting fires, and all the bad things are extremely good for our practices.”
“I began killing mosquitoes, flies, then dogs and humans,” Chen said.
With poisoned drinks, Chen killed 16 beggars and vagrants in streets and one Buddhist believer. “Most people would not take my drinks, so I chose beggars and vagrants,” Chen said.
When asked how many people he wanted to kill, Chen answered he wanted to kill all humankind within one year.
An excerpt from the BBC:
“We are here not to eliminate your diseases or to build up your health or to give you some message to heal your diseases. We do not do these things. Your diseases will be eliminated directly by me. Those who practice in the practicing spot will be cured by my Law bodies. Those who learn Falun Dafa through self-study by reading the book will also be cured by my Law bodies.”
“The disgusting homosexuality shows the dirty abnormal psychology of the gay who has lost his ability of reasoning at the present time.”
In a 1998 talk in Switzerland, Li said gay people would be “eliminated” by “the gods.”
On mixed-race marriage his views are similarly intolerant, as he sees such deviance as evidence of alien interference. Li also regards mixed-race or “cross-bred” people as rootless and deviant, a sign of morally bankrupt times. Mixed-race people are a plot by the evil extraterrestrials who populate his cosmology, which spills over with accounts of lost civilizations, higher realms and mysteries that
science cannot grasp.
“By mixing the races of humans, the aliens make humans cast off gods,” he is quoted as saying in a lecture in Switzerland.

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Art and politics can be strange bedfellows

5 Jul

That’s certainly the case for the People’s Republic of China and the Divine Performing Arts Dance Troupe, a New York-based Chinese collective performing for the first time in Calgary tonight.

As the company has toured across North America and the world, a behind-the-scenes battle of information and propaganda has been raging with the Chinese government. Now that the company has made its way to Calgary, that struggle has found its way here as well.

It’s an odd confrontation for a company that bills itself as a traditional Chinese performing arts group with a laudable goal.

“When people think about Chinese cultural performances they tend to think of the acrobats and dragons, but they are very superficial aspects of Chinese culture,” says Caylan Ford, Divine’s Calgary-based organizer.

“This show is somewhat different. It’s still extraordinary to watch, but for different reasons. The mission of this show is to try and revive the true essence of traditional Chinese culture with moral and spiritual traditions.”

But the Chinese government has a conflicted relationship with those traditions, and when spirituality is thrown in the mix, things get complicated.

More than 100 Divine dancers and musicians dazzle audiences with elaborate costumes, an exotic orchestra and traditional dance that incorporates theories of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucius, and — and this is where the controversy comes in — Falun Gong.

This spiritual faith is based in Chinese traditions and quickly won millions of adherents in China and around the world after it was introduced by pioneer Li Hongzhi in 1992. Since then, practitioners have a long and well-documented list of human rights violations they say have been perpetrated against them by the Chinese government.

Because of those connections to Falun Gong — one scene, for example, features a Falun Gong practitioner ascending to the sky after being killed by Chinese police — members of the Divine Performing Arts Dance Troupe say they have been dogged and bullied by the Chinese government throughout their tour of 34 cities this year.

They allege the Chinese consulate in Calgary is pressuring local audiences to stay away from the performance because of its association with Falun Gong.

Ford claims shopkeepers in Calgary’s Chinatown have been asked to take down posters advertising the show, or have had the posters torn down. She also says she knows of people who were incorrectly warned by the consulate that the show contained graphic scenes depicting organ harvesting.

“A few months ago, a member of the Chinese Consulate of Calgary told me that they intended to do whatever they could to crush the show or minimize the impact of the show if ever we brought it to Calgary. This was before we even confirmed that it would come,” says Ford, who would not give the official’s name for fear it would “endanger his safety and job security in some way.”

Despite the accusations, however, there is little evidence.

The Chinese Consulate of Calgary would not comment on this story, but tickets for the show are selling briskly, posters can be found in many shop windows in Chinatown, and there is evidence of support from the community.

The Herald contacted several shopkeepers in Chinatown, who are currently displaying posters in their windows. None have been asked to remove them.

“I’ve seen a lot of these posters around Chinatown,” says Catherine Chan, co-ordinator of the Chinese Cultural Centre, which has a Divine sign posted on a wall.

“I have not heard anything from (the consulate) about this.”

Organizers of the show said a poster was torn from the walls of Chinatown restaurant Damascus Shawarma, but when asked about the incident, owner Harp Kaddora said it was nothing more than vandals from the neighbourhood.

“It’s graffiti and it happens all the time,” says Kaddora, who has never been contacted by the Chinese consulate.

“I have other signs that were ripped down, too. That’s why I asked them to put them inside the window so the kids can’t make a mess.”

Other members of Calgary’s Chinese community say they don’t support the show on their own volition.

One local business owner, who asked not to be named, said she refused to advertise for Divine, not because of pressure from the consulate, but because she disapproves of its association with Falun Gong.

“This is religious stuff and I don’t feel comfortable advertising for them,” she says. “I’m neutral; I don’t lean towards China or the religious side. But they aren’t truthful about it.”

Falun Gong is closely linked to Chinese traditions, but in fact, you wouldn’t know Divine was so closely linked to Falun Gong unless you did your homework. Ford, who is co-ordinating Divine in Calgary, is also a Falun Gong practitioner and one of the main Calgary organizers.

Divine is produced by New Tang Dynasty Television, a U.S.-based independent, nonprofit Chinese language broadcaster that has upset the Chinese government with coverage of human rights abuses against Falun Gong members and its criticism of the Chinese Communist party.

Earlier this year the network, made headlines consular officials were launching a campaign to stop the network from airing in Canada.

It is currently available on satellite.

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The views of an American scholar about China

5 Jul

From: lgerber <>
Subject: Re: H-ASIA: Falun Gong

I’ve been following the discussion of both the merits of Falungong and the potential reasons behind the forceful reaction by the PRC government with great interest.

The fact that the parents of one of my Chinese friends were actively involved with Falungong (very much exasperating their sons who are both living overseas) lead me to discuss the movement with a few Chinese during my stay in Gansu last year a few weeks before the demonstration in front of Zhongnanhai. None of them, including active qigong practicioners, had anything positive to say about Falungong. Yet everyone expressed a certain amount of understanding for the parents of my friend: Being in their sixties, with ill health and in early retirement, without children nearby to support them and only foreign daughters-in-law (just not the same…), my Gansu contacts tended to feel that it was natural that one would need a perspective beyond life as we can observe it. Overall, party members and others blamed economic insecurity and fear of old age for the growth of Falungong, as well as of other religious groups.

Apart from parallels to – let’s say ‘sectarian’ – movements in Chinese history, I am wondering whether the fear apparent in the government’s reaction towards Falungong is not also related to the events leading to the breakdown of Communism in Eastern Europe. (I haven’t seen this discussed here, I apologize for any repetition if I overlooked it). When I talked to Protestant church leaders in Shanghai and Nanjing in 1992, several mentioned that the role of Protestant churches in East Germany in the Fall of 1989 had alarmed the Chinese Communist Party and lead to stricter control. In fact, the church leaders themselves seemed worried that rural Christian movements might endanger the relatively secure position of the offical Protestant church. Whatever the merits of Falungong (and I entirely agree with Patsy Rahn that closer scrutiny is necessary), this movement appears to give some of its members the courage to face whatever the government holds in stock for them. In this aspect, they remind me of the biographies of Chinese Communist heroes of the 1920s and 30s. This courage and personal freedom would make any leadership lacking in popular support nervous. in particular, I believe, one that seems as remote from its own heroes and ideals as today’s Chinese ganbus.

Lydia Gerber
Washington State University

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