Archive | August, 2011

Organ harvesting controversy

23 Aug

Shortly after the Epoch Times called wolf on a medical prison for organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners – they essentially described as a concentration camp for some kind of final solution to the Falun Gong – an independent probe with links to the US State Department visited several of the sites described in Epoch Times reports and found no evidence to back up their claims.

After first reading of the hospital in the Epoch Times – their story was sourced from a former employee who defected – the claim seemed so astounding that I couldn’t help post on it. Now I’m wondering ~~ and what’s developed is a dispute between the Epoch Times and the US govt reports (here).

To be sure, Epoch Times does some of the best frontline reporting on human rights in China…. and the only thing that makes it suspect is their function as a propaganda unit for the Falun Gong. Is this one over the top?

In February I met with an editor and reporter from the Epoch Times in Hong Kong. We met at the Starbucks near the in-town airport check-in desk in Central and talked for close to an hour. Both were women, one a short-haired, attractive, and very proper woman in her late 30s and the other a bony, tomboy type with frizzy hair in her late 20s. They wouldn’t agree to meet me at their office and would tell me very little about it, including the number of personnel. They described problems with landlords – changing lease agreements, pressuring them out, and other fishy harassment – and the natural insinuation was that the CCP’s invisible hand was behind everything. (The story in Taiwan is quite different. Though I’ve never been to their office here in Taipei, the address is openly published. Doh! That makes perfect sense…)

Still, I can’t help get they feeling they are wary of other outsiders, including the western media, people like me. They want us to pick up on their stories, but not ask too much about how and where they get them. While no one else in the world has bloody photos of massacres like Shanwei, they do. And their sources for these stories must be so delicate that extreme secrecy can be understood. But not absolute secrecy – because in the end that is only propaganda. And I think with something as big as this alleged organ harvesting in Shenyang, outside confirmation is the only thing that will make people believe it – and believe them. In a lot of ways, the Epoch Times’ credibility is on the line with this one.

Over coffee, the two women mentioned reports about the Epoch Times they found unfair. They didn’t mention precisely which reports or what they said, but they let on to a general suspicion of media. They did offer that they and all other staff were volunteers, and they did not mention numbers but said they were not large. Whatever their staff size, the paper is rapidly becoming one of the largest alternative news services in the world with a presence everywhere in the world you find ethnic Chinese and editions in 14 languages (at least online. Paper editions come out from the big HQ in New York, HK, Taipei and several other places). It is also truly an army of housewives; when I asked, they admitted as much.

Both women said they were Falun Gong practitioners, and when it came to China, they repeated a lot of the moral rhetoric you can read in their newspaper: “the evils of the Communist Cult will be punished by God at Judgment Day”, etc. What they said was not as extreme as this but very similar to what you can read in their paper, so I won’t describe it more. A big problem with the view is viewing the Chinese Communist Party as a static entity, as something that has not changed, this despite the enormous and extremely obvious changes that have happened – and benefited the lives of hundreds of millions of people. This is something the Epoch Times refuses to weigh on its scales. Equally perplexing is where its narrative of CCP collapse will lead: so, what happens after judgement day?

Okay, so is the Falun Gong a just some freaky cult? I had this discussion with a US diplomatic corps guy last weekend over beers. He was inclined to think they were, and this is reason enough to brush them off like sawdust off your shoes. Coz if you don’t the sawdust will maybe even get in your socks. He was also inclined to believe that religion is basically useless and has no place in the future of humanity – in a way that reminded me quite a bit of the contempt. French novelist Michel Houllebecq. A few years ago at the wedding of an ABC girl and a mixed Chinese guy, the mother of the bride was a Falun Gonger and delivered a few words when the toasts came around. It was very banal, wishing for peace and love and world harmony, something like that. Later the mother of the groom, who’d studied philosophy and had a raspy smokers’ voice, shot off some comments about not being able to stand “zealots.” It’s impossible for western liberals to accept simple-minded faith in anything, especially there are these secret society aspects hanging around. I pretty naturally find myself on this side of the fence, especially when it comes to establishing the truth of something like a concentration camp which would have major repercussions for world trade and the holding of the 2008 Olympics. But at the same time, if I find the Falun Gong a little strange – on the scale, maybe only a little more strange than the first time I saw a white guy doing Taichi in Washington Square Park (NYC) – I hardly find them threatening. They don’t proselytize fanatically and they back a public mouthpiece that supports secular values like human rights and democracy. Maybe the bottom line is that they do some good and little bad. For that, I’m pretty inclined to look the other way when they do their dorky concentration exercises in the park.

But where the Epoch Times is full of shit is the 10 million “resignations” from the CCP it claims will coincide with Hu Jindao’s visit to the US. ET has created a site where people can disclaim the Party, but when I asked the two women, they said that this is actually anonymous and in no way involves any official paper shuffling within China. No one is really dropping out of the CCP, and the Epoch Times is wrong for presenting this illusion. What they are instead offering is a hit counter for dissatisfaction with the government, an Internet phenomenon that extends far beyond them. They may be in the front lines with all their crazy hacking technology that breaks through the Great Firewall, but they should still admit as much.

While in China recently I did meet with one bona fide dissident. Around 50 years old, he’s been on the government’s list since the first campaigns to reign in political thought following economic liberalization in the late 1970s and was in jail as recently as a year and a half ago for essays he’d posted on the Internet. When I asked if he ever wrote for the Epoch Times, he shook his head and said, “Hardly ever. They’re too Falun Gong. I usually write for some other sites.” If even a lifelong democracy activist is put off by the Epoch Times whiffs the propaganda, is it any wonder that we’re also suspicious?

bobby fletcher said…
The Sujiatun concentration camp allegation is now “officially” discredited.

US State Department announced their finding on 4/15 (Friday afternoon knowing it won’t affect the anti-China protest over the weekend.)

Now I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I hope honorable Mr. Nowak won’t just let his silence resolve this investigation, but honestly, precisely state his finding.

What really outraged me is not that Falun Dafa Association of New York made up this story. What they did it to disrespect the Jewish people’s history and experience by taking Holocaust suffering in vain.

bobby fletcher said…
Here’s another example that speaks on Epoch Times’ propaganda factor.

In a recent FLG piece it reported Amnesty International’s endorsement of their “Chinese Auschwitz” story by citing an AI director named Laura Nuechterlein.

I decided to contact Ms. Nuechterlein. Turns out she is the director of a local AI chapter (Group 4 in Seattle) that meets in local library once a month.

What Ms. Nuechterlein wrote back was not suprising. Here’re some quotes from her reply:

– I was careful to indicate that AI has not made any statement on the deathcamp allegations

– I barely mentioned Falun Gong at all

– I agree with you that the story was prettydubious to begin with

– In noway did we endorse the idea of the “Chinese Auschwitz.”

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The Falun Gong show that meek can be provocative

23 Aug

Lloyd Evans joins the dissident movement in a ritual exercise near the Chinese Embassy. He is unsettled to find himself understanding why China’s rulers get so paranoid about them

Bong. Up go our hands. Bong. Down come our hands. Bong. We bend our knees. Bong. We crouch down slowly. Bong. We sweep our hands around our feet. Bong. We pass our hands behind our shoulder blades. Bong. We straighten up. Bong. We make hollow fists. Bong. We release the energy. Bong. Up go our hands again. Bong. And down come our hands. And so on. It was a sunny morning in Regent’s Park and I’d joined a circle of FalunGong practitioners as we indulged in a spot of communal aerobics. The chimes came from a small loudspeaker on the grass which relayed plinkety-plonk music and instructions in Chinese. FalunGong was founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, an amateur trumpeter and former stud-farm worker. Falun means ‘law wheel’ and Gong means ‘work’ or ‘practice’, and the movement encourages cultivation of both mind and body. It grew rapidly and within a few years its devotees outnumbered the Chinese Communist Party. Following a 24-hour mass demonstration in Tiananmen Square in April 1999, FalunGong was outlawed by President Jiang Zemin and denounced as an ‘evil cult’. Since then its followers have been harassed, arrested, mistreated and, according to their website, sent to forced labour camps. So those plastic bricks you buy for your kids may well have been manufactured by a convict whose only crime was to meditate. 

There are suggestions that Beijing is using the Olympics as a pretext to intensify its campaign. According to Amnesty International a secret order was issued last February by the then public security minister Zhou Yongkang. ‘We must strike hard at hostile forces at home and abroad, such as ethnic separatists, religious extremists… and FalunGong.’ At least 200 followers have been arrested this year. 

Chinese officials routinely deny allegations of persecution and explain the evidence of torture as ‘self-mutilation’. The movement doesn’t feel particularly cultish or evil, even though the practitioners refer to Li Hongzhi, slightly creepily, as ‘the Master’. Their chief interest lies in the three principles of truth, compassion and tolerance. They insist they are entirely nonpolitical. There’s no sec-recy, no exchange of money, no organisational structure, and the classes, like the one I attended, are cheerily informal. Anyone can show up. Before we began I was welcomed by the teacher, Debbie, who apologised for being late. ‘I was just finishing a bacon sandwich.’ She gave me some tips. My mind should be clear while performing the exercises and I should avoid pursuing negative thoughts. I might feel discomfort in my feet and arms owing to ‘major energy channels being blasted open’. Then we were ready. We arranged ourselves in the shade of a chestnut tree and piled our bags and rucksacks in the middle, like girls at a disco. An English chap next to me was dressed in a T-shirt blazoned with shocking statistics about the persecution of Falun Gong. A younger man with a rich brown tan looked like an apprentice yogi in a maroon T-shirt and orange breeches. On my other side an elderly Chinese woman removed her shoes and stood on a mat of bright-green bubble-wrap. The exercises began. Arms up, arms down, bend your knees, extend your hands. It was like a slow-motion hokey-cokey lasting 90 minutes and requiring so little exertion that it’s hard to see who would benefit apart from the elderly and the convalescent. The only arduous part was the ‘standing meditation’, an ordeal that obliged us to hold our hands in the air, in three different positions, for half an hour. This was almost unbearably painful. The blood drained from my fingers. My hands went white and my muscles ached and burned, and though I was free to lower my arms at any point some devilish competitive spirit kept them aloft. Male pride, combined perhaps with a wholly inappropriate sense of Western jingoism, forbade me from relieving my agony while beside me a frail old Chinese woman stood as still as a No Entry sign with her hands upraised and her furrowed face devoid of emotion. 

I found the exercises dreary and fruitless. Maybe my Gong wasn’t on song but I left the class feeling drained and bored and with no inclination to return the following week and lower my consciousness to robot level. It seemed life-denying and pointlessly sacrificial. And if it requires a degree of meekness that’s alien to my nature, then I can’t help pointing out that Falun Gong’s brand of humility is tinged with egoism. They enjoy attention. Why else would they exercise outdoors and in public? We got plenty of stares from passers-by who looked on, amused or faintly disturbed by the sight of 15 mechanical figures moving in slow unison accompanied by eerie musical chimes that seemed to waft through the air from nowhere. It’s not too fanciful to imagine that President Zemin watched the mass demonstration of 1999 with a similar sense of alarm. This wasn’t some accidental confluence of eccentric pacifists. The protest was co-ordinated over the internet. The location, Tiananmen Square, was deliberately provocative and the date was uncomfortably close to the tenth anniversary of the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989. It came as a shock to the Chinese authorities that such a large and orderly demonstration could be organised without their knowledge. The crackdown on Falun Gong coincided with rigorous censorship of the internet in China. 

Falun Gong maintains its habit of meekly ostentatious protests. Not far from Regent’s Park you’ll find the Chinese embassy, a grey brick fortress with surly curtained-off windows and sloping roofs topped by a mad frizz of radio aerials. Directly opposite, Falun Gong perform their exercises around the clock. There’s a placard, a petition, a prayer-mat and, according to one protestor, a secret stash of biscuits to nourish overnight protestors. They do shifts of five hours each. I spoke to Lilla, an Israeli, who wore a jumper and anorak even on a July afternoon. Were there any plans to demonstrate against the Beijing Olympics? She shrugged and said that any protest would be turned into negative propaganda by the Chinese authorities. Later I met Tina, an exile from China, who works in TV marketing and was spending her Saturday night meditating outside the embassy. Was she afraid of the Chinese secret service? ‘No. Because they are weak. They have the army and all that but what they are doing is not right. So they are weak.’ The late shift was taken by another Chinese exile. Wrapped in a yellow cagoule and a tartan blanket she expressed the same mood of laboured optimism. ‘For us the Olympics are a chance for the world to see our protest. Things won’t change. But still we hope.’ 

The embassy takes a completely different view. I asked them if it was true that Falun Gong are persecuted in China. I got a shirty brush-off. ‘I am surprised you are interested in this group which is a cult banned in China by law. This organisation has become a political one which is involved in anti-China activities.’ I was directed to a website,, full of claims that Falun Gong break up families, deny the efficacy of modern medicine and spread treasonable messages on banknotes. 

Reluctantly, I have to agree with one part of the embassy’s statement. Falun Gong is political. It aims to modify the policy of a government and it applies concerted pressure in order to bring about that change. And in that sense one can, just about, understand the paranoia of China’s dictators.


(, July 16, 2008)

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There is only one truth, and only one true God

23 Aug


Christianity has a long history in China, and few realize that the relationship dates as far back as one thousand five hundred years. Today, we are experiencing unprecedented growth in many places, and especially China.

Catholicism reached China in the 6th century. At that time the Church blossom and it was known as the Jin Jiao, or the “Luminous Church” many conversions took place, including many high ranking government officials, as with other things in life, success brought on envy from other religious organization, and persecution started.

It was not until the 15th Century when a group of Jesuits – send by Rome – successfully returned to China and again started the Church’s apostolate. A major figure in the Chinese history, father Mateo Ricci S.J. was very successful in adapting himself to the delicate and complex new culture, even reached all the way up to the Emperor himself, and thus was allowed to preach to the mass, and my family became Catholic at about this time. Slowly, Church made progress in this most populated country in the world.

The Holy Father in 2007 officially called for the Chinese Patriotic Church to join the open activities of the others and was an open call for UNITY. The Holy See has great expectations in China and the contributions that the Chinese culture will bring to the Church. The relationship between the Holly See and the Chinese Government has improved significantly in recent years, but some psychological obstacle still exists, and that is a history of strange cults in China has made all religions looks suspicious in the eyes of the Chinese officials, many of these cult have caused great misery, suffering and death, this has caused the Chinese officials to err on the side of caution.

However, the Bible gave us clear instruction on how one can worship in peace, and obtain salvation, or give us a way out of this dilemma. One needs only to follow the Word of God, accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, repent from the sin of not observing form the true Word of God by cult worshiping. We were warned that “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).


The words “repent,” “repentance,” are mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. Some confusion or misunderstanding over what the word repentance means. When the word “repent” is used in the Word of God in the context of Biblical salvation, it is referring to a truly God-given, Spirit-led change of heart and mind toward God. I say, repentance is to accept the one and only True God, the word of God.

In Mark 13:6; 21-22, we are taught that, “Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. At that time if anyone says to you, And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. Many false god, or false prophets will lead you astray, and hide the truth from you, it is incumbent upon us to prepare for, and accept the Truth. If we read the Good Book carefully, and compare with the lies that are out there, then we will not be misled.


Some other belief systems or cults teaches that God is ultimately an impersonal, eternal force, essence, or power of existence, which has none of the attributes or characteristics of humans (such as knowing, thinking, loving, etc.). This is sometimes called Brahman in cults such as Hare Krishna, or Tibetan Secret Sects. Brahman can be thought of as a sort of spirit force which has no personal qualities, but which pervades everything in the Universe. The attributes of personality are believed to exist only in physical, material things. God, in pure form, is impersonal and has no personal characteristics. This contradicts directly of what the Bible has taught us. However, Gods characteristics are those of a living, personal, individual Being. These include the following:

He lives (John 5:26 )
He loves (John 3:16 ; Rom. 5:6-11)
He speaks (Matt. 3:17 )
He works (John 5:17 , 20)
He knows (Matt. 6:8,32)
He wills (Matt. 7:21 )
He sees (Matt. 6:4,6,18)

God is not just an impersonal force, nor does He need a physical body in order to possess personal characteristics. God is spirit, not material or physical, and yet He possesses the characteristics of a personal individual.

Also, we are both physically and spiritually made in His image or likeness (Gen. 1:26f; 5:1; 9:6; James 3:9). But our inner being is not Divine, not of the essence of God, and not to be worshiped. To believe we are Divine is blasphemous. So when other cults preach a divine being that looks unlike any of us, this can only be a lie, therefore this image must not be the image of our one and only TRUE God. But, more importantly, certain cults, such as Tibetan Secret Sect, or another by the name of Falun Gong, worship a MAN as living god, even claiming themselves as reincarnated gods, but God is not a man. (1 Samuel 15:29)

The Ten Commandment said of the Lord “I am the Lord thy God, and thou shall have no other God besides me.” This is affirmed in Isaiah 43:10,11 – “Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior.”

At this end time, as foretold in the prophesy, deceivers will emerge, and come in the name of our Lord, spreading false teaching. Many have risen, many have fell, but surely they will come, and they will try to deceive us. What we are trying to do here, is merely point out some of the fallacies one by one.


It leader, Li Hong Zhi, who often claims that his power, is greater than that of Buddha and also reincarnation of the “holy one,” which I don’t know enough to argue, but even our Lord Jesus Christ? He teaches that, by practicing his cult ritual, his follower shall reach salvation, and life everlasting. Another example, Li Hong Zhi predicts the end time in 1997, and again in 1999, however, in either cases, he was proven wrong, he now claims that he postponed the explosion to give the mankind one more chance.

Li also proclaims himself as a kind of a “prophet”. In Revelation ( 13:11 ) foretells at the end time, or at the end of Satan’s reign on earth, a religious personality will arise and deceive the whole world. This person is referred to as “another BEAST”, or a FALSE PROPHET”. The BEAST some time has power to performs great feats, and combined with the demonic words he speaks (Revelation 16:13 ), he will trick people to give their allegiance to, and even worship, the Beast (Revelation 13:14 ). He would wield vast influence in others faith, he will successfully convince most of the world to commit idolatry (Revelation 13:12 ). Unfortunately, the Good Book does not reveal the False Prophet’s name or even the numbers to us the faithful, as it does with the Beast. Instead, we must recognize him by what he says and does (Matthew 7:15 -20).

The end time is prophesied to be full of deceptions (Matthew 24:11), and the elect will not totally be immune to the deceits either (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22 ). The true believers, we must take care to see through the facade and to recognize Satan’s servants for what they they say or do, not what they appear to be (II Corinthians 11:14-15). My brothers, this false prophet of Li Hong Zhi. I must warned that, “The Beast” will try to destroy the church through persecution, failing that, he will try to destroy her through heresy and false doctrine, what many of these cults are doing, especially Falun Gong is just that. The church of God is in more danger from heretics than from persecutors; and heresies are as certainly from the devil as open force and violence. (Revelation. 2:14-15, 20, 24)


A prophet, is God’s spokesman, delivering a message that God has ordained him. God tells Moses that Aaron in Exodus 7:1, his brother, would be his prophet, even as Moses was God’s prophet. Because of Moses’ disbelief in God’s ability to speak through him, God would speak to Moses, who would tell Aaron what to say to others–Pharaoh in particular. It is the function of speaking for another, rather than the miracles they performed, which defined Moses and Aaron as prophets. Frequently, the words a prophet spoke on God’s behalf will in fact, predict what would happen later. However, a prophet’s essential role was to speak for God, and not necessarily predicting the future. False prophets either speak for the WRONG god, or they claim to have heard from the true God but do not accurately represent His teaching, they speak out of their OWN human hearts, for their own ambitions, and more likely, the “god” they are speaking for is really a demon. The worst, insinuate themselves to be our Messiah.

It is true that, if a prophet foretells something that fails to come to pass, he is a false prophet, but foretelling the future correctly does not necessarily mean true prophets. The real issue is whether one who claims to be representing God and speaking for Him, is doing so accurately or falsely. This by itself, is proof that he is a fraud, but for us, he teaches that he alone has the power to change the course of the world is not acceptable to us Christians. And the heresy of not accepting Jesus Christ as our only salvation, rather, the false doctrine of practice his Falun Gong is the ONLY WAY to save our body and soul when the earth explodes.

The punishment for disobeying God is DEATH, as God has taught us unequivocally, and Revelation 19:20 says that this is exactly what happens to the False Prophet: He is thrown into the Lake of Fire. Li, in his blasphemy betrayed Our Lord and Savior Jesus, has now a lake of fire to look forward to in all eternity.


“By covetousness (greed) they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (II Peter 2:3). False prophets use human weakness of covetousness to make inroads to a person’s heart. “. . .and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas Gods angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord” (II Peter 2:10-11).

So the BEASTS “walk according to the flesh”; their minds are primarily on physical things and not things Divine. God is not in all their thoughts (Psalm 10:4). They also despise authority–other than their own–and apparently think themselves superior even to God’s angels. The apostle also says false prophets have “eyes full of adultery.” This may not be literal, it can also more generally describe unfaithfulness–a willingness to discard an agreement if it is in their interest to do so. They also worry little about resisting sin. Like Balaam, they are willing to do just about anything for personal gain.

The question we always have to ask, is money “And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves (Mark 11:15). The cult of Falun Gong reminds us more of a money changer in the temple, not teachers of the TRUTH. We have not seen any charities promoted by the Falun Gong.

We can identify these false prophets and their teaching, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (II Peter 2:19). They promise liberty–freedom, perhaps, from keeping God’s law or from persecution or tribulation–but they are themselves enslaved to sin. Brothers and Sisters, this is why I am writing this, to warn you against the most dangerous of slavery by false doctrine.

When the very Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared upon the scene in His public ministry, He came preaching the narrow and exclusive doctrines of repentance and faith. If Jesus felt compelled to preach such a message before a lost and dying world, so should we. Galatians 1:6-9 teaches that there is only one gospel, and if any gospel message leaves out the doctrine of repentance or faith or both, you can be assured it is a false gospel. False gospel in any other name is heresy, and must be rejected by us.


The reward for repentance my brothers and sisters, is great, reject the cults, and follow the gospels. In Matthew 25:46 – After judgment, men receive their eternal destinies. The righteous receive eternal life, a state of bliss, in the presence of God. The wicked receive eternal punishment, suffering and sorrow, separated from God.

Jesus Christ, the most perfect Spokesman for God who has ever lived, had only 12 true disciples when His ministry ended (Acts 1:15 ). This was not a failure on His part, but because His Father’s message could be wholeheartedly believed only by those of whose minds God had prepared to accept it. Today “Purpose-Driven” church leaders like Li will not preach the pure Word of God because they know it is divisive. It would also thwart their goals of a large following and sizeable profits, the ultimate goal. Thus, their messages do not involve repentance, sound doctrine, or God’s law, except where it may serve to further whatever purpose is driving them. So if and when we ever come across this, hold our Lord close to your heart, and you will see through the falsehood of these cults. With that, we pray the Church can return to China soon, and all the world will see the truth.

Author: George Shen

A lifelong catholic, he served in the US Marine Corp from 1978 to 1983, and even now, is an Officer in the National Guard of California, a descendant of a very well known catholic family from Shanghai that helped the Jesuits in the sixteenth century to get established there. He is very concerned about the difficulties the Holly See finds in China in order to reunite the Church.

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A Qantas employee demoted for engaging in Falun Gong activities

18 Aug

Sep. 8 (Kaiwind) – Recently, the Fair Work Australia tribunal reserved the decision about Qantas employee Sheridan Genrich’s demand for reinstating.

Sheridan Genrich is a Qantas employee from New South Wales. As an international flight attendant, she had flown to China with the airline five times. She was expelled from China for engaging in Falun Gong promotional activities during a stopover in Beijing in November 2008. Chinese authorities found copies of Zhuan Falun – the Falun Gong’s Bible – and copies of the Falun Gong-published Epoch Times newspaper in her luggage.

Sheridan Genrich said she was a Falun Gong practitioner and was taking the materials to friends in China. After that, she was transferred to a lower-paying position on short-haul routes. She felt resentful and authorized legal counsel Shane Prince to file a complaint to Fair Work Australia tribunal and demanded that the airline reinstate her on international routes and compensate her for lost wages.

Qantas said it switched Sheridan Genrich to short-haul duties because its international crew must be able to travel to any country, but she isn’t fit for the job.

Qantas’ lawyer Rachel Bernasconi told Fair Work Australia tribunal that Ms Genrich had flown to China five times without incident but had brought material in her luggage that she should have known was illegal in China. She had been practicing Falun Gong since 2002 and should know these things were forbidden in China. The rule 8.3.1 of staff manual of Qantas also prohibited “conveying” newspapers while working.

Fair Work Australia Commissioner Frank Raffaelli reserved his decision on the case.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Smartraveller website warns “Falun Gong activities are banned in China”; “Falun Gong related demonstrations and activities contravene Chinese laws”; and “if you participate, you could be arrested, imprisoned and/or deported.”

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Falun Gong, from sport to suicide

18 Aug

BEIJING – The Chinese Year of the Dragon ended with five followers of the Falungong movement torching themselves in Tiananmen Square, China’s holiest ground, in an act of defiance against the government. The next day, January 24, the poisonous Year of the Snake started with hundreds of policemen patrolling the square in temperatures well below zero. 

The self-immolations – one successful, four attempted – were reminiscent of those of Vietnamese Buddhist monks opposing the US military intervention in Vietnam in the 1960s. More moderate Falungong followers were shocked and hurried to claim that their master, Li Hongzhi, self exiled in America, expressly forbids suicide. In China, suicide is a sin against the ancestors and Tuesday’s action is bound to convince more common people that Falungong is indeed a cult, as the government claims. 

“Focus”, China’s most popular TV news program, interviewed some Falungong followers detained after a wave of protests around January 1. On camera, the Falungong members said they had no names because had become gods. 

“I’m god, does god have a name? The name of god is god, I have no name,” pronounced a follower who looked as if he had lost some of his wits. One detainee, an elderly woman, refused to be treated for dangerously high blood pressure, claiming that she was afraid of nothing because Master Li Hongzhi was protecting her. It was an implicit reply to the sect that had denounced the death of dozens of followers in detention. 

China Central Television, for once, was flooded with letters of support for the government crackdown on the sect. The government seemed to have found the right tool to isolate the zealots. In cases of future protests, it would let the Falungong speak for themselves. 

The Tiananmen suicide seems therefore to be a reply to the government. The sect will no longer surrender prisoners who can easily be used by the government in its propaganda efforts, but will move to a mode of protest that will show the government in the worst possible light. 

The suicide could mark the end of a stubborn wave of peaceful protests that has gone on for almost two years since some 10,000 Falungong members laid siege to Zhongnanhai, the enclave containing the residences and offices of the highest-ranking members of the Communist Party, on April 25, 1999. It could signal a start of new, bloodier confrontations for the sect which wants … Well, what does it want? 

Abroad, spokesmen for the sect say they want freedom to practice their faith, because the government has forbidden public gatherings. However, Beijing has made clear that it won’t persecute believers practicing the discipline in the privacy of their homes. 

One may wonder why it is so necessary for Falungong to have public gatherings. Certainly, limitations on the right of free assembly are violations against human rights. Yet, all governments forbid assemblies in certain areas, and the prohibition of demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, though repulsive, doesn’t itself constitute a human rights infringement. 

One could thus construe that Falungong advocates freedom and Western values, and is just a bit too gung-ho. But this analysis doesn’t compute. 

Why do they protest so stubbornly while Buddhists loyal to the banned Dalai Lama, Protestants, and Catholics of the underground church who prayed for the Pope at the risk of their own lives during the tough years of the Cultural Revolution, do not join the struggle? Why can millions of underground Christians pray at home, or in small semi-clandestine churches, submitting themselves for decades to the danger of routine police raids, while Falungong can’t? 

These questions take us back to the Falungong demonstration of April 25, 1999. Before that day, and in fact up until July of that year when the sect was banned, Falungong was free. Every day, in almost every park in Chinese cities, there were groups of devotees practicing their morning rites. 

But that April 25 the Falungong wanted more than that. They wanted to be fully recognized as a religion. 

The April 25 protest had a twist which looks strange if one believes the Falungong are freedom fighters: they demanded severe punishment for an elderly, soft-spoken and well-mannered physicist named Professor He Zuoxiu. 

Prof He was guilty of having penned an article moderately critical of the Falungong in an obscure weekly published in Tianjin with a circulation of a mere few thousand. 

A few of weeks earlier, in March, the Falungong had mounted a demonstration in Tianjin demanding the magazine retract the article and publish a eulogy of the sect. Such demonstrations were not new. In the previous few years Falungong had organized several protests against those who dared speak ill of it, and it always obtained what it wanted. 

In one of the best-known cases, the same Prof He in 1998 had given an interview to Beijing Radio in which he cautioned youngsters against practicing Falungong. The following day, the sect organized a protest around the radio station’s premises and obtained a retraction and another program speaking in favor of Falungong. 

From as early as 1997 there had been warnings about the sect, yet the government had urged all official propaganda departments not to raise any fuss by airing negative views about it. 

Falungong followers have told me that they were particularly concerned about Prof He because “he spoke for some one else, he represented the voice of someone in the government who was against the Falungong and had long prepared for the crackdown”. “Nonsense,” replied Prof He when I confronted him with the Falungong explanation. “If I had the support of the central government I wouldn’t have been writing in an obscure Tianjin weekly but in the [official party organ] People’s Daily.” 

The motivations for his article were simple: his best student, whom he loved like a son, had gone insane by practicing Falungong. He felt a moral obligation to warn other youths about the discipline, the more so because he felt he had done little when the young man had started practicing. He had thus embarked on his solitary campaign, and said it had taken him months to get his article published. 

Surprisingly though, the Tianjin magazine did not give in to the Falungong demands in March 1999, and even more surprisingly, the police intervened to stop the protest. A scuffle between police and demonstrators ensued in which, for the first time, some Falungong followers were arrested. This, in turn, prompted the April 25 protest, when the Falungong demanded it be recognized as a religion and that Prof He be punished.

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Scary stories on Falun Gong organ harvesting: how much of it is true?

18 Aug

“Do you think what they say about harvesting organs from Falun Gong prisoners is true?”

I look at my roommate, puzzled. How would I know if it’s true, untrue, or partly true? It’s impossible to know. If it’s true, it’s all happening in the dark. Stories that do come out, are either biased, strongly exaggerated, or even pure gossip.

Underlying interests

Here is one story about the alleged organ harvesting. The source is a Canadian human rights lawyer, David Matas, so the source has a clear interest: the more dirt he can put on the Chinese government, the better, for this makes his case look stronger.

There is also a Canadian politician involved, David Kilgour, who is supposed to try to win votes every couple of years, so he is likely to, at least to some extent, support whatever his country’s public opinion supports. Because Falun Gong knows how to use the western dominated “free” press, Falun Gong is among the good guys, as far as public opinion is concerned.

Update: One of my readers informed me that Kilgour is actually retired so he does not need any more votes.

Conveniently left out

In the article, Matas says the Falun Gong movement was banned by the Chinese government because of its huge number of followers (he mentions a huge figure and presents this figure as a fact, while in truth it is just a guess, by the Falun Gong movement itself). But this is just a part of the truth. Matas conveniently leaves out a more important fact.

In China, it all went for the worse when the Falun Gong movement shifted from being a spiritual movement only, towards being a political movement too. This, and the unknown but large number of followers, turned the movement into a threat to harmony. And that is against the constitution in China.

On top of that, the political movement has its headquarters on foreign soil, and receives a great amount of foreign financial aid. So this political movement is trying to change China with western support: foreign interference. That too, is against Chinese constitution.

(Don’t get me wrong: if something is a violation of the law, that obviously does not mean this makes any violation of any human right.)

Matas and Kilgour wrote a book on their case. The article mentions this, but does not mention that researchers, among whom a Falun Gong expert, say it was based on questionable evidence (Wikipedia).

Extremely biased

I am not an expert on Falun Gong – if you are and read this, and think that I am wrong, please let me know – neither am I an expert on the alleged organ harvesting practices. But as far as I can tell, this story is at least extremely biased in the issues I mentioned. Extrapolating, I can only expect the rest of it to be highly exaggerated.

The website on which the article was published,, carries the slogan “insightful writers, informed readers”. That sounds very impartial and unbiased – something this article is clearly not. I just hope the world’s big newspapers don’t fall for that. And if they do, I hope that interested readers, among whom my roommate, will judge wisely if all content is to be entirely believed and accepted as truth.

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Red Flags about Falun Gong/Falun Dafa

11 Aug

Some “red flags” went up for me recently about Falun Gong/Falun Dafa: 

The first was when I heard a woman say “I can’t come to yoga classes at the senior center anymore because I am doing Falun Gong and they said I can’t do both.” I have concerns whenever I hear of a group that informs its participants that they need to do that group’s practices exclusively. I know that there are times when it is valuable to focus on only one thing and yet …. 

My second concern was about a full-page ad in the “Senior Times” October 2000 issue about Falun Gong (aka Falun Dafa) offering a “Free” program for a “worthy and enjoyable investment of their time towards health, happiness and meaningful living.” I recalled a gut feeling that I had over a year ago when I saw the Falun Gong booth at an International Fair. I was reminded of the feeling I had years ago on street corners when approached with a “free flower” by the “Moonies,” (followers of ‘Rev. Moon,’) or the “free books and invitations to dinner” by the Hare Krishnas. 

My concern grew when I saw their free newsletter, “Boundless.” When I was recently asked if I knew anything about Falun Gong by a Program Director at a senior center, who had been approached to have the center offer their free programs, I decided to find out what I could about it. 

I immediately thought of checking the freedomofmind website and found that the 2 articles about Falun Gong seemed to corroborate my concerns. I have been checking out the Falun Dafa website, as well as reading their “Boundless” Newsletter. 

In the newsletter, they say that “millions of people all over the world have chosen to make Falun Dafa a part of their daily lives,” and that it has grown mostly by word of mouth. If that is true, I wonder why there now seems to be such emphasis on advertising and recruitment, rather than just attraction. 

I believe that the “5 exercises” that they offer may have benefits, and that their teachings about “Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance” may have merit. I agree that the “mass arrests and police brutality” by the Chinese Government of Falun Gong practitioners is a clear violation of human rights and is not to be tolerated. However, I wonder if that is now being featured as a way of gaining sympathy. 

I have some major questions about any group that proclaims their leader (be it with a title of “Guru” or “Master”) as “expounding the true Law,” as is stated in their newsletter. I also have some major questions about what I see as inconsistencies on their own webpage. 

In their “Brief introduction,” they state “Also essential to the practice are the five gentle exercises, including a seated meditation, which you can learn quickly and easily at any of the thousands of practice locations around the world.” 

In describing “Exercise 5,” they state “Principles: Strengthening Divine Powers is a tranquil cultivation exercise. It is a multi-purpose exercise that strengthens divine powers (including supernormal abilities) and gong potency by turning the Falun using Buddha hand signs. This exercise is above the intermediate level and was originally a secret exercise. Performing this exercise requires sitting with both legs crossed. Single-leg crossing is acceptable at the initial stage, when double-leg crossing cannot be done. One is eventually required to sit with both legs crossed….” 

From those two paragraphs, I gather that in order to reap the full benefits of what they offer, one would be “required to sit with both legs crossed.” In their newsletter they state that “Falun Gong is a complete cultivation practice of the body, mind and spirit.” Maybe we need to be wary of such “cult”ivation.
 About Steffi Lewin Shapiro

As a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with over 25 years of experience, and a yoga teacher with over 30 years of experience, I encourage people to find their own inner truth, to listen to their own gut feelings, to “not do anything that doesn’t feel right.” I believe that we each do know what we need for our own highest good, yet are often swayed by our desires or aversions, which are often fed to us by others in our society. I believe that being open to a diversity of opinions or traditions is useful for us to find what’s best for each of us. I once heard someone say that “the truth is whatever it is, and then someone puts a colander over it, and each person/group claims their own little hole as The Truth.”

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