Archive | November, 2011

Shen Yun performance part dance, part politics

29 Nov

You’ve probably seen the lavish promotions during the past few weeks for Shen Yun, a Chinese dance troupe from New York that will be performing Tuesday at the Hult Center.
Shen Yun, says its presenter, is “a world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. Based in New York, it seeks to revive the values of China’s 5,000 years of culture before the Communist rule and provide audiences with an experience of sublime beauty.”
What the promotions don’t tell you is that Shen Yun is widely regarded as a propaganda arm of the conservative Chinese religious sect Falun Gong, which has been banned since 1999 by the government of China.
Also called Falun Dafa, the sect claims 100 million followers worldwide. According to Amnesty International, it has been brutally suppressed by the Chinese government, which has punished followers with torture and lengthy imprisonment.
The Shen Yun dance show, by many reviewers’ accounts, mixes heavy-handed political theater — depicting, for example, the tasing of a Falun Gong woman and her child by Chinese government thugs — with mediocre dance.
Even some who liked the troupe’s artistry were unhappy that Shen Yun’s publicity does not make clear the religious and political aspects of the performance.
A 2008 tour in Britain produced reviews such as these:
“You could overlook the politics if the show was any good, but it is dated and sentimental, with comically bad compères (masters of ceremonies), laughably awful film projections and dance routines that would make panto producers blush,” wrote Sarah Frater in the London Evening Standard.

“Any judgment of the piece’s artistic merit seems beside the point, but it is a horribly Disneyfied version of the traditional Chinese culture it seeks to celebrate. … The result is one of the weirdest and most unsettling evenings I have ever spent in the theatre,” wrote Sarah Crompton in the London Telegraph.
“Even if you are sympathetic to the Falun Gong cause, there is something creepy about the evangelical tone with which this is delivered,” wrote Judith Mackrell in the Guardian. “It is also made worse by the fact that the show’s visual style is like a Disney production, with the cast dressed in gaudy, glittery updates of traditional costumes backed by scenes of soft-focus landscape created by computer animation.”
In 2009, Toronto Star dance writer Susan Walker called the show “spectacularly tacky.”
“Art it wasn’t,” she wrote. “The choreography was consistently banal, with the performers arranged in rows doing identical gestures. The dancers were under-rehearsed and unremarkable.”
She called the show “so heavily laden with Falun Gong messages as to negate any pleasure the dancing and singing might have afforded.”
An August 2010 performance in Buffalo, N.Y., drew this from Colin Dabrowski in the Buffalo News:
“Imagine what it might be like to watch a synchronized swimming team perform in front of a gigantic Windows 95 screen-saver. That should give you a pretty good idea of where Shen Yun ranks on the artistic merit scale. … Through an overwhelming promotional campaign that featured smiling attendants stationed at kiosks in local malls, they duped thousands of people into paying outrageous sums of money to watch a half-baked advertisement for Falun Gong.”
Yes, it’s possible to find positive reviews of Shen Yun. Two years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published an advance story about the show, written by Mary Ellen Hunt, that is quoted often in Shen Yun’s promotional material:
“The show — which each year features new entries in a smorgasbord of vignettes — takes viewers on a visually dazzling tour of 5,000 years of Chinese history and culture via bravura displays of acrobatics and grand tales told through flourishes of Chinese classical dance. With hundreds of dancers in two dozen carefully designed, richly costumed pieces — everything from colorful handkerchief dances, Imperial-style dances in high platform shoes, drum dances, folk dances and wushu displays — it’s a heady blend of the ancient and modern, of traditional Chinese instruments and their Western counterparts, and contemporary experiences expressed using the formality of Chinese classical dance.” …..

Most of the troupe’s positive press appears, though, in The Epoch Times, a publication run in New York by supporters of Falun Gong.
A system of spiritual meditation and physical exercise, Falun Gong was founded in 1999 by Li Hongzhi.
It has been criticized in the West for Li’s opposition to homosexuality — in one speech he equates it with organized crime — and his bizarre notions about race and extraterrestrial aliens.
(“Sexual freedom, which has mixed the human races and muddled human ethics, is absolutely forbidden by gods,” Li says on the Falun Dafa Association website ( And about aliens: “They kidnap people to their planets, lock them in cages, and put them on display as animals. Many of Earth’s people who have gone missing were taken by them.”)
There is little question that Falun Gong leaders regard the purpose of Shen Yun as proselytizing.
In a 2009 speech transcribed on FalunDafa .org, Li praised the hard work by his followers to sell tickets to Shen Yun.
“But the good thing is, you’re all clear that it is done to save people, and that selling a ticket equates to saving a person,” he said. “So you’re all able to balance these things just fine. And you won’t be asked to do this forever.
“When Shen Yun Performing Arts’ influence truly spreads widely throughout the world, all you will have to do is run an ad saying that Shen Yun is coming and people will flock to see them.”

(The Register-Guard, Jan 6, 2011)

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People feel repulsion for Shen Yun

29 Nov

Editor’s note: Falun Gong promotes Shen Yun performance using false advertisements. Many net friends all over the world express their feelings on the net of Yelp after watching the performance. They say the performance is advocating Falun Gong in the guise of traditional Chinese arts and warn people not be duped.

Mel L.
Arcadia, CA

Don’t be fooled, this is not a cultural performance, but a way for Falun Gong to “cult-ivate” new cult members…  It’s virulently anti-Chinese Communist Party, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a heavy-handed attempt to beat you over the head to get you to join their cult.  Save your time and money and find other alternatives instead.

Richard R.
Los Angeles, CA

Oh I wish I had done my homework on this one! Sadly my family and I were duped into seeing the last performance in this recent LA run so I will simply archive this comment for those to see the next time they descend upon LA.

All the previous comments are dead on accurate. Let me be clear about this, the main issue here is DECEPTION and FALSE ADVERTISING. While this show is mostly fluffy culture-light entertainment, which is what we signed up for, the reality is totally overshadowed by a clear political and religious message. I really don’t appreciate having my young children subjected to frightening and realistic scenes of torture without my knowing about it. And I really don’t appreciate being duped into giving money to a well organized political and religious organization that I frankly don’t care about one way or the other.

A quick web search will reveal reviews and comments very similar to mine. The only exceptions seem to be from news reports by NTDTV and the Epoch Times, oh and the one positive review here. And what pray-tell could these disparate entities have in common…..

Safa S.
Anaheim, CA

I have to say I was a sucker as the last 2 yelp writers. The performance website did not mention anything about Falun Gong (they claimed classical Chinese dance)… but religious conversion was the major point of this performance. I spent $80 per ticket and drove 2.5 hours in rush hour, just to watch religious propaganda. I felt so cheated and embarrassed (I brought guests with me).  They had Italian style opera, sung in Chinese about the religion (eek! methinks not!).   I want a refund!

Peter G.
Woodland Hills, CA

We went to Shun Yun at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.   It was billed as, “An unforgettable experience of classical Chinese dance and music.”

Foolishly, I expected a troupe from China to present dance and acrobatics, similar to what I’ve seen in China and elsewhere.


It turns out Shen Yun is a virulently anti- Chinese government (PRC)  Falun Gong religious revival show, whose performers are primarily from New York.

Now, I don’t know enough about Falon Gong to be for or against; and I have my own (ill-informed) opinions about the PRC; but the point is the billing is totally misleading.  We didn’t spend $150 each to be given Kool-Aid.

Following the performance we were approached by a ‘journalist’ who started by asking us our impressions and very quickly fell into defending ‘the movement’ and arguing its cause.  We explained we weren’t’ in judgment about ‘the movement’ – just its tactics … uh, like people pretending to be journalists and performances pretending to be … well, just performances.

As we left, we were approached again by another ‘journalist’, but this time we just walked on and out.

Let me Yelpify this by saying … imagine you booked a $150 prix fixe meal at Chez Vegan; and your first course was pretty ok steak tartare … ‘nuf said.

Mike M.
Sacramento, CA

Saw this show in Northern California, and it is total, utter tripe.

I’ve seen better Chinese dancing for free. Cheesy graphics. Polyester clothing. Mediocre coreography. Plus, they beat you about the head and neck for THREE HOURS with their cult-message.

Li teaches that mixed-race marriages confuse God, and that there are aliens among us. I was wondering why the woman selling nicknacks at the show we attended gave my wife and I the brush — I’m white, my wife clearly is not.

The deception in the advertising is terrible. It’s Falun Gong from the time the cheesy announcers come out until the time the curtains finally close for the last time. And it’s EXPENSIVE!

They deny it’s propaganda. They’re still wrong on that point.

noah s.
Brentwood, CA

Very disappointing. Like the most of the reviews I’ve read, I wish I had read the reviews prior to attending. Billed as Chinese dance meets cirque de soleil – this performance is mediocre at best. Unless you are want to see propaganda for the Falun Gong religion, don’t waste your time. Costumes were pretty, but dancing was extremely repetitive and the propaganda was downright childish. I will be addressing my complaints to the Music Center and requesting a refund based on faulty advertising.

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Falun Gong loses court bid for legal status

29 Nov

A Jakarta court on Monday dismissed a motion filed by the Falun Gong spiritual group against a government decree that blocked its bid to register as a legitimate organization.

The State Administrative Court (PTUN)said the case, stemming from a Ministry of Home Affairs directive issued on June 17 last year, was outside its jurisdiction.

The court, which has the authority to rule on government decrees, also said “formal requirements for the case to proceed” had not been met.

Muhammad Isnur, counsel for Falun Gong, said the PTUN’s decision was a setback for the group, which saw its registration applications in 2003 and last year rejected by the ministry.

“The judges argued that the ministry’s decree had no legal implication. This is absurd,” he said.

The decree, a copy of which was obtained by the Jakarta Globe, did not specify what requirements Falun Gong — outlawed in China over a decade ago — had failed to meet.

The ministry said it refused to recognize the group as a legal organization based on inputs from the ministries of foreign affairs, justice and religious affairs, as well as the National Police and State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

The decree also noted recommendations from the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta. Isnur said the court suggested that the group lobby for authorization from the embassy and state institutions.

“This is bizarre,” he said. “We are now discussing the verdict with Falun Gong practitioners and [will] decide whether we want to appeal.”

Gatot Machali, a Falun Gong practitioner, said the ministry decree prevented the group from holding activities freely. “Police officers have refused to grant us permission [to hold] parades or seminars, saying we are not a legitimate organization. The ministry decree is discriminatory,” he said.

Ministry officials, however, could not be immediately reached for comment. Falun Gong, founded by Li Hongzhi in 1992, draws from Buddhist and Taoist traditions, encouraging its practitioners to reach enlightenment through training, meditation and the study of its founder’s teachings.

Nyoman Suryanta, a Falun Gong member, said the group did not have an hierarchy, favoring a “fluid” setup instead. “It was the government [that] told us to become a formal entity,” Nyoman said. “We submitted all the required documents in 2003 and again in 2010, but they refused to recognize us.”

Falun Gong has been similarly stifled in China, where the Communist Party denounced it as a propaganda cult in 1999.

There are now over 100 Falun Gong communities in 15 provinces nationwide.

Bantarto Bandoro, an international relations expert from the University of Indonesia, said Falun Gong was a touchy issue for the state, due to its ties with China, an economic power.

“China has the upper hand,” he said. “Falun Gong members fleeing China are welcome in Indonesia. Recognizing Falun Gong as a legitimate entity in Indonesia is another matter.”


(Jakarta Globe, January 10, 2011)

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Doubts cast on organ harvest claims

29 Nov

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.

Shen Yun Chinese dancers at Cobb Energy Centre

14 Nov

Shen Yun Performing Art, a troupe of Chinese dancers and musicians, has been to Atlanta before, but only this time are they going for the mass market.

But a scathing opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun calls the production “creepy” and the backdrops “garish,” but mostly seems to have a problem with the show’s politics.

I haven’t seen it, but for those who’ve seen it in the past: is it as much spectacle as it the ubiquitous billboards say it is? Did the message matter more than the music and dance?


Margaret Witten ,January 15th, 2010

Dear Mr. Pousner:

I’d like to comment on your write-up of the Shen Yun dance troupe in the AJC. I haven’t seen the show this year and it may be different than last year’s show, but I doubt it. Last year, a friend gave me a couple of tickets to the show, so my girlfriend and I went. After a couple of the performance dances, and especially after the operatic numbers (sung in Chinese, with super-titles in English), we began to realize that something was going on. (Also the producers showed a great interest in video taping our reactions to the show, while they prohibited any photography of the show itself.) It became very clear by the end of the show that the event was sponsored by the Falun Gong and that the show really amounted to a propaganda campaign against the Chinese government. In fact I was under the impression that many of the people in the audience were followers of the Falun Gong and may not have paid for their tickets.

Far be it from me to defend the Communist Chinese government, but I do think we were “sold” a bill of goods. Whether or not the Chinese government is maltreating the Falun Gong, we deserved to be told that we were being entertained (and paying for the privilege, as my friend did pay $100 per ticket for the show!) for the purpose of being indoctrinated into the philosophy and the plight of the Falung Gong.

As I said, maybe the show is different this year, but last year, it was pretty clear to us that the tickets for this show were being sold under false pretenses, even if for a good cause (although I’m not sure of that given the experience). As a reporter, you have a responsibility to truly and accurately report. Sometimes you find the stories, other times the stories find you. You may be saying to yourself, “Heck, I’m the entertainment editor what do I know from politics?” But from reading your write-up (which could, to some, appear to be a review), I think you were “had” if you didn’t notice or weren’t made aware of what was going on. And I think you contribute to the deceit if you don’t do a little investigating and find out what is really going on in the Energy Center.

I note that, in a check of the AJC today, there is a reference to a negative review from a Vancouver newspaper. I am glad to see that the AJC has picked up that reference. I would hope that the AJC could do a better job, in the future, of making it clear that it was providing information without having actually seen a performance, or, in the alternative, informing the public of the true nature of a performance (when something is so political.)

Best Regards,
Dan Franklin
Margaret Witten

RJ, January 19th, 2010

Sadly, I took my wife last Friday to see this show. As others have said, it was a mediocre performance which did not approach the glowing description on the website for the Cobb Energy Centre. Yet, most unnerving was the fact that it is a propaganda machine for the Falun Gong.

We left early (at the intermission), and, as we were walking down the stairs and discussing the show, a Chinese-descent woman walking down at the same time heard me say something about a “message”. She began to beam like a moonie, smiling and staring straight at me, pacing us as we walked down the stairs. I stopped saying anything substantive, but she kept staring, making us uncomfortable, so I finally said “hello”. She then emphasized that there was, indeed, a message in all of the music– as if that shouldn’t be obvious to anyone who is not in a vegitative state. Perfect end to a perfect night.

I wrote a scathing email to the Cobb Energy Centre on Saturday asking it is the official policy of the same to mislead audiences with regard to both the substance and purpose of performances hosted there. In part I wrote:

“Irregardless of the ‘merits’ of this movement [Falun Gong], it is reprehensible that such a fine facility should act as a shill for a group officially described as a cult. At the very least, an honest declaration of the intent of the show was in order. Unfortunately, your deceptive obscuring of the true purpose of the performance shows complicity with both their motivation and methods. I am more than disappointed: I feel personally deceived.”

As yet, no response. They apparently are taking a “caveat emptor” stance, and feel they bear no personal responsibility for both hiding the purpose of the show and exaggerating the “beauty” of the spectacle to a degree that makes hyperbole look like understatement.
I’d love to see the AJC interview officials at the Cobb Energy Centre, ask them why they feel free to deceive people in this way. This is, according to their website, the third year Shen Yun has performed there. Pleading they were unaware of the content would be a difficult position to defend. At the very least, someone in the media needs to make sure no one is innocently taken in by this group again.

Northern Californian, January 20th, 2010

Like other commenters here, I felt very deceived by the way this show was advertised. This show is far more about preaching, “Falun Dafa is Good!” than about dance. The dancing was mediocre and amateurish. How many ways could this dance group rearrange itself into 5 lines, then twirl in a clockwise direction? Very monotonous.

I felt beaten about the head, neck and ears with their “message.”

The day after the show, in Sacramento, I logged on to the Shen Yun website and asked for a refund. I am certain I’ll never get a response. I deserve one.

Dozens of people walked out during our performance. The performances were ripped in a popular review site in San Francisco. And the Vancouver Sun article is clearly being sock-puppeted.

This show is a shameless rip-off of your money. The truth needs to be told. I have seen many, many better Chinese dance productions; they’re not all this bad.

Your local university will probably be hosting some Chinese New Year festivities. Go to those instead, and go to those to help wipe out the memory of Shen Yun.
WRL, February 7th, 2010

Wow. Walked away from Saturday’s Hanover Theater performance of Shen Yun feeling a bit queasy with no doubt that this was the intent of the performance. The Shen Yun troupe delivered sharply divisive political rhetoric under the guise of cultural and historical entertainment.

With an unashamed and in your face Anti Communist-China message and direct promotion of Falun Dafa, a controversial cultural and religious movement, the performance left me thinking “What just Happened?” Like many must have, I went home and Googled-up after the show to find that this was more than meets the eye.

The first half of the performance was more subtle with slight references to the highly political message. Shen Yun camera crew waited in the lobby during intermission to collect feedback from viewers who were using words like “stunning” and “awesome” to describe the colorful, athletic and graceful performance of the Shen Yun dancers.

The second half of the One-Two punch came after the intermission when dancers acted out scenes of brutal communist violence against those practicing “Dafa”.

I understand Art having shock value is effective communication, but wonder if Shen Yun’s message might be tempered by its duplicitous advertising approach, using media hype and deception to lure its audience into delivering its message.

One of the main tenants of Falun Dafa is said to be truthfulness, yet I couldn’t help feeling that the troupe was hypocritical and deceitful in their approach which was straight out propaganda.

I forked over $150 for two tickets and unknowingly made a donation to a public movement. It’s not that I’m not a charitable guy; I just like to know where my donations are going beforehand. Shame on me for not pre-Googling. I was sort of curious that if the Playbill touted the political angle and message, they might be more successful and reach more people.

Pam,March 30th, 2010

I saw this show this weekend on Saturday in Vancouver (March 2010). I really felt I had been scammed. I have had a huge interest in China, it’s history and culture for years , so this was meant to be a real treat for me. My partner and I paid $79 canadian for tickets and I was really looking forward to this, we also traveled to Vancouver, paid for a hotel room, so not a cheap weekend and meant to be really special.

To make a long story short, many of the songs, stories and dances were simply propaganda for the religion of Falun Dafa, there were only a very few pieces that were free of this message, and even those, whilst pretty enough, were not awe inspiring enough to compensate for what was clearly a scam, a money raising venture for this group. They were blatant propaganda, examples being a ‘dance’ (one of several) showing someone being killed by communist police whilst practising Falun Dafa, and being taken to heavan, atheists in one song were denounced as perverse, and the way to salvation was through this belief system. Much of the second half of this show was taken up with pretty much all propaganda for this religion, and it was about as subtle as a sledge hammer. At the end of the performance when the show cast were assembled on stage, before the lights had even come up, large numbers of the audience stood up and left the theatre, including ourselves. Those remaining started to give an ovation, my assumption was that they were adherants to this religion because there was no other reason that made sense, so many people left in disgust or perplexity.

What made me really frustrated was that I googled it (sadly too late to save myself any money) when I returned home, and found that all the reviews you can find generally come from something called the Echo Chronicle or something similar, which is sponsored by them, so only good reviews can be seen. It comes across as somewhat spooky, like a cult. Until I saw this show I had some sympathy for any group that is oppressed for what it believes, but they claim the high road and then rip people off with this show. My reason for writing is to prevent other people from being scammed by this group. I would have had no problem with this if it had been advertised fairly for what it was, I have no problem with seeing things as art or music that shock or challenge, I would happily engage in a discussion or read information about it, but this was straight forward dishonesty, selling propaganda as a wonderful, cultural experience. For anyone thinking of going, save your money, or at least go with your eyes wide open to the real agenda of this show , at least then you won’t be disapointed.

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The face of Falun Gong

14 Nov

During December I attended an international symposium concerning cultic studies in Shenzhen, China, which was sponsored by the Institute of Religious Studies of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. Academics and experts from around the world attended and presented papers.
The papers presented examined everything from the evolution of destructive cults, to the personality characteristics of certain cult members, cult social interaction and various cultic methodologies. My paper was titled “Cult Deprogramming: An examination of the intervention process.”
At the conclusion of the symposium I had the unique opportunity to personally visit with former cult members in China.
The two women I spoke with were once actively involved in Falun Gong.
Falun Gong was founded in China during 1992 by a man named Li Hongzhi, who now lives in the United States.
China officially banned Falun Gong in 1999, declaring it an “evil cult.” This view of the group was strongly reinforced by a horrific event, which took place on Chinese New Year’s eve January 23, 2001. On this date a small group consisting of seven Falun Gong practitioners set themselves on fire at Tiananmen Square.


A 12-year-old girl and her mother died. A middle aged man Wang Jindong was hospitalized with severe burns. Ms. Liu Baorong sustained no burns. At the last minute she decided not to set herself on fire. Mr. Liu Yunfang also was not injured, but as an organizer of the self-immolation was sentenced to prison. The two women I would meet, Ms. Hao Huijun and her daughter Chen Guo, were hospitalized with extreme injuries.
The story of this tragedy has been reported by the press, both in China and through Western media outlets, such as Reuters. I have read news reports and watched a video produced by “New Tang Dynasty Television” (NTDTV), which is a media outlet essentially run by Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong first denied that those involved in the suicide attempt were even practitioners.
Later Falun Gong promoted a bizarre conspiracy theory, which implied that the tragic event was somehow staged by the Chinese government in an effort to discredit the organization and its leader.
Rather than admit that its intense anti-government rhetoric may have contributed to the tragedy, Falun Gong chose instead to attempt assigning blame elsewhere. Li Hongzhi and his followers refused to accept any responsibility whatsoever.
After requesting to meet with the two women survivors I was told a meeting would be possible after the symposium.
Former Falun Gong practitioners Hao Huijun and her daughter Chen Guo live in Kaifeng, which is near the Henan provincial capital of Zhengzhou. Historically Kaifeng was the capital of China during the Song Dynasty and once the largest city in the world. Today its population is about 800,000.


The two women live modestly in a government welfare housing project. Their simple one-bedroom apartment includes a private bathroom and large common area with a kitchen. There is a bed placed near the kitchen for an attendant. The fire left them both women without hands and disabled. Their faces are obscured by extensive skin grafts, the result of multiple surgeries. They have no ears, noses or lips.  Chen Guo has the use of only one eye. But they can speak, walk and seem to be in stable physical condition.
There are no mirrors in the apartment.


When I arrived Hao Huijun bowed, unable to shake hands.


Our introductions I asked Hao Huijun about her perspective today, what she feels now looking back on the time she spent in Falun Gong. Is there a message she wants to share with current practitioners, particularly those in North America?
“I’ll take this chance to tell the Falun Gong practitioners in Canada and the US to stop practicing,” she stated bluntly. “I suggest they stop practicing Falun Gong and get rid of it,” instructed the former schoolteacher of 28 years who remains well-spoken and articulate.
Influenced by her mother’s commitment Chen Guo (photo above right in red) followed the path of Falun Gong, which ultimately led her to that terrible day at Tiananmen Square. She was a highly accomplished music student and pretty 20-year-old woman at the time of the tragedy. Early in our discussion Chen Guo left the room, explaining that she didn’t feel well.
But in a 2002 interview Chen Guo told Reuters, “I hope those who still believe in this cult can be awakened and throw it away. I don’t want to see another victim like me.”
Her mother explained, “In July 1999 the Chinese Government and the Chinese laws banned Falun Gong. As a citizen, we should have abided by the laws and given up practicing Falun Gong from then on. But we were obsessed at that time. And the suicidal burning occurred later on. We really feel regretful. We all suffered a great deal, brought about by the obsession. So tell [the North American Falun Gong practitioners] to never be obsessed…”
How could the teachings of Li Hongzhi encourage and/or result in obsessive behavior?
Describing her professional experience with Falun Gong, noted cult expert and clinical psychologist Margaret Singer said that Falun Gong practitioners will “actually say ‘Don’t Think. Just recite the Master’s teaching.'”
That is how groups called “cults” through their teachings and practices can compromise critical thinking, impair reason and rational thought. Hao Huijun appeared to understand this.
“Please pass my words to Falun Gong practitioners: They should use reason in action…if you look at things in a rational way, you will know what you should do,” she said. “Reason is important. In one’s life, one should never go to extremes whatever you do. One should use reason to learn how to do things, and have a good understanding…”
How could the practices of Falun Gong cause people to “go to extremes”?
American communication researchers and cult experts Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman explain in their book Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change:
“Almost every major cult and cult-like group we came upon teaches some form of not thinking or ‘mind control’ as part of its regular program of activity. The process may take the form of repetitive prayer, chanting, speaking in tongues, self-hypnosis or diverse methods of meditation….Such techniques, when practiced in moderation, may yield real physical and mental health benefits….Prolonged stilling of the mind, however, may wear on the brain physically until it readjusts, suddenly and sharply, to its new condition of not thinking. When that happens, we have found, the brain’s information-processing capacities may be disrupted or enter a state of complete suspension…disorientation, detachment…hallucinations, delusions and, in extreme instances, total withdrawal.”

Over the years Hao Huijun (photo below) has apparently managed to sort through her experience in Falun Gong. She hopes that current practitioners in the group will do the same.

“Falun Gong caused so many problems. Why did these problems happen? [Falun Gong practitioners] should think about it with reason, with their own senses, and in a dialectical way. When we look at things from a normal sense, without bias, and with reason, we will know what we should do,” she said.
When told about the conspiracy theories propagated by Falun Gong concerning the self-immolation tragedy at Tiananmen Square Hao Huijun responded thoughtfully, placing it within the context of her own experience within the group.
“I thought in a similar way,” she said. “But it’s time for those who are practicing Falun Gong to calm down and think reasonably…Why were we burning ourselves? It was not that the government forced us into suicide, although the rumors went so. This is not the truth.” She concluded, “Before we fully understood, we used the same arguments and same logic in regard to incidents caused by Falun Gong.”
I told Hao Huijun that I have received complaints from families in America that Falun Gong practitioners often refuse medical care and/or discontinue medications based upon their beliefs.
“They should consult a doctor and take medication,” she responded. “Tell them to see a doctor when their children fall ill. Don’t impose what you regard right on your children,” she said. “You can see the disastrous effect this caused my daughter. I really regret that now.”
The regret Hao Huijun feels must at times be overwhelming.
China has mandated a one child per family policy, which means that Chen Guo is her only child.
Hao Huijun’s regret includes living every day with her daughter and seeing the results of that past obsession with Falun Gong. Despite the reclamation of her reason, there is nothing she can do to change the face of this reality. An awful burden, but one that she seems to accept.
Still wanting to fulfill her role as a teacher Hao Huijun hopes that others might benefit by learning from her Falun Gong experience. She wants to share the knowledge that she and Chen Guo have acquired so painfully.

 text from:

Shen Yun Performing Arts

14 Nov

The Shen Yun Performing Arts show is a series of Chinese dances and performances, strung together with a common theme: “Falun Dafa is Good”.

Before I begin, I think it is only fair that readers know I was not keen on going to see a Chinese drama/ballet. My mother was in town for a few weeks, and did a major impulse purchase, buying tickets for all of us to go see a “Chinese ballet”. I was not happy and was in a very bad mood, so it is entirely possible that the negative reviews were slightly tinted by my negative mood.

The show is made up of segments. There were dance segments, some of which were very beautiful; there were short skits; historical narrations; and solo vocal performances. Having been to a couple of other Chinese shows, I was expecting a mind-blowing performance. Chinese acrobatics have always been spectacular, frankly I went in with high expectations.

The dances were good. Groups of women dressed in beautiful garments did their routines very evenly. The costumes were very well made, the fabric flowed perfectly to the music. Some routines had props like feathered fans and silk handkerchiefs. While the technical aspect of the routines seemed spot on, they just felt a bit empty to me. Almost like they were merely performing a routine, they did not put their hearts and souls into it.

The historical narrations and short skits revolved mostly around China’s history, but heavily influenced with something that resembled “hatred” for communism. Earlier in the show, the narrations were mostly historical, but slowly, I felt like I had entered a brainwashing session for Falun Dafa followers. The short skits started portraying Falun Dafa followers and how they were beaten and oppressed. Some of the skits were quite dark — a mother being beaten, a child being taken away, a man being kicked and beaten to the ground. I have no doubts that events like these actually happened, but I felt like a theater was not exactly the venue to re-enact it all. I also felt like I had been tricked. No where on the website does it mention Falun Dafa, all it says is it is Chinese Dance and Music.

After the intermission, most of the acts had something to do with Falun Dafa. One of them even had a man running around with a sign that read “Falun Dafa is good”. The backdrop, which was a digital screen, would have something to do with Falun Dafa. No offense to Dafa followers, but I did not just pay almost $100.00 to see your propaganda on how you were oppressed and how it is good. If I wanted to learn more about it, all I had to do was drive down Granville Street.

As for the digital backdrop. One word to describe it: Cheesy. There were scenes where monks and Chinese fairies would fly off into the distance, or fly into the foreground, and suddenly, a performer dressed in exactly the same costume as the digital image would appear. It took a lot for me to not burst out in laughter (I did not want to offend anybody or get thrown out of the theater).

Finally, there were the hosts. A man and a woman appeared between sets to introduce certain scenes or segments. Their delivery was flawless, but almost too flawless. Similar to the dancers, they knew their lines, they knew what to do, but it was all so rehearsed. It just came across as being so fake. I do think that Chinese drama is somewhat overdramatized on purpose, but regardless, it was not my cup of tea. My bad mood had turned into a headache.

By the end of the show, when the mother was reunited with her daughter after being beaten then rescued by the monks and fairies, I was ready to leave. The man with the “Falun Dafa is Good” sign was back. I have nothing against the Falun Dafa, I just did not appreciate how they used a show as a cover for their propaganda. I went in thinking I was going to see a show filled with beautiful Chinese music and dance, not a show that was trying to brainwash me into believing that Dafa was good.

I do not recommend this show to anybody, really, unless you are a follower of Dafa or are highly interested in it.