Archive | Public Opinion RSS feed for this section

Qigong chop suey: my personal opinion of Falun Gong

19 Nov

In Li Hongzhi’s A Brief Statement of Mine, he says, “Falun Gong is simply a popular qigong activity.” ( The exercises and meditations he recommends are, in my opinion, good qigong. However, the philosophy of Falun Gong is a mish-mosh of bizarre beliefs about Buddhism, Taoism, and UFOs. However, the scholar in me cringes when I read the Falun Gong materials or when Western media assumes that Falun Gong is representative of Buddhist or Taoist philosophy. Falun Gong is neither Buddhist nor Taoist; it is the personal philosophy of Li Hongzhi blended with messianic and millennial beliefs. I have outlined below several of the most serious errors in Falun Gong philosophy by offering personal commentary.

Automatic Spirituality. Li claims “the falun is constantly rotating, putting the practitioner in the state of cultivation for 24 hours a day. Of all the qigong or cultivation systems known to the public, Falun Dafa is the first and only one that solves the conflicting time requirements for practicing and work or study.” (Brief Introduction of Falun Dafa This is a grandiose claim sure to attract followers. Are the cures attributed to Falun Gong a massive placebo effect, the power of expectant trust? I would like to see how long-term followers react to a Beijing traffic jam or how American followers meditate on Tax Day.

Commentary: Spiritual cultivation is like cultivating a field; you must water and nurture it every day. Qigong requires patience and perseverance. There are no short-cuts.

Not An Earth-Friendly Religion. In Degeneration of Mankind and Appearance of Enlightened Beings (, Li explains a new theory of evolution, actually devolution. “Man did not come from the evolution of the ape as Darwin suggested.” Instead, “Man has fallen down from different spaces of the universe.” When he does not follow the cosmic laws of a space, he falls down to a lower plane. “To put it in another way, the Earth is a rubbish center of the universe…The bad people of the universe fall down until they have reached the very center of the universe–the Earth.” He continues that the high God does not care about people. He is too far removed from them, regarding human beings as “no better than micro-organisms.” If a high God found this “rotten place” (the earth), he would destroy it. Thus we must be saved by a being closer to our plane of existence, a Buddha, Jesus, or Lao Zi–or perhaps Li Hongzhi?

The fact that life is transient (impermanent, anicca, in Buddhist terms) is all the more reason to pay attention and not miss its passing beauty. The earth is a beautiful place. Wang Wei, Tao Yuan Ming, and other great poets of China would be ashamed of you, Mr. Li.

Delusions of Grandeur? Did Li Hongzhi change his birthday to coincide with the birthday of the Buddha? Li claims that during the Cultural Revolution, his birthday had been misprinted and he only corrected the mistake. The fact that the Buddha was born on the same day is allegedly a coincidence. However, I wonder about the implications of his essay The Buddha Fa and Buddhism. After discussing the common Buddhist belief in Maitreya, the future Buddha, Li states, “At present, I have once again come to this world to teach the Fa [Dharma], and to directly teach the fundamental law of the universe.”

We are all Bozos on the bus. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. All beings have the Buddha nature, that is all are products of the same natural forces of the universe and are equally capable of enlightening an observant student.

Alien Invasion. Li’s belief in other dimensions and “spaces” is evidently more than metaphorical. He told Time Magazine’s William Dowell that aliens arrived on earth around 1900. Some look like humans; others resemble ghosts. They intend to replace all humans with clones. “In terms of culture and spirit, they already control men.” Even the inspiration of scientists is “manipulated by aliens.”

I better not reply. If I am an alien, my words will be suspect. But how do I know that Li Hongzhi is not an alien? No mention of aliens in Buddhism, Taoism, or Qigong.

Gimme that old time religion. Li Hongzhi goes out of his way to criticize Zen Buddhism. He says that Zen “doesn’t qualify as a cultivation system.” (Zen Sect has gone to Extremes He complains that the founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma, was “unable to save others.” An odd statement, since the Buddha was emphatic about his own inability to save others. His dying words were, “Work out your own salvation through diligent practice.” As an additional indication of the Zen heresy, Li claims that Zen Buddhists worship Bodhidharma. Praise and respect Bodhidharma, yes; I have yet to meet a Zen Buddhist who worships him. They don’t even worship the Buddha! Li seems especially frustrated by the Zen concept of nothingness or emptiness (kong, xu, or wu in Chinese, sunyata in Sanskrit): “they even deny the existence of man…They even dare not accept what they have seen.”

Zen is a system of meditation inspired by both Taoism and Buddhism. Instead of worshipping the Buddha, Zen Buddhists seek what the Buddha sought, enlightened awareness. The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, taught that suffering, dukkha, is caused by grasping, tanha. We want what we don’t have and reject what we do have. Only by emptying the mind of self-centeredness can suffering cease. Emptiness also means that nothing exists in and of itself; subject and object exist in relationship (in Buddhist technical jargon this is called co-dependent origination). Emptiness is not the denial of the senses, it is rather ceasing to confuse our concepts about life with that which words describe. It means experiencing the world silently, quietly, without a filter of preconception or belief system.

Emptiness is considered the goal of qigong practice. According to a fundamental tenet of qigong, “Cultivate your bodily energy (jing), then your mind (qi), and finally your spirit (shen). When you cultivate your spirit you will reach emptiness (xu). In the empty state you realize the Tao.” The Taijiquan Classics begin, “Taiji is born of Emptiness.”

Conventional Medicine, Complementary Medicine, and ULTIMATE Medicine. In China Falun Gong, Li states, “If a practitioner takes medicine, it means that he does not believe his disease can be cured through practice…” A true practitioner is “supernormal” and “the diseases an ordinary person suffers from are not allowed to attack him.” (p. 138) Odd that the Buddha may have died from bad pork, esteemed Buddhist Master Suzuki Roshi from cancer, and so many other holy men and women from various human ailments. If only life were so simple, if only goodness and wisdom ensured physical health. But microbes just don’t obey the rules! As Lao Zi said, “Heaven and Earth are not benevolent.”

I am not denying that Falun Gong can be good medicine. Like other qigong systems, scientific studies suggest that it may have positive effects on cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and other ailments. However, one of the largest studies of Falun Gong also states “only when those practitioners upgraded their Xingxing (mind nature and moral level) unceasingly, could the effects be remarkable.” (The Effect of Falun Gong on Healing Illnesses and Keeping Fit…, October 18, 1998 reports/Survey2new.html)

This suggests a strong placebo effect. The study is also suspect because it only surveyed practitioners–no non-believing “controls” for comparison–and was conducted by a Falun Gong association (FalunGong Zizhuyuan Assistance Center, Beijing). If an organization has a vested financial or personal interest in finding a positive result, it almost always will. This is why western scientific protocol requires that research be judged by independent and, hopefully, impartial referees.

Qigong is complementary medicine and is a powerful adjunct to necessary medical intervention. It is now taught in several U.S.medical schools. I have more physicians in my own teacher training program than people of any other profession. Physicians are willing to study qigong because qigong does not claim to cure all diseases. Qigong is an excellent system of patient education. The more a student practices, the more he or she gains control over those aspects of health that can be controlled. Sometimes genes are stronger than qigong. People get sick in spite of qigong or any other therapy, but qigong gives the patient a better fighting chance.

Kenneth S. Cohen, M.A., M.S.Th. is an internationally renowned health educator, Qigong instructor, and China scholar. He is the author of “The Way of Qigong: the Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing” (Ballantine Books), “Taoism: Essential Teachings” (Sounds True), and more than 150 journal articles. His lectures have been sponsored by the Association of Asian Research Scholars, Zen Mountain Monastery, the Canadian Ministry of Culture, and many universities. He is executive director of the Qigong Research and Practice Center

Original text from:


Falun Gong: The face of Chinese opposition or a Chinese scientology?

18 Oct

Falun Gong is one of the largest groups of Chinese facing persecution from the Chinese government. Because of the brutalities suffered by its members in China at the hands of the Chinese government, and because its unique role as a religious opposition group, it has enjoyed a great deal of positive press in the west. This in turn earned them a lot of good will among the western audience. In some sense, they have become the face of Chinese opposition in the eyes of Americans.

But are they?

There had always been some sort of rudimentary mysticism component of Chinese culture throughout its history. But for the most part it’s not different from other forms of superstition, perhaps just a little more “mysterious.” The Star Wars “may the Force be with you” really distilled it and westernized it. Although George Lucas did a good job of translating it as “the force”, the Chinese concept is really “Qi”, which means “air” or “gas”. But it is indeed that mysterious mechanism with which you affect things supernaturally. Interestingly, the era of the Star Wars, the late 1970’s, was also the beginning of the Qi Qong fever in China.

At the same time in the late 70’s and early 80’s, there was also a blind reverence of anything to do with science and technology. But the population was largely ignorant of real science. So the combination of ignorance, the belief that anything “scientific”is good, and the tradition of oriental mysticism, led to some very bizarre popular practices. In succession, we went through waves of injecting chicken blood, drinking red fungus tea, exercise of swinging arms, and finally “Qi Gong.” Each wave swept through the whole China like a craze, with everyone doing it – our family didn’t escape it either. Imagine that at one time every family in Beijing had a jar of red fungus for drinking. It was all through person-to-person network. We got the red fungus from our neighbor. The foreigners would never learn about this.

Remember here in the US we had the stock market bubble, followed by the housing bubble? This episode from late 70’s to early 80’s in China was quite similar and can be thought of as a “superstition bubble.” Each new superstition that replaced the old one was a little more sophiscated, and swept over more people, and at the same time went a little crazier. Qi Qong was the last wave, and Falun Gong was the apex of the Qi Gong wave, and craziest of them all.

Falun Gong actually came quite late on the scene. There were already many very influential Qi Gong masters with millions of followers when Falun Gong was started. In order to grab more followers, and beat out the competitors, Falun Gong had to go quite a bit further in their practices. Most Qi Gong masters only claimed health benefits, but Falun Gong talked about the salvation of the soul. So it got much closer to a religion than the other Qi Gong cults. It also employed more aggressive recruiting and propaganda tactics. Although almost all Qi Gong masters relied on some degree of deception to convince people to believe in their magical powers, Falun Gong’s propaganda practices reached the level of outright fraud. For example, in order to claim that he is the re-incarnation of Buddha Shakyamuni, the founder Li Hongzhi changed his birthday from July 27, 1952 to May 13, 1951 (the day that Buddha Shakyamuni was born). In recruiting new members, they relied heavily on “insiders” (firm believers who are willing to lie to convince potential new believers). One type of insiders were recovering cancer patients. They started to practice Falun Gong after surgery and chemotherapy to help recovery. But once they joined, they almost always told people that they were cured by Falun Gong, not medical treatment. Another type of insiders were former engineers. One famous case was a retired engineer Jing Zhanyi. He went to university campuses to recruit students and teachers. He told them that his soul was able to leave his body and examine machine parts that were unreachable by any detection equipment. This allowed him to make new inventions and got huge bonuses. These were not merely lies in order to convert believers. They collected steep membership dues, so these lies were the tools for them to get to people’s money. The founder Li Hongzhi is said to have made millions from donations of his followers.

But the damage was not limited to members’ purses. Members were told that they were protected by Falun Zhao and needed not to seek medical help when sick. One university student was said to have refused eating and drinking because he was practicing Falun Gong. When his life was in danger, he was rushed to the hospital for treatment. But after he got out, he did it again and had to be sent to the hospital again. This was repeated until the university intervened and forced him to give up the Falun Gong.

Another big problem with Falun Gong is that it spreads the message of hate in the name of religion. It teaches that homosexuality is abnormal and gays are evil. It brainwashes people into hating gay people. It did not change this stance even after it was driven out of China and had to survive among the “liberal” population of California and New York. Here is a letter to the editor on SF News Sentinel in 2006:

My name is Samuel Luo and my parents are both Falun Gong practitioners who have been hurt and exploited by this cult. Among the many harms done to them, I have been seriously concerned that they have refused needed medical treatment. In 2002, my step-father initially refused help when he had a stroke and he has suffered painful gout attacks unnecessarily for five years. He did so because he was being brainwashed into believing that Li Hongzhi, the founder and leader of this cult has the power to cure illnesses and taking medicine is counter productive.

The Falun Gong is also extremely homophobic. Li teaches that homosexuality is not the standard of being human, the priority of Gods will be to eliminate homosexuals and that gays are demonic in nature. These teachings are honored by all Falun Gong practitioners. Recently when I confronted my mother with these teachings she said that the elimination of gays is already happening. When I wanted her to give specific examples she said that all the natural disasters that happened recently are directed at corrupt people, gays included.

In my efforts to warn the public about the harmful and cultish nature of Falun Gong, my free speech was suppressed. Last year when the International Cultic Studies Association organized a program on the Falun Gong in which I was one of the presenters, the Falun Gong threatened the organization with a lawsuit and successfully suppressed our freedom of speech.

The Falun Gong is preying on the residents of this city I just want people to know that the Falun Gong is not what they claim to be.

The trigger for the Chinese government crackdown was when two scholars published an article on a newspaper in Tianjin criticizing Falun Gong as superstition. Falun Gong followers gathered at the city government demanding that the newspaper retracts the article. I don’t know what led to violence there. Falun Gong claimed that they were beaten. Evidently they couldn’t get it resolved in Tianjin so Falun Gong leaders called for a protest in Beijing. Then came the crackdown.

Their practice of deception and lie was moderated quite a bit after coming to the US. However, the lies are still quite plain (and sometimes bizarre) for people who can think for themselves. For example, since 2004 Falun Gong started a campaign asking Chinese Communist Party members to resign their party membership. The progress of this campaign is tracked by their website. As of today, they report that a total of 94,982,725 people have resigned their CCP membership. That’s nearly 95 million people. The actual total membership of CCP since 2003 is:

2003    67 million
2004    68 million
2005    69 million
2006    71 million
2007    72 million
2008    74 million
2009    76 million
2011    80 million

Now we all want to see CCP membership go down. But we cannot substitute fantasy for reality. Where is any indication of the 95 million people who resigned from the CCP?

Falun Gong is a group of hate-mongering, anti-science, money-grabbing, lie-spreading fraudsters. They are the Chinese version of scientology. If we mistake them for a force representing China’s hope for democracy, then we will simply lose our credibility in the minds of Chinese people.

text from:

I hope none of my friends will turn to this cult

3 Jul

I refer to 2 sources before I want to make any stands.
I believe some of you may have heard of Falun gong or Falun Dafa. I saw these people like asking for donations or awareness of some humanitarian problem against the Falun gong people who practice it. Ok let me be fair. I believe china, treating these Falun gong people, is unfair, because they torture, kope organs etc. But let me make this clear: Falun gong is not a religious or spiritual ting: it’s more of a cult.
It’s this guy called Li Hongzhi who started it. He sort of make himself the main boss of this Falun gong thing. And it becomes a cult cos all those believing Falun gong muz duno some places chant his name blah blah. This Li Hongzhi guy believes the world is evil, and preach it, and only by following his Falun gong thing then u can u noe, achieve some sort of a spiritual ting. And you must do something weird one. And the teachings also like weird weir.
“The last of the 13 ”Basic Requirements and Points of Attention for Practicing Falun Gong” contain some eerie words from Li: ”If you are interfered with by some terrifying scenes or feel threatened, just say to yourself: I am protected by my Master (??? I am protected by a human who is not beside me??). I am not afraid of anything. You may chant the name of Master Li, and continue with your practice.” Although the statement is intended to reassure Falun Gong practitioners of Master Li’s protection while they practice his prescribed exercises, they reveal two realities about Li and his spiritual disciplines. First, contact with spirit beings (i.e., demons) is a real possibility when one engages in Li’s exercises….
aiyo. I don’t want to say too much lar. Later people come after me. But anw Falun gong is banned in Singapore too, because it is cult. It is this guy trying to make people believe in him, but in the end they may turn demonic, satanic. I hope none of my friends will turn to this cult. Seriously. 

(, October 17, 2008)

text from:

Psychological and psychiatric analysis of the dogma and therapeutic

3 Jul

V.K. Spiridonov, psychiatrist,
candidate of medical science,
doctor of higher category
The tasks of the given research are in the extremely difficult and controversial field of the influence of creed and activity, connected with it over the psyche and psychological state of a person. The research is grounded on the proved methodology of the clinical data, objective professional estimation of the dogma and ‘recovery’ practice of the religious organization ‘Falun Gong’ (a religious association of Li Hongzhi’s followers) and is limited to purely professional psychological and psychiatric problems.
Up to now no special research has been held in our country to study the prevalence of mental disorders among the representatives of different religions and cause-and-effect relations between these disorders and religious practice, ‘Falun Dafa’, in particular. The patient’s creed is not fixed in his medical history and doesn’t belong to the facts, necessary for the description of the patient’s life and decease, that is why health authorities don’t possess such information.
The religious organization ‘Falun Gong’ dogma is called ‘Falun Dafa’ – ‘The Great Law Falun’. The same name has the system of psychophysiological exercises and trainings, practised in this cult. “The Falun Dafa’ system consists of the dogma, described in the basic book ‘Zhuan Falun’ by Guru Li Hongzhi and five complexes of exercises, known as Falun Gong. It gives practical recommendations how we can improve ourselves in accordance with the Universal Law ‘Truth, Compassion, Forbearance’. It has two constituent parts: self-perfection through studying the verities set forth by Guru Li and doing five smooth exercises. The exercises also include meditation …“- one can read in the Instructions on the ‘Falun Gong’ practice. Searches and experiments with the employment of the meditative techniques of trance states, in the course of which a person, as a rule, trusts in the experts- impostors, often result in strongly marked psyche overload. More than 70% of those, who had tried meditation, admitted that after it they experienced psychological problems and hallucinations. In their turn, the doctrinal sources of the organization don’t conceal the fact that it is the human souls that make the object of influence. “Movements of the body are additional means to achieve complete perfection in self-perfecting“.
From the medical point of view, the exercises, based on physical (static and dynamic) and neuropsychic overload ensure cerebration overload which can cause physiological equilibrium deterioration, insomnia, distraction and psychosis development. Focusing on subconscious side of individuality and its hidden instincts, the ‘Falun Gong’ leaders strongly interfere in their followers’ psyche. In the end this causes changes of conscience, deterioration of reality and not only one’s own ego perception and understanding but of the surrounding world as well, lowering of pliability in social interaction and appearance of strongly pronounced social disadaptation marks.
The ‘Falun Gong’ disciples show unhealthy dependence on the group and the leaders, loss of independence, inability to establish emotional bonds with people, who are not members of the organization, contempt towards them, distrust to rational scientific mentality, formation of irrational attitude towards themselves and others.  Under the conditions of a difficult psychologically traumatic situation these people can suffer psychogenic disorders. Earlier mentally sane persons can suffer reactive psychosis and those, who already have different mental disorders – psychogenic ‘depositions’, at this. Because of the psychological trauma clinical presentation  of the  main mental disease of some mentally insane patients becomes considerably more confused, reactive state symptoms and syndromes coming into the picture. At latent, sluggishly progressing disorders (in particular, schizophrenia, epilepsy, etc.) patents can preserve social adaptation long enough.
All abovementioned changes of individuality make it impossible for the ‘Falun Gong’ followers to holistically and critically consider their mental state, characterized by the loss of possibility of one’s own declaration of will, including religious freedom. The ‘Falun Gong’ followers demonstrate personal characteristics transformation with value reorientation, appearance of strong stereotyped perception, changes in behaviour with monotonous and narrow-aimed activity prevalence, suggestibility in relation to a narrow group of people and ideas.
The ‘Falun Gong’ disciples declare: “… the reason of such large-scale  involvement and popularity is in great recovery effect of the practice by this system. Falun Dafa doesn’t treat illnesses but  it lustrates the body of those, engaged in self-perfecting”. To involve people into its ranks the ‘Falun Gong’ organization actively promises immediate recovery, absolute health and various outstanding and supernatural abilities. Manipulating people’s conscience, the ‘Falun Gong’ leaders write in the newspaper ‘Falun Dafa in the World’ (issue 16): “There were 10475 of the Disciples, who suffered from more than one disease. After 2 – 3 months up to 2 – 3 years of the Falun Gong practice their state of health greatly improved. The general amount of the recovered came to 77,5% + 20,4% of those, whose state of health changed for the better. Recovery and health-improvement effect made 97,9%“.
In fact, we know from the ‘Falun Gong’ practice in China, that more than 1400 people died after they refused medical assistance and medical treatment, following Li Hongshi’s admonition, saying, that “to cure a person  means to destroy the principle of the Universe, allow him to do evil“. More than 300 ‘Falun Gong’ followers committed suicides “to rapture to heaven”, seven persons jointly sacrificed their lives in Tiananmen square (Beijing), 20 persons were injured or killed by other ‘Falun Gong’ followers (2002 data).
Thus, even brief analysis of the ‘Falun Gong’ activity gives solid grounds to believe that considerable quantity of suicides and crimes of violence, described in the mass media, is directly connected with the exercising  the ‘Falun Dafa’ provisions by these people.
On the ground of the above-said, we can draw a number of conclusions:
The ‘Falun Gong’ dogma includes a lot of statements, which can be harmful for psyche and psychological state of the ‘Falun Gong’ organization members.
Psychophysiological exercises and trainings of the ‘Falun Gong’ practice, based on physical (static and dynamic) and neuropsychic overload ensure cerebration overload which can cause physiological equilibrium deterioration, insomnia, distraction, psychosis development, neurotization and depressive states.
The ‘Falun Gong’ dogma is based on mind control techniques, which makes convincing  and consistent psychiatric basis to assess its destructive activity. Separate individuals as well as the society in whole can change moral values under its influence. Mental health of the nation can also be harmed.

 text from:

Retorting upon the employee from Epoch Times

3 Jul

Editor’s note: These are some comments about the article Falun Gong – harmless exercise fanatics or weird cult. An employee from Epoch Times raised an objection to the article, the author Udo Schuklenk and a student from Canada Ayesha retorted upon him. said…

I find this to be misrepresentative and misquoting the Falun Dafa. Words to this affect are also mentioned in the teachings: there are many men with female primordial spirits, and many women with male primordial spirits. So that in essence is what yin and yang is about, we are both male and female, some of us you see. So how could that be anything but equality for men and women! I am quite surprised that a professor could be so naive to put it mildly because many professors and academics study Falun Gong! I think it takes time to understand these teachings and to see their full breadth – read through everything because the teachings are vast.

August 19, 2010

Udo Schuklenk’s Ethx Blog said…

lol, nothing in your comment suggests a misrepresentation or misquotation. Then you suggest that we (i.e. my colleague and i) are ‘naive’ because other professors and academics study the cult’s rantings. I do note that your feeble attempt at addressing our concerns is to ignore anything at all cited w/ re to racism and homophobia. Are you conceding those points?

ps, having visited your site, I note that you’re a employee of Falun Gong’s propaganda outlet Epoch Times. Not exactly just an interested bystander, are we?

August 20, 2010

Ayesha said…

I always find it interesting when the proponents of a religion or cult attempt to defend the oppressive teachings of their religions by saying that they are misunderstood or taken out of context. I read the blog post and also the materials from the website owned by the Falun Gong. I see no evidence of out of context quotation.. rather, the questions and answers are verbatim.. How is that out of context? What is missing here?

The “teacher” makes appeals to heavens and Gods to make assertions that do not logically follow. There are circular references and stories that are completely inconsistent. Some of the sentences seem only to be a combination of strong and complex words that mean nothing. There is no profound lesson being missed here,, you may want to take specific points if you wish to defend them and show how they are being taken out of context. What does it mean for women to be subservient, gentle and quiet for them to be true to who they are or who they are supposed to be.. and please tell me what is wrong with stronger women? or by comparison, weaker men… what defines weakness in a man and what defines strength in a woman? if strength means that one cannot be oppressed, told what to do, or easily manipulated then can you not see why the notion of weak woman is so attractive? why a compassionate and gentle, caring man would be classified as weak?

What is this about a separate heaven for all races? we are not sure about the existence of one heaven and here the teacher speaks of many heavens.. what kind of a God would create such distinction? I don’t think i like that God very much… and why would God forget the black race.. please do enlighten us readers here how we are misunderstanding the teachings of this so-called religion. Just because words like “cultivation” of truthfulness, benevolence, and forbearance are being used does not mean that the teachings are consistent with attaining the said goals or that the teachings are consistent with these goals.
The teachings of this particular cult are obviously dangerous.. they promote racial distinction not unity based on common humanity, they promote dispartiy between sexes offering privilige to one sex over the other and they are homophobic without reason and oppressive to those who are not yellow, male or straight…..
I am sorry about the rant but inhumane teachings of religions bug me to no end… and unfortunately, I find that each religion promotes some version of the same racism, sexism and intolerance towards homosexual population… it is not taken out of context, it is being seen for what it is and the fear of hell or God is no longer a way to continue oppression of the vulnerable or marginalized populations… if the teachings were humane, it would be obvious.. there is no mistaking humanity.. just like there is no mistaking brutality…
Would you like to be a “mixed” child in a world where religions like these reign? would you like to be a homosexual or a woman?

August 23, 2010


Original text from:


My problem with Falun Gong

3 Jul

Astute readers of our site, or others gifted with vision, will have noticed that I made a post about a certain cult recently that was not well received. Before we get to the meat, I need to come clean about something: I recently got access to uncensored internet and couldn’t find any FLG ads on the GIFC website. The Washington Post article I was working off said that there were ads on their software download page, which I found concerning, but I don’t see any advertisements, FLG-related or otherwise, when I visit their site myself. A rare WaPo error, or am I missing something here?
In any event, as a direct result of that post I’ve been conducting an extensive discussion with commenter J. Zhang via email about FLG in general. He, and others, have suggested that I am biased against FLG. In a way, this is true, although “bias” suggests prejudice without reason, and I do have my reasons. Since we’ve already attracted some of the faithful and people seem to be interested in talking about it, I thought I would rehash a little bit of our discussion here.

For the record — and please feel free to ignore this part when you’re accusing me of being a callous jerk and/or 五毛党 in the comments — I am not a supporter of the way the Chinese government has persecuted FLG members. I would love to see more evidence for any of the claims made on either side, but regardless, it seems fairly clear that terrible things are happening and have happened.

However, I don’t see that as being particularly related to FLG. Granted, they’re the biggest group that’s aroused this level of ire, but the government deals with dissidents, petitioners, and protesters of all sorts in similar ways. FLG members are hardly the only people who’ve been tortured and killed in the hands of the CCP over the past decade. High-profile dissidents like Liu Xiaobo and Tan Zuoren get lengthy prison terms, but the fate of the less-well-known can be decidedly worse. The persecution of FLG is perhaps more centralized and organized, but that doesn’t make it more widespread, nor does it make it more evil. The persecution of FLG is a symptom, not the disease, and there are other symptoms that are equally important. What the “disease” is is something impossible to answer fully in the scope of a short blog post, but in brief, it is lack of government oversight and lack of the rule of law.

But my problems with the Falun Gong start closer to home. Though proponents allege that there is “no organization” and “no leader”, there is an official website1, and the writings on that website come almost entirely from the group’s founder and the origin of their beliefs, Li Hongzhi. These writings, along with Li’s lectures, make it clear that the religion/cult has ties to a number of media organizations, such as the Epoch Times, which Li himself visited to give a lecture last year.

Ostensibly, the Epoch Times is an independent organization that strives to “present a diversity of opinions”. In reality, they are widely-known among China watchers as an FLG publication that frequently advocates FLG-friendly policies. Chief among these, and omnipresent in nearly everything created by FLG-affiliated groups, is the drive to get Chinese people to quit the Communist Party. In fact, Epoch Times staff members — operating in their official capacities — have held press conferences and rallies promoting the Nine Commentaries and denouncing the CCP. Yet there is no admission of any connection to FLG or to their advancing a specific political agenda anywhere on their website or in their newspaper.

In the case of the Epoch Times, this may not matter (everyone already knows who writes it), but this kind of bait-and-switch unethical presentation is typical of FLG-affiliated outreach efforts. Just take, for example, one of their recent cultural shows, billed as a celebration of Chinese New Year that was kid-friendly. According to the New York Times, horrified audience members, many of whom had paid exorbitant ticket prices, discovered a few performances into the act that the whole thing was a agitprop piece that contained violent scenes of prison abuse. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, walked out of Radio City Music Hall in the middle of the show.

I find this lack of transparency bizarre and concerning. I have no problem with FLG advancing a political or religious agenda, but they should not try to cloak it as traditional media or apolitical entertainment. This is dishonest and off-putting.

My bigger problem with FLG, though, is the anti-CCP political agenda they advance. Make no mistake, I am not pro-CCP; however, everything I’ve read from FLG is woefully unclear as to what, exactly, they want the CCP to be replaced with. This strikes me as a rather important detail. Chinese historians will recall that the corrupt Qing dynasty was overthrown in the early twentieth century only to be replaced by a government that was, for all intents and purposes, just as bad (if not worse2 ).

An excerpt from my most recent email to J. Zhang:
I think [FLG’s] approach of trying to destroy the CCP is completely useless until there is something better with which to replace it. Regardless of their treatment of dissenters, I think life under the CCP is preferable to life under warlordism again, so the CCP needs to be either (a) reformed from within or (b) overthrown by some group so exceedingly powerful that it can quickly take control of the entire country to prevent a disastrous transition period. Everything I’ve seen from FLG (which granted isn’t everything they’ve written) is pretty vague on what exactly they want to happen after the CCP falls, and I think it’s pretty naive to assume that the next regime would be any better. The problem isn’t the CCP, really — I suspect any party in a one-party state is likely to commit similar abuses, especially with no real rule of law or oversight.

And while I would love to see those who have abused power be out of it, that needs to happen under the right conditions. Given what happened after the fall of the Qing dynasty (and the geographic distribution of weapons and power in the Chinese military now) it’s not hard to imagine what could happen if the CCP were to be felled by a civil war or a coup…

In short: CCP policies have been a disaster for FLG members. But if the CCP disappeared tomorrow, that would probably be a disaster for EVERYONE in China, [FLG members included].

Anyway, I have probably ranted long enough. Readers! Begin assaulting my reasoning, character, and whatever else you can sink your claws into in 3…2…1!

About the author



Charles Custer is American, born and raised in New England. In college, he studied China quite extensively. His major was East Asian Studies with a focus on China, and during his time there he set departmental records for the most courses taken in-department, etc. Now he is teaching English in Harbin, as well as pursuing some other side projects. The blog is one of them; he is also an underground hip-hop artist with three albums under his belt, currently working on his fourth and firth.

(, May 19, 2010)

text from:

Shen Yun sparkles, despite unexpected agenda

3 Jul

Audiences might get more than they bargained for in a show by Shen Yun Performing Arts, now at the Civic Opera House in Chicago through Sunday, April 24.
The New York-based nonprofit organization has three companies touring the world, each dedicated to preserving and presenting aspects of classical Chinese dance and culture via lavishly costumed revues. Hence the many geometrically sparkly sequences celebrating ethnic folk dances or humorous story vignettes drawn from Chinese legends and literature in a Shen Yun performance.
But mixed in with all the cheerily choreographed numbers are a few pantomimed numbers that are highly critical of China’s internationally condemned record on religious freedom and human rights. These protest numbers, along with operatically sung Chinese songs filled with religiously tinged lyrics, quickly make it apparent that Shen Yun also uses its performing arts platform to preach on behalf of followers of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong).
This explains why Shen Yun Performing Arts has been denounced by Communist Chinese officials. It’s also no surprise that Shen Yun has been barred from performing in China (a scheduled 2010 performance in the more autonomous Hong Kong was canceled at the last minute).
Now, any patriotic American who prizes Constitutional principles surrounding freedom of religion will surely be on the side of Shen Yun to advocate for spiritual freedom in China via its highly polished performances.
But these protest numbers (invariably showing persecuted or murdered Falun Dafa followers ascending to become spiritual martyrs on the projected video backdrop) come off as jarring in the context of all the sunnier sequences. Even worse on an artistic level, they feature subpar choreography not up to the standards of the other dance sequences.
These wordless protest numbers are also melodramatically simplistic (which could do with Shen Yun’s need to easily advocate to an international audience). But these brief numbers are so basic with their morality that they unfortunately bring to mind the infamous model operas and ballets of China’s Cultural Revolution (just mentally replace the spiritual Falun Dafa book in the sequences with a little red book written by the late Chairman Mao Zedong and you’ll be unsettled by the parallels in dramatic presentation).
Linking all the numbers together are two narrators, Kelly Wen and Jared Madsen, who provide commentary in both English and Mandarin Chinese. Sometimes you wish they could deliver more cultural context to the dance sequences, while other times you wish they didn’t attempt any humor in their banter.
But aside from these quibbles about foisted religiosity and strained humorous narration, Shen Yun Performing Arts does put on quite an impressive spectacle when it sticks to the elaborately choreographed classical Chinese dance numbers. And befitting the opera house setting, Shen Yun also features classically trained singers (soprano Haolan Geng particularly stood out) with grand piano accompaniment.
The blended live orchestra featuring Asian and European instruments is definitely a luxury. It’s also very symbolic of how Shen Yun Performing Arts is reaching out to a global audience to advocate on its behalf for religious freedom. My only wish is that Shen Yun would be more upfront in its advertising about its unabashed proselytizing amid all the dazzling dance performances.

 text from: