Falun Gong

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Falun Gong / Falun Dafa
Chinese: 法輪功 / 法輪大法
Related organizations
Epoch Times · CIPFG · NTDTV · Sound of Hope
See also
Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident · Human Rights Torch Relay · Qigong · Human rights in China · Wenyi Wang

Falun Gong (法輪功) is a spiritual discipline founded in China by Li Hongzhi (李洪志) in 1992.[1] It has five sets of meditation exercises and teaches the principles truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance (真,善,忍), as set out in the main books Falun Gong[2] and Zhuan Falun (轉法輪).[3] The teachings deal with issues such as "cultivation of virtue and character", "moral standards for different levels", and "salvation of all sentient beings." The books, lectures, and exercise materials have been translated into over 40 languages and are available on the Internet free of charge.

According to David Ownby, Professor of East Asian studies at the University of Montreal, Falun Gong emerged at the end of China's "qigong boom", and has a heritage in a centuries-old tradition of "cultivation practice" (修煉 xiūliàn).[1][4] Sinologist Barend ter Haar regards it as a distinctly new form of Chinese religious movement shaped by the Maoist revolution.[5] Another sinologist, Benjamin Penny, says that while Falun Gong is a "qigong cultivation system,"[6] the heavy emphasis on morality makes it appear to be a religion.[7] Penny regards Falun Gong as one of the most important phenomena to emerge in China in the 1990s.[6]

In April 1999 over ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners gathered at Communist Party of China headquarters, Zhongnanhai, in a silent protest against beatings and arrests in Tianjin.[8][9][10] Two months later the People's Republic of China government, led by Jiang Zemin, banned the practice, began a crackdown, and started what Amnesty International described as a "massive propaganda campaign."[11][12][13] Since 1999, reports of torture,[14] illegal imprisonment,[15] beatings, forced labor, and psychiatric abuses have been widespread. 66% of all reported torture cases in China concern Falun Gong practitioners, who are also estimated to comprise at least half of China's labor camp population, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, and the US Department of State respectively.[16][17][18] In 2006, human rights lawyer David Matas and ex-Canadian secretary of state David Kilgour published an investigative report concluding that a large number of Falun Gong practitioners have become victims of systematic organ harvesting in China and that the practice is still ongoing.[19] In November 2008, The United Nations Committee on Torture called the Chinese State party to commission an independent investigation of the reports, and "ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished."[20]

As Falun Gong practitioners have no membership system or rosters, numbers are unknown. In 1998, the Chinese government published a figure of 70 million practitioners in China.[21] Clearwisdom.net, a Falun Gong website, claims 100 million practitioners in more than 80 countries.[22] Yuezhi Zhao, professor of Communications at the University of California, contends that Falun Gong's massive spread, and sustained activism against its persecution, have unwittingly become the greatest challenge to Chinese state power in recent history, and "the most dramatic episode in the contestation over media power in the Chinese language symbolic universe."[23]


[edit] Beliefs and teachings

Falun Gong

Traditional Chinese: 法輪功
Simplified Chinese: 法轮功
Literal meaning: Practice of the Wheel of Law
Falun Dafa
Traditional Chinese: 法輪大法
Simplified Chinese: 法轮大法
Literal meaning: Great Law of the Wheel of Law

Falun Gong was introduced to the public by Li Hongzhi (李洪志) in Changchun, China, in 1992. Its teachings cover spiritual, religious, mystical, and metaphysical topics. Falun Gong is an introductory book that discusses qigong, which introduces the principles and provides illustrations and explanations of the exercises involved in Falun Gong practice.

The main body of teachings is articulated in the core book Zhuan Falun (轉法輪)[24], published in late 1994. According to the texts, Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) is a complete system of mind-body "cultivation practice" (修煉).[25] Truthfulness (真 Zhen), Compassion (善 Shan), and Forbearance (忍 Ren) are regarded as the fundamental characteristics of the cosmos—an omnipresent nature that permeates and encompasses everything. In the process of cultivation, the practitioner is supposed to assimilate himself or herself to these qualities by letting go of "attachments and notions," thus returning to the "original, true self." In Zhuan Falun, Li Hongzhi said that "As a practitioner, if you assimilate yourself to this characteristic, you are one that has attained the Tao—it's just such a simple principle."

The content of Li Hongzhi's books includes commentaries on questions discussed in China's qigong community for ages. According to David Ownby, Li saw the qigong movement as "rife with false teachings and greedy and fraudulent 'masters'" and set out to rectify it. Li understood himself and Falun Gong as part of a "centuries-old tradition of cultivation," and in his texts would often attack those who taught "incorrect, deviant, or heterodox ways."[4] Qigong scholar David Palmer says Li "redefined his method as having entirely different objectives from qigong: the purpose of practice should neither be physical health nor the development of Extraordinary Powers, but to purify one's heart and attain spiritual salvation... Falun Gong no longer presented itself as a qigong method but as the Great Law or Dharma (Fa) of the universe."[26].

Falun Gong draws on oriental mysticism and traditional Chinese medicine, criticizes self-imposed limits of modern science, and views traditional Chinese science as an entirely different, yet equally valid knowledge system, according to Yuezhi Zhao, professor in the University of California. Concomitantly, it borrows the language of modern science in representing its cosmic laws, she says: "Falun gong is not conceptualized as a religious faith; on the contrary, its practitioners, which include doctorate holders from prestigious American universities, see it as 'a new form of science.'"[23]

In a seminar paper presented at the 2003 annual meeting of American Sociological Association, Kai-Ti Chou stated: "Li [...] does not deny the existence of mystery, which just exists in another realm, he claims. He does not want his followers to think about this limitedly with scientific thinking and thus close any possibility to view other possibilities. On the contrary, he encourages a radical rational and open way of thinking; namely, [going] beyond the common scientific logic, which can not only help them to know the scientific world but also a world beyond science. Therefore, for Li or most cultivators, the most important thing does not lie in whether or not one can see or experience something mysterious but how one can let it be and will not be influenced by it."[27]

Leading Falun Gong scholar David Ownby sees Falun Gong as first and foremost "concerned with moral purpose and the ultimate meaning of life and death."[28] Falun Gong practitioners consider their practice "profoundly moral," according to Ownby, where "the very structure of the universe, according to Li Hongzhi, is made up of the moral qualities cultivators are enjoined to practice in their own lives: truth, compassion and forbearance. The goal of cultivation, and hence of life itself, is spiritual elevation, achieved by eliminating karma—the built-up sins of past and present lives which often manifest themselves in individuals as illness—and accumulating virtue."[4] Through cultivation, Falun Gong promises "personal harmony with the very substance of the universe." Ownby says that Li's teachings do not focus on "lists of dos and don'ts or 'sophisticated ethical discussions.'" Falun Gong teaches instead that followers should "rid themselves of unnecessary ‘attachments’, to do what they know is right and hence to return to ‘the origin’, to their ‘original self,’" he says.[4]

Falun Gong echoes traditional Chinese beliefs that humans are connected to the universe through mind and body, according to Danny Schechter.[29] Li challenges "conventional mentalities", and sets out to unveil myths of the universe, time-space, and the human body. The opening statement of Zhuan Falun includes the phrase "If human beings are able to take a fresh look at themselves as well as the universe and change their rigid mentalities, humankind will make a leap forward."

Li says that raising one's xinxing (mind or heart nature, moral character)[30] is fundamental to Falun Gong cultivation. Improving xinxing means relinquishing human attachments, which are supposed to prevent people from awakening. Li says the term "attachments" refer to: jealousy, competitiveness, fame, showing off, pursuit of material gain, anger, lust, etc.. In Zhuan Falun, he states "You must eliminate all ill thoughts among everyday people—only then can you move up."[31]

[edit] Theoretical background

A group of people practicing Falun Gong (in central Gothenburg, Sweden)

Qigong (or ch'i kung) refers to a wide variety of traditional "cultivation" practices that involve movement and/or regulated breathing designed to be therapeutic. Qigong is practiced for health maintenance purposes, as a therapeutic intervention, as a medical profession, a spiritual path, or a component of Chinese martial arts.

According to Xu Jian, writing for the Journal of Asian Studies, the discourses on qigong theory broadly divide into "naturalist" and "supernaturalist" schools. The "naturalist" discourse involves scientific research on qigong and seeks to understand it within a modern, empirical, paradigmatic framework, while the "supernaturalist" discourse is situated within a revival of nationalistic traditional beliefs and values, and conceives qigong as psychosomatic and metaphysical. Xu says, "this discursive struggle has articulated itself as an intellectual debate and enlisted on both sides a host of well-known writers and scientists — so much so that a veritable corpus of literature on qigong resulted. [...] Each [discourse] strives to establish its own order of power and knowledge, its own 'truth' about the 'reality' of qigong, although they differ drastically in their explanation of many of its phenomena."[32]

At the center of the debate is whether and how qigong can bring forth "supernormal abilities" (teyi gongneng 特異功能). "The psychosomatic discourse emphasizes the inexplicable power of qigong and relishes its occult workings, whereas the rational discourse strives to demystify many of its phenomena and to situate it strictly in the knowledge of modern science."[32]

The Chinese government has generally tried to encourage qigong as a science and discourage religious or supernatural elements. However, the category of science in China tends to include things that are generally not considered scientific in the West, including qigong and traditional Chinese medicine.[32]

David Aikman says that unlike in America, where many may believe that qigong is a socially neutral, subjective, New Age-style concept incapable of scientific proof, much of China's scientific establishment believes in the existence of qi. He contends that controlled experiments by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the late 1970s and early 1980s concluded that qi, when emitted by a qigong expert, "actually constitutes measurable infrared electromagnetic waves and causes chemical changes in static water through mental concentration."[33]

Theories about the cultivation of elixir (dan), "placement of the mysterious pass" (xuanguan shewei), among others, are also found in ancient Chinese texts such as The Book of Elixir (Dan Jing), Daoist Canon (Tao Zang) and Guide to Nature and Longevity (Xingming Guizhi). Falun Gong's teachings tap into a wide array of phenomena and cultural heritage that has been debated for ages. However, the definitions of many of the terms used differ somewhat from Buddhist and Daoist traditions. Francesco Sisci says that Falun Gong "re-elaborated old, well-known Taoist and Buddhist routines, used the old vocabulary that people found familiar, and revamped them in a simple, persuasive way."[34]

[edit] Qigong and beyond

Falun Gong originally surfaced in the institutional field of alternative Chinese science, a field "insulated from the spaces formally acknowledged as institutionalized science in Western countries."[35] Ian Johnson described how "Falun Gong positions itself as a kind of Über-science, something that is modern but even better than modern."[13]

Johnson suggests that while initially Falun Gong laid emphasis on health benefits, over time "the philosophical teachings of Truth, Goodness and Forbearance began to take on more importance." He writes that in the context of Falun Gong, these principles require people to live "upright lives." A traditional morality—what Ownby calls "popular fundamentalism," a supposed return to moral values that numerous Chinese "feel have been lost in the rush to modernisation."

Li sought to develop a greater history, theory and meaning behind cultivation. Ownby delineates the following discourses: the suffering body which holds the possibility of freedom from illness and physical suffering; limitless human potential where physical transformation is chiefly effected by moral practice; and exile and return concerning world creation, degeneration, and salvation/renewal.[4] Johnson describes Falun Gong as “the next logical step in qigong's development”, writing that “while firmly stating that Falun Gong was not a religion, Master Li drew on traditional religions for terminology and symbols.” The term “Falun” means Dharma Wheel, or Wheel of Law, a traditional Buddhist concept. The imagery used includes Buddhist swastikas and Taoist t'ai chi (yin-yang) symbols.

Andrew P. Kipnis said that qigong may seem to be religious to laymen in the West because it deals with spiritual matters. As many Falun Gong concepts can be traced to Buddhism and Taoism, it may seem even more like a religion to the outsider.

Richard Madsen, a professor of sociology at the University of California, says "among the Falun Dafa practitioners I have met are Chinese scientists with doctorates from prestigious American universities who claim that modern physics (for example, superstring theory) and biology (specifically the pineal gland's functioning) provide a scientific basis for their beliefs. From their point of view, Falun Dafa is knowledge rather than religion, a new form of science rather than faith." [36]

[edit] Beginnings

Li Hongzhi lectures on Falun Dafa at the UN General Assembly Hall, Geneva, 1998

According to the biography which appeared as an appendix to Zhuan Falun, Li Hongzhi had been taught ways of "cultivation practice" (xiulian) by several masters of the Dao and Buddhist schools of thought from a very young age. This biography says that he was trained by Quan Jue, the 10th Heir to the Great Law of the Buddha School, at age four. He was then trained by a Taoist master at age eight. This master left him at age twelve, and he was then trained by a master of the Great Way School with the Taoist alias of True Taoist, who came from the Changbai Mountains.[37]

Falun Gong was introduced to the public by Li Hongzhi on May 13, 1992, in Changchun, Jilin.[38] Invited by qigong organizations from each area, Li traveled to almost all major cities in China from 1992 to 1994 to teach the practice. For the first few years of spreading Falun Gong, Li was granted several awards by Chinese governmental organizations to encourage him to continue promoting what was then considered to be a wholesome practice.[39]

According to Professor Scott Lowe, Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, until 1999 Falun Gong had "excellent public credibility" in China. "Practitioners talked enthusiastically of the benefits Falun Gong had brought to their lives, and this functioned as a powerful recruiting tool, especially within families and circles of friends."[40]

University of Montreal scholar David Ownby noted that neither Li nor Falun Gong were particularly controversial in the beginning.[41] Li became an "instant star of the qigong movement," with his practice method celebrated at the Beijing Oriental Health Expos of both 1992 and 1993. Falun Gong was welcomed into the Scientific Qigong Research Association, which sponsored and helped organise many of Li's activities between 1992 and 1994, including the 54 large-scale lectures given throughout China in most major cities to a total audience of 20,000. The scale of the activities was unprecedented at that time.

After teaching publicly in Changchun, Li began to make his ideas more widely accessible and affordable, charging less than other qigong systems for lectures, tapes, and books.[10] On 4 January 1995 Zhuan Falun, the main book on Falun Gong, was published and became a best-seller in China.[10] Before 1999, people learned Falun Gong by word of mouth, and it was usually practiced in the morning in parks like many other forms of exercise in China.[10] It attracted many retired persons, factory workers, farmers, state enterprise managers, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and students.[42]

In 1994, Falun Gong was taught at the Chinese consulate in New York as part of the Party's "cultural propaganda to the West", alongside Chinese silk craft and cooking.[43] The consulate at that time also set up Falun Gong clubs at MIT and Columbia University which are active to this day. Starting in 1995, Li himself taught the practice outside of China, chairing a series of conferences at the Chinese embassy in Paris, upon invitation by China's ambassador to France, according to David Ownby.[28][43]

[edit] Ideological and social context

Group practice in China before the onset of persecution in July 1999

Yuezhi Zhao opines that Falun Gong's spread in China in the 1990s "reflected the profound contradictions of the Communist Party's technocratic-oriented modernization drive."[23] Falun Gong's rise, she says, was responding to the deep and widespread ideological and identity crises that followed the 1989 suppression of mass pro-democracy movement. In the early 1990s, Deng Xiaoping called for an end to debates about the political and social meaning of the economic reforms, urging the populace to participate in commercialism and the pursuit of material wealth. Falun Gong, in contrast, writes Zhao, "insisted on the search for meaning and called for a radical transcendence of materialism in both the mundane and philosophical senses."[23]

Falun Gong taken in this context is a Chinese manifestation of "a worldwide backlash against capitalist modernity and a testimony to the importance of meaning..."[23] Though it is grounded in Chinese cultural traditions and responds to unique post-1989 Chinese realities, Zhao says it also addresses universal concerns, "asking humanity to take a 'fresh look' at itself and re-examine its dominant value system. It is partly for this reason that Falun Gong appeals to some non-Chinese people in the West."

She says that while Chinese authorities condemn Falun Gong as having "fallen prey to premodern superstitions," the practice actually "articulates a mixture of premodern, modern, and postmodern sensibilities."[23] In Zhao's view, Falun Gong has established a 'resistance identity', resisting prevailing pursuits of wealth, power, scientific rationality, "and indeed, the entire value system associated with the project of modernization... Li Hongzhi addresses precisely the actors and aspects of subjectivity bruised by the ruthless march of Chinese modernity... and provides an alternative meaning system within which individuals can come to terms with their experience. The multiple unfolding struggles over this resistance identity match, both in speed and intensity, the wider social transformation in China."[23]

In a reversal from the 1989 outpouring of desire for political participation, many Chinese turned to Falun Gong precisely because they saw it as "an apolitical response to their individual and social concerns. By focusing on self-cultivation and individual moral salvation, and by urging its members to take lightly or give up 'attachments' to the desires, ambitions, and sentimentality that ordinarily rule modern human life, Falun Gong is reactive, defensive, and politically conservative."[23] Zhao regards the discipline as a form of religious fundamentalism, and is subsequently not "a purveyor of 'a social project'". Yet, she says, it has turned out to be "the most politicized and highly mobilized form of social contestation in post-1989 China." No other disenfranchised social group has staged a mass protest near Zhongnanhai, she says. And while the post-Mao Chinese state attempted to avert ideological struggles, "[the state] ended up having to wage a Maoist-style ideological campaign against the movement. Such is the dialectic of China's 'economic' reforms."[23]

Scott Lowe reports in a study of an internet survey he conducted, published in Nova Religio, that practitioners understood the reason for Falun Gong's rapid growth within China to be related to "family ties and community relationships," which, he says, still retain great power.[40] In this context, "whenever someone discovers something good, they automatically wish to pass it on to their family and friends." He says the "tremendously positive" word-of-mouth generated by practitioners naturally led to the rapid spread of the teachings within close-knit Chinese communities.[40]

The Economist asserts that much of Falun Gong's success in the 1990s was due to claims that it could heal without costly medicine, as many citizens had lost medical benefits and services due to changing economic conditions.[44] Some in China maintained that Falun Gong was the most popular qigong practice in the country, and that many professors from Beijing University practiced the exercises every day on the campus grounds until the crackdown in 1999.[45]

While Lowe acknowledges sociological "macro-issues," such as economic insecurity, free time, the collapse of moral standards, worries about health and medical care, the desire for existential certitude, and other factors as explanations for Falun Gong's rise, he suggests these were secondary, if not completely irrelevant, to the thinking of the individuals who took up Falun Gong practice.[40] Falun Gong appeals to individuals on several levels of understanding, he says. "For beginners, health benefits seem to be a primary concern. Over time, as good health comes to be a given and as their study of Master Li’s books deepens, the metaphysical system of Falun Gong seems to take precedence as cultivators work to shed their attachments and move to higher levels..."[40] Over time, followers appear to find in the teachings an "intricate, orderly, and internally consistent understanding of the cosmos," he writes. Other qigong practices were unable to provide "clear, unambiguous explanations of life’s deepest mysteries" and such a "complete and intellectually satisfying picture of the universe," as practitioners see it, he says.[40]

[edit] 1999 and after in mainland China

In April 1999, physicist He Zuoxiu published an article in the Tianjin College of Education’s Youth Reader magazine, entitled “I Do Not Agree with Youth Practicing qigong,” and criticized Falun Gong.[46] Practitioners found his treatment of Falun Gong unfair, and believed it to be part of a wider campaign to discredit the practice; they subsequently gathered to protest the article. Police were allegedly called, who then beat and arrested a number of them.[citation needed] They were directed to take their appeal to the capital. On April 25, around ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners lined the streets near Zhongnanhai in silence, seeking legal recognition and protection of the practice in light of the alleged beatings and arrests in Tianjin. A few months later, on July 20, 1999, thousands of practitioners were arrested in the middle of the night, the media campaign to vilify the practice began, and the persecution was officially underway.

Julia Ching from the University of Toronto suggested that it was the Zhongnanhai incident which led to "fear, animosity and suppression."[47] A World Journal article suggested that certain high-level Party officials had wanted to crack down on the practice for several years, but lacked sufficient pretext until the protest at Zhongnanhai--which, it claims, may have been partly orchestrated by Luo Gan, a long-time opponent of Falun Gong.[45] Jiang Zemin is often considered by Falun Gong and academics[who?] to be largely personally responsible for the final decision. Cited motives include suspected personal jealousy of Li Hongzhi,[48] anger at Falun Gong's widespread appeal, and ideological struggle.[49] The nature of Communist Party rule and a perceived challenge to it is also a commonly understood reason for the persecution.[50]

[edit] The 'ban'

On 20 July 1999, following seven years of rapid growth of the practice within mainland China,[41] the Chinese Communist Party issued a statement "banning" Falun Gong:

China today banned the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization under its control after deeming them to be illegal.

In its decision on this matter issued today, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said that according to investigations, the Research Society of Falun Dafa had not been registered according to law and had been engaged in illegal activities, advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability.

The decision said that therefore, in accordance with the Regulations on the Registration and Management of Mass Organizations, the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization under its control are held to be illegal and are therefore banned.[51]

Xinhua further declared that Falun Gong was a highly organised political group "opposed to the Communist Party of China and the central government, [that] preaches idealism, theism and feudal superstition." It sought to make a distinction between "ordinary core members" and the leaders, which it referred to as "a small number of behind-the-scenes plotters and organizers who harbor political intentions." It struck a warning-bell against some important Party and government officials who were practitioners.[52] Xinhua also affirmed that "the so-called 'truth, kindness and forbearance' principle preached by Li has nothing in common with the socialist ethical and cultural progress we are striving to achieve."[53]

Li Hongzhi responded with a "Brief Statement of Mine" on July 22:

Falun Gong is simply a popular qigong activity. It does not have any particular organization, let alone any political objectives. We have never been involved in any anti-government activities. I am a cultivator myself, and I have never been destined to be involved in political power. I am just teaching people how to practice cultivation. If one wants to practice qigong well, he/she must be a person of high moral standards...

We are not against the government now, nor will we be in the future. Other people may treat us badly, but we do not treat others badly, nor do we treat people as enemies.

We are calling for all governments, international organizations, and people of goodwill worldwide to extend their support and assistance to us in order to resolve the present crisis that is taking place in China.[54]

According to Scott Lowe, Falun Gong practitioners' explanation of the persecution is because the Chinese Communist Party wants "total control of society and is threatened by any group that is capable of independent action." Respondents thought that the Party was especially threatened by the moral example set by Falun Gong practitioners, "since party members look like grubby careerists in comparison." Practitioners also suspected that the authorities were afraid of the respect practitioners accorded to Master Li. Overall, "Falun Gong [was] simply too big... and the government cannot understand how that many people can join in common cause and not be a threat to the state."[40]

[edit] The persecution

Reenacting torture during a demonstration in Berlin.
Falun Gong practitioners hold regular protests against the persecution, including encouraging mainland Chinese to "quit the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)". Photo from Auckland CBD, New Zealand.

A nationwide crackdown ensued with the exception of the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. In October 1999, four months after the ban, legislation was created to outlaw "heterodox religions" and applied to Falun Gong retroactively.[15] The Chinese authorities branded Falun Gong, along with some other practices, movements or organizations, as 邪教 or "xiejiao",[55] which was translated into English with the somewhat inaccurate term "cult" or "evil cult."[55][56]

According to some reports[which?], every aspect of society was mobilized against Falun Gong, including the media apparatus, police force, army, education system, families, and workplaces.[13] An extra-constitutional body, the "6-10 Office" was created to "oversee the terror campaign,"[57] which was allegedly driven by large-scale propaganda through television, newspapers, radio and internet.[15] Families and workplaces were urged to cooperate with the government's position on Falun Gong, while practitioners themselves were subject to severe coercive measures to have them recant.[58] Amnesty International declares the persecution to be politically motivated and a restriction of fundamental freedoms.

Protests in Beijing were frequent for the first few years following the 1999 edict, though they have largely been silenced since.[13] Practitioners' presence in mainland China has become more low-profile, as they opt for alternative methods of informing the citizenry, such as through overnight letterbox drops of CD-ROMs. They have occasionally hacked into state television channels to broadcast their material, with harsh repercussions. Practitioners are also globally active in appealing to governments, media and the people of their respective countries about the situation in China.

There are particular concerns over reports of torture,[59][60] illegal imprisonment including forced labour, and psychiatric abuses.[14] Falun Gong related cases comprise 66% of all reported torture cases in China,[17] and at least half of the labour camp population.[18] Since 2006, Falun Gong has alleged systematic organ harvesting from living practitioners, and an investigation led by two Canadians, parliamentarian David Kilgour and David Matas, has lent support to the claims.[19] Kilgour, former canadian Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific, commented "It is simply inescapable that this is going on"; Matas states their evidence "has not been refuted."[61][62] Kilgour and Matas's conclusions are corroborated by two other independent investigations, by Dr. Kirk Allison, associate director of the program in human rights and medicine at the University of Minnesota,[63][64] and European Parliament Vice President Edward McMillan-Scott,[65] however the United States Congressional Research Service regarded them as inconsistent with the findings of other investigations, relying largely on logical inferences.[66] The Christian Science Monitor states that the report's evidence, although circumstantial, is persuasive, and criticises China for a lack of openness in investigating the claims.[67]

U.N. special rapporteur Manfred Nowak, in December 2007 said "The chain of evidence they [Kilgour and Matas] are documenting shows a coherent picture that causes concern."[68] In November 2008, the United Nations Committee Against Torture made a strong statement on the matter, citing Nowak's note that an increase in organ transplant operations coincides with “the beginning of the persecution of [Falun Gong practitioners]” and who asked for "a full explanation of the source of organ transplants." The Committee stated that it is concerned with the information that Falun Gong practitioners "have been extensively subjected to torture and ill-treatment in prisons and that some of them have been used for organ transplants." They called for the state to immediately conduct an investigation of the claims of organ harvesting, and take measures to ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished.[20]

Falun Gong practitioners have also been assaulted in the U.S. by members of Chinese associations accused of having ties to China's communist government.[69] The U.S. House of Representatives accused China of unlawful harassment of United States citizens and residents who practice Falun Gong, and passed a resolution unanimously calling on the Chinese government to "cease its persecution and harassment of Falun Gong practitioners in the United States." Practitioners also draw attention to their plight by demonstrating the meditation exercises, distributing flyers, displaying banners, initiating lawsuits, demonstrating outside Chinese consulates around the world, and organising other public events such as lavish travelling Chinese New Year shows.[70]

On July 30, 2008, the Chinese Communist Party foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that during the Beijing Olympic Games Falun Gong websites would be blocked, censoring journalists' access to the internet.[71]

[edit] Outside mainland China

Since the 1999 persecution, Falun Gong practitioners abroad have held activities directing attention to the Human Rights situation in China. Practitioners' lobbying has raised the profile of the practice around the world, and particularly in the United States.

The situation of Falun Gong and its practitioners has been regarded by some Western governments[which?] as a major international human rights issue. The PRC government is accused by Falun Gong and many human rights groups[which?] of violating the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), also ratified by the People's Republic of China. In July 2002, the U.S. House of Representatives accused China of unlawful harassment of United States citizens and residents who practice Falun Gong, and passed a resolution, unanimously by 420:0, calling on China to "cease its persecution and harassment of Falun Gong practitioners in the United States".[16]

On November 23, 2008 Guns N' Roses released their first studio recording since 1993, Chinese Democracy. The title track contains a reference to Falun Gong and speaks about persecution endured by chinese citizens.

[edit] Academic attention

Falun Gong has been represented in different ways by researchers, media, and in other public fora. The late psychologist Margaret Singer derided it as a "cult,"[72] and Philip Cunningham at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok criticizes Falun Gong's teachings as "deeply illiberal" and "homophobic," saying that the practice "looks like a cult, smells like a cult and by any reasonable definition is a cult."[73] Cunningham does not refer to any fieldwork on Falun Gong, however, and fails to define the term "cult," or explain how Falun Gong fits the definition. Edelman and Richardson writing in the Journal of Church and State argue that the cult label applied to Falun Gong has no "empirical verification or general acceptance in the scientific community," and is merely a label that has been conveniently used to persecute the practice.[74] Livia Kohn, Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies at Boston University and a scholar in Daoism, has praised it as having "a high success rate in creating friendlier people, more harmonious social environments, and greater health and vitality."[75] Political scientist Patricia M. Thornton at the University of Oxford refers to Falun Gong as a cybersect, due to the group's reliance on the internet for text distribution, recruitment and information-sharing among adherents.[76]

The scholar Benjamin Penny of the Australian National University has given a detailed treatment of Chinese Buddhist publications and has written on Falun Gong. Scholars Susan Palmer, David Ownby and PhD student Noah Porter, have made ethnographic studies of Falun Gong as it is currently transmitted and practiced in the United States. James Tong has written about the development of the campaign to persecute the practice in Mainland China, and discussed the use of the Communist states' media outlets in its portrayal of Falun Gong as a well-financed organisation.

Scholarly research on Falun Gong and its place in contemporary society has been approached from different angles. David Ownby has analysed Falun Gong from a historical Chinese perspective as well as commented on his personal experience of meeting modern Falun Gong practitioners. Ownby has also speculated on Falun Gong as a cultural renewal of ancient Chinese cultivation forms starting in the Ming dynasty. Stephen Chan has written about Falun Gong's relationship to Buddhism and other qigong, as well as commenting on deeper reasons behind the persecution in Mainland China.[citation needed] Barend ter Haar argues that Falun Gong and the persecution cannot be understood outside the context of recent Chinese history. [77]

[edit] References

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