CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

"Bush conveys autonomy concerns to H.K. leader"

(Kyodo News Service, July 11, 2001)

WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W. Bush told Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa on Wednesday he is concerned about the territory's political autonomy after its Legislative Council passed a bill that gives China the power to fire the Hong Kong leader, a White House official said.
Emerging from his meeting with Bush, however, Tung appeared confident Hong Kong will be able to maintain its autonomy despite the passage of the bill.
''I explained how well Hong Kong is doing and how much we are moving forward, including how strong the rule of law is and how well the freedoms, whether it's freedom of the press and religion, is alive and kicking and doing well,'' Tung told reporters.
Earlier in the day, Tung met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who called on Hong Kong to respect human rights in its handling of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.
The movement, which was outlawed in China in 1999, remains legal in Hong Kong under the ''one country, two systems'' principle governing the territory, which has been a Chinese special administrative region since 1997.
According to a transcript of Tung comments made available in Hong Kong, the chief executive assured Bush the one-country, two-systems principle is an ''everyday reality'' since the former British colony returned to China.
Tung, according to the transcript, said he talked with Bush about the religious issue and the Falun Gong movement in Hong Kong, adding that his stances on these matters are very clear.
Last month, Tung branded the Buddhist-oriented spiritual exercise movement as an ''evil cult,'' the first time he had publicly done so since the movement was outlawed in China and even though the group has not violated any law in Hong Kong.
His accusation aroused worries in Hong Kong that freedoms of belief and association will be impaired.
On Sino-U.S. ties, Tung, according to the transcript, said he is pleased to see the relationship between the two countries moving forward in ''a very positive way'' following the April 1 collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. Navy spy plane over the South China Sea that strained ties quite seriously.
Bush attaches ''a great deal of importance'' to China ties and is looking forward to visiting China in October, Tung said.
''We welcome and support the extension of normal trade relations status for China by President Bush. Also, we note that the United States supports early accession to the World Trade Organization by China. This is important to China, the U.S. and Hong Kong,'' he was quoted in the government transcript as adding.
Tung also invited Bush to visit Hong Kong.
During his two-day visit to Washington, the Hong Kong chief executive also met with other senior U.S. government officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and congressional figures.
Tung is to leave Washington on Thursday for a short break in San Francisco before returning to Hong Kong next week.

"Group focuses attention on persecution in China"

by Don Munsch ("Amarillo Globe," July 11, 2001)

Yaning Liu got choked up talking about her mother in China.
Liu used to live in China, where Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), a mind-body discipline, is illegal. Liu's mother was arrested for practicing Falun Gong and has been imprisoned.
"(Officials) never let us know about her situation, so there were several months we lost track of her and didn't even know whether she was alive or dead," said Liu, who lives in Phoenix and came to the United States in 1998. "I continue my practice of Falun Gong without any trouble (here), but I am extremely worried about my mother."
Eleven Falun Gong practitioners were in Amarillo on Tuesday to talk about the persecution of practitioners in China. Members of the group from the West Coast held a press conference at the Central Library on their way to Washington, D.C., for a campaign to bring awareness about conditions in China. A rally featuring 3,000 people is anticipated in Washington next week, said Gina Sanchez, a spokeswoman from Pasadena, Calif.
"We are here today, in traveling the entire breadth of America, to send out an SOS, to rescue the Falun Gong practitioners who are being persecuted and tortured in China," Sanchez said. "We are seeking every means - diplomatic, legal and humanitarian - to stop any further killing of innocent people in China."
Four practitioners - three of whom were detained in China - spoke Tuesday in Amarillo. Falun Gong officials say more than 250 people have been killed in China. The press briefing ended with a video depicting the persecution.
"I would like to call upon all kind-hearted people outside of China to stop this inhumane persecution," said Ma Chunpu, 80.
Falun Gong is a mind-body improvement movement that involves meditation and physical exercises. It started in China in 1992 but has been illegal since 1999.
Officials said Falun Gong has no political agenda or affiliation and is not a religion. But the Chinese government, particularly President Jiang Zemin, perceives Falun Gong as a threat, Falun Gong supporters say.
Falun Gong had 100 million followers when the crackdown started in 1999; supporters said they are not sure of the number now. Sanchez said Zemin initiated a law that makes it legal to execute practitioners.

"China Wages Global War Against Falun Gong "

by Phil Brennan ("News Max," July 10, 2001)

China's war against the Falun Gong organization is going global.
Already engaged in a vigorous drive at home to destroy the huge quasi-religious group, Beijing is taking steps overseas to disrupt the activities of Falun Gong abroad.
"Chinese diplomats are seeking to discredit the sect and undermine its image in the United States, Australia and other countries by pressing public officials not to have dealings with the group or allow its participation in local activities," wrote Associated Press correspondent Helen Luk.
According to Center for the Study of New Religions (CESNUR) (http://www.cesnur.org/testi/falung101.htm), Falun Gong is a form of the Bhuddist concept of Qi Gong. The movement's leader, "Master Li describes the Falun in terms derived from both Buddhism and Taoism as a microcosm containing all the secrets of the universe."
To Beijing, however, the group which teaches Bhuddist-style physical and spiritual exercises is subversive and constitutes a threat to the Chinese communist leadership. As such it must be stamped out.
What frightens China's leadership, is the ability of Falun Gong to attract huge throngs of followers. According to the AP, "the group was once estimated to have up to 100 million followers in China, or more than the Communist Party's 64.5 million."
In the latest domestic incident involving Falun Gong, some imprisoned woman practitioners died at a labor camp in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang in June. Official Reports say as many as 14 female prisoners hanged themselves in a mass suicide, but Falun Gong insists its teachings prohibit suicide, and charged that Chinese authorities had fatally beaten 15 inmates to death.
The domestic crackdown on Falun Gong spread to Hong Kong, where the sect is legal.
Officials there barred about 100 Falun Gong practitioners from entering Hong Kong in early May during a visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
On a worldwide scale, Falun Gong's largest number of practitioners are in Taiwan, where the membership is estimated at 100,000. According to Falun Gong it has about 500 members in Hong Kong, 3,000 in Australia, 10,000 in the United States, 1,000 in Singapore and 3,000 in South Korea. There are also small communities in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan.
Chinese Dictatorship Interferes in U.S.
Beijing has now taken aim at the U.S., going after local officials in the drive to destroy the organization. The AP reports that Beijing's "attempts to use diplomatic pressure to silence Falun Gong have enraged members and government officials in the United States."
A former mayor of Saratoga, Calif., Stan Bogosian told the AP that late last year, a few days after he signed a proclamation declaring Falun Gong week, two officials from the Chinese consulate urged him to rescind it.
When he refused, Bogosian reports, the Chinese asked him to remain neutral and questioned him about his position on Taiwan. Enraged Bogosian called a news conference to denounce the Chinese regime for ``highly irregular" actions. ``The Chinese government should not be interfering in the political process," Bogosian told the Associated Press. ``The issue of whether Falun Gong is a cult or not is not important. For me, these are basic human rights."
Bogosian and many others see Falun Gong as a harmless group whose adherents, clad in their yellow T-shirts, practice controlled breathing exercises and move slowly to ethereal music in parks.
But Bogdosian's experience was not unique. AP says that at least a dozen other mayors of cities in California, Illinois, Washington, Maryland and Michigan have been pressured by Chinese officials, who often try to tie their anti-Falun Gong position to U.S.-Chinese trade relations.
``The whole thing sounded like a propaganda pitch to me," said Tod Satterthwaite, mayor of Urbana, Ill., who ignored the Chinese demands.
But some mayors have given in to Chinese pressures. In 1999, mayors in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Baltimore - all important east-west trade centers - revoked proclamations honoring Falun Gong.
In Australia, Falun Gong members reveal that Chinese officials have sent letters to civic leaders describing the group as ``an out-and-out heretical sect, which is anti-science, anti-humanity and anti-society in nature."
``The letters were sent to local government offices in order to try and persuade them to disallow perfectly legal activities being conducted in the area," Michael Molnar, a spokesman for Australia's Falun Gong, told the .
APAccording to the Australian government, the Chinese Embassy had denied sending the letters. Rebecca Tromp, spokeswoman of Blacktown City Council, said officials from the Chinese consulate in Sydney raised the issue of Falun Gong participation in a festival sponsored by the city government.
``We advised them that any participation Falun Gong has is within our festival and that is what they do and we would continue to allow them to participate," Tromp told the AP.
Falun Gong is headquartered in New York, where its founder, Li Hongzi, established his peculiar brand of Qi Gong in 1992. In 1998, Li moved permanently to New York City, from where he oversees the expansion of Falun Gong internationally. Small groups exist in the major metropolitan areas of the U.S. and Canada, and in some 30 other countries.
According to CESNUR, the Chinese regime launched a campaign against spiritual and religious groups in 1999, and Falun Gong was targeted as a superstitious and reactionary group by a media campaign. Unlike other groups, Falun Gong responded by staging an unauthorized demonstration of more than 10,000 followers outside Beijing's Zhongnanhai, the residence of China's top leaders. It was the largest such demonstration in recent Chinese history.
Beijing was especially alarmed by its intelligence service's failure to prevent the demonstration, and by the disturbing news that some of China's medium-level political and military leaders were adherents of Falun Gong.
"The authorities started an unprecedented public campaign against the movement - and hundreds of local leaders and members were arrested," CESNUR reported. China also asked the U.S. to arrest and extradite Li, a request the U.S. quickly rejected, asking the Chinese instead to stop what the outside world saw as religious persecution.
Although the persecution has driven many members underground, millions remain in China and several thousand abroad. Exactly how many "members" Falun Gong has is a matter of dispute (the government uses a figure of 2 million; Li claims 100 million), and "membership" might not be an entirely applicable concept. Although the movement recommends a nine-day introduction course and frequent contacts with local centers, it also states that everybody can simply start practicing Falun Gong by following the instructions from one of the many books, cassettes and Web sites quickly available in a variety of languages.

"Two women sect leaders released from camps"

("Hong Kong I Mail," July 10, 2001)

Two women leaders of the banned Zhong Gong spiritual sect were freed from labour camps on the mainland, two months before the end of their two-year sentences, a Hong Kong-based rights group said yesterday.
Cheng Yaqin was released from the Baoding, Hebei province reform-through-labour camp on Sunday.
Deqing Zhuoma was released from a labour camp near Lhasa, Tibet, in recent days, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said yesterday.
Both women had served as regional leaders for the group and had been arrested in September 1999 after simultaneous crackdowns on the Zhong Gong group as well as the better-known Falun Gong, the human rights centre said.
The women were released early after an active letter-writing campaign by supporters from around the world, led by exiled Zhong Gong leader Zhang Hongbao.
He had pressured the Central Government as well as the United Nations over their incarceration, the centre said.
Beijing views the two groups as ``evil cults" and has spent two years trying to smash the groups that advocate traditional Chinese group meditation and breathing exercises, while urging followers to lead a clean and healthy life.
Tens of millions of Chinese began practising traditional breathing exercises, known as qigong, in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
But they attracted the attention of Beijing leaders with huge followings and building up imposing economic empires.
The Chinese Communist Party has called the Falun Gong the biggest threat to China's political stability since the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy protests.

"Despite ban on Falun Gong, China finds sect still a force to be reckoned with"

by Sheryl Ubelacker ("Calgery Herald," July 10, 2001)

TORONTO - Every weekday morning and Saturday evening, at least 20 people gather outside the Chinese Consulate in Toronto, where they silently begin a series of slow, rhythmic movements.
Men, women and often children, mostly Chinese-Canadians, come to practise the meditative exercises of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that began a decade ago in China and has spread around the world.
Despite the tranquillity of those assembled, their presence has a more pressing motive, proclaimed by placards exhorting the Chinese government to "Stop Persecuting the Falun Gong," replete with grisly photos of alleged victims.
Adherents have accused China of torturing thousands of their members and killing more than 250 since 1999 when the Communist government began a crackdown on what it called an "evil cult." China blames Falun Gong for causing the deaths of 1,600 followers by encouraging them to forgo medical care and leading them to suicide.
Last week, it was disclosed that up to 14 female practitioners died in a Chinese labour camp in June. The movement says they were tortured to death. China's government says they hanged themselves.
News of the latest deaths came at a critical time. On Friday, the International Olympic Committee will announce which city - Beijing, Toronto or Paris - will host the 2008 Summer Games. Beijing has been seen as the front-runner but concerns over human rights in China may hinder its bid.
"The persecution is escalating," says Joel Chipkar, a Toronto practitioner who likens Chinese President Jiang Zemin's targeting of the Falun Gong to Hitler's persecution of the Jews. "We are out calling for an international investigation into the deaths and torture."
So just what is Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, and why is China so afraid of it?
Roughly translated, Falun Gong means "power of the wheel." Falun refers to a cosmic intelligence symbolized by the wheel. Gong refers to a practised skill - physical or mental. Through the exercises, meditation and a life of "truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance," practitioners believe they can connect with the cosmic entity and reach enlightenment after death.
Falun Gong owes its existence to one man, Li Hongzhi, who began disseminating his ideas in 1991 when China relaxed religious controls. Careful never to call it a religion, Li preached his philosophy - dubbed "McBuddhism" by one writer for its mixed bag of Buddhist, Taoist and other beliefs - to growing crowds.
The number of his adherents snowballed in China, reaching an estimated 100 million, including top-ranking Politburo members. Li, feted across China, was honoured even by the government.
But with his followers outnumbering Communist party members two to one, and his ability to mobilize them for rallies, the Chinese government began to view the sect as a powerful threat. In July 1999, Li was declared an enemy of the people and Falun Gong was outlawed.
Li fled to the U.S., where he is said to be living in New York. But his followers have continued the movement in China and abroad. There are groups across Canada, although membership is hard to determine.
Li Ming, a Chinese Consulate spokesman in Toronto, calls Falun Gong a dangerous cult led by a man who has "concocted a series of fallacies and heresies to deify himself and to deceive and control followers."
China accuses Li Hongzhi of defrauding adherents of more than $7 million Cdn and inciting them to besiege schools, the media and government offices.
"We adhere to the policy of educating, persuading and helping Falun Gong followers get rid of this kind of spiritual control," the consulate spokesman says. "The Chinese government isolates and punishes only those diehard, core members who have violated Chinese laws."
While adherents maintain there is no central organization, just groups coming together to practise and learn, many believe Li or his inner circle operate a well-oiled organization, communicating with members worldwide through the Internet.
"Everything in Falun Dafa is absolutely volunteer-based," insists Jillian Ye, who became a practitioner about six years ago when her family moved from China to join her in Toronto.
"How Falun Dafa has been spreading in China and around the world has always been family through friends, friends to colleagues . . ."
"We all feel . . . a kind of upgrade on the body, mind and spirit," says Ye, 35. "We take the tribulations in daily life more lightly. . . . so we have a more positive, kind and open-minded attitude."
Ye stresses there are no rituals, places of worship or godhead, and the collection of money is forbidden. Li's teachings can be downloaded from the Internet or purchased to lend to others.
Ian Adams, co-author of the book Power of the Wheel: The Falun Gong Revolution, dismisses the notion that Falun Gong is a cult. "There's no drive to create masses of wealth for the leader, the leader is not exhorting his people to go out and carry out terrorists acts."
"Our analysis was that he appeared to be at the right place at the right time with the right kind of stuff," says Adams, dubbing Falun Gong a "McBuddhism" that struck a familiar chord with the Chinese.
"Very simply, it came down to the fact that after 60 years of communism and Marxism, people were starved for a spiritual dimension to their lives."
But Adams doesn't buy the argument it's non-political.
"As soon as you tell people to stand up for what you believe in, that's a political act. I think it's a way to try and deal with a very repressive regime."
"I think (Falun Gong) is an incredible phenomenon," says Adams. "This anonymous guy becomes the leader of 100 million people. Li (Hongzhi) locked into something."
"The phenomenon exists, and after two years, the Chinese government has not been able to crush him."

"China's French Connection"

by Joseph A. Bosco ("Washington Post," (Editorial) July 10, 2001)

China's Communist leaders have finally found a Western human rights model they like: France's new anti-cult law making "mental manipulation" a crime. Hong Kong's Tung Chee-hwa indicated he is studying the French precedent for possible use against the Falun Gong movement because it has "more or less the characteristics of an evil cult"; he pledged to "keep a close eye on their every move." Mainland authorities have already cracked down on the group and other spiritual and religious practitioners who resist government thought control.
Chinese officials now triumphantly canvass American academics, touting the French law as partial vindication for China's much-criticized human rights posture. They delight in noting that France's National Assembly passed the measure unanimously and with widespread popular support.
Many of France's religious leaders joined representatives of the international human rights community in opposing the new law. It provides up to three years' imprisonment for acts of "serious and repeated pressure, or the use of techniques to alter the mind of a person, leading him or her to commit a harmful act . . . [or] . . . to act in a way prejudicial to his interests." Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim representatives objected that it could result in "overzealousness and judicial excess" and might threaten established religions as well. The Clinton and Bush state departments echoed those sentiments, and the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously stated its "grave concerns." Major religious groups placed a full-page advertisement in the International Herald Tribune urging French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to withdraw the legislation and warned that France would be "compared to China" for its disregard of human rights concerns.
The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights condemned the French statute and predicted that it would "eliminate all liberty of association in France." If so, Paris indeed would be emulating Beijing's human rights practices. But all appeals for government reconsideration fell on deaf ears. Deputy Catherine Picard, a leader of the legislative effort, cited a mass cult suicide in the 1990s and said: "We need to give judges repressive tools. The law is a response to the evolution of society and the growing importance that sects have in it." Chinese officials cracking down on Falun Gong, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims could not have put it better. President Jacques Chirac signed the bill into law.
The French connection in China's anti-human rights campaign is not new; parallel efforts by the two governments last month succeeded in ejecting the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Commission, in favor of such unsavory regimes as Sudan and Sierra Leone.
With French irony, Paris has openly criticized American enforcement of the death penalty, noting that all of Europe has abolished it. But the world's leading executioner -- in an Olympic gold-medal class of its own -- is China, and its legal system affords none of the protections guaranteed by American, French or other Western laws. Moreover, the grotesque harvesting and sale of human organs from freshly killed Chinese prisoners heightens suspicions regarding the escalating number of death sentences in China for even nonviolent offenses. And since Beijing describes all kinds of behavior as state security threats punishable by death, perpetrators of "mental manipulation" may soon face overt execution rather than dying in Chinese prisons by "accident" or "suicide" (the fate of hundreds of Falun Gong members so far).
One of the purposes of economic and diplomatic engagement was to integrate China into the international system, encourage its acceptance of humanitarian norms and steadily elevate Chinese human rights standards. The interrelationships between China and the West exist all right, but in the case of thought crimes at least, it seems French standards are being lowered to match and legitimate China's. For the cause of human rights in both countries, c'est tres tragique, but as Jiang Zemin would say, Vive la France!
The writer teaches a graduate seminar on China-Taiwan issues in the Asian Studies Program at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service.

"Falun Gong: Cult, spiritualism or McBuddhism? "

("Toronto Star," July 9, 2001)

Every weekday morning and Saturday evening, at least 20 people gather outside the Chinese Consulate in Toronto, where they silently begin a series of slow, rhythmic movements.
Men, women and often children, mostly Chinese-Canadians, come to practise the meditative exercises of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that began a decade ago in China and has spread around the world.
Despite the tranquillity of those assembled, their presence has a more pressing motive, proclaimed by placards exhorting the Chinese government to "Stop Persecuting the Falun Gong," replete with grisly photos of alleged victims.
Adherents have accused China of torturing thousands of their members and killing more than 250 since 1999 when the Communist government began a crackdown on what it called an "evil cult." China blames Falun Gong for causing the deaths of 1,600 followers by encouraging them to forgo medical care and leading them to suicide.
Last week, it was disclosed that up to 14 female practitioners died in a Chinese labour camp in June. The movement says they were tortured to death.
China's government says they hanged themselves.
News of the latest deaths came at a critical time. On Friday, the International Olympic Committee will announce which city - Beijing, Toronto or Paris - will host the 2008 Summer Games. Beijing has been seen as the front-runner but concerns over human rights in China may hinder its bid.
"The persecution is escalating," says Joel Chipkar, a Toronto practitioner who likens Chinese President Jiang Zemin's targeting of the Falun Gong to Hitler's persecution of the Jews. "We are out calling for an international investigation into the deaths and torture."
So just what is Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, and why is China so afraid of it?
Roughly translated, Falun Gong means "power of the wheel." Falun refers to a cosmic intelligence symbolized by the wheel. Gong refers to a practised skill - physical or mental. Through the exercises, meditation and a life of "truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance," practitioners believe they can connect with the cosmic entity and reach enlightenment after death.
Falun Gong owes its existence to one man, Li Hongzhi, who began disseminating his ideas in 1991 when China relaxed religious controls. Careful never to call it a religion, Li preached his philosophy - dubbed "McBuddhism" by one writer for its mixed bag of Buddhist, Taoist and other beliefs - to growing crowds.
The number of his adherents snowballed in China, reaching an estimated 100 million, including top-ranking Politburo members. Li, feted across China, was honoured even by the government.
But with his followers outnumbering Communist party members two to one, the Chinese government began to view the sect as a powerful threat. In July 1999, Li was declared an enemy of the people and Falun Gong was outlawed.
Li fled to the U.S., where he is said to be living in New York. But his followers have continued the movement in China and abroad. There are groups across Canada, although membership is hard to determine.
Li Ming, a Chinese Consulate spokesman in Toronto, calls Falun Gong a dangerous cult led by a man who has "concocted a series of fallacies and heresies to deify himself and to deceive and control followers."
China accuses Li Hongzhi of defrauding adherents of more than $7 million Cdn and inciting them to besiege schools, the media and government offices.
"We adhere to the policy of educating, persuading and helping Falun Gong followers get rid of this kind of spiritual control," the consulate spokesman says. "The Chinese government isolates and punishes only those diehard, core members who have violated Chinese laws."
While adherents maintain there is no central organization, just groups coming together to practise and learn, many believe Li or his inner circle operate a well-oiled organization, communicating with members worldwide through the Internet.
"Everything in Falun Dafa is absolutely volunteer-based," insists Jillian Ye, who became a practitioner about six years ago when her family moved from China to join her in Toronto.
"How Falun Dafa has been spreading in China and around the world has always been family through friends, friends to colleagues . . ."
"We all feel . . . a kind of upgrade on the body, mind and spirit," says Ye, 35. "We take the tribulations in daily life more lightly. . . . so we have a more positive, kind and open-minded attitude."
Ye stresses there are no rituals, places of worship or godhead, and the collection of money is forbidden. Li's teachings can be downloaded from the Internet or purchased to lend to others.
Ian Adams, co-author of the book Power of the Wheel: The Falun Gong Revolution, dismisses the notion that Falun Gong is a cult. "There's no drive to create masses of wealth for the leader, the leader is not exhorting his people to go out and carry out terrorists acts."
"Our analysis was that he appeared to be at the right place at the right time with the right kind of stuff," says Adams, dubbing Falun Gong a "McBuddhism" that struck a familiar chord with the Chinese.
"Very simply, it came down to the fact that after 60 years of communism and Marxism, people were starved for a spiritual dimension to their lives."
But Adams doesn't buy the argument it's non-political.
"As soon as you tell people to stand up for what you believe in, that's a political act. I think it's a way to try and deal with a very repressive regime."
"I think (Falun Gong) is an incredible phenomenon," says Adams. "This anonymous guy becomes the leader of 100 million people. Li (Hongzhi) locked into something."
"The phenomenon exists, and after two years, the Chinese government has not been able to crush him."

"Falun Gong Followers Travel to Salt Lake City to Draw Attention to Persecution"

by Judy Fahys ("The Salt Lake Tribune," July 9, 2001)

Advocates for the Falun Gong stopped in Utah on Sunday to bring attention to the Chinese government's persecution of the meditation sect.
"We are seeking every means -- diplomatic, legal and humanitarian -- to stop further killing of innocent people in China," said Estelle Morgan, one of 11 Falun Gong practitioners headed for a national rally next week at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
Just over a dozen practitioners did their stylized exercises during a morning news conference at the City-County Building in downtown Salt Lake City. This mixture of prayer and yoga-style exercises offered a peaceful contrast to the posters behind them, which showed the cuts, scars and bruises of torture victims.
Chinese pediatrician Yang Li told about her harrowing month in a Chinese work camp. The Falun Gong practitioner told of sleeping on the floor, eating two daily meals of cabbage, showering in basin water and being punished for doing the spiritual exercises during captivity.
"I don't know how I survived," she said through a translator.
Advocates say there are about 100 million practitioners. The Chinese government estimates about 2.5 million. Others have put the number of practitioners worldwide at tens of millions.
July 22 will be the second anniversary of the Chinese government's official crackdown on Falun Gong, which officials call a "heretical organization." Since then, it has become a crime punishable by jail, institutionalization or commitment to "re-education through labor" camps.
The government has killed 250 Falun Gong practitioners as part of this swift and unrelenting crackdown, the advocates said. Their allegations have been difficult to substantiate because of government secrecy and a ban on information-sharing. But some atrocities have been confirmed by the U.S. State Department.
One man was beaten by police then dragged to death behind a motorcycle. A 60-year-old woman died of a heart attack, according to authorities, but her family claimed a body covered with bruises and marred with a broken nose and teeth. An 18-year-old woman, traveling home in the custody of authorities, reportedly jumped to her death from a moving train.
The most recent Falun Gong victims died last month at Wanjia Reeducation Labor Camp in Heilongjiang Province. The government said three hanged themselves in protest, while Falun Gong activists say 15 were tortured to death.
The crackdown has been condemned by the State Department and the human-rights group Amnesty International. Advocates hope to end the persecution through such pressure as trade sanctions and a rejection of China's bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games.


What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by Massimo Introvigne
"Falun Gong 101. Introduzione al Falun Gong e alla sua presenza in Italia" (in italiano), di Massimo Introvigne

FALUN GONG UPDATES

Anti-Cult Law in France - Index Page

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