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"China Deports American After Protest"

by Christopher Bodeen (AP, April 16, 2002)

BEIJING (AP) - China has deported an American college student detained for demonstrating in Beijing's Tiananmen Square against the government's ban on the Falun Gong spiritual sect, the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday.
China's Foreign Ministry confirmed to the embassy that an American was questioned and expelled on Sunday, the day of the protest, an embassy spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
The spokesman did not identify the American, citing privacy rules. However, the demonstrator identified himself to The Associated Press on Sunday as Andrew Muir Ellsmore, and Falun Gong supporters in the United States released the same name.
Ellsmore, 21, a junior majoring in geology at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., was taken off the square in a police van after shouting "Falun Dafa is good" in broken Chinese and unfurling a banner emblazoned with the same slogan.
In a statement released by Falun Gong just after the protest, Ellsmore said the act was intended to "help people who have no voice and are in desperate need of justice."
Ellsmore's was the latest in a string of protests by foreign Falun Gong practitioners in China. All have been detained and quickly deported.
Some sect members have complained of abuse at the hands of police, although China claims all were treated humanely. Ellsmore was not visibly mistreated during his arrest or in the immediate hours afterward.
Falun Gong gained millions of followers in China and abroad during the 1990s, with its mixture of eastern philosophy, meditation and light exercise techniques.
Fearful of independent groups that could challenge the Communist Party's political monopoly, China banned the sect in 1999 as an "evil cult" and has sought to eradicate it with a relentless campaign of propaganda, arrests, and detentions.
Falun Gong claims almost 400 followers have died under suspicious circumstances in police custody. China denies abusing them, saying they have died from suicide, hunger strikes or by refusing medication.

"American detained on Tiananmen Square after pro-Falun Gong demonstration"

by Ted Anthony (AP, April 14, 2002)

BEIJING - A young man identified as an American university student was taken into custody peacefully Sunday afternoon after unfurling a banner on crowded Tiananmen Square and shouting slogans supporting the outlawed Falun Gong sect.
The man, identified by Falun Gong supporters in the United States as Andrew Muir Ellsmore, 21, was quickly driven off in a police van that had been stationed nearby - standard operating procedure in the public square that represents the heart of Chinese communism.
On a dusty, windswept afternoon when Tiananmen Square was filled with kite-flyers and out-of-town tourists, Ellsmore unfurled his banner - in the favored Falun Gong color of yellow - and shouted, in barely intelligible Chinese, "Falun Dafa is good!" The banner said the same thing.
Falun Dafa is another name for the spiritual movement.
Military police who patrol the square quickly swooped in and seized Ellsmore's banner, then blocked his way as he tried to walk off. The entire incident lasted less than a .
minuteEllsmore, identified as a junior at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, was not mistreated before police escorted him crisply but professionally into their van.
"How interesting," a young Chinese man said to his girlfriend as they watched the scene.
In a statement released by Falun Gong members abroad less than two hours after his arrest, Ellsmore, said "I'm merely trying to help people who have no voice and are in desperate need of justice."
Police at the precinct where Ellsmore was taken said he had not been officially arrested.
A woman who identified herself as the duty officer at the Public Security Bureau said she knew nothing about the arrest. A man at the Foreign Ministry who refused to identify himself said he would look into the matter Sunday afternoon.
Police also detained an Associated Press photographer for nearly three hours, taking him into custody at the demonstration and driving him away in the same van as Ellsmore.
The two were kept in custody together and questioned in the same room at the Tiananmen precinct. The photographer, Ng Han Guan, said Ellsmore walked out of the precinct after being left unsupervised, prompting a frantic search by police.
Ellsmore was dragged back to the precinct but was not physically mistreated during the period they were held together, Ng said.
After Ellsmore's recapture, a plainclothes police supervisor told him through an interpreter that he didn't care about Falun Gong - but that losing such a detainee could cause him major problems.
"Do you realize we could lose our jobs over this?" the supervisor told Ellsmore. "My wife and children depend on me. Who is going to feed them if I get fired?"
Ellsmore's demonstration was the latest in a series of more than a half-dozen staged in Tiananmen Square by foreign supporters of the movement. All were detained and expelled.
Falun Gong was founded by Li Hongzhi, a former Chinese grain bureau clerk who lives in the United States. He attracted millions of followers in the 1990s with his mix of slow-motion exercise, traditional Chinese beliefs and his own teachings.
The Chinese government, which calls Falun Gong an "evil cult," banned the movement in 1999 as a threat to public order. During an often brutal crackdown, an estimated thousands of believers have been sent to labor camps.
Falun Gong members abroad allege nearly 400 of their fellow followers have died of abuse by authorities. Chinese officials deny killing anyone.

"Falun Gong members protest crackdown on sect in China"

by Margaret Wong (AP, April 12, 2002)

HONG KONG - Members of the Falun Gong meditation group, banned in mainland China but not here, rallied Friday to protest Beijing's crackdown on the group in the northern Chinese city of Changchun.
"This is an urgent call to help stop the persecution of our members. The situation in Changchun is very severe," said Hong Kong Falun Gong spokesman and businessman Tony Chan, a member for six years.
Wearing their customary yellow T-shirts, about 100 Falun Gong members sat quietly in Chater Garden, in the bustling city center. They also performed slow-moving meditation exercises to recorded Chinese music. The group planned a candlelight vigil Friday evening and marches over the weekend.
Members held aloft a wreath with portraits of sect members they claimed were killed in China's crackdown.
Falun Gong members say about 5,000 members have been arrested and nearly 100 tortured to death in Changchun since March 5, when followers hacked into the lines of Changchun's cable TV network, broadcasting a lecture by group leader Li Hongzhi.
Chinese officials in Hong Kong did not respond to requests for comment.
Government officials in the mainland insist no Falun Gong members have died of persecution. Instead, they say crazed followers of the group the government branded an "evil cult" and outlawed nearly three years ago have hacked loved ones to death, hurled themselves from trains and buildings, set themselves ablaze, hanged or starved themselves to death in detention, and refused lifesaving medical treatment.
Falun Gong has attracted millions of followers, most of them in China, with its combination of slow-motion exercises and philosophy drawn from Taoism, Buddhism and founder Li's often unorthodox ideas. Adherents insist that it promotes health and good citizenship.
The sect remains legal in Hong Kong - although authorities here have taken a tougher line against its members, arresting 16 people during a protest outside the territory's Chinese liaison office March 14.

"TV hijackings, e-mail attacks: China's government, Falun Gong battle for a hazy concept-truth"

by John Leicester (AP, April 10, 2002)

BEIJING - It was about 7 p.m. in the northern Chinese city of Changchun when TV screens suddenly stuttered into black and white before settling into a broadcast that left viewers stunned.
There, sitting in the lotus position and preaching to a crowd, was the man whom Chinese leaders equate with evil: Li Hongzhi, guru of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.
Falun Gong followers had hacked into the lines of Changchun's cable TV network, hijacking the airwaves Chinese communist leaders so jealously guard. It was one of their most daring acts yet in a battle to survive a relentless government campaign to eradicate a group that has claimed millions of followers.
For Chinese, long accustomed to seeing Falun Gong vilified on state TV, the March 5 broadcast was electrifying. It lasted 15 to 20 minutes, during which the soft-spoken voiceover slammed the government for banning the group, said Falun Gong is practiced freely abroad and praised Li's "outstanding contributions," one viewer recalled, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity.
Nearly three years after China outlawed Falun Gong, both sides have settled into the information age's equivalent of trench warfare. China claims sweeping victories, but Falun Gong holdouts fight on and say they are far from defeated.
Each accuses the other of atrocities. Both say truth is on their side.
From the safety of offices in the United States, Falun Gong organizers say Chinese prison guards and police routinely torture and murder followers. As of April 1, they claimed 386 dead. Followers have reported being shocked with electric batons, beaten bloody, sexually abused and otherwise brutalized.
China's version of events is the opposite.
Government officials insist no practitioners have died of persecution. Instead, they say crazed followers of the "evil cult" have hacked loved ones to death, hurled themselves from trains and buildings, set themselves ablaze, hanged or starved themselves to death in detention, and refused life-saving medical treatment.
They blame the group for 1,700 deaths.
"Falun Gong practitioners are pitiful," said Wang Yusheng, secretary of China's government-approved Anti-Cult Association. "They don't take medicine when they're sick, they don't even have a normal sense of humor and they don't believe in publicly accepted values. They only believe their master."
Critics say the crackdown goes against the Communist Party's modernizing aspirations - goals symbolized by Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics and China's new World Trade Organization membership.
The Falun Gong faithful maintain that Li's teachings and meditative slow-motion exercises simply build happy, healthier citizens - and can even endow them with supernatural powers.
But Chinese leaders have long been suspicious of organized religions, and they see a direct challenge to their power in Falun Gong's ability to motivate millions for whom communism no longer means much.
They may also see parallels with earlier quasi-religious movements, such as the Taipings. Led by a man who believed he was Christ's younger brother, they swept through China in the mid-1800s and were put down only after a war that killed millions of people.
To crush Falun Gong, China's government is employing the same tools it uses to control its 1.3 billion people: a massive police apparatus, labor camps and pliant courts.
Police technicians block Chinese access to Falun Gong Web sites, and the entirely state-controlled media slams the group at every turn. Officials have also roped in followers' families, friends and workmates to pressure them to abandon the practice.
As of Jan. 15, courts had tried and sentenced 1,289 members, mostly on cult charges, said a government spokesman who talked to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
He wouldn't say what the sentences were, but some Falun Gong leaders are known to have received prison terms of 18 years.
Nor will authorities confirm claims by Falun Gong organizers abroad that as many as 20,000 have spent time in labor camps - a punishment handed out without trial.
Adherents from the United States, Australia and other countries keep the crackdown in the international eye by coming to Beijing's heavily policed Tiananmen Square to protest. They are quickly detained and deported, and hold news conferences.
But in China, repression has scared most followers into submission or underground. Tiananmen Square protests by Chinese followers have dwindled to almost nil.
The government claims 98 percent of the two million people it says practiced Falun Gong have abandoned the group. Wang, of the Anti-Cult Association, puts the number of unconverted adherents - including labor camp detainees and people practicing secretly at home - in the tens of thousands.
"Not a small number, but it's still a large percentage drop from two million," he said.
Falun Gong etched itself into Chinese leaders' consciousness on April 25, 1999.
That's when thousands of practitioners stood in silent daylong protest around the communist leadership's red-walled Beijing headquarters, seeking legal sanction for Falun Gong.
President Jiang Zemin was incensed. A crackdown was ordered and agents sent to infiltrate the group. Three months later, Falun Gong leaders were rounded up, protesters hauled away, the group's books seized.
Falun Gong "conducted illegal activities, spreading superstitious, evil thinking to blind people, to stir up trouble and sabotage social stability," said the government, announcing its ban.
Yet Falun Gong adherents fight on, some despite multiple stints in detention, against the official view that their "Master Li" is a demagogue living lavishly in the United States on money stolen from enslaved followers.
Some have organized into small cells — a tactic reminiscent of the Communist Party's own underground beginnings in the 1920s, only with the added technological power of the Internet age.
Hunted by authorities, facing the government's information blockade, some resisters communicate with encrypted e-mails and unregistered mobile phones. They say they keep their real names and addresses secret even from each other, to have less to tell if captured.
"In communist leaders' eyes, "it is the very strength of this 'virtual spiritual movement' and its mastery of modern communication in a way that is new in China... that is one part of the threat that it poses," said Barend J. ter Haar, a professor of Chinese history at Holland's Leiden University.
In February, the month before the Changchun TV hijacking, Falun Gong activists hacked into television cables in another northeastern city, Anshan, police there said. They said they arrested several Falun Gong members.
Police in the northeastern city of Mishan say they caught a follower distributing leaflets on the streets Feb. 12 and shot him in the leg after he stabbed and injured three officers in an attempt to flee.
Other resisters have set up loudspeakers that broadcast over city neighborhoods, daubed slogans on lampposts, walls and mail boxes, deluged officials with letters and e-mails, and made nighttime leafleting raids on housing projects.
"I got one in a bus station. The paper showed Li Hongzhi's face and said Falun Gong is good. I didn't dare read it carefully, so I threw it on the road immediately," said a woman in Changchun who gave her name as Mrs. Li.
The Changchun network's cables were cut in two places and broadcasting equipment attached, said the government official who briefed the AP. Police arrested several people, he added. Changchun police said they intensified security and searches for Falun Gong practitioners.
Jackie, a 27-year-old Falun Gong info-warrior who keeps his real name secret, learned the hard way that public protest gets nowhere. He says he was twice arrested on Tiananmen Square and served two months in a labor camp that made women's jewelry.
Released after he promised in writing to abandon Falun Gong, he says he soon began practicing again in secret and then last year turned to outright resistance after hearing that a friend, a practitioner with a baby daughter, died in a labor camp.
"I thought, my friends are suffering so much and I'm hiding here," he said in an interview. "I thought, I can't go on like this; I too must stand up again and speak out."
He quit his teaching job, moved secretly to Beijing and hooked up with a half-dozen other adherents, he said.
Now he writes letters - more than 1,000 of them in the past 10 months - to people in China whose postal addresses he finds on the Internet, he said. He also monitors Internet chat rooms for e-mail addresses to target with Falun Gong material, and advises fellow practitioners how to skirt government blocks and access the Web site of Falun Gong, which also calls itself Falun Dafa. There the reclusive Li posts his musings and promises of salvation in eight languages.
"No matter how the evil persecutes, what awaits Dafa disciples is still Consummation, and what awaits the evil beings is nothing but eternally paying in Hell for all they have done to interfere with and persecute the Fa-rectification and Dafa disciples," Li wrote in a March 8 posting titled: "Look at things with righteous thoughts."
Meeting Jackie is a cloak-and-dagger exercise. Instructions come in encrypted e-mails, one signed: "Surrender is not an option." They guide a reporter to a McDonald's.
There, as "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" plays over loudspeakers, the reporter waits. Some 45 minutes pass, during which unseen watchers presumably check that he hasn't been followed. Then a call from a pay phone sends him to a waiting car, then a hotel entrance, and finally a teahouse.
Jackie turns up in a smart gray suit, crisp shirt and tie. It's the outfit he says he'll wear when he finally welcomes his Master Li at the airport on a triumphant return from exile.
"We can see that final victory will be ours, without a doubt, because justice is on our side," he said. "We know lies don't last. A person can be cheated for a day, but not for ever."
Jackie says he doesn't know how many others like him are in Beijing.
But he recently found a note on a mailbox that said: "Falun Dafa is good, Falun Dafa is the truth."
"I was so happy when I saw it," he said. "I knew I wasn't alone, that there are others persevering with me."

"Report: Editor punished after publishing poems by Falun Gong leader"

(AP, April 8, 2002)

BEIJING - A business editor is still working for his newspaper after reportedly publishing two poems said to have been written by the leader of the banned Falun Gong sect, a colleague said Monday.
The Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, quoting unidentified sources, reported in weekend editions that the editor, who works for Guangzhou Daily's business news department, had been detained and questioned by authorities. It gave no details.
"After the publication," Wen Wei Po said, the poems "aroused attention from the Guangdong security bureau, which immediately launched an investigation. Only then did rumors that `these poems were written by Li Hongzhi' spread around."
The editor was not identified, and it was not clear whether he knew the authorship of the poems - or whether they were actually written by Li Hongzhi. A call to a Falun Gong spokeswoman in the United States was not immediately returned.
The editor's colleague in the paper's business news department, reached by telephone Monday, told The Associated Press that he was still working there. The female colleague was familiar with the case but declined to give any further information.
Spokeswomen for the Guangzhou Daily and for the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau said they were unaware of the case.
The poems in question - two lines of Chinese characters each - were published in March 30 editions. "General readers would have thought they were commenting on the recent plunges in stock prices," Wen Wei Po said. The poems also appeared to refer to severe dust storms that have plagued northern China in recent weeks.
Said one: "The dark cloud has hung over the sky for a while ... People have awakened from their dreams and found half the country covered with sand and dust." The other included a line saying that "hundreds of millions of innocent people were hurt."
Li Hongzhi, a former Chinese government grain-bureau clerk who lives in the United States, is the target of an intense campaign of vilification by state media. He attracted millions of followers in the 1990s with his mix of slow-motion exercise, traditional Chinese beliefs and his own teachings.
The Chinese government banned Falun Gong in 1999 as an "evil cult" and has arrested thousands of its followers. Supporters abroad claim that some have been treated brutally by authorities.

"Officials ask U.S. cities to snub sect" by Steve Park

("Washington Times," April 8, 2002)

Chinese officials are conducting a nationwide campaign in the United States against the Falun Gong meditation sect by contacting mayors, and at least one governor, and urging them to snub the group.
"I was shocked that a communist nation would go to this amount of trouble to suppress what is routinely accepted in this country," said Randy Voepel, mayor of Santee, Calif., a city of 53,000 located less than 100 miles from Los Angeles.
Mr. Voepel said he received a letter just more than a year ago, signed by Lan Lijun, consul general at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles, that said: "It is our hope that your city, by taking your citizens' interest into consideration, will earnestly consider the request from the Chinese side that no recognition and support in any form should be given to the Falun Gong cult organization."
Reached by telephone this week, Mr. Voepel said, "I found it to be very intimidating. It was a pure communist approach."
The Chinese campaign came to light in a civil lawsuit that Falun Gong members in the United States filed against Beijing.
The sect, which combines Buddhist meditation and deep-breathing exercises, has been banned in China.
Members' attempts to protest the ban have prompted the largest crackdown on dissent since the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square.
Stan Bogosian, former mayor of Saratoga, Calif., a city of 30,000 near San Francisco, said he received a similar letter sometime in 2000.
"I would characterize it as pressure," he said. "There is a network [by the Chinese authorities] going on."
Gov. Gary Locke of Washington state also received a letter from Wang Yunxiang, consul-general at the consulate in San Francisco.
"I am writing hereby to request your kind support by not granting any application of this Falun Gong for registration in your state in whatever names," said Mr. Wang in June 2000.
The Chinese consulates have sent about 300 letters to local governments throughout the United States, U.S. Falun Gong practitioners say.
Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, acknowledged a letter-writing campaign by Chinese diplomats but denied it was intended to suppress the movement.
"We are just sharing the facts about Falun Gong," Mr. Sun said. "We have only urged local officials to stop honoring the Falun Gong."
U.S. Falun Gong members filed the lawsuit on Wednesday. It accuses Chinese agents operating in the United States of making death threats and tapping phones of Falun Gong practitioners.
The 57-page complaint names two Chinese security ministries, China Central Television, and employees of Chinese Embassy and Consulate offices for engaging in criminal activities intended to impair the organization.
"The Chinese government has stolen our Constitution and our Bill of Rights," said Martin F. McMahon, an attorney for the religious group. "We want it back."
Terri Wu, one of the plaintiffs, said that her home and mobile phones have been bugged and recorded and that unidentified callers have played the recordings back to her since January 2001.
"I had conversations played back to me on five different occasions," Miss Wu said.
Gail Rachlin, a Falun Gong practitioner in New York City, said her apartment had been broken into three times.
"They didn't steal anything but my income tax records, address book and other Falun Gong-related materials," she said.
In response to the lawsuit, the Chinese Embassy released a statement denying any wrongdoing and saying U.S. courts lack the authority to put the Chinese government on trial.

"Former Falun Gong Followers Enlisted in China's War on Sect"

by Elisabeth Rosenthal (New York Times, April 5, 2002)

KAIFENG - Chinese authorities today put on display three severely scarred former practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement who expressed their regret for setting themselves on fire last year in Tiananmen Square. It was the latest salvo in the mounting propaganda war between the government and Falun Gong, now based largely in the United States.
"I went to burn myself to demonstrate that Falun Gong is good and true but I never imagined this outcome," said Chen Guo, 20, a former music student from a hospital bed in her hometown here.
"But now I think it is a cult," she said through a mouth that could barely move because of the scars that now envelop her hairless, handless body, "and people should understand that and no longer follow it."
Over the last two days, for the first time, Chinese officials allowed a small group of foreign journalists to speak with six people involved in the grisly 2001 protest, including the three who had set themselves on fire.
Officials were present at all the interviews, though the former practitioners insisted that they were free to answer as they wished. While most had renounced Falun Gong, one said he had not and another refused to say.
The interviews were apparently part of the government's effort to counter the increasingly sophisticated public relations campaign that Falun Gong has mounted since the beginning of this year, in China and abroad. With technological know-how, Web sites, newsletters and video CD's, the group has doggedly promoted its beliefs and publicized its suppression in China.
Falun Gong, which blends slow-motion exercises and meditation with the eclectic theories of its founder, Li Hongzhi, was wildly popular in China until it was banned as an "evil cult" in 1999.
Last month, followers in Changchun, a northeastern city that is the movement's birthplace, managed to tap into a television cable and replace prime-time programming with a program about Falun Gong, part of which said the self-immolation was a government hoax to discredit the movement, city residents said. Many there have also received video CD's with vivid reports of torture suffered by practitioners. In Beijing, some people have received automated phone calls with pro-Falun Gong messages.
In recent weeks, Falun Gong's Web site has posted urgent claims about a brutal roundup in Changchun, saying that some believers had been tortured and others thrown from high-rise buildings. These reports could not be confirmed.
Official newspapers in Changchun this week acknowledged a renewed crackdown since the incident involving the television cable, and said 10 people had been arrested.
In Washington on Wednesday, Falun Gong filed a civil lawsuit against Chinese officials it accuses of harassing followers in the United States.
With propaganda streaming in from seemingly opposite ends of the universe, the conflicting claims are difficult to assess, especially since the remaining Falun Gong practitioners have been driven underground and China tightly controls its news media.
For example, while Falun Gong has long insisted that the self-immolators could not have been followers because the movement proscribes suicide, the former practitioners from Henan vehemently denied today that they were government stooges. They described their long involvement with Falun Gong, and one, at the request of a reporter, fluidly performed its signature slow-motion exercises.
As for the reported reign of terror in Changchun, an official in the city's Re-education Through Labor Bureau said Falun Gong's estimates of practitioners being held in labor camps were "hugely exaggerated."
"There are about 1,000, certainly not 5,000 that's totally incorrect," said the official, who was reached by phone and refused to give his name. He added that at least 100, perhaps up to 200, had been detained since the television hijacking and would probably spend one to three years in a labor camp, where they would attend classes encouraging them to denounce Falun Gong. He denied that there had been instances of torture or other abuses.
What is clear, though, is that Falun Gong has retained many followers or at least sympathizers at least in some places..
One man from Changchun said that when Li Hongzhi's image suddenly appeared on all eight of the city's cable television channels on March 5, some residents assumed that the government had lifted its ban on the movement and took to the streets to celebrate.
"It is much smaller now than before," the labor camp official said, "but there is still an underground organization with highly secret and effective communications and support and also money from abroad."
Among the six people made available for interviews this week, all from Kaifeng, three people had set themselves on fire, two said they intended to but did not and one man did not participate in the protests but helped organize the group.
Wang Jindong, a former businessman who who burned himself and is now serving a 15-year prison sentence, described how Mr. Li's writings had inspired him and his companions to douse themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire.
He, like the others interviewed, said he had started practicing Falun Gong to improve his health. But he quickly become entranced by the spiritual fulfillment outlined in Mr. Li's writings, which describe a complex cosmology that promises a post-apocalyptic nirvana and higher states of being.
"From his books I learned that this is not our real life so I burned myself to achieve a higher state of fulfillment," he said, his face still covered with scar tissue. "This has been very painful for me because my whole life was Falun Gong and now I feel I've been deceived."
The men and women presented for interviews did not all follow the government line.
Mr. Wang still praised the health benefits of Falun Gong. "As a form of exercise it really works," he said.
Almost all suggested that the government's suppression of the movement had driven them to commit increasingly desperate acts. Ms. Chen, the burned music student, and her mother, who was also severely burned, had previously unfurled a pro-Falun Gong banner on the square and sent a letter of protest to China's Parliament. They were detained and the letter was forwarded to Henan prosecutors to be used as evidence against them.
One of the prisoners, Liu Yunfang, who is serving a life sentence for organizing the event, said today that he still believed that Falun Gong was good, "though the government forbids us from saying it." With an oddly calm grin, he said he had gone to the square intending to set himself on fire, but when his lighter malfunctioned he realized that "my master wanted me to stay alive to be his mouth."

"Maine brothers told: Don't come back for 5 years"

by Aaron Miller ("Blethen Maine Newspapers," April 4, 2002)

VASSALBORO - Jason and Dan Pomerleau were told not to return to China for five years after they were detained by government officials for protesting the treatment of those who practice Falun Gong.
The brothers, who spent the Easter weekend with their parents on Cross Hill Road, were detained and jailed in China last week after separate attempts to speak to strangers about Falung Gong, a practice involving meditation and exercise. The Chinese outlawed the practice in 1999.
Dan, a student at Clark University in Massachussets, and Jason, employed by Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, said their trip was rocky from the beginning. Dan, 20, was jailed and interrogated for passing out Falun Gong literature. He claimed he wasn't doing anything illegal, but was detained anyway.
Jason Pomerleau, 25, who introduced Falun Gong to his younger brother, arrived in Beijing a few days after his brother, not knowing of his dilemma.
Jason and his girlfriend, Christine Loftus, were grabbed off a busy street by police and jailed for 42 hours. Jason stayed in the same cell in which his brother had been incarcerated.
Dan, Jason and Christine eventually were released and safely returned to their homes.
Before the Falun Gong was banned, it was not uncommon for people to gather and practice the exercises in public. Jason said it's difficult to practice Falun Gong even indoors.
"The government wanted everybody to sign a form agreeing with the government's hateful opinion about Falun Gong and promise not to practice," he said.
Falun Gong practitioners would not sign the form because they believe in truthfulness, tolerance and compassion. Signing the form would prevent them from practicing.
Jason said he spoke with vendors, students and people walking on the street. Even after he was detained, while being brought to a plane waiting to fly him back home, he expressed his opinion.
"I said, 'Falun Dafa is good,' to some of the airport employees as we passed by and the police frantically told me to be quiet and that I shouldn't make trouble for them," he said. "When we got to the gate, they held me off to the side to wait until nearly all the other passengers had boarded. It is clear to me now that they were very afraid people would know what they were doing."
Jason and Dan said this week they hope persecution of Falun Gong members will have ended by the time they get to return to China. Jason said he is disappointed that he could not reach out to more people.
"Both Christine and I were disappointed when we were grabbed. We just began and we had so many people to talk to," he said.
Jason and Dan joined their sister, father and mother — who also practices Falun Gong — for Easter dinner on Sunday. Although concerned about their capture, Diane Pomerleau is proud of her two sons and respects their decisions.
"If they reached one person then they accomplished their goal," Diane Pomerleau said Monday.

"Falun Gong slips poems into Chinese newspaper"

(Reuters, April 4, 2002)

BEIJING - Just weeks after hacking into Chinese state television and airing propaganda films, members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement have slipped poems by their leader into a major state-run newspaper, an editor at the paper said on Thursday.
Two poems written by Falun Gong's exiled spiritual leader Li Hongzhi were printed on an economic page in the March 30 edition of South China's Guangzhou Daily, the editor, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.
"A Falun Gong adherent presented the two poems as part of an article submitted to the page," he said.
"The editor in charge mistook the poems, which were very ambiguous in meaning, for a description of the general economic situation. They passed through all the editorial checks and got published," he said.
The two four-line poems, which also appeared on Falun Gong's Web site (www.minghui.net), describe grim skies and suffocating sandstorms over the Chinese land, with allusions to people dying everywhere and imminent salvation.
Falun Gong, which combines traditional Chinese exercise with Taoism and Buddhism, was outlawed in China as an "evil cult" in mid-1999.
Other officials at the newspaper were not available for comment, but the editor said there was speculation that harsh disciplinary action would be taken against editorial staff found responsible for printing the poems.
In the television hijack, prime-time cable broadcasts in the northeastern city of Changchun were interrupted on March 5 by footage of Li Hongzhi and a film accusing the government of staging a self-immolation in Tiananmen Square last year.
Changchun, capital of Jilin province, is the hometown of the Falun Gong leader, now living in exile in New York.
Around 20 people have been arrested in Changchun for the TV protest, some of whom will be charged with using an evil cult to damage law enforcement, state media and officials have said.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, has since accused the government of launching a bloody crackdown. It says more than 5,000 members have been arrested in Changchun and some 100 have died in custody.
The group said China has warned it would sack provincial and city leaders if cable broadcasts were interrupted again and police who missed "arrest quotas" would be fired.
A Changchun government spokesman denied Falun Gong's accusations on Wednesday, saying police stepped up their efforts to control Falun Gong as part of their normal work, but declined to elaborate.

"China arrests leaders of TV takeover"

("BBC News," April 2, 2002)

Police in north-eastern China have arrested several followers of the banned Falun Gong movement who are accused of hijacking a state broadcast last month.
Police in Changchun, where the illicit broadcast was shown, told Reuters news agency that about 20 people have been detained and more arrests were expected.
A police spokesman said those arrested included Liang Zhenxing, Zhou Runjun and Zhao Jian, the three identified as the leaders of the break-in.
A city prosecutor predicted that the organisers of the transmission would be charged with "using an evil cult to damage law enforcement", a crime which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
A group of Falun Gong followers managed to take over the TV station's airwaves and show two films praising the Falun Gong.
The two illegal programmes - one of which praised the exiled, US-based founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi - were prepared in January by ringleader Liang Zhenxing with the assistance of others, according to China News Service's website.
Mr Liang spent 11,000 Yuan ($1,325) on film-making equipment and other materials to break into the cable network, the agency said.
It said the followers were "promoting unrest and propaganda in the name of Falun Gong".
The group, which China says is an "evil cult" trying to overthrow the Communist Party, was banned on mainland China three years ago.
Falun Gong says it is spiritual group that teaches exercise and meditation.
The TV broadcast, which reportedly replaced state television at prime time for about 50 minutes, condemned the Communist state's crackdown on the movement.
Locals said one of the films accused the government of staging a self-immolation by alleged Falun Gong followers in Tiananmen Square last year.
Falun Gong representatives abroad said it showed the sect's leader, Li Hongzhi, lecturing on the group's beliefs.
The programmes went out to much of the network of 300,000 subscribers, giving a potential audience of around one million.

"Sect accused of hacking cable system"

by Christopher Bodeen (AP, April 2, 2002)

BEIJING - Seven followers of the banned Falun Gong meditation sect have been arrested and accused of hacking into a northern Chinese city's cable television system to broadcast material about the group, police officials said Tuesday.
The seven were detained last week and more arrests are planned, said a police spokesman in Changchun, where the pirate broadcast was shown. It was not clear what the exact charges were or the penalty they face if found guilty.
He said police believe dozens more followers were involved in the incident, one of Falun Gong's most daring acts of defiance against the often brutal 21/2-year government crackdown against it.
"There are dozens of criminals involved. We have not got all of them," said the spokesman, who refused to give his name. He gave the names of the seven arrested -- including Liang Zhenxing, Zhou Runjun and Zhao Jian, the three identified as the leaders.
The March 5 broadcast cut into prime-time 7 p.m. programming in the cities of Changchun and Songyuan in Jilin province, according to an account Tuesday in the China Women's News, a government newspaper.
It said followers led by Liang, Zhou and Zhao began planning the broadcast early in December. Liang borrowed a storage space and wrote instructions, spending $1,300 of his own money to buy equipment, it said.
Learning that Falun Gong followers were going to be sentenced in Changchun on March 6, they chose the evening before to act to "disrupt the normal sentencing work of the court," the paper said.
Another suspect, Liu Chengjun, set fire to a straw shack where he was hiding when police arrived to arrest him, officials said. He then injured four officers by "suddenly attacking" the policeman driving the car taking him away, causing it to crash and injure four officers.
The pirate broadcast lasted for about 10 minutes, the Changchun cable company said. Falun Gong representatives abroad said the broadcast showed group leader Li Hongzhi lecturing on the sect's beliefs and sought to refute government accusations.
Alarmed at the size and organizing power of Falun Gong's membership, the Communist government has pursued the group relentlessly since banning it in mid-1999 as an "evil cult" and has sentenced its members to up to life in prison for sect-related activities. It says Falun Gong is a public nuisance that deludes members with dangerous teachings and wants to sabotage China.
China has detained thousands of sect members and the group's organizers abroad say more than 350 have died in custody.
The group claims to be apolitical. It says it only wants to spread its program of meditation, traditional Chinese calisthenics and teachings based on Chinese philosophy and the ideas of Li, its founder, a former grain clerk.
Group members have challenged the crackdown through an underground campaign of leafleting and Internet postings, along with occasional public protests that are harshly repressed by authorities.
Foreign practitioners of Falun Gong have also staged a number of protests against in Beijing in recent months, always followed by arrests and swift deportations. Several have complained of brutal treatment by police, but Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Tuesday that all had been "treated humanely." "We call on the relevant countries to educate their people to abide by Chinese laws and regulations when they come to China," she said at a regular news briefing.

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


CESNUR reproduces or quotes documents from the media and different sources on a number of religious issues. Unless otherwise indicated, the opinions expressed are those of the document's author(s), not of CESNUR or its directors

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