"Falun Gong Members Ask for Tolerance"

by Charles Hutzler ("Associated Press", October 28, 1999)

BEIJING (AP) - Bruised and battered from beatings and on the run from Chinese police, members of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong vowed to press their protest campaign to end the communist government's crackdown.
As police searched across Beijing, group members converged on Tiananmen Square today for a fourth day. They kept quiet vigil while a national legislative committee met in the neighboring Great Hall of the People to consider a proposed law to suppress Falun Gong and other suspected cults.
Police detained at least 20 people on the vast square today, putting them into blue-and-white minibuses and driving them away. Squads of police visited local hostels and private homes overnight, trying to ferret out adherents, witnesses said.
While Falun Gong members made no overt acts of protest, the peaceful, muted demonstrations marked the most public confrontation between movement members and police since Chinese leaders banned the group as a threat to public order in July.
``The party and the government will not show the devil cult any mercy because any benevolence shown to such heretics will trample the human rights of other citizens,'' the ruling Communist Party's newspaper, People's Daily, said in one of the most sweeping attacks in a three-month campaign.
Falun Gong is a blend of slow-motion exercises with ideas drawn from Buddhism and Taoism. Believers focus on the Falun, or wheel of energy, located in the abdomen. Practice is believed to promote health and morality, and experts may obtain supernatural powers.
The dozens, if not hundreds, of followers gathering in Tiananmen daily are believed to be only a fraction of the practitioners from all parts of China who have assembled in Beijing over the past month. Followers have been drawn to Beijing over the past month on rumors the government was preparing to intensify its crusade.
At a news conference convened amid secrecy, about 30 Falun Gong practitioners described to foreign reporters abuses members have suffered since Chinese leaders banned the group. The seven reporters met at a restaurant in one part of Beijing and were escorted by group members to a suburban hotel, changing taxis twice along the way.
A 31-year-old hairdresser from Shijiazhuang city, Ding Yan, showed off her bruised wrists from being handcuffed, one arm over her shoulder, the other behind her back, when detained in Beijing on Oct. 17.
Qu Yuyan, age 11, said he was expelled from his school in northeastern Heilongjiang for practicing. Others described hunger strikes, beatings and the death of one member in police custody.
``The policeman said the state is run by (Chinese President) Jiang Zemin and I get my money from him, so I will beat you,'' Yuan Yuchun, a 38-year-old woman from the northeastern port of Dalian, said describing how she was shocked in the face by electric batons.
The background and fervor of the Falun Gong members underscored the difficulties the government faces in suppressing the once widely popular group. A shoe factory manager from the southeast, two police officers and Communist Party members from the northeast and a radio reporter from central China were among those present.
Group members demanded that the government rescind its arrest warrant for Li Hongzhi, the Falun Gong's founder, who now lives in New York, lift the ban on Falun Gong and restore their right to practice. Ex-shoe factory manager Jiang Zhaohui appealed to governments and the United Nations to persuade the Chinese leadership to back down.
The Chinese government defended the crackdown anew as lawful and claimed the support of most nations.
``All responsible governments will not permit a heretical cult to upset social order and to endanger the stability of the country,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said today.


"China brands Falungong a cult"

("BBC", October 28, 1999)

The Chinese government has stepped up its attacks on the outlawed Falungong movement.
The party newspaper called Falungong a true cult, which brainwashed its followers -- it had previously been called merely an illegal organisation.
Cults are banned under Chinese law and members face lengthy prison sentences.
The newspaper said Falungong had a tight organisation and hierarchy, and compared it to the Japanese Aum Shinri Kyo movement which carried out a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
The BBC Beijing correspondent says the announcement may herald tougher measures against ordinary followers of Falungong, who have been protesting this week close to the Chinese parliament which is debating anti-cult legislation.


"Falun Gong Protests for Third Day"

by Michael Laris ("The Washington Post", October 28, 1999)

BEIJING, Oct. 27 - As a police officer in northeastern China, She Jingsheng has a lot of experience subduing dangerous lawbreakers. But as a member of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, Officer She has had to learn how to be a lawbreaker himself.
For the third day in a row today, Falun Gong demonstrators persisted in a campaign of quiet defiance in China's capital designed to persuade the government to end its recently stepped-up crackdown on the group. Followers milled silently in the Tiananmen Square area, while police repeatedly took small groups of them to a nearby station house in blue and white vans.
The continuing civil disobedience, and Officer She's willingness to speak on the record about it, are signs of the trouble the Chinese government has encountered in trying to crush Falun Gong, despite launching its biggest campaign against dissent since the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations.
"I don't understand why I have to choose between being a good person and being a good policeman," Officer She said. "I don't want to give up practicing . . . I want to tell the government what's in my heart."
The government has blasted Falun Gong's contention that cultivating an "orb of energy" in one's belly leads to physical and spiritual health and has said that more than 1,400 people have died practicing the movement's beliefs. But the group has appealed to those in search of something to fill the spiritual vacuum left by the disintegration of communism as a compelling ideology.
More than 10,000 Falun followers gathered around the government's headquarters in April to seek legal status, startling China's leaders and precipitating the ban in July. Since then, thousands of followers have been detained. Most have been released after a matter of days or weeks, but they maintained an intense loyalty to Falun and its founder, Li Hongzhi.
In an extended interview in a willow-shaded Beijing park today, Officer She, 35, refused to criticize China's central government for the crackdown. He repeatedly expressed confidence that China's leaders will change their minds about the group and treat it in a "just" manner if its members can show they have no anti-government intentions.
He first encountered Falun Gong followers in 1997 while jogging around a sports stadium near his home. Soon after reading one of Falun's manuals and starting to practice the exercise and meditation regimen regularly, he became a kinder person, gave to charity for the first time and his kidney stones vanished, he said.
After the ban, police forced him to dictate an anti-Falun statement and tried to persuade him to quit. Under intense scrutiny at home, he traveled to Beijing earlier this month to appeal the government's verdict.
His wife and daughter, 7, joined him and were detained while hiding in a Beijing house along with dozens of other followers from around the country, he said. They were sent home, but then brought back to Beijing in recent days by Officer She's colleagues in a failed attempt to persuade him to give up.
Dressed in a natty suit, tie and shiny shoes, Officer She has blended in easily in Beijing and evaded capture despite joining gatherings on the square Monday and Tuesday.
He said watching police detaining his compatriots underscored the absurdity of the government argument that Falun adherents are dangerous. In his experience, the best way to subdue tough criminals is to swarm them with as many people as possible, force them to the ground and pin them until they're safely cuffed, he said.
But the Falun followers were so serene and cooperative that Beijing officers looked like "tour guides" as they calmly led them away, he said. "Show me criminals who act that way," he said. "Have you seen anything like that?"


"China hits out at sect. Police detained dozens of protesters in Tiananmen Square"

("Fox News", October 28, 1999)

China has stepped up its attack on the banned Falun Gong sect, as its followers continue their protests in Beijing. For the first time, China branded the movement a "cult", with the official People's Daily newspaper saying that Falun Gong "seduces, brainwashes and blackmails" its followers.
In a front page editorial, the paper described Falun Gong as an "epidemic", and said that, according to incomplete statistics, it was responsible for the deaths of 1,400 people.
"The party and the government will not show the devil-cult any mercy, because any benevolence shown to such heretics will trample the human rights of other citizens," it said.
Until recently, the Chinese Government had referred to Falun Gong simply as a deceitful, illegal organisation. The BBC's Duncan Hewitt in Beijing says the newspaper attack constitutes the most formal definition yet of the movement as a cult - a move which may herald tougher measures against its supporters. Falun Gong combines exercises and meditation The People's Daily compared Falun Gong to the US Branch Davidians and the Japanese Aum Shinri Kyo sect, which was responsible for nerve gas attacks on Tokyo subways in 1995.
The paper also repeated the official line that ordinary Falun Gong followers who had renounced their beliefs should be treated sympathetically and said they could not be expected to change their views completely overnight.
But members of cults can face tough jail terms under Chinese law and the paper appeared to hint that criminal trials, so far expected only to include a handful of key Falun Gong members, could be expanded, according to our correspondent.
The People's Daily attack on Falun Gong came as the National People's Congress met to discuss legislation curbing cults.


Hundreds of Falun Gong members have been protesting against the anti-cult legislation since Monday in Tiananmen Square outside the Great Hall of the People, where the parliament is meeting.
Dozens more supporters were taken away from the square by plainclothes and uniformed police. The Falun Gong members were herded on to minibuses and taken away to a nearby police station.
Falun Gong supporters rejected the government's accusations, and said they were gathering in Beijing to demonstrate that they were harmless.
Protesters have been gathering in Beijing since Monday Li Yuling, from Beijing, said: "We heard last night that the government was going to declare Falun Gong a cult.
"We came here to explain our situation, to show people we are neither a cult nor a political organisation."
The proposed anti-cult law urges increased vigilance by law enforcement agencies against cults and calls on local governments to deal leniently with rank-and-file members while singling out "a small number of cult leaders" for punishment.
The ban on Falun Gong was imposed in July after followers surrounded government headquarters to protest at being labelled a dangerous superstition.
Falun Gong combines traditional slow motion exercises and meditation with elements of Buddhism and Taoism.
Since it was founded in 1992, the group estimates that it has attracted 100 million followers worldwide, most of whom are in China. The government puts membership in China at only about two million.


"Adherents Of Banned China Sect Ask For Help"

("Fox News", October 28, 1999)

BEIJING - Adherents of China's oulawed Falun Gong spiritual movement stepped up their defiance of a harsh government crackdown Thursday by appealing for international help, saying they were being persecuted.
Almost 30 Falun Gong practitioners invited foreign journalists to a clandestinely arranged news conference in suburban Beijing, itself an extraordinary act of defiance in Communist-ruled China.
"Persecution of Falun Gong practitioners by some governments across the country is gradually escalating,'' said Jiang Chaohui, a former assistant manager at a foreign venture in the southeastern city of Fuzhou.
"We call on the United Nations, various governments, human rights groups, Amnesty International and people with conscience at home and abroad to condemn and stop the Chinese government's persecution of Falun Gong practitioners,'' Jiang said.
He alleged "almost 10'' adherents had died in police custody. Police have acknowledged only one such death, of a young woman they said leapt from a moving train to commit suicide.
Reading from a prepared statement, Jiang demanded the government rescind a warrant for the arrest of the movement's U.S.-based leader, Li Hongzhi, release detained adherents, clear the name of Falun Gong and allow followers to practice.


China branded Falun Gong a cult for the first time Thursday, setting the stage for an even harsher crackdown on the movement outlawed in July, accused of challenging the Communist Party's monopoly on power.
"We are indignant the government forcibly put the cult label on us,'' Jiang said with recording of followers chanting Buddhist sutras playing in the background.
Adherents told different stories of one nature: persecution.
Qu Yuyan, 11, said he had been thrown out of school in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang because he refused to stop practicing Falun Gong °X a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and breathing exercises.
"The teacher will not let me go to school,'' Qu told Reuters as he held a picture of U.S.-based sect founder Li Hongzhi in safron robes and sitting in the lotus position.
Wang Zhiguo, a 37-year-old policeman from Anshan in the northeastern province of Liaoning, said he chose Falun Gong over the Communist Party, of which he is a member.
"I was forced to choose between Falun Gong and the Communist Party,'' Wang said. "I could only choose to give up my job and take off my police uniform.''


Another policeman, Shi Jingsheng, 35, said he "could no longer be silent because suppression was worsening.''
Jing Hai, a 25-year-old worker at the Shengli oilfield in the eastern province of Shandong, said he visited and spoke to the family of Zhao Jinhua, a 42-year-old peasant he said was beaten to death because she refused to stop practicing Falun Gong.
Beijing has denied persecuting practitioners, saying China is a country ruled by law. But it says the movement "seduces, brainwashes and blackmails.''
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Thursday: "No responsible government will appease a cult. To be merciful or tolerant to a cult is to trample citizens' human rights.''
The official Legal Daily said three leaders of Falun Gong in the northeastern city of Changchun were placed under criminal detention for incitement and disturbing public order.


Adherents deny Falun Gong is a cult and insist the group, which claims 100 million members, is a threat to the Communist Party, which boast a membership of 60 million. The government says the movement has about two million.
Yuan Yuchun, a 38-year-old housewife from the northeastern city of Dalian, said she was stripped, punched and kicked by police in October after they stopped her from travelling to Beijing to join fellow protesters and taken into custody.
Police stuck an electric baton to the face of one practitioner in custody, she said.
"You could smell the burning flesh.''
Ding Yan, a 31-year-old hairdresser from Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern province of Hebei, gave a graphic description of how she sustained welts on her wrists.
She said they were caused by police handcuffing her with one wrist behind her neck and the other thrust up behind her back after she was detained when attending a flag-raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in October.

What Is Falun Gong? See "Falun Gong 101", by 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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