"Chinese embassy says Falun Gong destabilizing"

by Tabassum Zakaria ("Reuters", November 2, 1999)

WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (Reuters) - China's embassy on Tuesday accused the Falun Gong spiritual movement of destabilising the fabric of Chinese society and the group's leader of causing the deaths of members by preaching against medical help.
China has cracked down on the group which it considers a cult by jailing some practitioners of Falun Gong, a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and exercises.
China has also unsuccessfully sought to have Interpol act on an arrest warrant and extradition request for the U.S.-based Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi who preaches salvation from a world corrupted by science and technology.
Interpol turned down the request and the U.S. government has also not given China support on the issue. ``We are still waiting for a positive response from the U.S. side,'' Chinese embassy spokesman Yu Shuning said.
``This is a cult which endangers the health and mental fitness of the practitioners and disrupts social order and stability, so that's why the government has taken measures against it,'' he said at an embassy news
conference to discuss Falun Gong.
He sought to draw similarities between the group and the Branch Davidians which held a 51-day armed standoff with federal agents near Waco, Texas, in 1993, and the Aum Shinri Kyo in Japan accused of a 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
But when pressed for examples of violent activities by the Falun Gong, Yu said: ``Of course up to now we have not found any evidence showing that they are trying to resort to violence.''
China is holding Hongzhi responsible for 1404 deaths of followers who did not seek medical attention because he instructed against using such medical help, Yu said.
``He has brainwashed his followers,'' Yu said. ``We think that he should be held accountable for the death of 1,400 Falun Gong practitioners.''
China has also accused Li Hongzhi of tax evasion.
There was no immediate reaction from the movement to the accusations but it has denied similar charges in the past.
Across the street from the Chinese embassy about 15 Falun Gong followers protested China's policies toward the group by standing silently in meditative poses.
One woman, Fang Lin of Atlanta, Georgia, said she had travelled to New York and Washington to participate in such protests.
She said the Chinese government is afraid of Falun Gong ``because we have too many people in China.''
She credited the spiritual movement with helping her physical health which in turn enabled her to have a child.
``I married seven years back and couldn't have a baby. I have many allergies, tried many medicines,'' Lin said. ``Since I practice (Falun Gong), after six weeks I stopped all medicines and got pregnant,'' she said.
``They (Falun Gong) save money for the government'' which does not have to pay for health care for followers, Lin said. ``So we don't know why Chinese government change the wrong way.''
Claiming millions of members in China, the movement first stunned the Chinese leadership when more than 10,000 emerged without warning in April to sit silently protesting outside the leadership's own Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing.
Last week, China declared the movement an illegal cult, and legislation was passed at the weekend that promises jail terms for its organisers.
Dozens of leaders had already been detained and trials are expected to start soon.
Many members say they are drawn to Falun Gong because, apart from the physical benefits from its meditation and exercise practices, it gives them a moral framework for life.
The group claims a global membership of over 100 million, a number doubted by critics and disputed by China, which estimates it has only about two million members in China.
But its claim has alarmed the atheist Communist Party which has only 60
million members.


"Diplomat Defends Falun Gong Ban"

by George Gedda (Associated Press, November 2, 1999)

WASHINGTON (AP) - As a group of Falun Gong demonstrators protested nearby, a Chinese Embassy diplomat said Tuesday that China decided to ban the spiritual movement after its leaders caused the deaths of 1,400 followers by brainwashing them into refusing medical treatment.
Embassy spokesman Yu Shuning summoned reporters to talk about the movement in an attempt to counter widespread publicity in the U.S. media to China's attempts to abolish the group.
``No responsible government would ever allow the activities of a cult like the Falun Gong to go unchecked,'' Yu said.
Yu also sought to debunk the notion that Falun Gong is nonviolent, alleging that 10,000 members mobilized last April in a bid to seize a Communist Party compound in China.
He likened the movement to groups like the Branch Davidians in the United States and Japan's Aum Shinri Kyo. The Davidians' 51-day standoff with the FBI in 1993 ended with the deaths of about 80 sect members; Aum killed 12 people and sickened thousands with a 1995 poison gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
Yu also had harsh words for Li Hongzhi, the Falun Gong leader who lives in exile in New York. He charged that Li has ``brainwashed his people so they can't tell right from wrong.'' He also has used doomsday prophecies ``to frighten his disciples into obedience,'' Yu said.
By ``swindling'' practitioners, Li has been able to build up an ``extravagant lifestyle'' that includes ``many luxury residences,'' Yu added.
He said China is continuing to seek Li's arrest but has received little cooperation either from the United States or Interpol, the international police force based in France. There is virtually no prospect that the United States will deport Li to China because the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.
Falun Gong is an offshoot of traditional schools of slow-motion exercise that channel unseen forces of nature to the body. Blending ideas from Buddhism and Taoism, it was popular throughout China and practiced openly in public parks before the ban.
Outside the Chinese Embassy, located in a residential section north of the downtown area, more than a dozen Falun Gong demonstrators protested Chinese harassment of the group. They passed out leaflets accusing Chinese authorities of subjecting its members to arrest and torture.
They also denied that adherents are forbidden to receive medical treatment.
One large banner proclaimed: ``Millions of people are tortured because they want to be good.'' Another stated: ``When will the world act?''
At his news conference, Yu also assailed a proposal before Congress that would upgrade the relationship between military officials in the United States and Taiwan.
``If passed, it will bring about great danger,'' Yu said. ``The basis for Chinese-U.S. relations will greatly be harmed.''
House leaders have deferred a floor vote on the bill in order not to interfere with delicate U.S.-Chinese negotiations on terms for allowing China to join the World Trade Organization.


ANALYSIS-Cult scares Chinese communist party

by Benjamin Kang Lim ("Reuters", November 2, 1999)

BEIJING, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Mao Zedong offered China revolution; Deng Xiaoping offered the Chinese riches.
But China today has no driving vision, leaving a large spiritual gap through which the mass movement Falun Gong has burst to threaten the very authority of the communist party.
That is why, political analysts say, the government has sustained a ferocious crackdown against a sect which has attracted ordinary Chinese in their millions.
In the search for reasons behind the popularity of Falun Gong, many analysts point to current President Jiang Zemin's less-than-inspiring guiding vision: ``The Three Stresses.''
At a time when many Chinese are adrift in a sea of change, fretting about their jobs, health care and education of their children, Jiang is exhorting the nation to ``stress theoretical study, political consciousness and healthy trends.''
Analysts say it is this emptiness of modern Chinese Communism, and failed attempts by the government to define a new legitimacy, which lie behind an explosion of new cults and religions, and explain the ferocity of the crackdown.
Above all, they point to the figure of Jiang, who has little of the charisma of Mao or Deng, the two outstanding ``helmsmen'' of communist China in the 20th century.
``Even party and state officials have no time for the political message in the 'three stresses' campaign,'' said one Western envoy.
``I don't think they believe that Falun Gong is a severe ideological threat to them, that people will be converted from communism to Falun Gong. But he added: ''The moral basis for party rule is in fact very slight indeed." In that sense, Falun Gong holds a mirror to what some see as the Chinese Communist Party's growing self doubt.


The Communist Party's sledgehammer response to the Falun Gong spiritual movement is rooted in a deep understanding of the chaos that can suddenly appear when ruling dynasties lose their moral underpinnings, or the ``mandate of heaven.''
In 1850, a great rebellion grew from similar conditions of social and economic upheaval, as the last Imperial Qing dynasty of China collapsed under corruption, mismanagement, and aggressive encroachment by colonial powers.
It is estimated that more people were killed in the 14 years of the Taiping Rebellion than in any war before World War Two.
``The Taiping rebellion sprang from the same problems of poverty, alienation, corruption and collapse in authority,'' a second Western envoy in Beijing said.
``The situation isn't as bad now as it was in the 1850s, but still the root causes of the Taiping rebellion are remarkably similar to the Falun Gong,'' the diplomat said.
It is a deep irony that the Taiping was admired by the founding fathers of the Chinese Communist Party as one of the great pre-socialist popular rebellions.
But the government is itself now straining to maintain social stability as it radically reforms a command economy to pull its people into a freer market system -- still led by Communist principles.


Falun Gong, a mixture of Buddhism, Taoism, meditation and exercises, was designed by its reclusive, comfortably well-off U.S.-based founder Li Hongzhi as a form of salvation from a world he preaches is corrupted by science, technology, and decadence.
Claiming millions of members in China, the movement first stunned the Chinese leadership when more than 10,000 emerged without warning in April to sit silently protesting outside the leadership's own Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing.
Last week, China declared the movement an illegal cult, and legislation was passed at the weekend that promises jail terms for its organisers.
Dozens of leaders had already been detained and trials are expected to start soon.
Two decades of economic reform have eroded the strict moral codes and control of the days of founding Chairman Mao Zedong.
Tens of millions live in poverty. Corruption is rife. The wealth gap is growing fast. Once-guaranteed jobs may vanish tomorrow. Once free education and medical now cost money.
Many members say they are drawn to Falun Gong because, apart from the physical benefits from its meditation and exercise practices, it gives them a moral framework for life.
It is not the first time the Communist Party has gone all out to destroy what it sees as a rival for the loyalty of the people.
In the years after sweeping to power in 1949, the Communists unleashed a terror against secret societies, religious sects and gangs that competed with them for popular support.
They banned the popular Yiguan Dao as a cult and executed dozens of its priests accused of helping the Japanese invaders and the defeated Nationalists, who fled into exile in Taiwan after losing a civil war to Mao's Red Army.


The Communist Party sees Falun Gong as an even greater threat than the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP).
``Whether it's labour unions or the CDP, any group which has the ability to organise is potentially a threat to the authorities,'' the second Western diplomat said.
To the Communists, the CDP is less of a threat because it is largely a group of pro-democracy activists with no clear aim beyond rehabilitation of demonstrators arrested when the army crushed a student-led protest in 1989, also in Tiananmen Square.
The CDP is not known to have organised mass protests. Falun Gong, however, has mounted more than 300 since April.
Said an Asian diplomat: ``The Communist Party has always been very uncomfortable with any organisation that is outside its control.''


"Sect leaders arrested in China"

("BBC", November 2, 1999)

Police in China have arrested the leaders of two more spiritual movements as part of a widening campaign against the banned group, Falun Gong.
The leader of one group known as the Way of Compassion was detained in the central province of Hubei.
State media say he set up a movement last year inspired by the Falun Gong and had attracted nearly a thousand followers.
The leaders of the other group, the National Way, are accused of wrongdoing in connection with money made by the movement which has sixty centres around the country.
The BBC Beijing correspondent says the arrests, which follow the passing of an anti-cult law a few days ago, are a further sign of official alarm at the rapid spread of unregistered mystical and spiritual groups.
From the newsroom of the BBC World Service


"China's Rule of Law"

(editorial opinion, "The Washington Post", November 2, 1999)

CHINA'S COMMUNIST leaders often insist that theirs is, in fact, a system of laws -- that human rights activists who complain about a lack of democracy are just hung up on minor details, like elections. In the past week, events have proven the leaders absolutely right. When they found themselves without the laws they needed to vigorously persecute a peaceful meditation society, the Party simply ordered up some new laws. Now these will be applied -- retroactively, of course -- in show trials that could lead to execution for the group's leaders. This is what the regime calls "smashing them rigorously in accordance with the law." By these standards, Stalin was a scrupulous observer of civil rights.
You wouldn't know it from listening to deferential Clinton administration officials, but China is carrying out one of its more ferocious assaults against freedom of speech and freedom of association in recent years. Just since Sept. 30, the regime has arrested an estimated 3,000 practitioners of Falun Gong, a popular spiritual movement drawing on Buddhism and Taoism that appears to threaten the regime precisely because it is not under Party control. A Hong Kong-based human rights group reported that police beat to death one Falun Gong adherent, Zhao Jinghua, when she refused to renounce her beliefs. The Chinese police reported the death of another in custody, claiming that Chen Ying, 18, had jumped from a moving train. Given the absence of a free press, it's impossible to know how many have been arrested and how many have died in custody.
While the regime targets Falun Gong, it hasn't slowed in its pursuit of more traditional enemies. Last week it put on trial four organizers of the China Democracy Party, whose crime is to call -- again, peacefully -- for a more open political system. When one of the four, Zhu Yufu, tried to present a defense, court officials ripped his statement out of his hand and accused him of mouthing "anti-government propaganda," according to a report in The Post. Rule of law can take you only so far.
The administration appears too concerned with getting back in China's good graces to protest any of this except in perfunctory ways. U.S. officials regret having failed to nail down an agreement last spring paving the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization; they're trying to make up for it now. And they are right when they argue that engagement with China is essential. The question is: engagement with whom? The current regime reveals with its latest crackdown that it cannot cope with change and cannot tolerate any independent voices. Future U.S.-Chinese relations would be better served if the United States spoke out more loudly on behalf of such independent voices within China, rather than betting on a regime that increasingly seems able only to burn books and chase dissidents.

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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