Answers to Commonly Asked Questions about Falun Gong
You may have heard about the ongoing massive persecution of Falun Gong in China. Exactly what is happening, and why did the regime under Jiang Zemin unleash its fury against a practice that is so obviously peaceful and non-threatening? We hope we can help shed some light on these questions for you.
What is Falun Gong or Falun Dafa?
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline for mind and body. The practice involves slow, gentle movements and meditation. It is easy to learn, enjoyable to practice, and free of charge. Its principles are based on Truth, Compassion, and Tolerance. The practice began in China in 1992 and quickly spread by word of mouth throughout China and then beyond. Falun Gong is practiced by over 100 million people in 60 countries. The main works of Falun Gong are available in over 30 languages.
Who practices Falun Gong, and in what ways do they find it beneficial?
Falun Gong is practiced by people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. People who practice regularly find it brings them better health, reduced stress, increased level of energy, inner peace, and deepened morals.
I'm interested in trying it out or learning more about it. How can I get started?
All practice sites offer free instruction, and everyone is welcome. To find a site near your home, you can visit http://www.falundafa.org on the Internet, or call 1-877-FALUN-99. All materials are available on-line. There are also instructional books and video tapes available from bookstores, or you can visit http://www.yc-corp.com/ to order them.
Who is Mr. Li Hongzhi?
Mr. Li Hongzhi (family name is Li) introduced the practice of Falun Gong to the general public in China in 1992. He then taught the practice publicly for two years in China, after which the practice continued to grow primarily by word-of-mouth. In keeping with Chinese tradition, Mr. Li is often respectfully referred to as "Master" or "Teacher." He is not accorded special treatment, nor does he accept money or donations from students of Falun Gong. He has ensured that the practice be available to all people, and without any terms or conditions. For his contributions to humanity he has been given over 400 honors and awards, and is a two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Is Falun Gong a religion?
Falun Gong is a "cultivation practice" with emphasis on both elevating the mind and enhancing physical health. The concept of "cultivation" is not familiar to many Westerners, though in China, there is a strong sense of the concept of cultivation. The term in Chinese is xiu lian. Xiu means to "repair" or "fix." Lian means to "smelt" or "refine." The Chinese character for "lian" looks similar to and has the same pronunciation as the term "to practice [exercises]." This is only a direct translation of the characters that make up the term.
To get a more complete understanding of the concept of cultivation, we can look to China's history. Around 2,500 years ago, the sage Lao Zi (also spelled "Lao Tsu" and "Lao Tzu") appeared in China. Around the same time, Buddha Shakyamuni (also known as Siddartha Gautama) appeared in India. Lao Zi wrote the book Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), which was how most of society learned about what he called the "Dao" or the "Way." Shakyamuni spread Buddhism in India for 49 years, which was then passed on to China. These two schools then formed the basis for many spiritual practices in China.
Religions, as understood in Eastern cultures, are also considered forms of cultivation. There is the religion of Buddhism, which has temples, monks, etc., and there are several different sects of Buddhism. The cultivation way of the Buddha school does not end there though, as there are many practices from this school that are not considered part of the Buddhist religion. Often these practices are comprised of simply a teacher and students, but there are no religious formalities, places of worship, etc. These are also considered cultivation ways. The same is true for the Dao school. There is the religion of Daoism, but there are also many Daoist practices that are not considered to be religions in the Eastern way of thinking.
So in China, it is not considered necessary to be religious in order to achieve the goal of raising one's spiritual level, but one does need a cultivation practice. Here in the West, since we don't really have the concept of cultivation, anything spiritual or that has to do with transcending the human world has traditionally fallen under the concept of religion. Falun Gong is no exception.
Why are Jiang Zemin and his followers persecuting Falun Gong?
It must first be understood that the Communist Party is officially atheist, so anything of a spiritual nature is discouraged and often outlawed because it is not in keeping with Communist ideology. For those of us in nations with democratically elected governments, freedom of belief is considered to be one of the most basic universal rights, but in China, such fundamental human rights are rarely protected.
Since its introduction in 1992, the number of Falun Gong practitioners simply grew too large for the liking of a faction of the Party leadership led by the dictator Jiang Zemin. Falun Gong's 70-million-plus practitioners in China far outnumbered Party members. Jiang ordered the persecution out of personal jealousy, and a sense that he could not totally control the people's hearts and minds. Other, smaller groups that the have not been able to be totally controlled, such as Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Tibetan Buddhists have also been persecuted.
How many people have been affected by Jiang Zemin's persecution of Falun Gong?
Since the leader of China, Jiang Zemin, began the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in 1999,hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been illegally arrested and detained. More than 500 have been sentenced to prison terms of up to 18 years. Several thousand Falun Gong practitioners have been forced into mental hospitals, an act condemned by World Psychiatric Association. Over 100,000 have been illegally sent to labor camps without trials. More than 1,000 deaths of Falun Gong practitioners caused by persecution in police custody have been confirmed and more are being uncovered day in, day out, though sources inside the Chinese government have disclosed that the actual number is many times higher.
How has Falun Gong responded to the oppression?
Practitioners of Falun Gong in China have made appeals to the Chinese government via the proper legal channels, and have resisted the persecution with nonviolent public protests. There has not been a single report of responding with violence, destroying property, or the like - despite beatings, torture, jailing, murder, and other grave injustices. Practitioners outside China have taken up long marches, staged sit-ins, launched letter-writing campaigns, staged rallies, held press conferences, documented rights abuses and started lawsuits against the responsible perpetrators for crimes against humanity.
What Can You Do to Help?
The best way you can help is to let people around you know what Falun Gong is and to tell them about the current persecution in China. Write or call your Congressman and City Council members - by raising the public's awareness of the atrocities, you can help to put a stop to them.
What has been the United States' response, and that of the international community?
The US government has been unequivocal in its opposition to China's actions against Falun Gong. In November of 1999 the US House unanimously passed Resolution 218, with the Senate concurring, which condemned Beijing's actions and called for the immediate release of all jailed practitioners. A new, even stronger resolution, HR 188, was introduced in July of 2002. The leaders of both political parties in the US have spoken out and issued statements condemning the persecution. Governments around the world have responded with similar force. Human rights groups such as Freedom House and Amnesty International, in addition to many other organizations have been outspoken in their support for Falun Gong's freedom of belief.
Category: Opinion & Perspective