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expense of the health system to many people and faltering mutual support
networks, the positive effects of Qigong practice and the support networks
resulting from membership will have been supportive for the spread of the Falun
Gong." However, the Falun Dafa is taught as a path which is more than just
the practice of Qigong; is seen a way of life. 1
Founder Li Hongzhi (a.k.a. Master Li) has said that, in the past, its secrets
were passed only from master to student. Hongzhi made the movement public in
China in 1992. It is now available to anyone. It currently has branches
throughout the world. It claims a membership of 70 million on China and 30
million elsewhere in the world. Theirs is not a religious organization in the
conventional sense of the term. They continually deny being a religion, cult or
sect. They are mainly "a network for transmitting information and
practices, in which people may dip on an incidental basis or more
Falun Dafa was registered with the Qugong Research Association of China in
1992. However, it became obvious that Qugong’s emphasis on "healing
illnesses and keeping fit, as well as displaying supernormal powers at
exhibitions" did not match Falun Dafa’s emphasis on "genuinely guiding
people to higher dimensions." So Li Hongzhi withdrew the movement from the
Association. By this time, the Chinese government had become concerned about the
popularity of the Falun Dafa. The number of Falun Dafa practitioners had
exceeded the number of people in the Communist Party. In fact, Falun Dafa had
included many part members. The government refused them permission to join any
other association. Thus they have remained without legal protection or status in
Li Hongzhi left China in 1996, and now resides in New York state. He speaks
at annual Experience-Sharing Conferences.
About 10,000 Falun Dafa members engaged in a peaceful gathering outside the
Communist Party headquarters in Beijing on 1999-APR-25. On 1999-MAY-9, three
students were fired from a university in Dalian City, China for practicing Falun
Gong. One student was expelled. In subsequent months, practitioners were
harassed in various areas of the country, as they were performing group
exercises. Some practitioners were told that their phones were being monitored
and that if they continued, their retirement pensions would be terminated.
Police and other officials started to break into practitioner’s homes and
confiscate Falun Gong material. Some followers have been arrested and have
disappeared from sight. 12 Thousands of members demonstrated peacefully in about
30 Chinese cities.
The group was outlawed on 1999-JUL-22. The government accused it of
"spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating
disturbances and jeopardizing social stability." 9 On JUL-23, Master LI
called on "all governments, international organizations, and people of
goodwill worldwide to extend their support and assistance to us in order to
resolve the current crisis in China." 11 On JUL-29, Chinese authorities
issued an arrest warrant for Master Li. According to the official Xinhua News
Agency, the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing said sect founder Li Hongzhi
"spread superstition and malicious fallacies to deceive people, resulting
in the deaths of many practitioners." He is also accused of organizing
demonstrations without first applying for permits. 16
In an apparent violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, which China recently signed, the government has arrested hundreds of
Falun Gong practitioners and is proceeding with show trials. Some have been sent
directly to labor camps without trials. A spokesperson for the Falun Gong
Practitioners in North America has stated that: "lawyers in China have
already been told not to defend these innocent civilians unless they agree with
the government propaganda. Also, no legal representation on behalf of them from
the concerned international community is allowed to be present at the
The U.S. House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions on 1999-NOV-18 and
19 which criticized the Chinese government for its crackdown of the Falun Gong.
"Both resolutions urge the Chinese government to honor the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights that it has signed, to stop arresting, detaining and
persecuting Falun Gong practitioners, to release all detained dissidents, and to
respect the basic human rights such as freedom of belief and freedom of
speech." 13 Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi commented that
Falun Gong is not a religious organization. It is not simply a Qugong group. He
sees it as a destructive cult that harms Chinese society and its people. He
regards the resolutions as a gross infringement of China’s internal affairs. 15
In late 1999-NOV, over 700 Falun Gong practitioners went to Seattle WA during
the World Trade organization (WTO) ministerial meetings. Their intent was to
launch a global campaign that they hope will pressure the Chinese government
into negotiating with them.
Is Falun Dafa a cult?
The question is unanswerable, because there are so many different meanings to
the word "cult." Some are positive; some neutral. Most are negative:
The counter-cult movement (CCM) generally regards any Christian faith group
which holds non-traditional beliefs to be a cult. This often includes the
Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Roman Catholics. But the Falun Dafa is not a
Christian group and thus does not meet their definition of a cult.
Some Christian Fundamentalists regard all non-Christian faith groups to be a
cult. Since the Falun Dafa does have some spiritual teachings, some would
classify it as a cult, along with Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc.
The anti-cult movement (ACM) targets new religious movements that engage in
psychological manipulation, deceptive recruiting practices, or simply expect a
great deal of commitment from their membership.
Probably the largest ACM group is the AFF. They have some brief notes on the
Falun Dafa. But they top their list with a disclaimer: "A listing on AFF’s
web site does not mean that AFF perceives any group to be a cult, practices
coercive or destructive tactics, or is in violation of any law." They have
a brief review of the book "The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian
Power." They also have excerpts from the Cult Observer magazine:
"Coping with trance states" and "Understanding Eastern
Groups." None mention the Falun Dafa. All three appear to be totally
unrelated to the movement. The only information that appears to be related to
the Falun Dafa on the AFF site are five news items about the Chinese government
oppression of the group. 7
Rick Ross, an "expert consultant and intervention specialist" with
new religious movements. 8 He has an extensive collection of Falun Gong
information derived from worldwide news reports of varying objectivity. 14
The Chinese government has relentlessly suppressed religious groups since
achieving power in 1949. The rest of the world is most familiar with its
oppression of non-registered Christian groups. However, the government has also
persecuted many types of new religious and spiritual groups, including the Falun
Gong. In fact, its suppression extends beyond such groups to include
organizations that teach only simple meditation and gymnastic techniques. The
government appears to fear any national group that is capable of organizing its
followers into direct action.
In suppressing the Falun Dafa, the Chinese government has adopted much of the
terminology of the Western anti-cult movement. The official Xinhua News Agency
issued a report on "cults" in the United States. 17 It quoted Berkley
psychology professor Mararet Singer, one of the few psychologists who supports
the claims of the anti-cult movement. The report discusses "spiritual
poisoning." Cults are said to "not obey the law, they upset social
order, and they create a menace to freedom of religion and social stability.
Under the pretense of religion, kindness, and being non-political, they
participate in political activities. Some of them even practice criminal
activities such as tax evasion, fraud, drug dealing, smuggling, assassination,
The Chinese government has described the Falun Dafa as a dangerous
"cult." Some of their claims sound quite outrageous:
The group brainwashes its members.
Members, called practitioners, worship Mr. Li
They had turned Communist officials into cult members in order to learn state
They suggest that their followers should not take any medication.
Some members have become paranoid, suffered from hallucination, or committed
suicide, killed relatives and friends. The government has only been able to find
a handful of such cases from among the tens of millions of practitioners in the
The government appears to regard the Falun Dafa as the most serious threat to
the government since the 1989 student uprising. The government has historical
reasons for their fear. China has had a history of religious and spiritual
uprisings that had catastrophic effects on the country. "In the late 1770s,
the White Lotus rebellion against the Qing dynasty was led by Wang Lun, a master
of martial arts and herbal medicine." 9 Perhaps the most serious was the
Taiping rebellion of 1845-1864 which was led by a leader who viewed himself as
the Son of God. Some 20 million died in that revolt.9
The Falun Dafa symbol is circular and is composed of a central,
counterclockwise-pointing swastika, a symbol of the Buddha School. It is
four smaller swastikas
two red/blue Yin-Yang symbols
two red/black Yin-Yang symbols.
It is viewed as a miniature model of the universe. Some advanced
practitioners are believed to see the symbol revolving. "When Falun rotates
clockwise, it can automatically absorb energy from the universe. While rotating
counter clockwise, it can give off energy. An internal clockwise rotation offers
salvation to oneself while an external rotation offers salvation to
The swastika symbol has been used for many millennia throughout the world by
various civilizations, including ancient Indian society, Chinese society,
Germanic tribes, native Americans and ancient Israelites. It is only in the 20th
century, after a tilted swastika was adopted by the Nazis as their prime symbol,
that the swastika has been seen as representing evil.
Li Hongzhi, "Zhuan Falun (Revolving the Law Wheel)." (1994) An
English translation is available online at: http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html
Li Hongzhi, "China Falun Gong." An English translation is available
online at: http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/flg.htm
Beliefs and practices
According to spokesperson Caroline Lam in Sydney Australia: "Falun Dafa
is not a cult and not a religion and not a sect. There is no leader, there is no
form of worship or rituals. Falun Dafa is not involved with politics or against
any government." 10
Falun Gong consists of a set of five exercises that promote one’s
cultivation. "Three of the exercises involve physical movements and
maneuvers while the other two exercises require remaining still for extended
periods of time." 6
Membership is open to all. People are free to come and go.
There are no prerequisites to learning Falun Dafa; there are no dues.
Information is freely available on the Internet, without charge.
There is no paid staff or clergy. All work is done by volunteers.
They do not maintain a list of members’ names and other data.
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