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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

regularly." 1

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,

and kidnapping."

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

surrounded by:

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

others." 5

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.

Important texts

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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