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May 29th, 2007

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09:36 am - FaLun Gong/ 法輪功
I was going to stay away from writing on this topic since it's really controversial and plus I don't know a lot about it, but today, I was watching a Chinese New Year's Global Gala DVD that I borrowed from a friend and in it the hosts brought this issue up that set my eyes on fire.  The hosts, in the middle of the show, actually managed to bring up FaLun Gong/ 法輪功, speaking of them as a tolerant organization, only hoping to bring facts to the poor, misguided souls in the PR of China.  First of all, to me, when I'm watching a gala meant to entertain, I don't want to hear the mention of controversial issues, and definitely not one so biased, if I was looking for a debate I'd spend the day in the House of Commons.  That gala actually performed here in Ottawa during the last Chinese New Year and I actually wanted to go, but I was too lazy to look up how to get money, plus it was bloody cold back then so I wanted to leave the house as little as possible so I ended up not going.  Thank goodness, I would've stomped out of the theatre after the remarks they made.

For those that haven't heard of this organization, FaLun Gong/ 法 輪功 is an international group that teaches meditation techniques and some other stuff (you can google it, you'll get a few hundred hits).  The meditation and "qi gong" aspects of this group most people agree aren't harmful and in some ways is even a good thing, the controversy starts with some of the beliefs this group promotes (or is said to promote). 

Now before I go into more detail I'll just stick a disclaimer here that all of this stuff I'm writing is based on a few minutes of internet research and hear-say from friends and family inside and outside of China.

The big kurfluffle over this organization is that the Chinese government has started a crackdown on them, outlawing its practices inside the country and supposedly capturing and "brainwashing" those that they manage to capture to not believe the religion anymore (yes they do consider themselves a religion I think).  As with any accusation of the Chinese government, there's supposed torture of those captured which has human rights organizations and foreign governments pouncing on the chance to point fingers at the Chinese government once again (human rights organizations aside, I can't help but think that at least the American government must be cackling in glee at this opportunity once again).

Now why the crackdown?  Well that's a good question, the Chinese government is officially an atheist government but there exists in the country Buddhism, Christianity and other religions exist in China, so why the crackdown on this one?  (Now here's where hear-say from friends and family comes in because about 99% of the stuff that I found in English on the net simply claims that the Chinese government are heartless brutes who enjoy torturing and hearing the screams of pain of their own people thus the out-of-nowhere crackdown.)  Supposedly, the group promotes to its members the use of "qi gong" or meditation to cure illnesses instead of going to hospitals (actually found an internet page in English confirming this).  This alone I think is quite debate-worthy.  I don't know if I'd want to be running a country where all my citizens start thinking they can meditate their way to perfect health (and I don't know about you but when I get a fever and my head's pounding like no tomorrow I'm in no mood for any type of meditation).

I have also heard that the founder of this religion claims that sometime ago, humans were all abducted by aliens and that all the humans walking this Earth today are actually aliens in disguise with himself and his followers the only ones still "truly" humans (sounds like sci-fi).

This last issue is super controversial all over the place, and I've heard of everything from the Chinese government actually obtaining evidence to the organization never even claimed this, so take it as you will.  Supposedly,
FaLun Gong/ 法 輪功 also claims that in heaven, there are specific places for each person, and to obtain that place you must burn yourself to death (O_____o).  I heard that there was a mother and daughter who set themselves on fire in TianAnMen Square (location of central government of China) and they managed to get the daughter to the hospital before she died and she said that her mother told her there's a place in heaven waiting for her.  On the other side, I looked on FaLun Gong/ 法 輪功's website and heard from some people that FaLun Gong/ 法 輪功 never claimed this at all (though I think if they did promote this type of belief they'd save it for those that are so entrenched in the religion that they're willing to believe anything instead of advertising it on their website or saying it at interviews or something).

Outside of the controversy over their own personal rituals,
FaLun Gong/ 法 輪功 also seems to be an organization that disapproves of homosexual activities and is racist (same internet site as above saying this).  Apparently, according  to the New York Times, the founder Li HongZhi claimed that each race of people have their own section in heaven, so interracial people, once they die, don't have a place in heaven.

So, is the crackdown warranted?  Or is it just one big human rights abuse?  This is truly one topic I'm completely lost on.  If Falun Gong does promote using meditation instead of hospitals, racism, negating homosexual activities and burning of oneself then I think they should be classified as a cult instead of a religion and the Chinese government has every right to protect its people from such outrageous influences.  Brainwashing Falun Gong members to reinstate them back into regular society I think is also within reasonable limits, after all isn't that what psychologists and psychiatrists do in western countries? (And seriously, if people in Canada started going up to Parliament Hill and burning themselves would the government really just sit there and not do anything because it's their "right"?  I don't think so).

If, however, Falun Gong really is just about meditation techniques, I don't think the Chinese government has a case for the crackdown then.  Which doesn't really make sense because if you've ever been to China, you know that every morning there's always people in parks and places outside practicing Qi Gong or Tai Chi or whatever, so obviously the government isn't scared of that and has no problems with people practicing it.

I think to a lot of Chinese people Falun Gong is controversial also because its founder, Li HongZhi, is someone who's known to be anti-Chinese government (again, hear-say), so whether he's doing this really for the betterment of the Chinese people or if he's just trying to knock down the Chinese government it's hard to say.  When people outside of China look at the situation, like say Amnesty International, I don't think they realize the political implications of the issue.  They see it as purely the Chinese government oppressing the freedom of religion/expression, but for a lot of Chinese people when they look at this issue it's political.  They see the organization as an anti-Chinese government organization who brainwashes its members to hate the Chinese government and disturb it as much as possible internally and abroad.  So I guess in a way both sides are really arguing over 2 different things, maybe that's why I'm so confused @____@

So what's everyone else's take on this organization?  I'm truly completely baffled.  You can probably tell which side I'm leaning towards, but I'm super hesitant to make a commitment to argue for either side because there's so much details about this that I don't know about.  There were actually meetings of this group on Ottawa University's campus last semester and I was sorely tempted to go and just hear what their teachings really are, but then I figured just skimming the service I'd just find what I can find what's on their internet anyway.  I find Falun Gong's everywhere, it's actually pretty annoying, like spam mail.  They've got flyers at the local bubbletea place, meetings at my campus, hey sit outside the Chinese embassy everydaytme and Angela got approached by a Falun Gong promoter on Earth Day when we went to Parliament Hill and coincidentally the other day as I was leaving Amnesty International after my shift I saw that same guy talking to the receptionist, probably about sticking this issue on Amnesty's agenda.  He was really forceful about it though, was kind of pissing the receptionist off poor girl.

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(7 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 29th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've ever had a run-in with FaLun Gong people, which seems odd if you're constantly running into them. Huh. Maybe I've lived a sheltered life?

I'm not sure about my opinion either (though I'm probably leaning in the same direction you are). Thanks for taking the time to write this all out though! It helped a lot in clarifying the issue for me, because I'd only heard a little bit about the Chinese government oppressing FaLun Gong without ever hearing why or all the other details. I feel more informed now XD. I might ask my parents their opinions on the matter, just to see.

There are so many issues in this world that I'm interested in but that I don't feel qualified about having an opinion on because I don't have all the information, or even a majority of it. :/ So I feel like I can never debate in support of my opinion because my opponent might point out gaping holes in my argument that I hadn't even considered because of information shortage. aldkfld Clearly the solution is to read more about everything. As nice as "ignorance is bliss" sounds, I don't actually want to live my life like that...
[User Picture]
Date:May 29th, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah your parents probably know of these dudes. There's actually a club here at my uni for this group, and during clubs week I see them with their little table down in our uni-centre, the first time I saw them I was like "I didn't realize my uni permitted cults D: I'M GOING TO START A YAOI CULT!!"

I actually was really hesitant to write about this issue because seeing as I'm Chinese I'm obviously pretty biased on the topic ^^;; After seeing the hosts mention it on that Gala, however, it pissed me off so much that I just had to rant >___<

I totally understand what you mean. I feel like I have to be a walking encyclopedia before I can debate anything because there's so much to know. Sometimes I find when I research one issue I get strung along and find out a whole history behind it, I need like, a computerized brain to file all this info so whenever I need anything I can just brain!google stuff lol.
Date:May 30th, 2007 01:39 am (UTC)
Not that I know much about this religion or anything (my parents sometimes talk about them at dinner time and I kind of tune it out as some random cult), but from what you described, it just sounds like they're a small group of people that wants to practice their own religion. I really don't see anything so wrong with that. If people want to believe they're aliens or whatnot, it's within their right. It's extremely dumb, but their right. If the Chinese government allows other religions, why should it be acceptable for them to prosecute this particular religion?

From reading your description of this religion, I don't see how their idea of the afterlife would be any more selective and discriminatory than most other religions'. According to Catholics and Christians, you can't get to heaven if you're not baptized. So even newborn babies wouldn't get to heaven if they die before being baptized. And according to most Catholics and Christians, homosexuality is a sin. If the Chinese government isn't banning those religions, why would it be okay for them to be selective and ban this particular religion but not others?

The part about meditation made even less sense to me. These are people that choose this "alternative" medicine for whatever their illnesses are. If they are actively going out and physically restraining other people from getting proper health care, I would qualify them as dangerous. But if they are only preaching alternative medicine and using it upon themselves, I really see no harm in that. It would be no different than people using herbs or accupucture.

As for people burning themselves in protest; its been done before by other religions (mainly Buddhism). Again, I see it as a person voluntarily doing something to their own body. If members of this religion are going around burning others, they would be dangerous indeed.

I'm not supporting this, or any, religion. But just seeing it from a standpoint of human rights, those people are well within their rights to believe what they want to believe about aliens and meditation (as illogical as that may appear to most people). I don't believe their brainwashing would be any more dangerous than the brainwashing of any other religion out there.
[User Picture]
Date:May 30th, 2007 03:18 am (UTC)
That's exactly the thing the Chinese government is afraid of though, these people actively try to recruit more and more members and those members are in danger of doing very dangerous things to themselves. Their burning isn't just protest, they honestly think it's a way for them to achieve a certain position within heaven. It's not a protest of anything. Seriously though, if someone or a group of people went up to Capitol Hill, splattered gasoline all over themselves, and set themselves on fire, do you honestly think that the American government wouldn't do something about that?

As for the medicine, they don't seek out alternative medicine, they just don't use any medicine at all and instead believe that meditation will cure all. Like if someone got cancer, instead of seeking a doctor's help and curing it they claim that if you sit and meditate, it'll magically get cured or something. Not only is this illogical it also hurts family members if that cancer had been curable and instead this person chose not to seek treatment, would that not count as a form of hurting other people? I have a friend who just told me that one of her friends joined this religion and somehow got into her head that she can survive without food, so she stopped eating and she collapsed and became hospitalized for it, a religion that promotes these kinds of things in my opinion would certainly threaten the harmony of a society.

In my view, the government of any nation has a responsibility to protect its people from anything that harms them, and this religion seems to encourage people to willingly harm themselves.

Your point about the Chinese government not banning other religions and focusing on this one exactly proves the last part of my post. Why would the Chinese government allow other religions that in some ways are also racist, homophobic and all that but came down so hard on this one? I personally believe, as I stated above, that at least the Chinese government believes this organization wasn't just created as another religion, but as a political move to recruit anti-Chinese government sentiments in people both inside China and outside. I don't know if that's true or not, but it is pretty well known amongst the Chinese that Falun Gong's found is very much against the Chinese government.

If you say that the Chinese government is violating peoples' freedom to religion, fine. All my arguments above aside, if those aren't true then you're absolutely right, it is infringement upon individual rights. If, however, this "religion" was created with political intents and purposes in mind, then its members are merely pawns. I hear the leader of this group has escaped to the United States with the help of the States, if he truly wanted what was best for the Chinese people, why did he escape and let his followers take the rap back in China? Ghandi didn't free India by escaping to the USA, Martin Luther King didn't free slaves in the USA by escaping to Canada.

I'm all for freedom of religion, but this is like a suicide club for those deeply entrenched into its teachings where they actively recruit people into the club who's purpose is to encourage members to commit suicide. Is that really different from setting other people on fire or preventing other people from obtaining proper healthcare? If this organization had just kept to themselves I wouldn't have said anything, as I mentioned in my first paragraph I didn't really want to make a post on this issue in the first place, but they're seriously like spam emails. Within the past year I've had several encounters with them, and my roommate tells me that when she went to the Tulip Festival a few weeks ago there was a booth there promoting this organization, and one of the guys at the booth almost literally dragged her friend in and started talking and wouldn't stop. Heck and I thought those Christian door-to-doors were annoying.
Date:May 30th, 2007 01:23 pm (UTC)
Self-immolation is something that has been done before in America and nothing was done about it. It's not outlawed. When it comes right down to it, it's a form of suicide. It's not an illegal act. If someone was to set themselves on fire in America, the person won't be put in prison for it if he managed to survive. The most the American government can and will do is try to save this person and maybe assign him some sort of mental help.

Meditation is a form of alternative medicine. There are people in America who have cancer. Instead of opting for chemotherapy, they would rather take herbs because its less harmful to the rest of their body. Should those people be arrested for doing whatever they want with their bodies? Maybe it would cause grief to that person's family. But in the end, it comes down to personal choice. Making a personal choice for our own bodies should never be made illegal. What next, then? Is the government going to tell us what we can and cannot eat? What we can and cannot wear? There are a lot of things that, for one group of people or another, would deem to threaten society. From everything I read in the news about China, they have a lot more things to worry about that would threaten their society than this religion.

The government of any country certainly should protect its people. But there has to be a limit drawn somewhere. Otherwise, all government should ban smoking because lung cancer surely kills more people than this religion ever will. Alcohol should also be banned. So should trans fat, etc. The list of potentially harmful things goes on and on. If any government would ban all those harmful things, the country would be a totalitarian dictatorship.

Personally, the only time I had any encounter with this religion was when I saw a bunch of them sitting and meditating outside one of the museums in New York. They weren't bothering anyone. But if they are actively recruiting people and there are people dumb enough to join, I'd say good riddance. It may sound harsh, but if some people are that dumb as to follow any religion that promotes self-immolation as a way to get into heaven, it's probably better for the human race that they die now instead of procreating and bringing in more stupid people into this world.

(And Martin Luther King didn't free the slaves - he was a civil rights leader :p)
Date:November 14th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
Have a look at this for a pretty objective look at what Falun Gong is: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-faith-column/2008/08/falun-gong-dafa-rights-believe

His other columns on the subject of what's happening in China are pretty informative too.
[User Picture]
Date:November 14th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC)
Uh, who are you and how did you even find my blog? Whether that site is "objective" or not is up to each person to decide, the fact that I don't know who you are, what background you're coming from and yet you just claim that site to be "objective" is pretty subjective in and of itself. I took a quick read through of that site and I for one find it purely subjective and completely filled to the brim with FLG propaganda. Recently I came across some book that was published by either FLG or The Epoch Times, the stupid propaganda-disguised-as-newspaper run by FLG listing 9 points depicting the Chinese government as this brutal, nasty, utterly inhuman and evil regime. Reading it you'd think the CCP is an organization run by the devil himself or something. I can't believe such blatant stupid propaganda can even find itself in circulation and that people would read it and actually believe it.

Sorry, but the fact that the Chinese government has managed to pull 300 million of its citizens out of poverty since the 6 decades it's been in power is solid fact. It made mistakes, yes, but so has every other government. At least it learned from its mistakes and today China's been the strongest it's been in over a century's time. Look at all the other developing countries that's received the "help" of these supposedly altruistic Western countries. Mistakes were made and instead of learning from those mistakes the Western countries still push their same old time-and-again failed development policies onto developing countries.

FLG's just propaganda, and the fact that they're involved in all this anti-China crap already voids them from being considered as a religious organization in my opinion. None of the Western countries would ever tolerate the Church becoming involved in the state, hence the era of church and state separation, why should the Chinese government accept otherwise? If FLG wants to play politics then we treat them as a political organization, they can take their shield of religion and shove it.

Edited at 2008-11-14 09:27 pm (UTC)

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