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Falun Gong

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Falun Gong (Template:Zh-tsp; literally "Practice of the Wheel of Law") or Falun Dafa (Template:Zh-tsp; lit. "Great Law of the Wheel of Law") is a Chinese spiritual practice, with some beliefs outwardly similar to those found in Buddhism and Taoism, purporting to improve the mind, body, and spirit. The actual number of Falun Gong practitioners is a matter of dispute: practitioners estimate themselves to number more than 100 million, including 70 million inside China, which is claimed to be highly overrated according to people living in the mainland China; current official Chinese estimates put the native Falun Gong population at about ten million.

The People's Republic of China (PRC), led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), became concerned by instances where Falun Gong practitioners gathered in large numbers it was thought spontaneously (such as in April 25th, 1999, when 10,000 practitioners meditated near the government compound at Zhongnanhai to protest alleged mistreatment by police). To be noted that at the time there were 100,000 practitioners in Beijing alone. Months later, on July 22nd, 1999, the government began a nation-wide suppression of Falun Gong, dubbing the practice as an evil cult spreading superstition to deceive people. The then Head of the Communist Party, Jiang Zemin, used his power to condemn the group using the state controlled media. Practitioners denied accusations that Falun Gong is a cult. The basis for the denial is said to be found in the nature of Falun Gong's teachings, which allow people to enter or leave the group as they please, and encourage practitioners to think for themselves in becoming productive members of society.

Since the persecution of the practice in China, the CCP claims that the practice has deviated its focus from engaging in spiritual cultivation to engaging in politics, basing their opinions on the existence of numerous websites and press supporting Falun Gong (such as Friends of Falun Gong (http://www.fofg.org)). However, the teachings of Falun Gong forbids political involvement, and practitioners claim to have little interest in power or politics, the large number of political protests leading to the crackdown notwithstanding.

Contents

Origins and Beliefs

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A Falun Gong demonstration in London May 2005
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A practitioner at the Falun Gong demonstration in London
People practicing Falun Gong exercises outside of Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario
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People practicing Falun Gong exercises outside of Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario

Falun Dafa was introduced to the general public in 1992 by Li Hongzhi (now residing in Brooklyn, New York), and grew very swiftly in popularity not only in China but worldwide. It was popularized widely under the CCP's supervision for seven years. An estimate of the CCP presented in 1998 on the public television (state owned) in Shanghai mentioned that in mainland China alone the number of practitioners were approx. 70-100 million.

Core Beliefs

The three basic moral principles of Falun Gong are: Zhen, Shan and Ren, which translate approximately as 'Truthfulness, Benevolence or Compassion, and Forbearance or Tolerance'. It is through focusing on these qualities that Falun Gong practitioners say they develop what they call their xinxing (moral character) which then purportedly gives the potential to develop high levels of 功, gōng, which Falun Gong practitioners idiosyncratically use to mean "high level energy," in Mandarin Chinese gōng usually means "merit" or "achievement" and by extension it is part of compound terms describing a disciplined regimen. Practitioners of Falun Gong claim that gōng possesses healing properties and that 氣 q (which means "breath") only suppresses or postpones illness. See also: qigong, kung fu, traditional Chinese medicine.

Purifying the Body

Central to Falun Gong are five sets of exercises (four standing, and one sitting) that are said to help in the purification of the mind and the body. Falun Gong practitioners believe that illnesses are the result of karma, and are taught that the practice of these exercises will cleanse the body and eliminate the karma, thereby improving health. In Li Hongzhi's composition of nine lectures that he originally gave throughout China, Zhuan Falun (http://www.falundafa.org/eng/books.htm), Li states that he can personally eliminate karma; however, he also repeatedly asserts that his purpose is not to cure diseases. All Falun Gong exercises are taught free of charge by Falun Gong practitioners and are detailed in Li's books, which may also be found free of charge on their websites.

In Zhuan Falun, Li Hongzhi states that a Falun resides in the abdomen of all true practitioners of Falun Gong. Falun means "Wheel of Law" in the Chinese language, which can be translated as a Dharma wheel or a Chakra; to Falun Gong practitioners, the Falun is specifically a wheel consisting of five srivatsas and four taijitu, as illustrated on the top right-hand corner of this page. The Falun is said to be a miniature of the universe, and once it is installed into the abdomen, it turns continuously. When the Falun turns clockwise, it absorbs energy from the universe into the body; when it turns counter-clockwise it eliminates waste from the body. Some of Falun Gong practitioners believe they can see this Falun rotating in their abdomens, provided their "celestial eye" (said to be associated with the pineal body) is open.

Morality

Li teaches that the five exercises and the Falun are not sufficient to ensure a person's physical, mental and spiritual well-being; only by living a morally upright life according to the principles of "Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance," can a Falun Gong practitioner be said to experience increased vitality, health, and peace of mind. This principle is referred to as "upgrading xinxing".

Specifically, Falun Gong teaches a form of conservative morality. For example, the act of homosexuality is regarded as a sin, the taking of any life is said to have negative consequences, and some even perceive miscegenation to be discouraged by the teachings of Li Hongzhi. However, in the central book of Falun Gong, " Zhuan Falun (http://www.falundafa.org/eng/books.htm#zhuanfalun) it is stressed that all sinners and sentient beings should be treated with tolerance and compassion and that practitioners should not act in an extreme manner. It should also be noted that practitioners are not required to become vegetarians. In his lectures, Li Hongzhi also suggests that different races bear the image of the gods that created them and have their respective cosmic paradise. As a result, some people feel that miscegenation is discouraged in Falun Gong, though it has been observed that many practitioners, most of them foreign, still reside in interracial marriages. It is possible that foreign practitioners of Falun Gong, much like foreign practitioners of any other religion, impose their own beliefs on it, and chose to simply take what they like of Falun Gong.

Other Beliefs

Like other spiritual practices and religions, some of the teachings of Falun Gong contain supernatural elements that have no scientific evidence. Li Hongzhi has stated that gods and demons exist, humans have a "celestial eye," extraterrestrials "have begun to invade the human mind" [1] (http://www.time.com/time/asia/asia/magazine/1999/990510/interview3.html), and that the remains of unknown prehistoric civilizations can still be found, of course base on nothing resembling supporting evidence. In Li Hongzhis book, Zhuan Falun (http://www.falundafa.org/eng/books.htm#zhuanfalun), he writes he can personally heal disease. However, Li also states repeatedly that he is not here to heal disease. When interviewed by Time magazine in May 1999, Li declined to name his own teachers or to delineate the actual provenance of Falun Gong, though earlier text versions (mysteriously discontinued since the persecution) are said to clarify the issue. Furthermore, in 2002, Li claimed that after spreading Falun Gong for ten years, humanity's predestinations had changed, including avoidance of a "comet catastrophe" and "the third world war."[2] (http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/jw_74.htm), again completely unverifiable claims.

Persecution

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Arrest of People practicing the 5th. exercise in China
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Arrest of Falun Gong Practitioners in Beijing

During the first years of the introduction of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi was granted several awards by Chinese governmental organizations to encourage him to continue promoting what was then considered a wholesome practice. From 1992 to 1994 he lectured regularly all over the country in important Chinese cities before large audiences. The practice was then further spread widely in mainland China for 7 years mainly by word of mouth and through the internet.

In July 1999 the government decided to put a stop to its popularity and the practice of Falun Gong has been persecuted in mainland China ever since. On June 10, 1999, the government established the "6-10" office, an extra-constitutional body, to facilitate the crackdown. Most political analysts believe that this was the direct result of events that occurred in April 1999. In Tianjin, as a result of a critical article in a local paper written by a member of the Chinese Academy of Science, about a thousand Falun Gong practitioners went to the newspaper office asking for rectification. Some practitioners were arrested and were, according to reports, beaten by the police. Several days later, for 12 hours on April 25, about 10,000 people gathered at the Central Appeal Office at Foyou street, outside Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of Chinese Communist Government and lined up along a 2 km stretch. They held no signs and chanted no slogans. Premier Zhu Rongji met with some representatives of the practitioners and promised to resolve the situation within three days. Despite the fact that the practitioners dispersed peacefully after they received word that Zhu Rongji had agreed to their requests, it was widely reported by the Chinese media that Li's ability to allegedly organize a protest in the heart of the Chinese Communist Party is said to have alarmed many senior leaders, particularly Jiang Zemin.

As CNN's Willy Lam reported a Communist Party veteran providing his analysis: "By unleashing a Mao-style movement [against Falun Gong], Jiang is forcing senior cadres to pledge allegiance to his line. This will boost Jiang's authority-and may give him enough momentum to enable him to dictate events at the pivotal 16th Communist Party congress next year." Events since has proven this to be utterly unfounded, since Jiang's power has been peacefully transferred to Hu Jintao, and his influence has diminished greatly.

The Falun Dafa Information Center (http://faluninfo.net), a website which "endeavors to compile, cross-check, organize and publish" [3] (http://www.faluninfo.net/about.asp) reports about the persecution has confirmed that at least 2,336 deaths have occurred while practitioners have been in police or government custody.

Other factors may include the claim that the number of Falun Gong practitioners (100 million worldwide, including 70 million inside China, according to Falun Gong sources) is larger than membership of the Communist Party of China (about 60 million people). Others claim that there were practitioners amongst high officials of the government and that several high ranking army officers had embraced the practice as well and that this was a cause of grave concern for others in power.

To justify the oppression, the CCP claimed that Falun Gong is an evil cult. China's state-run media have produced many reports claiming that some believers hurt or kill themselves after reading the books by Li Hongzhi, although no such reports have been verified by independent parties. Some scientists in China claim that there is no scientific evidence to show Falun Gong is beneficial for health, a position consistent with modern medical science. Not unlike Jehovah's witnesses, followers often avoid, by practice, most conventional medicine.

The Media War

In China, the CCP has blocked access to the internet, blocked information by burning and destroying Falun Gong's books and materials, and has therefore left the public susceptible to the systematic propaganda of China's state-run media. It is claimed that the general public of the PRC is unaware that the oppression against Falun Gong is violent, as it is not covered in State Controlled media reports, although how exactly one violently oppresses a party with seventy million members and keep it from the rest of the population has not been explained.

On the other hand, there have been incidents in which China's state-owned television networks were jammed with reports on the persecution of Falun Gong. In addition, a syndicated Chinese language newspaper with worldwide circulation, The Epoch Times, is accused of having a pro-Falun Gong platform, partly because it has published articles suggesting a declining state in the CCP. These articles include "Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party (juiping) (http://www.theepochtimes.com/jiuping.asp|Nine)", "2 Million Quit Chinese Communist Party (http://www.theepochtimes.com/news/5-6-13/29533.html)," and others [4] (http://www.theepochtimes.com/211,95,,1.html).

According to WOIPFG reports (http://www.upholdjustice.org/English.2/Liu_Chengjun's_death_details.htm), eight Falun Gong practitioners were arrested after one of the jamming incidents in Changchun city, including Liu Chengjun, who was allegedly tortured to death after 21 months incarceration in Jilin Prison.

According to Falun Dafa Clearwisdom.net, "practitioners... clarify the truth [about the persecution] to the Chinese people through" chat rooms[5] (http://clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2002/6/7/22872.html), email[6] (http://clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2001/12/8/16621.html)[7] (http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2001/12/14/16810.html), voice and text messages[8] (http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2004/4/9/46875p.html), and phone calls to China[9] (http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2004/8/26/51742.html).

The Tiananmen Square Self-Immolation Incident

The campaign of government criticism begun in 1999 was considered by most observers to be largely ineffectual until January 2001, when persons whom the government claimed were Falun Gong practitioners, among them a thirteen-year old child, allegedly doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square. Gruesome videos of the incident were widely broadcast on Chinese state television, as were interviews with the thirteen-year old who was horribly burned and whose mother did not survive the incident.

Falun Gong practitioners strongly denied that the persons could have been actual Falun Gong practitioners, since killing, especially in the form of suicide, is strictly forbidden by the principles of Falun Gong, although by the same logic Christians would never kill. In addition, some people have suggested that the incident was either a hoax or staged, pointing out several strange inconsistencies that are present on the video footage of the incident broadcast by State-run Xinhua News Agency. Among them are the fact that one of the burn victims appears to be wearing protective clothing, has unburnt hair, and the green plastic bottle that supposedly carried the gasoline was not even burned. Independent, third-party investigations continue to be denied by the PRC government. Supporters of Falun Gong have created an award-winning video called "False Fire", which deconstructs the incident in slow motion. ([10] (http://www.faluninfo.net/tiananmen/immolation.asp))

Observers believe that the propagandized incident helped turn public opinion in China against the group and has had the effect of helping the government justify the persecution.

Foreign Views on Falun Gong

The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners has been regarded in the West as a major international human rights issue, and it has done the usual about it, which is to say giving Falun Gong every support short of help. In 2000, Ian Johnson of the Wall Street Journal investigated the reports of abuse, and published a series of investigative articles that won him the Pulitzer Prize the following year. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDI), there are, as of June 4, 2005, 2,336 verified cases of death of Falun Gong practitioners in mainland China, from allegations of torture and police brutality. The report also states that hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been detained, with more than 100,000 sentenced to forced-labor camps. Moreover, there are more than 30,000 documented cases of persecution. The CCP does not deny detaining Falun Gong practitioners, but insists that they died from hunger strikes and refusals to seek medical treatments.

As of January, 2004, 16 lawsuits in 12 countries have been filed around the world charging the former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and several other senior officials with genocide, torture, and crimes against humanity, for their roles in the persecution of Falun Gong in mainland China. (See, however, a discussion on universal jurisdiction.) In at least one case (in Belgium) the lawsuit did not proceed further.

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Falun Gong practitioners enacting torture scenes in New York City

The Christian churches' reactions to Falun Gong are mixed. Some churches have remained silent over the issue, partly because certain Christian groups are also being persecuted in China; indeed the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong is openly sympathetic to Falun Gong. Other churches, however, have accused Falun Gong of being a New Age occult group, and of misrepresenting the teachings of Christianity.

The practice of Falun Gong is currently present in more than 70 countries across the world; government reactions range from embracement (United States), to tolerance (Australia), to suspicion (Japan, Indonesia and Singapore), to unconstitutional arrests (France) to persecution (China). Arrests in France took place after pressure from Chinese diplomats during Hu Jintao's (China's president) visit to France in 2004. The illegal arrests were later criticized by both French and European politicians.

24 Hour Continuous Protests

Falun Gong supporters in Vancouver, Canada continue to stage what they claim is the world's longest-running continuous protest against China's treatment of Falung Gong practitioners.[11] (http://www.vancourier.com/issues04/052204/news/052204nn2.html) The protest, which runs twenty-four hours a day, is located at the entrance to the Chinese Consulate on Granville Street. There is also a similar protest being staged in front of the Chinese Embassy in London, which has been continuous since June 5th 2002. [12] (http://falungong.org.uk/mod.php?mod=userpage&menu=1900&page_id=16&PHPSESSID=2076b008f01c70a8c1a15dc63f21de26)

Falun Gong Presence in Major Metropolitan Areas

More recently, despite their stated disinterest in politics, Falun Gong practitioners have been seen on the streets in major metropolitan areas, directly informing the public of the persecution of their fellow practitioners in China (and worldwide according to some pamphlets). In many cities of Western countries (particularly the borough of Manhattan in New York City) several elaborate streetside demonstrations can be seen that portray graphic scenes of government brutality. Amidst these public displays are signs with simple slogans, such as "Falun Dafa is Good". and "Bring Jiang to Justice." It is not clear to some observers whether the demonstrations are meant to promote public awareness or motivate individuals to action. Falun Gong practitioners are seen suggesting individuals to sign petitions against the alleged crimes committed by the CCP, or just, "at least know" that "Falun Dafa is Good."

References

See also

External links

he:פאלון גונג nl:Falun Gong pl:Falun Gong fi:Falun Gong zh:法轮功 fr:Falun Gong es:Falun Gong tr:Falun Gong

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