This week we briefly examine the religious movement known as
Falun Gong and the likelihood they will be banned in Hong
Kong. The following is from a leaflet the group distributed to
your editor on a recent trip there:
"Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) is a mind-body
exercise introduced by Mr. Li Hongzhi in China in 1991. In less
than 10 years it has attracted over 100 million people in more
than 40 countries. Falun Gong brings people both physical and
"Unfortunately, the president of China, Jiang Zemin, is terrified
by the popularity of Falun Gong. In July 1999 he banned Falun
Gong and ordered widespread persecution of its practitioners.
Under Jiang''s persecution Falun Gong practitioners in China
suffer a lot.
--Over 50,000 people have been sent to prisons or labor camps,
or detained unlawfully.
--Over 1,000 people have been abused in mental hospitals.
--Numerous have become permanently disabled after being
tortured in police custody.
--More than 170 practitioners have been tortured to death.
"The Chinese police treat Falun Gong practitioners in inhuman
ways. They brutally beat them, give them electrical shocks,
force-feed them with salt and hot pepper water while they are on
hunger strike, inject them with drugs to let them die slowly and
painfully, make them stand almost naked in snowy weather...and
the male police sexually assault the female practitioners. Facing
such extreme mistreatments, the peaceful Falun Gong
practitioners in China have never fought back.
"On January 23 (2001) there came the news that five people tried
to commit suicide at Tiananmen (Square) by setting themselves
on fire; one of them died on the scene. China''s news claimed
that the five (later the number jumped to seven) were Falun Gong
practitioners and blamed Falun Gong and its founder for the
"The principles of Falun Gong clearly state that killing or suicide
is a sin. We are very sorry for the self-immolation incident. But
we cannot believe that the five people trying to take their own
lives are Falun Gong practitioners. According to the Washington
Post (2/4/2001) the woman who died in the immolation often
beat her elderly mother and daughter and no one ever saw her
practice Falun Gong exercises."
For its part, China claims Falun Gong has killed some 1,600 of
its followers by driving them insane or telling them to reject
medical help, while U.N. human rights chief, Mary Robinson,
has urged China to abolish the labor camps where Falun Gong
members, as well as other religious "dissidents," are sent.
There is no doubt that most folks in America or elsewhere would
say that Falun Gong is a bit "quirky" in its blend of exercise,
meditation and mystical Eastern leaning philosophy. But while it
has no political goals, China''s government is deathly afraid that
the movement could become a force for change some day.
The New York Times'' Elisabeth Rosenthal earlier this year
quoted a political science professor on the subject of the
government vs. Falun Gong.
"I see an image of a giant fighting a ghost - you know it is there
and haunting you, but you don''t exactly know where to attack, or
when it will attack you."
So now the government in Hong Kong, kowtowing to Beijing''s
wishes, is threatening to impose its own ban on Falun Gong,
which would be an incredible breach of the tolerance Hong Kong
has long been known for. The region''s chief executive (who
reports directly to the mainland) announced last week:
"Religious freedom is guaranteed here. It is not the issue. The
issue is a social issue...It is the issue of a cult which has done
damage on the mainland of China, to the population. They may
do damage here in Hong Kong in the future."
Hong Kong''s Secretary for Security Regina Ip has labeled Falun
Gong an "evil cult," and since evil cults are a global threat, she is
"keeping a close watch...because we need to maintain public
order and safety."
And it should be disconcerting to all freedom loving folks in
Hong Kong that Ip has likened the local media to Napoleon, the
pig representing Stalin in Orwell''s "Animal Farm." ["All
animals are equal; but some animals are more equal than
"On the one hand," she says, "the media pledge to safeguard
human rights and freedoms. On the other hand, they have also
monopolized the judicial processes of trial and prosecution.
They even hand down their own verdicts."
The fear, of course, is that by banning Falun Gong you set the
stage for persecution of all religions. Officially sanctioned
Protestant and Catholic churches in China contain about 15-20
million members, but underground movements account for five
times that number. The government doesn''t mind the established
churches as much as they do leadership training. Some church
leaders could probably mobilize one million people in one
place...thus the cause for alarm.
Said one evangelist, "The only real hope is to let Christians
change the country - not by revolution, but by the changing of
hearts and institutions in society. Once we have Christian
lawyers, teachers, postal workers, this will lead to the
Christianization (sic) of Chinese culture, which will lead to
democracy. We have to be as good at infiltration as the
Communists were in the 1930s."
That would appear to be Falun Gong''s only hope for gaining its
own freedom as well.
Elisabeth Rosenthal / New York Times
Dirk Beveridge / AP
Ellen Bork / Weekly Standard
Bay Fang / U.S. News