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Falun Gong: Discrimination?

Spiritual group stopped from performing

By Eric S. Peterson
 Falun Gong members demonstrate exercises
Posted // November 30,2011 -

“As a Buddhist, I wish you peace,” says a man’s voice on a grainy cell-phone recording. While the words wish peace, the tone says “back off,” as the man struggles to be heard over the clash of drum music to tell members of Utah’s Falun Gong community that they would have to leave despite being invited to perform their meditation exercises for the crowd at a Nov. 19 grand-opening celebration for an Asian retail mall in West Jordan.

“They don’t like us telling people about human rights,” says the recorded voice of Falun Gong practitioner Aubrey Yarper, arguing with the man. “They don’t like us exposing the Chinese Communist Party for what it is.”

That a human-rights clash between the Chinese government and peaceful practitioners of the Falun Gong movement happened to open a new battlefront in the parking lot of Asian City, a large shopping center and food court, was bad news for business owners. A spokesperson for the business argues that they never intended to invite controversy to their celebration and thought they were booking performers to do a Tai Chi demonstration.

“We are just holding a grand-opening celebration,” says Hannah Tian of Asian City. “We don’t want to get involved in anything political.”

While the host business is unaware of who had complained, someone in the gathering recognized the emblem of the Falun Gong and objected to their presence. That’s when a man told the practitioners to leave, inviting angry accusations of “religious discrimination.”

“You have to understand that the Asian community as a whole works together as a community,” the man on the recording says before explaining that Falun Gong members couldn’t perform because of an “incident” in 2007 at the Utah Asian Festival, held annually in Sandy.

In 2009, festival organizers denied Falun Gong space at the Asian Festival, arguing that Falun Gong broke program rules in 2007 by failing to pay their fees and blocking sponsor banners during a performance demonstration of the group’s meditation exercises.

Sheng Mei, a Utah Falun Gong practitioner—a group that claims fewer than 100 members locally in comparison to the estimated 100 million members worldwide—says the Asian Festival incident was discrimination; he recorded the confrontation and played it for City Weekly. Armed with copies of the checks cashed by festival organizers to prove the group had paid their fees and with a photo showing meditating performers were not blocking the festival’s banner, Mei says the long reach of the Chinese government helped yank his group from the 2009 festival and had now forced them offstage from the Nov. 19 celebration.

“These people have been brainwashed by Chinese propaganda,” Mei says.

Falun Gong has long had a difficult relationship with the Chinese government, ever since the movement’s birth in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. Founder Li Hongzhi based Falun Gong on the ancient Chinese philosophy of “Cultivation,” a practice that emphasizes personal moral development used in various forms by thinkers like Confucius. Members practice exercises that combine meditation and slow Tai Chi-like movements as part of their belief system.

The movement’s explosive growth from a cadre of Li’s followers to as many as 100 million practitioners by 1999 is what set the movement up for a showdown with the Chinese government, which viewed the movement as a seditious cult.

Media accounts have documented widespread persecution of members by the Chinese government. In 2009, The New York Times cited experts who said that 8,000 practitioners had been detained, with as many as 100 dying in custody in China in 2009 alone.

But Asian City’s Tian says her company hired an event planner who was unfamiliar with Falun Gong and mistakenly booked the group to perform a Tai Chi demonstration. When some in the crowd spotted the members’ uniforms carrying the name Falun Gong, they complained to the planner.

Tian says the members were asked to wear different uniforms if they wanted to perform their demonstration—they declined, she says, and the group left peaceably. She adds that company owners were busy inside the store and weren’t involved in the arguments between Falun Gong members, the event planner and the man on the recording claiming to speak for the Asian community.

“I’m not saying it’s not right,” Tian says of the movement’s beliefs. “I’m just saying it’s not the right time and not the right place.”

For Falun Gong practitioner Mei, however, it’s not his beliefs that are political.

“I deny that that is political,” Mei says. “I think people who oppress me because I speak out—that’s political.”

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Posted // December 19,2011 at 13:52 OMG look at these crazy comments from Falun Gong nutjobs. CW, please read their "Living Buddah" Master Li's lecture - he believes race mixing will end the world, and Jesus only saves white people.


Posted // December 2,2011 at 02:34
As a Falun Dafa practitioner, my family and I sufferred
severely in China. I have first-hand experience how horrible communism is and
how they persecute good people. I feel strongly how precious freedom means to
each individual and it is just like the air we breathe every day. If we lose it, we are not able to survive.
Falun Dafa is a beautiful exercise meditation based on
thousands of years of Chinese culture. It teaches people to follow principle of
Truth, Compassion, Tolerance. It benefits everyone in the society. There is
nothing political but just ordinary people like me seek basic right to do
exercise and be a good people.
I hope in this free country, all kind people can show support
and speak out for those who are suffering for seeking human rights. It is not
just for the benefit of Falun Dafa group, it is for the benefit of everyone
himself to support justice,
goodness and conscience and to protect the freedom we enjoy and never lose it.


Posted // December 2,2011 at 02:31 As a Falun Dafa practitioner, my family and I sufferred severely in China. I have first-hand experience how horrible communism is and how they persecute good people. I feel strongly how precious freedom means to each individual and it is just like the air we breathe every day. If we lose it, we are not able to survive. Falun Dafa is a beautiful exercise meditation based on thousands of years of Chinese culture. It teaches people to follow principle of Truth, Compassion, Tolerance. It benefits everyone in the society. There is nothing political but just ordinary people like me seek basic right to do exercise and be a good people. I hope in this free country, all kind people can show support and speak out for those who are suffering for seeking human rights. It is not just for the benefit of Falun Dafa group, it is for the benefit of everyone himself to support Type text or a website address or translate a document. Cancel Zhèngyì liángzh%u012B Chinese to English translation justice, goodness and conscience and to protect the freedom we enjoy and never lose it.


Posted // December 1,2011 at 17:10 I am very glad to see the city
weekly reporting on this very important and pressing issue. The CCP
exacts great pressure on Chinese people living around the world though various
means including treating their families who still live in China. I myself
have received death threats against myself and my young children because of the
work I have done to expose the persecution of Falun Dafa, and I'm an American
born citizen. There were a couple of points which I would like to clarify
though, which I'm sure Mr. Peterson was unaware of.
First of all the woman who is quoted
as saying that she thought we were Tia-Chi actually had met us at a Vietnamese
event and liked us. After being unable to get a hold of a Vietnamese
Falun Dafa practitioner that she had met, she got on the Falun Dafa website and found the number for Lin Chu, the local Utah
contact. So obviously she knows who we were. Still, I did
feel very sorry for her. She was probably receiving a lot of pressure,
from CCP connected members of the Asian association of Utah and perhaps her job
was even at stake. She looked very stressed.
Another issue that is very important
to bring up, and which is unfortunately very common in reporting is quoting the
CCP's description of Falun Gong as a cult. Not only is this very inaccurate,
but this could be very dangerous and fuel the CCP's murderous persecution of
Falun Gong.
The founder of Falun Dafa has been
nominated 4 times for the Nobel Peace Prize and Falun Dafa has received
hundreds of awards, many of which were issued by the Chinese Government before
the persecution. Falun Dafa is practiced freely in parks and public
spaces and promotes practice of "Truthfulness, Compassion and
Tolerance" When the practice spread widely with up to 1 out of every
Chinese people practicing, the CCP (specifically Jiang Zemin) started a
muti-billion propaganda campaign to vilify and destroy Falun Dafa.
Of course this was to be expected
since the CCP has killed 60 million of its own people and destroyed 90 percent
of the country’s monasteries, temples and churches) A tiger doesn’t'
change its stripes and the persecution of Falun Gong goes right along with CCP
policies. Anything spiritual or religious or in other words GOOD, is seen
as a direct threat against the stability of the CCP which is a murderous,
gangster regime. But in the eyes of the world the CCP needs to have an
excuse for its genocide against Falun Gong so the word "cult" served its
purposed nicely.
Please, please read the following
article about this issue.
Characterizing Falun Gong – and the Human Costs of
Getting It Wrong"
Over the years, the Falun Dafa Information Center has noticed a
consistent and disturbing trend in international media coverage of Falun
Gong. While reports on the nature of the rights abuses suffered by
practitioners have become increasingly precise and based on informed
sources, labels used to refer to the practice itself remain grossly
inaccurate, often involving derogatory terms such as “sect” or “cult”
that originate in Chinese Communist Party propaganda.
play a critically important role in modern society, informing readers
of the world around them and serving as watchdogs over those in
positions of power. Yet, when carried out carelessly, journalism can
also result in grave consequences. This effect is multiplied under
circumstances of severe rights abuses, particularly given the role that
propaganda often plays in dehumanizing victims of violent persecution.
In such instances, the need to use appropriate terminology goes beyond
issues of accuracy in media or political correctness. It involves a real
impact on people’s lives—or deaths.
We therefore urge you to
take a few moments to read the following pages of analysis related to
the nature of Falun Gong, as well as the terminology used to
characterize it. We hope this assists in making your future reporting on
this issue more accurate, responsible, and informed. We thank you in
advance for your attention and consideration.
Why Does It Matter? The Effect of Media Characterizations on Events Inside China
a daily basis, individuals across China who come into contact with
Falun Gong practitioners are forced to make decisions that can have life
or death consequences - will they report their neighbor or colleague to
the police, often the first step to a practitioner winding up in a
detention center or labor camp? Will they dare to voice criticism of the
abusive policy? If they work in law enforcement, will they torture a
How these individuals perceive Falun Gong
practitioners undoubtedly contributes to the decisions they reach. This
is why the Chinese Communist Party—following a common pattern in cases
of large scale state-led persecution—has used a propaganda campaign to
vilify those who practice Falun Gong. The aim is to rally public
support, dehumanize victims of abuse, and justify the inhumane measures
taken against them.
In 2007, Amnesty International brought this
concern to light, stating: “Amnesty International has raised concerns
that the official campaign of public vilification of Falun Gong in the
official Chinese press has created a climate of hatred against Falun
Gong practitioners in China which may be encouraging acts of violence
against them.”
International reinforcement of propaganda
depicting practitioners as somehow dangerous or abnormal can also tilt
the answers to the above questions in the wrong direction. By
uncritically repeating inaccurate and vilifying labels such as “sect” or
“cult”, international media essentially assist in propagating—and
appearing to authenticate—a false portrayal of Falun Gong, with all the
grave costs that entails to people inside China.
This is all the
more so in the Internet age. As Western media reports referring to
Falun Gong circulate easily on Chinese websites, they can add credence
to party propaganda. Many Chinese hold Western media outlets in higher
regard than domestic sources because of their reputation for
professionalism and independence. The result of a mistaken reference to
Falun Gong is that Chinese readers may then be more likely to believe
the party’s characterization of practitioners and potentially
collaborate in the persecution against them. For a Western audience,
such portrayals severely impede efforts to gain support for victims of
abuse. This then removes one of the few forms of protection available to
them, as numerous instances have shown that international condemnation
of human rights violations can help mitigate repressive state behavior.
below is an explanation of why such terms are inaccurate, together with
an analysis of the history of their emergence and use as political
What Falun Gong Actually Is and Is Not
Gong is a meditation and spiritual self-improvement discipline. It is a
traditional Chinese practice that is Buddhist in nature, though not
part of the modern day religion of Buddhism. In practice, it consists of
several key elements:

Performance of meditation and four
gentle exercises that resemble tai-chi and are known in Chinese culture
as “qigong.” The exercise regimen is based on an understanding of the
human body similar to that of acupuncture or other forms of Chinese
medicine, including the ways in which energy can be channeled to enhance
one’s well-being.
Study of written spiritual teachings,
primarily the core text Zhuan Falun. At the center of such teachings are
the values of truth, compassion, and forbearance and the understanding
that closely following these principles in one’s thoughts and behavior
assists one in gaining peace of mind, better physical health, and
spiritual wisdom.
Application of such values on a daily basis
with the aim of improving one’s moral character as one confronts the
day-to-day tribulations of modern life at work, home, school, etc. Under
the extreme conditions of brutal persecution, practitioners have
continued to apply these principles, hence their strict adherence to
non-violence. Indeed, many victimized practitioners have appealed,
Ghandi-like, to torturers to stop their abuse not only for the victims’
sake, but out of compassion for the perpetrator and a belief that such
bad deeds will yield bad consequences for that person.
practice of ‘looking inward’—the deliberate examination of the
motivations behind one’s actions—in order to identify and rid oneself of
selfish attachments, unhealthy or excessive desires, and frustrations,
thereby advancing towards a calmer, more selfless state of mind.

to some Western media reporting, belief in aliens has nothing to do
with the fundamental tenets of Falun Gong belief or practice; such
assertions are drawn from isolated, occasional statements made by Mr. Li
Hongzhi and taken wholly out of context. We understand putting emphasis
on such topics can make for catchy coverage, but it greatly distorts
the character of the practice, or the teachings of Mr. Li.
it was only introduced to the public in 1992 within a broader “qigong
boom” in China, Falun Gong was previously passed down in private from
more experienced practitioners to new disciples for thousands of years.
In this way, Falun Gong is part of the Asian tradition of spiritual
practices known as “self-cultivation,” also found in various Daoist,
Buddhist, and Confucian practices.
Falun Gong practitioners
inside and outside China are normal, friendly, caring, and in many
cases, very well educated individuals. Indeed, one of the indirect
tragedies of the persecution campaign is a resulting “brain drain” for
Chinese society as millions of talented, honest, and hard-working
people—including previously high-ranking officials in the government or
military—have been incarcerated or forced into unemployment,
destitution, or exile because of their religious beliefs.
Then why does the Chinese government call Falun Gong an “evil cult”?
news outlets frequently write that Falun Gong was “banned by the
Chinese government as an evil cult” on July 22, 1999. Such a statement
is inaccurate. News reports published at that time cite the CCP’s claim
that Falun Gong was banned because of “disturbing social order.” The
“evil cult” label did not appear until three months into the
persecution, in October 1999.
The party’s initial justification
for the ban centered mainly around accusations that Falun Gong was
anti-government or that its teachings were incompatible with Communism.
As one editorial published by Xinhua put it just one week into the ban,
“In fact, the so-called ‘truth, kindness, and forbearance’ principle
preached by [Mr. Li Hongzhi] has nothing in common with the socialist
ethical and cultural progress we are striving to achieve.”
the “cult” label was applied, it was not the outcome of measured
analysis, investigative findings, or theological debate. Neither was it
the result of an independent assessment by scholars of religion,
sociologists, or psychologists, though this is how many Party officials
now seek to present it.
Rather, it was a political move
engineered by Jiang Zemin, then head of China’s communist party who,
according to a November 9, 1999 report by the Washington Post, “ordered
that Falun Gong be branded a ‘cult,’ and then demanded that a law be
passed banning cults.” The label appeared at a time when the Chinese
public was becoming increasingly sympathetic to the Falun Gong’s plight,
and international criticism of the party’s actions against Falun Gong
was growing. Domestically, the application of the “cult” label was meant
to undercut public sympathy for Falun Gong. Second, it was an attempt
to shift the spotlight away from the unlawful acts of the Party-state
and to the victims instead. Third, it was an attempt to dehumanize the
Falun Gong, paving the way for more drastic violations of rights.
the term also had an even larger goal outside of China—to appeal to the
anti-cult attitudes of the West in a way that might exonerate the
party’s crimes against Falun Gong practitioners. As reported in a
February 14, 2001 article in the Asian edition of The Wall Street
Journal, China’s communist party has “enthusiastically adopted the
language and arguments of the Western anti-cult movement in its
propaganda against Falun Dafa … [attaching] itself to the anti-cult
movement to justify its crackdown.”
Indeed, the English term
itself, “cult” or “evil cult,” is a manipulated translation from
Chinese. As Amnesty International notes, the Chinese term “xiejiao” is
perhaps more accurately translated as “heretical organization” or
heretical religion. According to at least one source, the English
translation into “evil cult” was arrived at with the help of a Western
PR company. It was crafted to play off fears of cults in the West, where
Falun Gong and its qigong kin were largely unfamiliar and could be
portrayed as nefarious.
Finally, it should be noted that Western
scholars of religion who have studied Falun Gong in depth, such as David
Ownby, have noted that Falun Gong does not share the characteristics of
cults. It does not involve leader worship, or charges fees; nor does it
isolate practitioners from society, intervene in their personal lives,
or encourage any behavior that could be construed as unlawful or
dangerous. Such scholars have instead recognized it as a new religious
movement. Similarly, a wide range of international actors—including
United Nations Special Rapporteurs, prominent human rights groups, and
democratic governments—have repeatedly referred to the campaign against
Falun Gong as one of unjustified religious persecution rather than as a
legitimate government policy to rid society of a supposedly negative
influence. [For a more detailed compilation of expert explanations on
why the Party launched the campaign to eradicate Falun Gong, see: Origins of Persecution
the above analysis, a balanced and responsible journalistic approach to
reporting would not unquestioningly cite Chinese official claims that
Falun Gong is a “cult.” If one does mention it, fairness would also
require reference to the credible third parties who have made it clear
that Falun Gong does not fit the usual definition of a cult and that the
government’s use of the label vilifies the group and justifies the
Party-led campaign to crush it.
What about the Term ‘Sect’?
term “sect” is similarly inaccurate and problematic when applied to
Falun Gong. Nevertheless, its short spelling has made it a convenient
choice for headlines and therefore, one of the most frequently cited,
though mistaken, labels for the group. In particular, the term distorts
the practice’s origins. As noted by Ian Johnson of the Wall Street
Journal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Falun Gong in
China: “a sect is usually considered a splinter group of an existing
religion. But Falun Gong is not that.”
Furthermore, the
connotations of the word ‘sect’ serve to put psychological distance
between the reader and a group so designated. Applying the term to Falun
Gong marginalizes or trivializes the group. Falun Gong is currently
practiced by millions in more than 80 countries. According to Western
media reports, a Chinese government survey estimated that more than 70
million people practiced Falun Gong in early 1999, a number larger than
the Communist Party membership and far above many world religions,
including the Jewish and Baha’i faiths. Falun Gong was not a fringe
movement in China then, nor is it a fringe movement‚ i.e., sect‚ now in
the international arena.
To conclude, Falun Gong is a discipline
based on spiritual understandings but not part of any specific
mainstream religion. It is a “spiritual practice,” “mind-body meditation
practice” and it deserves to be reported as such.