Falun Gong: Chinese “Cult”?
An interesting article by Chinese affairs analyst James Miles, posted on BBC News on April 28th, 1999 titled “Asia Pacific Falun Gong: a New Cult Emerges” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/330367.stm) overviews a new religious movement known as Falun Gong. Miles revisits a silent demonstration outside of Zhangnanhai, the Communist Party’s complex in Beijing, that occurred on April 25th 1999. Falun Gong members were protesting a report that they found slanderous in a country where religions must be permitted by the government. Anything that deviates from accepted religions is labeled as superstition and suppressed.
Miles explains that Falun Gong is little more than an extension of Chinese Qi Gong meditation, thus circumventing major political intervention. Miles goes into a brief history of Falun Gong, introducing Master Li, the founder who believed people needed more than meditation to supplement their spiritual health. Master Li posited a multi-layered cosmos and claimed humankind needed saving from imminent self-destruction. This system of beliefs suggests a millenarian religious movement, though followers renounce this term. Some followers are members of the Communist Party of China, contributing to its continued development and lack of government involvement. Another interesting fact about Falun Gong that Miles discusses is the popularity that the movement has on University campuses among highly educated Chinese.
An interesting article, albeit outdated, curiosity spurned further research into Falun Gong. I was surprised to hear that China took a “backseat” with a new religious movement like Falun Gong as Miles suggested in his article, so I looked elsewhere to find more recent developments. In an article published by Andrew Jacobs on April 27th, 2009, a decade after Miles’ article, titled “China Still Presses Crusade Against Falun Gong” (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/world/asia/28china.html?_r=0) Jacobs states that two thousand lives have been lost and tens of thousands Falun Gong followers have been imprisoned. On top of this, there are many cases of human rights violations including torture of Falun Gong prisoners. The demonstration in front of Zhongnanhai from Miles article on April 25th, 1999 was the catalyst for government action, and provoked the government to take violent action against the religious group. Falun Gong has been an unfortunate victim of the stigma associated with new religious movements. Followers have suffered physically and psychologically for their sets of beliefs because of the shame imparted on them by their government. With an absolute ban on Falun Gong in China, there is no end in sight for the violence against these people.