Falun Gong Rally for Freedom in China

Faith J. H. McDonnell directs the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).


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The rally for freedom in China sponsored every July by adherents of Falun Gong is by far the most orderly and well-organized political demonstration that takes place in Washington, DC. This year’s rally of July 14 was no exception. Practitioners of the spiritual discipline combining meditation, graceful exercises, and breathing techniques with cultivation of virtue sat cross-legged on the ground in dozens and dozens of rows facing the U.S. Capitol. But few realize how, behind the scenes, Falun Gong is more successfully rocking repressive regimes around the world than could the most riotous of demonstrators.

Unlike many Washington protestors and demonstrators, Falun Gong members attending the rally for freedom were almost totally silent. There were no shouts of “No justice, no peace!” No chants of “Hey, hey, ho, ho. Hu Jintao has got to go.” But for their applause for the rally speakers, Falun Gong followers sat quietly in the hot sun. Members of Congress and representatives of human rights and religious freedom organizations that come every year to the rally brought greetings, condemned the actions of the Chinese government, and pledged their support to Falun Gong, persecuted Christians, and all those who are oppressed by the Communist regime.

In addition to sheer numbers, (seated adherents stretched all the way to the edge of the Capitol West Lawn) visual images spoke for the practitioners. Most of the hundreds of participants held posters declaring “Stop the Persecution of Falun Gong” or “Abolish the Chinese Communist Party.” Other participants’ peaceful expressions belied the horrific photos they displayed of the battered faces of friends and family members, practitioners who have been arrested, beaten, and put in China’s vast gulag, or brutally tortured to death. Flanking the seated participants on all sides stood other demonstrators supporting large, colorful banners that proclaimed both the goodness of Falun Gong, or “Falun Dafa,” as it is also known, and the evil of the CCP and Communism. It was a refreshing change in a climate where Chairman Mao and Che Guevara are fashion statements and in which we are informed by our betters at Newsweek that “we are all socialists now.”

July 2011 marked twelve years of the CCP’s brutal persecution of Falun Gong. First founded by Li Hongzhi in 1992, Falun Gong’s practitioners numbered over 70 million by the mid-1990’s, to the great alarm of the Communist regime. Falun Gong was outlawed on July 20, 1999 as “neither a religion nor a spiritual movement” but “an evil cult against humanity, science and society.” Communist Party Chairman Jiang Zemin created a government office to “eradicate” Falun Gong, and leading practitioners immediately were arrested. By 2008 the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report on China noted that “some foreign observers estimated that Falun Gong adherents constituted at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in re-education through labor (RTL) camps, while Falun Gong sources overseas placed the number even higher.”

The numbers of Falun Gong practitioners that have been tortured and killed grew throughout the nineties, and continued into the twenty-first century. In 2003, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, Asma Jahangir, reported that she continued “to be alarmed by deaths in custody in China.” She concluded that “the cruelty and brutality of these alleged acts of torture” against followers of the Falun Gong movement “defy description.” In just the first four months of 2011, sources reported the deaths of 26 Falun Gong practitioners from various age groups and regions of China.

Even as persecution continues, Falun Gong is having a tremendous impact on the struggle for freedom not only in China, but around the world. Human rights activist Michael Horowitz says that Falun Gong followers are “changing the course of history.” First, in 2004, Falun Gong’s international newspaper The Epoch Times published an exposé of the deception and violence of the CCP. The Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party feature such topics as “On How the Chinese Communist Party Destroyed Traditional Culture” and “On the Chinese Communist Party’s History of Killing.” One topic even turns the tables on the CCP and explains “On How the Chinese Communist Party is An Evil Cult.”

Reaction to the Nine Commentaries has been astounding. In the seven years since their publication, over 98 million people have left the Party. To assist in this process, the Falun Gong initiated the “Tuidang Movement.” Tuidang, which translates as “withdraw from the Communist Party,” signifies withdrawing or renouncing membership in the CCP or its affiliated youth organizations, the Young Pioneers and the Communist Youth League. The Tuidang Movement was recognized in U.S. Senate Resolution 232, just introduced on July 13, 2011. Yi Rong, the chairwoman of Falun Gong’s aptly named “Quitting the CCP Service Center,” was one of the speakers at this year’s rally. She revealed that Tuidang volunteers both inside China and around the world process over 60,000 quitting statements each day.

But opening the eyes of former Communist Party members through the Nine Commentaries is not the only way in which Falun Gong practitioners are changing the world and fighting for freedom. In 2000, Chinese-American Falun Gong followers launched the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, (GIF). This is a series of free downloadable programs with names such as “Freegate” and “Ultrasurf” that allow Internet users to bypass the servers that are censored by their government and access the Internet via GIF’s servers that are spread across the world.

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  • Bert

    We also need a Falun Gong Rally for Freedom in America as well as in China.
    The Obama gang is increasing its dictatorial power as fast as they can and loyal Americans are on the defensive.

  • Steve Chavez

    Fifty bucks, oops make that five cents since that's all the "Change" I have in my pockets, that Obama ordered his chefs to make Chinese food that day.

    He also probably called his state dinner pals to laugh at the "falun nuts outside my window. And guess where all their posters, magic markers, clothes, shoes, bullhorns, WERE MADE? CHINA! HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHA!" Michelle: "I'm calling the National Guard to remove them immediately! They are insulting our Chinese Comrades with their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly!"

  • LindaRivera

    The human soul longs to be free! G-D made the soul with that longing for freedom!

    Evil men in their idol worship of 'Power and Control' are determined to smash all freedom. The idol of 'Power and Control' is the biggest idol the world has ever known. The worship of this idol is always accompanied by horrific cruelty and tremendous violence.

    The men who worship this idol crave the worship of humanity. Politics and religion have both been utilized to satisfy their demand for worship.

  • g_jochnowitz

    When I was in Israel in 2009, I saw copies of a Hebrew-language edition of EPOCH TIMES, the free newspaper of Falun Gong. One could pick up copies in boxes along the street.
    A few years earlier I saw a woman in Washington Square wearing a T-shirt that said Falun Dafa (an alternative name for Falun Gong) spelled out in Hebrew on the back of the shirt and written in Chinese on the front of the shirt. I walked up to her, pointed to the shirt, and said "Falun Dafa." She gave me handouts in English encouraging recipients to join the organization. She spoke to me in Hebrew telling me I should become a member, She knew neither English nor Chinese.
    Falun Gong means "law-wheel service." Falun Dafa means "law-wheel big-law."

  • Lisa_H

    I learned about Falun Gong several years ago and I was interested because I practice Qi Gong and wondered how it might be related. So I took a few books out of the library on this subject and all indications are that they are a cult. I read two books by the master and founder (Li) as well which confirms this impression. They may be doing wonderful work as described in this article to promote freedom but they are also, in my opinion, dangerous in their beliefs. If you want to find out more here is a link http://www.apologeticsindex.org/f02.html

    • http://www.theird.org Faith

      As a Christian, I believe that only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but I still believe that there must be freedom of belief, conscience, and religion for all. The site you listed also includes Qi Gong. ____And yes, the Falun Gong are doing wonderful work to oppose Communism with the Nine Commentaries, and to counter repressive governments with GIF.

      • Lisa_H

        Dear Faith, thank you for your reply. Qi Gong as such is not a religion. I learned this exercise and meditation practice in a 6-week course at a community centre from a master who I never saw again. It is comparable to Tai Chi (just not as intricate and more emphasis on health). Falun Gong is an offshoot of Qi Gong (which probably has thousands of different ways of practicing it, as it used to be frequently taught within Chinese families so lots of variations). With Falun Gong, however, there is only one master and this man has made some pretty outrageous claims (for e.g., that it replaces medicine–much like Scientology; belief in aliens on earth corrupting society; and to me most disturbingly says he plants "the dharma wheel" in each follower, which means that they have an unbroken connection with him) and he appears to elevate it above all other forms of Qi Gong. Alarm bells went off for me when I saw the name because I have studied cults (someone I know joined the Moonies in the early 1980s and was subsequently kidnapped by his friends and deprogrammed) but I am not disputing anything you have written in your article and any persecution of this group would be unwarranted. –Lisa

  • James

    Good Article!

  • humtum

    Please note that there are absolutely no breathing techniques in the cultivation practice of Falun Dafa (Falun Gong). Don't take my word for it, look it up in the core text Zhuan Falun and/or ask any Falun Dafa practitioner. This was a well-researched article overall, so why not make it even more accurate by correcting this statement: "Practitioners of the spiritual discipline combining meditation, graceful exercises, and breathing techniques with cultivation of virtue sat cross-legged on the ground in dozens and dozens of rows facing the U.S. Capitol."

    Thanks Bob G.

    • http://www.theird.org Faith

      Thank you, Bob G. Sorry about that. I had read of comparisions to Qigong, and so thought it incorporated all of the same things.

  • Marcus G

    Thanks Faith and Bob G
    Yes there are no breathing techniques in Falun Gong
    I have often wondered why in the last 13 years every news report says this?
    Thanks for the article!
    Marcus G

    • Noah

      I believe it is a sign of just how much "copy and paste" misinformation has gone on regarding Falun Gong. Actual first hand research/reporting is short in supply.

  • Cyrus

    I have practiced it for more than 9 years, of which I have not been sick since starting the exercises. What attracted me was that it was free, not a religion, no one to worship, no membership, and the thee words of Truth, Compassion and Forbearance. With truth one has a loyal, honest and noble character. With Forbearance, one is tolerance, patient, forgiving and can endure suffering without anger or spite. With Compassion one is kind to everyone one no matter what their belief or who the are.

    The negative comments about the practice are not accurate and are a case of incite to hatred. Anyone can quote and say anything, but the books are easily download and transparent at falundafa.org and in this way it has spread to 100 million people in over 114 countries.
    Cyrus

  • Rebeunga

    why don’t you keep your comments on topic instead of using this article to espouse your divisive ill informed fear mongering. I’m so tired of Obama bashing. The problems in this country run far deeper than the president. As far as Chinese goods you can than Nixon for the start of that..
    Human rights in China are appalling and US corporations exacerbate the issue with unending investments there.

  • Lisa_H

    Incite to hate? That's a low blow. Please show some of this tolerance for other opinions that you say you espouse! I simply believe that it is prudent to know more rather than less about any person or group especially if you are going to get involved with them. As for the movement's helping people in China and other countries gain access to an uncensored web–that is truly commendable so long as no prostelizing occurs at the same time.

    Since I thought I might be overreacting a little and was not as well informed as I ought to be, I did 5 more minutes of digging and found this analysis by a cult expert on why he considers Falun Fata/Gong indeed a cult. Take it with a grain of salt if you wish. http://www.cultnews.com/?p=2346

  • Noah

    If you dig a little deeper Lisa, you will find out Rick Ross was paid to do that presentation for the Chinese Acadamy of Social Sciences, a CCP mouthpiece. I think that says enough about how much of a grain of salt to take it with. I encourage you to read the court testimony of Prof. David Ownby, an actual field researcher and journal-published writer about belief system. It is very objective, in my opinion. http://ahdu88.blogspot.com/2009/05/falun-gong-def

    Since there is nobody to worship, no membership, no churches, and no money exchanged/collected, it appears a whole lot less cultish than most western religious pracitces. (A man who walks on water, and can cure the blind is going to come take you away to a heavenly kingdom?) Not meaning disrespect, just noting that most beliefs sound odd when taken out of context.

    The primary reason they even bother to make a public issue at all is to get the word out that they are still being persecuted (often to death), and hope that it can stop.

    I have practiced for 10+ years, and have a quite normal life. I am a mechanical engineer, so I am not some uneducated sucker, and I can credit practicing Falun Dafa directly for many many positive changes in my life including health and family relationships.

  • Olaf

    Lisa: Actually, qigong is an offshoot of cultivation practice (xiulian), which is what Falun Gong is all about. Communist cadres in the 1950s wanted to disassociate the spiritual teachings of these practices from the physical movements, and thus qigong was born. Nevertheless, Falun Gong was widely endorsed by the Chinese authorities in until the mid-1990s, when it started to become “too popular” in the eyes of some opponents of qigong. Before that, it was even showcased in Chinese embassies around the world as “genuine Chinese culture”. Have a look at the Wikipedia article on Falun Gong and its rather impressive list of references: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falun_Gong

  • freedomissacred youtube

    There is a movie in support of the Falun Gong in the uklisteners channel in Youtube “Beyond Justice”. I would love to have your opinion of it. There is more discussion in the blog freedom-is-sacred at blogspot(dot)com if you care to comment there.