A controversial but hugely popular Chinese system of meditative movements teaches how to bring the body, mind and spirit in harmony, thus living in sync with the laws of the universe
Brothers in armsIt is said that most spiritual paths are paved with difficulties. In Falun Gong's case, this has proved to be more than true.
When I e-mailed an official Chinese spokesperson for material pertaining to Falun Gong and the reasons behind banning this practice in China, I was given the URLs of two websites. Till that time, I had come across only pro-Falun Gong sites, and was curious about what the Chinese government had to say. What I found, instead, was a plethora of irrational blames, some as ridiculous as claims of sorcery and heresy.
According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue, the Falun Gong organization is an evil cult that jeopardizes the Chinese society and its people. They compare Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi to Japan's Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara who led his followers into a mass murder mission in 1995. The official Chinese news agency Xinhua actually prints a report claiming: "Like all other heretical founders, Li Hongzhi is an evildoer who talks big and tells lies," and that Falun Gong is "an anti-society, anti-humanity, anti-science and anti-government malignant tumor, which poses great harm to society". The government also claims that Falun Gong causes mental disorders, and false belief in its benefits might stop a patient from taking required medical attention in time. This is denied by Falun Gong practitioners by clarifying that people with critical or mental illnesses are barred from practicing the system, since such people could not be calm enough to practice 'cultivation'.
The main reason for this outburst, however, seems to sprout from political insecurities. Falun Gong's "true purpose", the report claims, "is to win public support for Hongzhi's wicked political ambitions". It further states that Hongzhi's aim is to "make Falun Gong the ruling ideology in the world and to allow him to seize power that overruns the government and the law". The USA is protesting against the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. However, the Chinese government is going all out to destroy what it perceives as the biggest threat to its regime since the 1989 Tiananmen democracy protests.
"When China realized," says Anders Eriksson, one of the practitioners "that so many people were practicing Falun Gong, they were afraid that this could develop into something political." (The group claims 80 million followers in China alone, more than the membership of the Communist Party; the Chinese authorities say two million). He, however, points out that this is a gross misperception of Falun Gong's purpose. "Cultivation has nothing to do with politics," he explains.
Distrust, however, is difficult to root out. Which is why Falun Gong's history today is bathed in the blood of its practitioners. Stories of murder, torture in police custody, unlawful arrests abound. The Agence France Press has even reported beatings with electric batons and cattle prods, forced abortions and sanctioned rape and the forced consumption of anti-psychotic drugs. The Amnesty International has condemned what it calls China's gross human rights' violation. But as of now, the Falun Gong's fate in China is sealed. Perhaps it is a strange irony that while millions all over the world are embracing this system, it is being forced to die out in the land of its origin.
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