|A new religious movement in China, drawing from Taoist and Buddhism, which since 1999 has been violently persecuted by the Chinese government.|
Falun Gong or Falun Dafa (literally, "Dharma Wheel Practice" or "Law Wheel Practice") is a Chinese spiritual practice that combines meditation and qigong exercises with a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance (Chinese: 真、善、忍). The practice emphasizes morality and the cultivation of virtue, and identifies as a qigong practice of the Buddhist school, though its teachings also incorporate elements drawn from Taoist traditions.
Falun Gong was first taught publicly in Northeast China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. It emerged toward the end of China's "qigong boom" — a period which saw the proliferation of similar practices of meditation, slow-moving exercises and regulated breathing. It differs from other qigong schools in its absence of fees or formal membership, lack of daily rituals of worship, its greater emphasis on morality, and the theological nature of its teachings. Western academics have described Falun Gong as a qigong discipline, a "spiritual movement", a "cultivation system" in the tradition of Chinese antiquity, or as a form of Chinese religion.
1999 Peaceful demonstration
By 1999, government estimates placed the number of Falun Gong practitioners at 70 million. In April 1999 over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered peacefully near the central government compound in Beijing to request legal recognition and freedom from state interference.
The Chinese government's responded on 20 July 1999 by abducting and detaining thousands of Falun Gong practitioners that they identified as leaders. Two days later, on 22 July, the PRC Ministry of Civil Affairs outlawed the Falun Dafa Research Society as an illegal organization "engaged in illegal activities, advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability". The same day, the Ministry of Public Security issued a circular forbidding citizens from practicing Falun Gong in groups, possessing Falun Gong's teachings, displaying Falun Gong banners or symbols, or protesting the ban.
The ensuing campaign aimed to "eradicate" the group through a combination of propaganda, imprisonment, and coercive thought reform of practitioners, sometimes resulting in deaths. In October 1999, four months after the ban, legislation was created to outlaw "heterodox religions" and sentence Falun Gong devotees to prison terms.
Hundreds of thousands are estimated to have been imprisoned extrajudicially, and practitioners in detention are reportedly subjected to forced labor, psychiatric abuse, torture and other coercive methods of thought reform at the hands of Chinese authorities. The U.S. Department of State and Congressional-Executive Commission on China cite estimates that as much as half of China's reeducation-through-labor camp population is made up of Falun Gong practitioners.
A 2008 UN report suggested that tens of thousands of Falun gong members had been the victims of organ harvesting. Researcher Ethan Gutmann estimates that Falun Gong represents an average of 15 to 20 percent of the total "laogai" population, which includes reeducation through labor camps as well as prisons and other forms of administrative detention. Former detainees of the labor camp system have reported that Falun Gong practitioners are one of the largest groups of prisoners; in some labor camp and prison facilities, they comprise the majority of detainees, and are often said to receive the longest sentences and the worst treatment. A 2013 report by Amnesty International on labor reeducation camps found that, Falun Gong practitioners "constituted on average from one third to in some cases 100 per cent of the total population" of certain camps.
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- Seth Faison, "In Beijing: A Roar of Silent Protestors", New York Times, 27 April 1999. Quote: "Buddhist Law, led by a qigong master named Li Hongzhi, claims to have more than 100 million followers. Even if that is an exaggeration, the government's estimate of 70 million practitioners represents a large group in a nation of 1.2 billion."
- Xinhua, China Bans Falun Gong, People's Daily, 22 July 1999
- Human Rights Watch, "Dangerous Mediation", APPENDIX II: LAWS AND REGULATIONS USED TO CRACK DOWN ON FALUNGONG.
- Leung, Beatrice (2002) 'China and Falun Gong: Party and society relations in the modern era', Journal of Contemporary China, 11:33, 761 – 784
- Sunny Y. Lu, MD, PhD, and Viviana B. Galli, MD "Psychiatric Abuse of Falun Gong Practitioners in China" Journal American Academy Psychiatry and the Law, 30:126–30, 2002
- Robin J. Munro, "Judicial Psychiatry in China and its Political Abuses", Columbia Journal of Asian Law, Columbia University, Volume 14, Number 1, Fall 2000, p 114
- U.S. Department of State, 2008 Country Report on Human Rights: China (includes Hong Kong and Macao), Oct 2008. Quote: "Some foreign observers estimated that at least half of the 250,000 officially recorded inmates in the country's reeducation-through-labor camps were Falun Gong adherents. Falun Gong sources overseas placed the number even higher."
- Congressional Executive Commission on China Annual Report 2008 31 October 2008. Quote: "International observers believe that Falun Gong practitioners constitute a large percentage—some say as many as half—of the total number of Chinese imprisoned in RTL camps. Falun Gong sources report that at least 200,000 practitioners are being held in RTL and other forms of detention."
- Ethan Gutmann, "How many harvested?", in State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China (Woodstock, ON: Seraphim editions, 2009), pages 49-67.
- Human Rights Watch, "We Could Disappear at Any Time," 7 December 2005. Quote: "Several petitioners reported that the longest sentences and worst treatment were meted out to members of the banned meditation group, Falungong, many of whom also petition in Beijing. Kang reported that of the roughly one thousand detainees in her labor camp in Jilin, most were Falungong practitioners. The government's campaign against the group has been so thorough that even long-time Chinese activists are afraid to say the group's name aloud ..."
- Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Re-education through Labor Abuses Continue Unabated: Overhaul Long Overdue, 4 February 2009. Quote: "More than half of our 13 interviewees remarked on the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in RTL camps. They said Falun Gong practitioners make up one of the largest groups of detainees in the camp, and that they are often persecuted because of their faith ...'Of all the detainees, the Falun Gong practitioners were the largest group'".
- Amnesty International (Dec 2013). Changing the soup but not the medicine: Abolishing re-education through labor in China (PDF). London, UK.