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Page 2 - Is Qigong Political? A New Look at Falun Gong
Why has a spiritual and healing art like Falun Gong become front page news and a focal point for international human rights groups? In less than a decade, Falun Gong has attracted more than 70 million practitioners, at least ten million more members than the Chinese Communist Party. Although Li tells his students to obey the laws of their country and has made it clear that he has no political ambitions, the Chinese government is worried about its ability to control the activities of Falun Gong practitioners. On April 25, 1999, 10,000 Falun Gong followers gathered in a peaceful demonstration outside the headquarters of the Communist Party in Beijing to protest the arrest of several Falun Gong leaders. China was shocked at the ability of a spiritual movement to mobilize so many people. When other leaders were detained in July, tens of thousands of followers demonstrated in some thirty cities. China reacted. On July 22, 1999 the People's Republic of China Ministry of Civil Affairs banned Falun Gong and branded it an "evil cult" and "a threat to social stability." According to Xinhua, China's official state news agency, any party member who believes in Falun Gong will "fall captive to idealistic heresies and finally lose credit as a communist."
Xinhua issued prohibitions against:hanging or posting Falun Gong pictures, insignias, signs, or advertisementsdistribution of books, magazines, audio and video products, or Falun Gong promotional materialsassemblies of people for the purpose of promoting Falun Gongactivities such as parades, demonstrations, or petitions that protect or advertise Falun Gongany activities that incite the public to disturb social order through fabricating or distorting facts" or spreading rumors organizing, linking up, or directing activities that contest relevant government decisions.
The Chinese government has censored and destroyed all Falun Gong books, literature, and videos. Thousands of practitioners have been arrested, detained, or sent without trial to labor camps for reeducation. Amnesty International has reported ill treatment, torture, and fatal beatings of various members. On December 26, 1999, four Falun Gong leaders were sentenced to prison terms after a one day trial. Li Chang, a fifty-nine year old official in the Police Ministry was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Wang Zhiwen, 50, a railroad engineer, was sentenced to 16 years. Ji Liewu, 36, manager of a Hong Kong metals company, received 12 years; Yao Jie, 40, a Communist Party official at a large Beijing real estate company, was sentenced to seven years.
The founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, moved to the United States about three years ago. After Falun Gong was outlawed in July of 1999, Li Hongzhi was placed on China's most wanted list. The Chinese government asked Interpol, the international police force, to aid in Li's arrest. Hiroaki Takizawa, acting director of criminal intelligence at Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, made it clear that Interpol would not comply because Li is not a criminal, "...our principle is not to intervene in any religious, military, racial or political issues. If any offender commits a crime, which falls under the category of ordinary crime, such as murder-- in that case it is possible to co-operate." (BBC World Service Report, July 29, 1999).
Officials from the U.S. State Department, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, Human Rights Watch, and other groups have universally expressed outrage over the way China has violated international law and its own constitution. According to Mike Jendrzejczyk, Washington Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division, "Cloaking this campaign [against Falun Gong] in rhetoric about the 'rule of law' doesn't give any greater legitimacy to China's crackdown on Falun Gong. The official ban on Falun Gong should be lifted...All Falun Gong members in detention, formally charged, or sentenced to labor camps for peaceful activities should be immediately released."
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