Falun Gong (Traditional Chinese: 法輪功, Simplified Chinese: 法轮功, literally "Work of the Law of the Wheel") or Falun Dafa (Traditional Chinese: 法輪大法, Simplified Chinese: 法轮大法, lit. "Great Method of the Law of the Wheel") is a controversial Chinese Qigong practice with influences from Buddhism and Taoism, which purports to improve the mind, body and spirit. The government of the People's Republic of China, concerned by the group's ability to organize, claims it is an "evil" cult spreading superstition and malicious fallacies to deceive people. Whether Falun Gong is a harmless spiritual movement or an evil cult has been subject to much debate.

Table of contents
1 Origins and beliefs
2 Crackdown
3 References
4 External links

Origins and beliefs

Falun Dafa was introduced to the general public in 1992 by Li Hongzhi and grew very swiftly in popularity not only in China but worldwide. It was popularised widely under the PRC government's supervision for 7 years. An estimate of the PRC government presented in 1998 on the public television (state owned) in Shanghai mentioned that in mainland China alone the number of practitioners were approx. 70-100 million. The practice is present in more than 60 countries, mainly in those of North America and Europe.

The three basic moral principles of Falun Gong are: 'Zhen, Shan, Ren', which translate approximately as 'Truthfulness, Benevolence or Compassion, and Forbearance or Tolerance'. It is through focusing on these qualities that a Falun Gong practitioner is able to develop their Xinxing (moral character) which then gives them a greater potential to develop high levels of Gong ("energy", which is actually said to be essentialy different from "Qi") potency.

As well as a set of moral beliefs, there are five sets of exercises central to the Falun Gong system which are supposed to enhance the circulation of energy in the body. The final exercise, a sitting meditation, also helps to create a tranquil mind and, according to the teachings, strengthens 'Divine Powers' of the individual. All exercises are taught free of charge by other Falun Gong practitioners and are detailed in Li's books.

Along with the its basic spiritual principles, Falun Gong boasts a number of unconventional beliefs. In his dissertation, Zhuan Falun, Li writes he can personally heal disease and that a Falun (a turning wheel of gong) resides in the bellies of all true practitioners. These practitioners can see this Falun turn in their bellies provided their celestial eye in the forehead is not blocked. In addition, he writes that practitioners truely adhering to the Zhen-Shan-Ren principle of the universe won't be hurt as much when hit by speeding cars as they otherwise would. Li claims demons and extraterrestrials are everywhere and that Africa has a 2-billion-year-old nuclear reactor.


During the first years of the introduction of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi was granted several awards by Chinese governmental organisations to encourage him to continue promoting his then considered wholesome practice. From 1992 to 1994 he regulary lectured all over the country in important Chinese cities before large audiences. The practice was then further spread widely in mainland China for 7 years mainly by word of mouth.

In July 1999 the government decided to put a stop to its popularity and it has been persecuted in mainland China ever since. The reason for this crackdown is not clear. Some argue that this happened because the number of Falun Gong practitioners in China grew to a larger number than the membership of the Communist Party of China. Others claim that there were practitioners amongst high officials of the government and that several high ranking army officers had embraced the practice as well and that this was a cause of grave concern for others in power. However others argue that groups similar to Falun Gong have suffered less or little persecution (in mainland China there are 12 Christian churches currently banned and labeled as "evil sects"). However no evidence has shown that Falun Gong had more members than the Chinese Communist Party.

In April 1999, in Tianjin, as a result of an article in a local paper written by a member of Chinese Academy of Science, about a thousand Falun Gong practitioners surrounded the newspaper office. Some protesters were arrested and claimed that they were beaten by the police. Several days later, for 12 hours on April 25, about 10,000 people gathered outside Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of Chinese Communist Party and lined up in meditative postures along a 2 km stretch. Premier Zhu Rongji met with the leaders of the protest and promised to address their grievances within three days.

This persecution is currently the subject of complaints by many worldwide human rights groups. In 2000, Ian Johnson of the Wall Street Journal investigated the reports of abuse, and published a series of investigative articles that won him the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

The PRC government claimed that Falun Gong is an evil cult. There are many disputed reports that some believers hurt or kill themselves after reading the books by Li Hongzhi. Even before the crackdown, many scientists in China have already warned that there was no scientific evidence to show Falun Gong is beneficial for health, (despite personal anecdotes to the contrary).

Some people also think that Li's purpose of introducing Falun Gong is just to earn money. There is no evidence that Li has ever tried to overthrow or oppose the government before 1999. Some report that Li did not even write the books himself. Many concepts of Falun Gong are taken directly from Buddhism, Taoism or other Qigong. The concept of "Falun" itself also has long existed in Buddhism.

The campaign of government criticism begun in 1999 was considered by most observers to be largely ineffectual until January 2001, when persons claiming to be Falun Gong members, among them a thirteen-year old child, allegedly doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square. However, Li Hongzhi strongly denied that the persons can have been actual Falun Gong members, since killing is strictly forbidden by the principles and precepts of the movement. Some strange inconsistencies present on the video footage of the incident released by Chinese Central Television (the main TV channel in China) call into question the integrity of the material. An independent, third-party investigation by North American media was denied several times by the PRC government. Some consider that the whole incident was a media hoax and was set up by/with the Chinese government's consent in its campaign to discredit Falun Gong.

Nevertheless, most observers believe that the incident helped turn public opinion in China against the group and has had the effect of helping the government in intensifying its crackdown.

Some claim that today Falun Gong is no longer influential in mainland China and that only outside of China there are still many believers. It is impossible to accurately determine the number of practioners in mainland China, due to government efforts to suppress information on its existence. But the number is high enough for the Chinese government to justify its efforts in the continuing persecution.

Some cult watchdogs in North America having compared Falun Gong to uprisings of other cults like the Church of Scientology.


External links