Falun Gong: Let The Games Begin
By Karen Nakamura
The evening of July 13, the Chinese Consulate, at Geary and Laguna in San Francisco, was decked out in a red and white banner declaring, in Chinese characters, China's joy at winning the Olympic Games in 2008. Leading to the embassy's entrance were a dozen tall bouquets of red, gold and white flowers, a lovely sight.
Across the street on Laguna, in stark contrast, were the usual Falun Gong protesters with their own banners. These called for freedom of religion in China and to let Falun Gong members out of jail. Some displayed photos of the 177 Falun Gong practitioners claim have been tortured to death by the same government represented across the street.
These protesters have been doing a simplified form of tai chi, actually qi-gong or chi-gong, and meditation at least once a week for the past year. Their ranks range anywhere from two up to thirty people. They're a quiet group, friendly and eager to help. One can not doubt their sincerity.
However, even though the scene is usually peaceful, a San Francisco Police patrol car is always parked on the street separating them, ready to head off any conflict. There's no question the animosity between the two groups will become increasingly tense in the preparations for the Olympic games.
The liberal left has had a problem with this ideological struggle, not really knowing what or who to believe.
On one hand, the persecution of ostensibly peaceful mediators, (over 50,000 practitioners have reportedly been detained by Chinese authorities), appears excessive and strikes close to home. The left has a legacy of using non-violent civil disobedience to bring attention to their causes. They've also incorporated elements of the East's life-style. Tai Chi exercises, for example, are performed regularly in a park two blocks from the consulate.
Tai Chi is respected and often thought of as a symbol of modern China. It's not really connected with any particular religious faction, which is part of it appeal. A Catholic can do the exercises next to a Buddhist. For the Chinese to throw the baby out with the bath water, no more Tai Chi because practitioners might belong to the outlawed Falun Gong, is extreme. Can Americans still join Tai Chi exercises in a park at sunrise in China and not be arrested? Are all Tai Chi practitioners considered members of Falun Gong? Neither side seems to address that dilemma.
At the same time, San Franciscans, especially, are wary of so-called cult organizations since the disaster at Jonestown and its "forced" suicide of hundreds under their guru, Jim Jones in the 70s. Many were San Franciscans. This reminder is hard to avoid when the Jim Jones temple used to stand 3 blocks away at Geary and Fillmore. While the followers are deeply sincere, as were the followers of Jim Jones, what about the leadership? And why is the Chinese government so disturbed about their presence?
The reason both sides claim stems from concerns that Falun Gong is trying to overthrow the Communist government. Falun Gong claims in its literature that President Jiang Zemin thinks Falun Gong is not compatible with Communist philosophy. They say he's afraid of them because they teach truthfulness, compassion and tolerance and that its numbers have swollen to 70 million members exceeding the membership in the Communist Party. But are those numbers correct? If you sign their petition for freedom to practice, does that add you to the ranks of practitioners? How does the organization, which isn't an organized, know it has "over 70 million" practitioners?
A Chinese diplomat stated on ABC's NIGHTLINE that "they [Fulan Gong] have mobilized so-called demonstrations throughout the country in all 30 cities. They are interrupting traffic, blocking traffic and social order." Calls to the San Francisco Consulate for further enlightenment went unanswered but for an "unorganization" to be so organized could be a legitimate cause for concern in any society.
A look into Falun Gong with an eye towards ego-centric Guru types, reveals again, a very sincere band of followers. Their website is decked out in lotus blooms and people meditating. Members pay no fees and can download any and all information from their web-site (www.falundafa.org). All information is based on two things, a simplified version of Tai Chi and Yoga with a specially emphasis on XinXing (mind-nature) and the circling energy from the universe through the dantian chakra in the lower abdomen. This cycling of energy synchronizes with the rotation of the Universe, at least, according to their teachings.
Well, that's wonderful but where does the money come from to print the Falun Dafa Quarterly, a slick 28 page publication plus other expensive publications such as it's multicolored READER and leaflets, web-sites and extensive phone system. Calls to Fulan Gong were lost in voice-mail hell.
An interesting item or two came up in the investigation of its site. First of all, and how many times have we all heard this one: the founder, Master Li Hongzhi, considers all followers his disciples. Ultimately, their methods of teaching are considered highly classified knowledge and must be imparted exclusively from master to trusted disciples. That's even though you can buy books on the subject in any bookstore. And, the un-organization pushes two things, buying the Master's books and hating the Chinese Communist government
Master Li Hongzhi stated to reporter Danny Schechter of Globalvision that "We are not against the [Chinese] government now nor will we be in the future. Other people may treat us badly but we do not treat others badly, nor do we treat people as enemies."
The problem is that over 70% of their literature is focused on how corrupt the government of China is, how the media refuses to cover the organization fairly and how they suffer for their beliefs, which, if even half of the reports are true, they do. However, there seems to be an obsession with their unfair treatment by the entire world. For example, UN Secretary General Kofi Annam didn't say what the organization wanted him to do and, apparently, felt their lobbying bordered on insult. Ted Koppel dared to ask the hard questions, telling the Falun Gong representative that he (Koppel) would direct the questions. Mike Wallace didn't follow through with an interview because Master Li's "inability to speak English made him an undesirable media guest." At least, that's the Falun Gong's view on the matter. Dan Rather lobbied for the story but didn't do it. CNN didn't take the story seriously.
In other words, if the media decided not to cover the story, it was because they were under a threat from the Chinese government or don't understand the un-organization's importance. Let's get real here. Could it have been that all these media types didn't like the organization's attempt to manipulate content? And, the media has run thousands of stories about the situation but not always as "propaganda-ish" as Falun Gong would prefer. Lip synching is not the media's method. All of this smacks too much of other gurus that have come and gone.
Founding Falun Gong in May of 1992, Master Li Hongzhi originally a clerk and soldier, had the encouragement of the government. Between 1992 and 1994, an affiliation of China's Society of Science and Technology, the China Qigong Association, organized 53 Falun Gong workshops In 1996 Mr. Li's book, Zhuan Falun became a best-seller in China and he began touring internationally. By 1999, when Fulan Gong was outlawed, he was already a legal resident of the US, moving first to Houston, Texas and then New York City.
Li Hongzhi states, "I make a comfortable living off my books." However, there appears to be a large cash flow. The four color, 20 page quarterly had to have cost close to a $100,000 minimum. Nonetheless, their literature states most services are voluntary and the phone bank is actually two computers, a fax machine and a telephone. Other than sales from his books and some monies from the quarterly, where's that money coming from if no donations are accepted?
Another interesting feature is the positioning of the commonly used Buddhist symbol for movement of cosmic energy, the swastika. The Buddhist symbol turns counter-clockwise whereas the Nazi symbol turns clockwise. Amazingly, so does the Falun Gong symbol used as a primary practice form. To claim mastership over these elements and not understand the esoteric meaning of moving chi energies towards negativity (clockwise) or towards positive energy (counter-clockwise) must be questioned.
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