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14 years after China banned Falun Gong, branding it as a 'harmful cult that is engaged in anti-government activities,' the movement is still active in China and around the world.
Xinhua, China's official news agency, recently reported that in May 2013 police arrested 16 followers, saying that "allegedly staged pictures depicting scenes of torture."1
The report is a tacit acknowledgement that the movement survives in China despite years of violent suppression.
As stated at Wikipedia, in China "hundreds of thousands [of Falun Gong followwers] are believed to have been imprisoned extrajudicially, and practitioners in detention are subject to forced labor, psychiatric abuse, torture, and other coercive methods of thought reform at the hands of Chinese authorities."
Falun Gong followers have long documented the various ways in which followers have been tortured, sometimes illustrating the accounts with re-enacted scenes (clearly labeled as such).
Scholars have described the movement variously as a religion, a new religious movement, a qigong discipline, or a spiritual movement.
It is a mixture of ancient Chinese exercises, meditation, Eastern religions, and the books and lectures by the movement's founder and leader, Li Hongzhi.
It also includes elements of Confusianism and the New Age movment.
The Dharma Wheel (falun) "is described by Mr. Li as a miniature of the cosmos that he says he installs telekinetically in the abdomens of all his followers, where it rotates in alternating directions, throwing off bad karma and gathering qi. Many Falun Gong adherents say they can feel the wheel turning in their bellies."3
In fact, Hongzhi says that those with supernormal capabilities can see Falun revolving.
Once a practitioner has obtained the falun in his or her lower abdomen, it will continue to rotate even while the believer is not exercising.
When it rotates clockwise, it will absorb energy from the universe. When it rotates counter clockwise, it gives off energy. One pro-Falun Gong website says this "solves the time conflicts between working, studying and practicing."4
Followers believe that by practicing the movement's three principles of truth, compassion and forberance, they will obtain clairvoyance and other supernatural powers.
Honghzi promises that those who then reach enlightenment will look younger and feel 'light all over.'
Hongzhi emigrated to the U.S. in 1998, one year before the Chinese government started to arrest and imprison Falun Gong practitioners on the claim that the movement is a harmful cult.
Many followers believe Hongzhi is enlightened and the sole possessor of the Buddha's truth.
Cult-critic Sima Nan, a Chinese version of skeptic James Randi, says Falun Gong is not the most popular of qigong sects. According to him, several other such groups -- Zhong Gong, Yuan Ji Gong and Wang Gong -- are bigger.
As a matter of doctrinal significance, Falun Gong is intended to be "formless," having little to no material or formal organization. Practitioners of Falun Gong cannot collect money or charge fees, conduct healings, or teach or interpret doctrine for others.
There are no administrators or officials within the practice, no system of membership, and no churches or physical places of worship. In the absence of membership or initiation rituals, Falun Gong practitioners can be anyone who chooses to identify themselves as such. Students are free to participate in the practice and follow its teachings as much or as little as they like, and practitioners do not instruct others on what to believe or how to behave.
Falun Gong is centralized in that spiritual authority is vested in the corpus of teachings of the founder, Li Hongzhi, but organizationally it is decentralized with local branches and assistants afforded no special privileges, authority, or titles. Volunteer "assistants" or "contact persons" do not hold authority over other practitioners, regardless of how long they have practiced Falun Gong.
- Source: Falun Gong: Organization, Wikipedia entry6
While practitioners reportedly include gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals, Hongzhi's expressed views regarding homosexuality are considered homophobic. During a lecture in Australia he mentioned " organized crime, homosexuality, and promiscuous sex," saying "none are the standards of being human."7
Hongzhi has told Western reporters that humanity will soon be wiped out, that space aliens are on Earth trying to replace human beings with clones, and that he is invested with supernatural powers allowing him to move through dimensions.
Li's rambling dissertation, Zhuan Falun, has only added to accusations that Falun Gong is a cult. Li writes he can personally heal disease and that his followers can stop speeding cars using the powers of his teachings. He writes that the Falun Gong emblem exists in the bellies of practitioners, who can see through the celestial eyes in their foreheads. Li believes "humankind is degenerating and demons are everywhere" -- extraterrestrials are everywhere, too -- and that Africa boasts a 2-billion-year-old nuclear reactor. He also says he can fly.
On April 25, 1999, the Chinese government was caught off-guard ten-thousand-plus-member sit-in at its government compound in Beijing.
The government supported "People's Daily" wrote8
We should be highly vigilant against superstition for it may confuse our thinking, undermine our fighting will, shake our beliefs and destroy our cohesiveness.
The last of the 13 “Basic Requirements and Points of Attention for Practicing Falun Gong” contain some eerie words from Li: “If you are interfered with by some terrifying scenes or feel threatened, just say to yourself: I am protected by my Master. I am not afraid of anything. You may chant the name of Master Li, and continue with your practice.”3510
Although the statement is intended to reassure Falun Gong practitioners of Master Li’s protection while they practice his prescribed exercises, they reveal two realities about Li and his spiritual disciplines. First, contact with spirit beings (i.e., demons) is a real possibility when one engages in Li’s exercises. Second, from the Christian perspective it is clear that Li himself has some connection with the domain of darkness. If North Americans in general should be distressed with Li’s teachings, Christians should be even more disturbed with the occult nature of his exercises.
Beneath Li's superficial teachings of "truthfulness, compassion and forbearance" are teachings that are intolerant of dissent and homophobic, that discourages sick people from seeking needed medical treatment and that manipulate followers to blindly follow Li's absolute authority. Unfortunately while the media has focused only on the human rights issues in China, it has failed to educate Americans about how deceptive and harmful the Falun Gong can be in our own country.
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He lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with his wife, Janet. They are involved in helping people leave cults, abusive churches or abusive relationships.
Anton's interests vary from Christian apologetics to street photography. He's a coffee connoisseur who grinds his favorite coffees with an antique, cast-iron #3 Spong for use in either a stove-top Bialetti, a french press, or the Aeropress.
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