Ancient Wisdom for Modern Predicaments The Truth, Deceit, and Issues Surrounding Falun Gong

Cultic Studies Review Vol. 3, No. 1 (2004)

Ancient Wisdom for Modern Predicaments: The Truth, Deceit, and Issues Surrounding Falun Gong

Frank Tian Xie, Ph.D., Tracey Zhu, M.D.

Editor's Note: This paper is a revised version of a presentation given at AFF's conference in Enfield, Connecticut, October 17-18, 2003. It includes an appendix, a statement by Mr. Gang Chen, also presented at the conference. It is part of an ongoing print dialogue concerning Falun Gong and the Chinese government. Other articles on this subject include: Rosedale (2002), Langone (2003), Luo (2003), Rahn (2003), Robbins (2003), and Rosedale (2003). On April 23, 2004 AFF's directors approved a statement clarifying the organization's position on Falun Gong and the Chinese government.


This paper presents the point of views of two practitioners in Falun Gong. The authors intend to give their personal accounts of the issues, explain what Falun Gong really is and is not, discuss the deceit of the Chinese government, explain the motivations behind the persecution of Falun Gong in China, and respond to the issues and questions raised at previous American Family Foundation (AFF) conferences and publications. In addition, the authors offer a caveat to scholars in the field about the limitation of conducting research on qigong and cultivation under the auspices of empiricism and positivism.

Key words: Falun Dafa, Falun Gong, cultivation, China, persecution, qigong

I. What Exactly Is Falun Dafa (Falun Gong)?

1. Falun Gong is a Cultivation Practice

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, was introduced to the public by Mr. Li Hongzhi in 1992 as a form of qigong.

The term “qigong” appeared during the Great Cultural Revolution and became popular in China since the 1960’s. Modern in its name only, it actually represents many forms of cultivation practices, including those in the Taoist and Buddhist schools, throughout ancient history. Cultivation is the oriental method of attaining the Buddhahood and/or the Dao (or Tao), and is highly regarded and well respected in Eastern cultures. In Chinese history, many high-ranking court officials and even emperors were Taoist cultivation practitioners or Buddhist monks in their early life. Two examples were Prime Minister Zhang Liang of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) and Minister Liu Bowen of the Ming Dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Cultivation to achieve the "Dao" ("Tao") was considered the ultimate achievement of personal self-realization. The Dao is an indigenous Chinese name for deity. The concept of Buddha was introduced into China from India. Derived from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, a Buddha is an enlightened being or someone who has achieved the highest level of human fulfillment in his/her system of cultivation. Buddhism should not be considered the only method of cultivation in the Buddha School since Buddha Sakyamuni indicated that there were eighty-four thousand cultivation ways in cultivating Buddhahood or reaching enlightenment. Other than Buddhism and Daoism, many more methods of cultivation were secretly taught from master to disciple in seclusion in history.

In Mr. Li Hongzhi’s 9-day lectures, which were later compiled into the book Zhuan Falun, he began his introduction by pointing out that Falun Gong is a way of cultivation practice in the Buddha School. Falun Gong’s core principles are Truthfulness, Benevolence (compassion), and Forbearance (tolerance), and it aims at bringing practitioners to a higher level of morality through cultivation of these principles and doing the exercises. Although healing and curing diseases are not the goal of Falun Gong practice, the healing and health efficacy of Falun Gong made it extremely appealing to many who suffered various chronic, serious, and even life-threatening diseases. Because of its healing power and the fact that it is free to everyone, Falun Gong spread quickly by word of mouth from its introduction to the public in 1992 until today. Many started to practice Falun Gong because of its healing capability but then became dedicated practitioners after realizing its unique ability in upgrading people’s moral standards. Others first came to learn Falun Gong’s principles and then started to cultivate even before they realized Falun Gong’s health benefits.

2. Is Falun Gong a Religion?

Falun Gong is not a religion. The founder of Falun Gong, Mr. Li Hongzhi, never intended to make it a religion but foresaw that “future generations will regard it as one” (Li 1996). Precisely, Falun Gong is a cultivation practice that is deeply rooted in Chinese history and tradition, and such a practice does not have a word “directly corresponding to the Western term ‘religion’” (Madsen 2000). Like many religions and cultivation methods, Falun Gong does have spiritual content and beliefs. Practitioners’ personal experiences have proved that by cultivation in line with the guidelines of Falun Gong’s principles, one is able to become a better person who is able to contribute positively to the society. So in this regard, Falun Gong’s goals are similar to that of other cultivation practices and orthodox religions. However, Falun Gong does not have all of the other aspects of religion, including worship of a god or a deity; religious ceremonies and rituals; places of worship such as churches, temples, and synagogues; and organizational forms of membership or hierarchy. Falun Gong is most appropriately called an ancient form of self-cultivation practice, or a form of qigong.

3. What Falun Gong is not

Falun Gong is within the spectrum of indigenous Chinese spiritual practices, and cannot be considered to be a cult (Madsen 2000). Neither is Falun Gong a “xie jiao” (“devious religion," or more loosely, an “evil cult”), as the Chinese government under Jiang Zemin’s regime denigrated it. If “cult” is defined according to Margaret Singer and other scholars, Falun Gong is not a cult (Wong and Liu 1999). It is further argued that “the style of governance (in Falun Gong) is neither totalitarian nor suggestive of exclusivity and isolation” and “there is no clear evidence of any public idol worship of Li Hongzhi” (Wong and Liu 1999). As we will discuss in later sections, in Falun Gong there is no amassing of wealth for the founder, no worship of idols, and no harm towards practitioners for the benefit of its “leader”. So Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, as a cultivation practice, is not a cult or a religion, let alone an “evil cult” or “devious religion.”

4. The Growth of Falun Gong between 1992 and 1999

Mr. Li Hongzhi started teaching about Falun Gong on May 13, 1992 in the city of Changchun, Jilin Province, with about 180 people attending. Between 1992 and 1995, 54 classes were held, with nearly 100,000 people attending those classes. In 1995, Mr. Li discontinued his teaching inside of China. From 1995 until the start of the persecution in 1999, Falun Gong had been promulgated in China mostly via word-of-mouth among friends and families. An investigation by the Public Security Ministry of China in 1997, using undercover agents, found no culpability of practitioners nationwide, and estimated the total number of practitioners at around 70 million, or about 5% of China's population. (citation?)

Beginning in Paris on March 13, 1995, Mr. Li started giving lectures overseas, traveling to countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America. Now Falun Dafa is practiced by millions of people in over 60 countries with the book, Zhuan Falun, now translated into over 30 languages, with nine more translations currently in progress.

II. What Has Happened Since the Persecution?

Persecution of Falun Gong started in 1999. Hundreds of thousands of practitioners were expelled from the parks where they used to do their morning exercises, and thousands were detained, nationwide, in the morning of July 22, 1999. An intense, all-encompassing campaign of propaganda immediately ensued. In the first 30 days of the persecution, between July and August of 1999, as many as 347 articles appeared in The People’s Daily alone, criticizing and ridiculing Falun Gong, with more than 10 articles per day. It was a Cultural Revolution style of a concerted state scheme almost akin to organized crime and state-sponsored terrorism against a group of unarmed civilians. The persecution is cruel and vicious, and the slogan used by the regime is that they will crush and devastate Falun Gong and its practitioners “financially, spiritually, and physically.”

The “self-immolation” in Tiananmen Square has confused and deluded many people in China and abroad. As Zhuan Falun (Li 1999a, p.266) clearly states, killing of even small animals is strictly prohibited among Falun Gong practitioners, let alone killing oneself. The original China Central Television (CCTV) footage, when played in slow motion, indicates that the act was most likely staged by the Chinese government (Clearwisdom 2001). The movie, "False Fire: China's Tragic New Standard in State Deception," which analyzes the 2001 Tiananmen Square "self-immolation" incident, won a Certificate of Honorable Mention in Religion at the 51st Columbus International Film & Video Festival. New Tang Dynasty TV, a non-profit privately owned Chinese TV station, produced the movie. The award ceremony was held in the Kansas Center, Columbus Arts College, Columbus, Ohio: Another recent example of the CCP regime’s lies is the censorship of the Chinese version of Hillary Clinton’s new book, Living History (Kahn 2003), while Clinton and the whole world are watching.

As of February 5, 2004, there have been 879 confirmed deaths of Falun Gong practitioners in China, with hundreds of thousands of them detained in forced-labor camps, brainwashing centers (the “Re-education Center”), and prisons. Even under such harsh conditions, there has not been any violent resistance or rebellion ever reported, not even in the government’s own propaganda.

The China Anti-cult Association was founded on November 13, 2000. (WOIPFG 2003) Organized by some high-ranking CCP and governmental officials who have religious or scientific background, the “non-governmental” organization serves to provide the rationale and theoretical justification of the persecution of Falun Gong. The Association provides ideas to use in criticizing Falun Gong, participates in the brainwashing of Falun Gong practitioners, and makes other suggestions relevant to the persecution of Falun Gong. This association rapidly established branches in many cities, provinces, and even work units and schools. This organization is also sponsoring various anti-Falun Gong activities overseas such as exhibits during the human rights summits in Geneva every year. Notably, members of this organization have had close communications with AFF and attended AFF conferences.

Since the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners throughout the world have stepped forward to expose the persecution, to clarify the lies made by the Chinese government about Falun Gong, and to appeal to the world to stop the persecution (see, for example, Global Coalition to Bring Jiang to Justice: . In China, despite enormous pressure from the government, including, but not limited to heavy fines, brainwashing, torture, and even death, Falun Gong practitioners still uphold their beliefs (see Supplement – Personal Account of Chen Gang). Their actions manifest Falun Gong’s principle of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. Overseas, Falun Gong practitioners started to explain the facts to all levels of governments and the media because the Chinese officials have been sending fabricated stories and slanderous materials to them since the onset of the persecution. Many foreign governments and individuals gave proclamations and other forms of support to Falun Gong, which helped to ease the persecution in China.

The following sources document abuses perpetrated against Falun Gong practitioners in China: Amnesty International Reports: China (2003); Human Rights in China (2004, March 23); Human Rights Watch (2002); The Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group (2003, October); United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (2000).

III. Why is Falun Gong Being Persecuted in China?

The reason why Jiang Zemin’s regime banned this popular cultivation practice is still something that is being questioned, speculated, and studied by many, both inside and outside of China (for a thoughtful analysis, see Ping, 2003). The true reason and internal decision-making processes may never be known to the public, due to the secretive nature of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) resulting in a complete lack of transparency in government operations. The following are just a few explanations that have been offered.

1. Due to Falun Gong’s Popularity

The first reason cited is the popularity of Falun Gong. In the height of Falun Gong before the persecution, the Public Security Ministry of China estimated that there were 70 million Falun Gong practitioners in China, which outnumbered the CCP membership of approximately 60 million. Practitioners come from all walks of life and include CCP members and top government officials. As the worldwide communist movement diminishes and communist governments in the former Soviet Union and Eastern block countries fall, the legitimacy of communist rule in China has become an ever-increasing concern for both the ruler and the ruled. As a result, the communist party has tightened its grip on power even as more freedom is granted in Chinese economic lives (Nathan,

In the West, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and various civic, religious, and professional organizations exist completely outside of direct government control. A government having ultimate say in the daily operations of a Homeowner’s Association or American Marketing Association is simply unimaginable. This is not the case in China, a strict totalitarian society under communist rule. As a part of the communist tradition, all organizations, from the equivalent of the Boy Scouts of America in China to the Chinese Paleontologists’ Association, are all tightly controlled and closely monitored by party cadres and their designees. Intensive and extensive infiltration of the Party into people's daily life is simply beyond the wildest imagination of anyone living in the West. Even monks are assigned a government cadre rank and are paid a salary commensurate with these ranks. For example, monk Zhao Puchu, former Chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Society, was said to have held a deputy minister level rank and was compensated accordingly for his "buddhist" work until he died in the No. 301 Army Hospital in Beijing, a hospital reserved for high-ranking leaders.

In the seven years before the persecution in July of 1999, a typical day of a Falun Gong practitioner consisted of the following. He/she would go to a city park in the early morning and spend 1 to 2 hours doing exercises. Then he/she would merge into the morning traffic to work. At night he/she would read Falun Gong books at home or in a group after finishing his/her house chores. But when more and more Falun Gong practitioners emerged in parks and city blocks for their morning exercises, their sheer number and presence were enough to cause concern among some communist leaders. For reasons given above, an entrenched and defensive regime would speculate on any group’s political motives, let alone the motives of millions of people across the country. The objective of cultivation is personal consummation (enlightenment) and fulfillment, which transcends all earthly matters, including the pursuit of power, money, and political goals. Mr. Li Hongzhi states “A cultivator does not need to mind the affairs of the human world, let alone get involved in political struggle. We should not get involved in politics” (Li 1996). By its very nature, Falun Gong, and all other genuine qigong practices, are apolitical and are not affiliated with any political entity. Yet the apolitical nature of Falun Gong by itself may be a "punishable" enough reason in the eyes of the communist leaders. They would not tolerate a group of people that they cannot control with their communist ideology and political power.

It has to be noted that the spiritual content of Falun Gong (the Fo Fa, or the Buddha Law) and that of many orthodox religions is inconsistent with, and is in fact opposed to, the official atheist view of the CCP. Initially, the Chinese government supported Falun Gong, among other qigongs, as a way to encourage people to maintain health and fitness. That objective is in line with the government’s efforts to curb medical expenses under the nearly defunct medical system. When the spiritual beliefs became popular, the CCP's opposition to all faiths and fear of losing control over the hearts and minds of the Chinese people were intensified; the regime did an about-face and began to denounce Falun Gong. A regime that faces huge discontent of its citizenry resulting from income inequalities, unemployment, and rural migrants must urgently want to root out any independent group that has gained popularity with a belief other than their atheist doctrine (Madsen 2000). Essentially, the persecution is a result of a combination of the government's lack of legitimacy, its intolerant nature, and its fear of losing power and control because of its legitimacy crisis following the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of the students.

2. Due to Jiang’s Personal Jealousy

The second speculated reason for the persecution is Jiang Zemin’s personal jealousy and insularity. It is believed that the persecution is largely a personal decision and the personal campaign of Jiang Zemin, the then “core” or the highest leader of the state, the CCP, and the People’s Liberation Army of China. Jiang took power after the June 4th massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He was hand-picked and appointed to the party secretary position by the former communist strongman, Deng Xiaoping, without going through any national election. Because of a lack of support from the military as well as civilians, he was believed to be particularly attentive to any threat to his power, real or perceived, from the populace or from his fellow party leaders. The event of April 25, 1999 might have ignited his jealousy and intensified his deepest fears. Jiang’s role is evident in a documentary book (in Chinese) called June 4: The True Story (Zhang 2001).

On April 25, 1999, about 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners peacefully gathered outside the Public Appeal’s Office of the State Department of China, appealing to the government to release some 45 Falun Gong practitioners detained on April 23 and 24, 1999, in the city of Tianjin, a city 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Beijing. During the incident, several Falun Gong practitioners were asked to come in to Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound, to speak directly with then Chinese Premier, Zhu Rongji. After the talk, Zhu agreed to release the detainees, and then all 10,000 practitioners quietly dispersed, picking up all the trash and debris on their way home, an act unusual in contemporary Chinese society. Zhu handled the situation very well and, for the first time in Chinese history, peacefully resolved a disagreement between the central government and the people. Overseas media proclaimed that "April 25" set a great precedence in "the Chinese Government's open dialogue with the general public" and demonstrated an "elevated level of civility among Chinese people".

That same night, Jiang Zemin wrote a personal letter to all members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the group of Party elders who have the bulk of power, and demanded an emergency meeting about Falun Gong. His personal letter later became an internal party document and was distributed to party members nationwide. In the emergency meeting, Jiang was reported to have yelled to Zhu in front of other Politburo members and called Zhu “muddleheaded.” It seems to be that Zhu's rising popularity caused great jealousy in Jiang and he was determined to reverse Zhu's decision and to act single-handedly to suppress Falun Gong, for he thought that Falun Gong practitioners were mostly senior citizens, weak, and by following the principle of "forbearance," unlikely to resist. Jiang is said to have written "it would be a joke if the Communist Party can't overwhelm Falun Gong." Three months later, the persecution started. A good analysis of Jiang’s motives in the persecution of Falun Gong can be found in Wang et al. (2003).

One thing about the CCP is that once a decree is issued by the party’s top leader, the whole Politburo and CCP Standing Committee would have no choice but to follow that decree, in an effort to maintain “unity and solidarity” within the party. This is largely due to the authoritarian nature of the government, an absence of checks and balances of any kind within the government, the lack of legitimacy of the CCP in ruling China, and its declining reputation and decaying moral grounding due to widespread corruption. A reversal or an apology from the government for its wrongdoing is simply unheard of.

The persecution seems to be primarily a personal campaign by Jiang, and this is evident in his interview with the CBS 60 Minutes program in September 2000 when Jiang said, “Their (Falun Gong’s) leader, Li Hongzhi, claims himself a reincarnation of Bodhisattva, and a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. He said that the end of the world is coming, and the Earth is going to explode," and “after careful considerations, we decided that Falun Gong is an evil cult.” This statement of Jiang is actually something very significant, for he revealed that his decision to label Falun Gong an “evil cult” was based upon the ideas of “reincarnation” and “doomsday,” yet these two points were both made-up by Jiang Zemin (Dai 2003).

As to the “reincarnation,” Mr. Li has never said he was the reincarnation of anyone, and has told his students clearly that “I am Li Hongzhi. And I am not Sakyamuni” (Li 1994a). As to the “doomsday” claim, Mr. Li stated, long before 1999, that “I can tell everyone explicitly, that the so called doomsday disaster is no longer in existence. In the past, people talked about the explosion of the earth, collision of earth with another celestial body, etc., this kind of disaster no longer exists” (Li 1994b), and “the so-called 1999 disaster on earth or the end of the universe no longer exists” (Li 1998).

The fact that the leader of a nation of one billion people lied in front of world media cannot be explained by a temporary lack of rationality. During the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in New Zealand in September 1999, Jiang made a very unusual move: he hand delivered to each national leader, including then U.S. President Bill Clinton, an anti-Falun Gong brochure. Before Jiang’s state visit to France on October 25, 1999, he accepted a written interview by French newspaper Le Figaro during which Jiang attacked Falun Gong and called Falun Gong an “evil cult (xie jiao)” before any documents and Chinese state-controlled media first used that word to refer to Falun Gong. That again showed that it was quite likely Jiang who personally made the decision to persecute Falun Gong and kept pushing it forward (Wang et al. 2003).

According to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (ICHRD), Jiang Zemin felt that denouncing Falun Gong as an illegal organization was still not enough for them to use legal means to persecute Falun Gong (ICHRD 2002 – this is not in reference list). Therefore, the authorities declared Falun Gong a cult and ordered the National People's Congress to draft a "law against cults" in order to further persecute Falun Gong. This law was passed in October 1999. It should be noted that Falun Gong was denounced to be an “evil cult” by the Chinese government, not because of its teachings or intellectual content, but because of its being perceived as containing seeds of rebellion (Madsen 2000).

So, is Jiang’s fear of Falun Gong’s “threat” to his grip of power real and solid, or illusory and fictitious? A careful examination of the original book by Mr. Li Hongzhi (Li 1999) and all the teachings of Falun Gong, which can be downloaded free from the Internet (, would easily substantiate the later. As Madsen (2000) indicated, the so-called social harm, if any, caused by Falun Gong’s belief in the efficacy of cultivation practice over medicine seems no greater than that alleged of Christian Science, a religion in the United States that publishes the international daily newspaper Christian Science Monitor. In fact, while allowing “religious freedom” for some state sanctioned temples and churches, the regime has also been persecuting “Underground Christians” and Tibetan Buddhists, and has considered any organization a threat regardless of its ideological content.

It is therefore no surprise that there have been many lawsuits filed in the U.S., France, Finland, Armenia, Belgium, and Spain against Jiang and the “610 Office,” a Gestapo-style secret operative agency that Jiang created and that is directly responsible for the execution of the persecution of Falun Gong. In October 2003, amidst worldwide condemnation, the government claimed the 610 Office closed but actually only changed its name.

IV. Issues Raised and Questions Asked at AFF Conferences

In this section we address the issues raised and questions asked by several authors whose writings appeared in AFF publications.

1. The Rosedale and Robbins articles (Rosedale 2001, Robbins 2003, Rosedale 2003)

Even though the late Herbert L. Rosedale held the belief that a group should be examined based upon their behavior, not their beliefs (Rosedale, 2001), his words apparently met the deaf ears of government officials in Beijing during the height of the persecution. All they cared about and echoed was Rosedale's parallelism of Falun Gong to evil cult, harmful cult, and even terrorist groups. It needs to be noted that all the alleged “law-breaking activities” of Falun Gong practitioners in China happened either after the persecution started or resulted from attempts to break the information blockade under communist rule, which deprived practitioners of their right of expression to defend their belief. Elsewhere in the world, Falun Gong practitioners are all law-abiding citizens, including in countries/regions such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore where the majority of practitioners are also Chinese. Regardless of Rosedale's best intention, this speech (Rosedale 2001) was indeed viewed as an endorsement of the persecution (Robbins 2003), and added fuel to the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong by giving them the "international" support they badly needed.

Robbins’ (2003) fear of the “distressing possibility that elements of Anti-Cult Movement (ACM) may support the Chinese government’s severe measure against Falun Gong” has in fact become an unfortunate reality. Take for example, the web page of Hefei University of Technology in China, where a reference was made to imply just what Robbins was worried about (HFUT 2002). The Chinese public is led to believe that academic and professional institutions such as AFF in the West also consider Falun Gong an "evil cult" and should be banned and abolished. As Robbins argued, the context of Chinese authoritarian state control and the rejection of ideological pluralism are ignored by Rosedale’s article, and the problem of Falun Gong cannot be intelligently discussed outside of the context of totalitarian control and suppression of dissidents (Robbins 2003).

While Rosedale’s observation of destructive cult groups from the perspectives of leader-member relations, member-nonmember relations, and group-society relations is an interesting one (2001), his analysis is not limited to only harmful cults or organizations though. In order to include Falun Gong in his categorization, Rosedale would have to include Jesus Christ and Christianity, Sakyamuni and Buddhism, and the Virgin Mary and Catholicism in his generalization as well.

Rosedale’s (2001) assertion that Falun Gong practitioners sever their “connections with outside non-members” is simply untrue. Mr. Li Hongzhi stated in Zhuan Falun "The majority of people in our school will practice cultivation in ordinary human society, so you should not distance yourself from ordinary human society and you must practice cultivation with a clear mind" (Li, 1999, p. 337). Practitioners of Falun Gong are no different from other people in the society, having families, jobs, hobbies, sorrows, and happiness. They are artists, scientists, businessmen and women, educators, students, people of all ages and races, and people with all nationalities and religious backgrounds.

The so-called increasing distance between leader and the membership with respect to power and control (Rosedale 2001) is also not applicable to Falun Gong. It is the lure of power that usually guides the leadership to increase the gulf between them and their members. Power derives from dependence and is a property of the social relations, not the attribute of the actor (Emerson 1962). In Falun Gong cultivation practice, everything a practitioner needs to have to cultivate is contained in the original book Zhuan Falun and the five sets of exercises. The book is freely available on the internet, as are the exercise videos. One can learn the exercises from any of the many exercise sites in cities, universities, parks, and community centers across the world, where volunteers are glad to teach anyone interested in learning the exercises, free of charge. The practice of Falun Gong is completely open, free, and voluntary. Mr. Li has always hoped that “Dafa disciples can take the Fa as their teacher” (Li 1994a) and has been emphasizing it on many occasions. “The master leads you through the door, but cultivation is up to you”(Li 1999a). There is no physical or financial dependence on the master whatsoever, because all of Falun Gong’s teachings are in the freely available book, Zhuan Falun. In fact, after 1994, when Mr. Li Hongzhi discontinued his lectures in China, Falun Gong practitioners grew from fewer than 10,000 (those who attended Mr. Li’s lectures in person) to about 70 million by 1999, with the vast majority of them (more than 98%) learning the practice by themselves. Without dependence of any kind, from where could the power be derived? Without the existence of power, how could the power ever be asserted? As to control, societal control is normally asserted through the possession of resources (Emerson 1962). Similar to the power and dependence relationship mentioned above, there are no unique resources that are needed for cultivation that are not readily available to anyone on earth, free of charge. For volunteers who help teach the exercises, "the first one (requirement) is that you cannot collect a fee"(Li 1999aa, p.141).

Next, is there a gradual distancing of the gap between member and leader once a new member is recruited, as Rosedale (2001) was concerned about? First of all, Mr. Li Hongzhi is never a “leader” of Falun Gong. He is merely a “Teacher” or “Master” who passes on the teachings of the practice to students. There is no “leader,” per se, in Falun Gong, much akin to the situation in a university where a professor is not a “leader” of the students, but merely an instructor or teacher to his students in their pursuit of educational objectives. From the very beginning, the relationship between Mr. Li and Falun Gong practitioners is one of a teacher-student, or master-disciple relationship. (See also answer to Langone’s question No. 5 below)

Rosedale’s assertion that Falun Gong uses an exercise vehicle promoting health as an initial recruiting method that results in eventual “ultimate requested suicidal conformity” (Rosedale 2001) is, factually untrue and grossly mistaken. The very first sentence in Zhuan Falun, in the first section of Lecture One, says clearly that Falun Gong is a practice that is “Genuinely Guiding People toward High Levels” (Li 1999a, p1). Mr. Li clearly indicates at the very beginning that “Qigong is about cultivation” and "I do not talk about healing illness here, and neither will we heal illness" (Li 1999a, p.3). In many instances the first thing that any Falun Gong volunteer at any practice site tells a newcomer to do upon learning the exercises is that he/she needs to read Zhuan Falun in order to find out what Falun Gong truly is. A common Falun Gong flyer lists the main website ( which has all of Mr. Li’s published teachings from Zhuan Falun to the newest articles, all of which are free to download.

As to "leaders losing their restraint in their zeal to exert unlimited power," that actually is a vivid and accurate depiction of Jiang Zemin, the communist dictator of the world’s most populous country. What Rosedale (2001) called “committing the most despicable acts to further the leader’s power and achieve their ends” portrays not Mr. Li Hongzhi but exactly Jiang Zemin, as he consolidates his power and remains Chairman of the Central Military Committee even after retiring from the party boss’s position (Wang 2003).

It is consequential that Rosedale (2001) mentioned Nuremberg trials and trials of Japanese war criminals after World War II, because, similar to the crimes committed by Adolph Hitler, the genocide perpetrated by Jiang Zemin against Falun Gong practitioners has been the focus of numerous international lawsuits currently underway in the U.S., Belgium, France, Spain, Finland, and Armenia.

While Rosedale cited the historical groups of the Yellow Turbans, the Tai Ping, and the Boxers in Chinese history to illustrate his points (see also the comparison table in the section of Rahn), we wonder if Rosedale was aware of the fact that these groups have been the mottoes, models, and de facto ancestors of Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and their worship of and their kinship with these gangsters were the mainstay in textbooks in China. As to the tyranny of a Stalinist leader, in his trip to Beijing, Rosedale probably ignored the huge portrait of Stalin that is still on display in Tiananmen Square where Falun Gong members peacefully appealed daily.

Although Rosedale (2001) had the good intention of promoting a “society [that] must support people’s rights to leave groups as well as join them,” this is sadly not the case in China. (This, ironically, is also true with respect to communist party members, for anyone who dares to leave the Party is also severely punished.) Falun Gong practitioners are simply deprived of their rights to remain in the group, and are tortured and detained again after they decided to resume practice following forced repentance. While talking about the luxury of the “right of re-entry” with the Chinese officials, Rosedale probably did not realize that this “right of re-entry” was denied to Falun Gong practitioners once their practice was outlawed, and there is only a one-way, forced exit and complete denunciation of their beliefs.

While Falun Gong practitioners in China simply appeal peacefully to all levels of government, to clarify the facts about the persecution, and to “inculcate," in Rosedale’s words, the belief of Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Compassion, it is Jiang’s propaganda and deceit that have inculcated and distilled, forcibly through the state-controlled media, the hatred towards Falun Gong, its founder, and its practitioners. Lately, the hatred has even been exported to the West, as illustrated by the recent beating of a Falun Gong practitioner doing nothing on the streets of New York (Clearwisdom 2003), and by slanderous articles on Qiao Bao (The China Press), a Chinese government-controlled newspaper in the U.S. and Canada.

Aside from the “psychiatric terror” in China against Falun Gong practitioners, Rosedale chose to accept at face value the defensive denials and lies of an extremely totalitarian regime, damage is thus already done to the defenseless victims of Falun Gong in China’s labor camps, mental hospitals, re-educational schools, and prisons. Just like what happened in the former Soviet Union where Soviet psychiatrists admitted their abuses only after the fall of the communist iron curtain, we certainly hope that Rosedale would have agreed with us that abuses in China must be stopped while they are still happening today.

Rosedale’s use of “suicide conformity” is unwarranted (Robbins 2003) and irresponsible, for there is no indication whatsoever in Falun Gong that committing suicide is ever encouraged. In fact, committing suicide is strictly prohibited, just as with other forms of killing (Li 1997). Robbins (2003) correctly asked whether or not, absent of severe Chinese persecution, there would have been Falun Gong suicides. The answer is no. One only needs to take note of the fact that there was no reported suicide in China before the persecution started in 1999, and there are no reported cases of suicides anywhere in the world outside of China in all the eleven years of Falun Gong’s history.

Rosedale was right in saying that a government in a society “owes its obligations towards all citizens of the polity, not only those who are members of any single group, no matter how numerous or dominant” that group is. But Rosedale failed to recognize that it is partly because of the sheer number of Falun Gong practitioners exceeding the membership of Communist party members that Jiang initiated his persecution of Falun Gong. Rosedale (2001) applied, unfortunately, Lord Acton’s famous quote of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” to the wrong party, for it is Jiang’s absolute power that made him determined to crush Falun Gong, even with no support from the other members of the Politburo. A native Chinese speaker in that forum would have been arrested for all the vivid depiction of the CCP and Jiang’s regime in quoting Lord Acton in that conference in China. It is probably just that the regime wanted so badly the “endorsement” of their persecution of Falun Gong from an American anti-cult expert that they temporarily tolerated Mr. Rosedale’s comments against absolute power and dictatorship. Even worse, Rosedale (2001) seemed disappointed in not seeing United Nations Human Rights reports citing "violations" of Falun Gong members, "destructive practices," and the "harms suffered" by Falun Gong members. This is hardly surprising, because there aren't any. No third party is ever allowed to investigate these claims made by Jiang’s regime that has all the motivation, willingness to lie, and state power to persecute, deceive, and to fabricate the likes of the “self-immolation,” to denounce, slander, incite hatred, and spread lies about Falun Gong.

Rosedale also wondered why there is no public inquiry about why the Chinese government is concerned with Falun Gong, and that in the “few instances in which Chinese government conduct is discussed, political repression were – check accuracy of quote the primary focus.” The fact is that no public inquiry about Falun Gong is ever allowed in China. Anyone who appeals to the Public Appeal Office, the official and legal channel for the general public to voice their concerns, will be sent to forced-labor camps directly, without any due process. There is good reason for people to focus on political repression, because political repression is indeed the main reason, if not the only reason, that Jiang started his personal campaign of persecution. Because of this politically motivated and personal prejudiced-driven persecution, at least 879 Falun Gong practitioners have been killed as of February 5, 2004. Stopping the persecution should be an imperative matter rather than a “knee-jerk” reaction.

Even as the severe persecution enters its fifth year, there has never been any reported act of violence, not even violent resistance to torture, among Falun Gong practitioners in China. A so-called “apocalyptic frenzy” is unwarranted and not substantiated, exactly because of the teachings in Falun Gong that proclaim peace, non-violence, the highest regard for the value of life, compassion, and tolerance.

As Robbins (2003) pointed out, there seems to be a prevailing belief among “anti-cultists” that the cults, or beliefs of any kind for that matter, are a “con game” or a criminal type of organization. This could be due to a lack of understanding of cultivation and self-improvement and oriental religion, history, and culture, an issue we shall address further in later sections. That lack of understanding may have contributed to what Robbins (2003) called ACM activists’ “heresy hunter” style of persecuting beliefs. Despite his intention not to do so, Rosedale may well have been on the verge of becoming one of those “heresy hunters” persecuting beliefs, at least toward Falun Gong.

When mentioning religious and political representatives, Rosedale seemed to forget that China is not a “representative” society or a democracy. The so-called representatives were appointed by the regime to speak in a tone completely in line with what the Chinese government wanted. Under the pretext of “not lecturing representatives of another culture on how they should conform to American values,” Rosedale overlooked the fact that those are not just American values, but values cherished, valued, and needed by Chinese citizens as well. They are universal values, which is why they are codified in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a covenant that China has signed, but not yet ratified.

Rosedale (2003) accused Robbins of relying on “inaccessible material,” while at the same time putting his trust in so-called “representatives” appointed by the Chinese government and in controlled dialogue, as his “first-hand” material. His opinion might have been different had he had the opportunity to visit a forced-labor camp in China without prior notice.

It is likely that Mr. Rosedale was not aware that after the bloody crackdown of June 4, 1989, everyone in China (ask any Chinese student studying in the US who came after 1989), including university professors, had to go through a process of denouncing the “June 4th incident” as an “anti-revolutionary riot” and that the persecution was justified. The persecution of Falun Gong also reminds us of the Great Cultural Revolution when everyone except Chairman Mao was deprived of the freedom of expression and belief. Even the former state leader Liu Shaoqi was framed as a traitor and a spy. Freedom of expression and belief is essential for a genuine dialogue on belief. Lacking it, a “dialogue” with an entrenched regime, notorious for its propaganda, is not a real dialogue.

Finally, it is shocking to hear Rosedale’s assertion that “civil disobedience should not be unqualifiedly justified as a legitimate response to persecution” (Rosedale 2003). Without revealing the details of the qualification process and criteria of justifying legitimacy, one has no way to know what else citizens could use other than disobedience when facing a persecution by state power. Is Mr. Rosedale suggesting that while there is no evidence linking Falun Gong with any destructive behavior, blatant violations of the rights of Falun Gong practitioners could actually be “justified”?

2. The Rahn articles (Rahn 2000 & 2002)

Rahn's (2002) paradigm approach in her article is a plausible one, but there seems to be a "shift in paradigm" that went too far to becoming a "paradigm gone astray," Rahn’s comparison between historical groups cited indicates a gross misunderstanding of Chinese history. From the Table 1 below, a comparison of the Yellow Turban, the White Lotus, the Taiping, and the Boxers shows that they do possess many similarities. However those similarities closely resemble another, modern, entity in China: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), rather than a non-entity but a spiritual practice of Falun Gong. As it is seen in the table, from the form of organization, use of force, the existence of a charismatic leader, the guiding doctrine, and the ultimate objectives of the entities, the Yellow Turban, the White Lotus, the Taiping, the Boxers, and the CCP share astounding similarities to each other. In fact, in Chinese textbooks from elementary schools through colleges, these villainous groups have been glorified, worshiped, and valued as predecessors of the CCP. In contrast to these groups, Falun Gong does not have a formal organization, is always open to the public, denounces the use of force and killing, has no “leader” of any kind, charismatic or not; is not interested in politics or political power, and has only the individual objective of self actualization. The fact that CCP called itself the “scoundrel proletariat” when it first started and followed these villainous groups in their brutal pursuit of power in China, and continues to worship these villainous groups may be of interest to Rahn.

Table 1 Comparison of Rahn’s villainous groups and CCP


Form of Organization

Use of Force

Charismatic Leader



Yellow Turbans


From secret association to open hostility

Yellow Turbans Army

Zhang Jiao brothers

Folk mysticism


Overthrow Han Dynasty

White Lotus (白莲教)

Secret association

Secret forces

Mao Ziyuan etc.


Mixed Religions

Vary among branches



From secret association to open hostility


Hong Xiuquan

Christian Sect

Overthrow Qing Dynasty



From secret association to open hostility


(Martial arts)

Zhao Shanduo, etc


Branch of White Lotus


Against Christian missionaries and overthrow Qing Dynasty

Chinese Communist Party (CCP)


From secret association to open hostility

Guerrilla warfare to PLA (army)


Communism Marxism-Leninism

Overthrow Nationalist government

Rahn (2002) portrays Jiang’s regime as a legitimate governmental body that acts to place "primary importance on the good of the collective over the right of the individual." Nothing else could be further from the truth because this exists only in theory, and has never been the case in reality. Since taking power under the communist doctrine of “proletarian’s liberation” in 1949, the CCP has always existed for the good of the privileged few, over the collective rights of the Chinese people. They used the promise of “Beating down the landlords and giving you their land” to attract poor peasants to join them, and then they took the land back to the government after they consolidated their power. A recent example is the June 4, 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square, when they used tanks to crush student demonstrations, just to protect their own power and interests. After the tumbling collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, their "millennial sense" intensified, as they kept losing confidence and support from the grassroots. Jiang actually rose to power on the blood of the June 4th student massacre.

Rahn's analogy of a cultural paradigm from Chinese history is imprecise, because emperors in ancient Chinese history had legitimacy in protecting the state (his state) from the perils of challengers, while the Communist regime might have had some grounds to support their legitimacy when the communism doctrine was used and liberation of the proletariats were their goals. They certainly do not enjoy that legitimacy today, when the communism doctrine is abandoned by all in China and they have become like the very party that they threw out 50 years ago. This is especially the case for Jiang, as we have discussed earlier.

Religious syncretism may be true for some religious and church groups in America and in China. But it is not true for Falun Gong, for Falun Gong’s basic tenets are based on ancient cultivation practices. In China, cultivation has a history that is much longer than that of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confuciousnism. For example, the word “cultivation” is “cultivo” in Spanish, “coltura” in Italian, and “cultura” in Latin. A person could reasonably conclude that probably Spanish, English, and Italian have all inherited something from Latin, but it would be incorrect to argue that Latin is a result of "syncretism" of English, Spanish, and Italian. The ancient wisdom of cultivation, including those ideas expressed in Falun Gong, far precedes all the religions we observe today, based on unearthed archaeological relics.

When Rahn argues that the Chinese government's (in fact, Jiang's) campaign methods and justification in use against Falun Gong are indigenous Chinese and part of her historical paradigm, a horrifying and potentially harmful tendency emerges. This could be of value and be used by the Chinese government (in fact, they have been using AFF in justifying their persecution, as we discussed in the Rosedale section) to justify their repression of Falun Gong, Buddhists, and Christians. This also sets an unfortunate precedence in suggesting that Chinese citizens today are not worthy of enjoying the same universal freedom of speech and belief that is enjoyed by not only Westerners, but also China's Asian neighbors.

Rahn's suggestion of Falun Gong as a contender to the Chinese state is purely speculative. Nowhere in Zhuan Falun was a pursuit of political power ever mentioned or inferred. In fact, Mr. Li wrote several articles teaching practitioners not to be involved in politics, such as “Cultivation Practice is Not Political” (Li 1996) and “No Politics” (Li 2002). So this proposition serves nothing but to support the brutal persecution carried out by Jiang’s regime, giving it a “legitimate reason” for using police power to crush a peaceful cultivation practice. Falun Gong is now practiced in over 60 countries in the world including the United States and Canada. None of the practitioners overseas, under the same teachings, has ever become "contenders" of the state he/she lives in. Why haven’t practitioners in Taiwan, Singapore, or Hong Kong been a challenge to their respective governments, where most of the people share the same cultural heritage as that of mainland Chinese and therefore would more accurately fit Rahn’s paradigm? In Taiwan, the number of practitioners increased from 3,000 in 1999 to over 300,000 today. That would be a force to be reckoned with if Falun Gong is indeed a contender to their government. It is not so. In fact, Taiwan's vice president went to a Falun Gong conference to give a congratulatory speech to acknowledge the positive contributions Falun Gong has brought to the well-being of the people of Taiwan (

Rahn gave a long list of actions, such as "recruiting from within the ranks of CCP, organizing across provinces and countries, membership that proselytizes, making criticism of CCP, claims by the leader to be a god or emperor, spreading superstition and heterodoxy, and receiving support from ‘forces overseas’" without a clear indication of to whom these apply and a necessary substantiation. Therefore Rahn's stance on these issues is not clearly known. Rahn’s notion of “recruits” of Falun Gong suggests she might have assumed that Falun Gong is an organization with concealed motives. Falun Gong does not have any objective other than passing on to people the cultivation practice, and Falun Gong does not have or need an organization. Doesn’t everyone, including high-ranking CCP officials, have the right to choose a righteous way of cultivation practice? In fact, no one would even think about asking your personal information when you come to a Falun Gong practice site in a park. Cultivation is a personal, individual matter, and it is based on cultivating one’s heart. People cannot be forced into doing something they don’t want to do. Also, Falun Gong practitioners never criticized the CCP before the persecution started in July 1999 and even today they are still not against it. All they asked is that the persecution be stopped. On July 23, 1999, three days after the ban of Falun Gong, Mr. Li stated to the media, “We are not against the Chinese government. Other people can be unfair to us. We should never treat others with the same approach.” (Clearwisdom 1999)

All of the teachings of Falun Gong are contained in Zhuan Falun, a book compiled and based on nine lectures Mr. Li gave between 1992 and 1995, when it was first published. All Rahn has to do is to listen to all the audio and video recordings of Mr. Li's lecturing in China and elsewhere to find that all the books in Falun Gong are the original works of Mr. Li solely. When Mr. Li gave lectures in China during the nine-day-lecture series, there was not a notepad, or printed, typed, or written pages for him to read from. There was only one piece of paper with his handwritten notes during the approximately 2 hour lecture every day, for nine days. The so-called "challenger" to Mr. Li’s role as the Master in Falun Gong is simply baseless. When the Chinese government claimed, falsely, that the book Zhuan Falun was not the work of Mr. Li, wouldn’t they be saying that they are after the wrong person?

Citing the words of Barend ter Haar, Rahn seems to suggest that Falun Gong's "exorcising demons" justified using violence by the Chinese government. “Exorcising” is to seek to expel an evil spirit by religious or solemn ceremonies, not an act of violence in the physical world. Was Jesus Christ “committing violence” in Biblical times when he “drove out the demons?” (Matthew 7:22, New International Version) Falun Gong practitioner “send forth righteous thought” to “exorcise demons” to clean out their mind and body. This cleansing is done in another dimension, and, for all practical purposes, it can be considered metaphorical. Through the mind’s power, rather than physical violence, we eliminate bad things including karma, dirty thoughts, and wrong mentalities in our body and in the dimensions connected to ours. When genocide against Falun Gong practitioners is carried out by Jiang, and Jiang lied and slandered to justify his persecution, when the weaker party, the innocent victims, pleads for help to eliminate evil forces behind Jiang’s atrocity, everyone on earth, including Ms. Rahn, has to choose with one’s conscience. And when the persecution extends to the soil of the United States, as evidenced by the recent beating of a Falun Gong practitioner simply standing on a New York City street doing nothing, it certainly is no longer a “war of words”. (Clearwisdom 2003) In addition, American citizens are also being persecuted for their practice of Falun Gong. One such person is Dr. Charles Li, who has been imprisoned since January 2003 for attempting to tell the Chinese people that their government is brutally persecuting its own citizens.

Rahn and Rosedale both cited the self-immolation in Tiananmen Square in January of 2001, but apparently they did not realize that it was staged by the Chinese Government as we discussed earlier (Clear Wisdom 2001). Additional statements by Rahn such as “ (Practitioners) getting information only from Falun Gong websites," “everything placed on the website is pre-approved," and “additional teaching literature written by Falun Gong practitioners," signified her speculation and a lack of common sense, as if a website of can censor the web browsers of hundreds of thousands of practitioners outside of China. Practitioners outside of China have free access to any websites, including those published by the Chinese government, as our belief in practicing Falun Gong is a clear-minded decision based on rational and careful analysis, not by blindly taking on something in haste. We do browse websites expressing different or opposite views of Falun Gong and always try to exchange opinions with them. That is why we are attending AFF conferences and writing this paper. We as practitioners are doing this with truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Rahn seems to forget the fact that the Chinese Government is the most notorious regime in the world that blocks, filters, and hacks the internet using its state power. It is equally disturbing when Rahn talks about “China's incremental openness and freer reporting.” When it is even illegal to possess the book Zhuan Falun, to sit in a public park with one’s legs crossed, or to stretch one’s two arms upward above one’s head in Tiananmen Square, one really wonders where the sumptuousness of “openness” and “freedom” exists in China.

A lack of serious scholarship is evident in Rahn’s works where factual mistakes and crude errors abound. One such case is Rahn’s reference of “The ‘Ending Period of Catastrophe’ is here…only those who are Falun Gong practitioners will be saved, Notes 11, Rahn (2002).” In the original text (Li 1995), nowhere can the words “catastrophe is here” or “only practitioners will be saved” be found. Also, Rahn failed to distinguish between “gongfu” (a martial art) and "qigong" (a cultivation system); lacked knowledge of the term “qigong” itself, citing its being “marvelous tales and paranormal found in Chinese stories”; and used incorrect quote in the article (Rahn 2002, quote 34 ). All of which, of cause, could not simply be blamed on a mis-translation into English. Rahn’s incorrect quoting of Mr. Li’s works is also evidenced in another of her writings (Rahn 2000), where she misquoted Mr. Li as saying that “He warns that if you have contact with a non-practitioner you run the risk of …”(Rahn 2000, p. 172). While in fact, Mr. Li was talking about practitioners in other schools of qigong, not ordinary people or non-practitioners (Li 1999a, p.250). And because of that, her accusation of Falun Gong’s possibility “of isolating practitioners from family and friends as well as non-practitioners in general” (Rahn 2000, p. 172) is, simply, false.

More blatantly and without giving any references, Rahn basically fabricated the following: “Li also says that the Chinese government is unfit to handle China’s problems and that only by the Chinese people becoming Falun Gong practitioners can China resolve its problems” (Rahn 2000, p. 178). This is not found in any of Mr. Li’s published books, speeches, and audio and video recordings.

Overall, it is a noteworthy effort to try to apply a paradigm to the current Chinese affair. But Rahn's fixation on a flawed paradigm fails to provide any insight into the ongoing persecution by a notorious regime led by a jealous leader. Her oversimplification and use of an inappropriate paradigm may only mislead innocent readers and be used as a weapon by the transgressors in this unfair battle.

3. The Langone article (Langone 2003)

In an effort to eliminate the prejudices and preconceived opinions for a fair and unbiased discussion, Dr. Langone did a praiseworthy job in clarifying and eliminating a lot of presumptions and preconceived notions (Langone 2003). But the process is, unfortunately, still incomplete. We’ll elaborate on this further.

Langone (2003) would not hold that China is so bad or so akin to a “Gulag” to warrant a presumption of deception. Sadly enough and to our dismay, it is indeed that bad. An entrenched communist regime essentially holds all Chinese people as their hostages. Even the “economic strides” quoted by Langone is in question. Thomas Rawski, a Pittsburg professor and an expert on the Chinese economy, found that between 1996 and 1999, accumulated GDP growth reported by the Chinese government totaled 25.6%, while reported energy consumption during the same period had declined by 12.2%. This is not possible, because rapid increases in national output are always accompanied by even larger increases in energy consumption (Rawski 2003). When Chinese premier Zhu announced that China would achieve an annual growth rate of 7%, all but one of the 30 provinces and direct administrative municipalities reported growth rates of over 7%. Even the central planners in China do not believe in their own numbers, but rely on those from the World Bank or CIA. Books by Chang (2001) and He (1998) analyze the serious problems with China's economy.

Langone used Hong Kong’s example to illustrate China’s relaxation of control to the former British colony. However, the recent protest by 500,000 Hong Kong citizens was precisely sparked by China’s extending its control and restriction of freedom to Hong Kong through Article 23 legislation. Human rights watchers have seen increases in China’s human rights violations, towards not only Falun Gong practitioners, but also other dissident groups, such as underground Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and democracy advocates (HRIC 2003).

Langone (2003) called for “examining the evidence critically and laboriously.” That is a part of the effort of what Falun Gong practitioners are doing in China. This includes their efforts in breaking the information blockade by the government and broadcasting video clips about the truth of the persecution, as well as sending those files to the outside world.

Contrary to what Langone speculated, Falun Gong, from its very beginning, was never intended to be a system for “improving and maintaining good health” (Langone 2003), but a practice that is “genuinely guiding people toward high levels” (Li 1999a, p.1), despite the fact that practicing Falun Gong does have a beneficial effect on a person’s health. It has never been the case that Falun Gong suddenly changed its direction midway. It was the government, or more precisely, the Jiang Zemin’s regime, that changed its stance from supporting Falun Gong, to neither supporting nor being against it, to being totally against this cultivation practice. The reasons for this about-face were previously addressed.

Langone (2003) inferred properly that for a group as large as Falun Gong, there are bound to be some incidences of mishaps that might be “associated” with Falun Gong, but not necessarily “caused” by Falun Gong. Because of that, the Chinese government “would not have to lie” in order to compile evidence of harm associated with practicing Falun Gong. But the Chinese government nonetheless did lie to strengthen their propaganda, such as in the case of Ms. Du Weiping (Clearwisdom 2002), among the 1400 cases of death. This reveals from another perspective how desperate the government was in incriminating Falun Gong and justifying their persecution.

Next we would like to answer the five questions Langone asked Falun Gong practitioners. Obviously we address them from our own perspectives, and don’t speak for any other practitioners or for Falun Gong as a whole. All practitioners have different understandings regarding the teachings in Falun Gong.

On healing, taking medicine, and seeing doctors, etc. (Langone Questions 1&2)

First of all, there is no teaching on healing, per se, in the works of Falun Gong, for healing and keeping fit is not an objective of Falun Gong cultivation practice. Mr. Li Hongzhi has expounded on diseases, taking medicine, and cultivation. Never has he ever said that a practitioner should not take medicine. In fact, he has said the direct opposite. “Some people want to damage [Falun] Dafa, and say things about not taking medicine like, ‘We aren’t allowed to take medicine once we start practicing this.’ Actually, it’s not that I don’t allow you to take medicine... Nor have I said that the person absolutely can’t cultivate once he takes medicine” (Li 1997b). “We have not said that you should not take medicine when you are not feeling well. We have not” (Li 1997a). When being asked what to do in the situation of food poisoning, Mr. Li said, “If you really have food poisoning, you really have to go to a hospital”(Li 1994a).

Just like one who does not practice Falun Gong, a practitioner has his or her own judgment about when to go see a doctor. As far as we know, all the female practitioners have their babies delivered in the hospital and some of them choose to receive anesthesia for natural birth and some of them choose to have C-section delivery.

Since July 22, 1999, the state-controlled media in China first claimed that 700 people died as a result of practicing Falun Gong, and in the next week the number mysteriously became 1,400 and then this number was increased to 1,700. For cases that Falun Gong practitioners were able to verify, none of them were caused by practicing Falun Gong. Besides the fact that these cases have never been investigated by an independent third party and that the Chinese government is notorious for its handling of statistics (as shown during the recent SARS epidemic), there are serious doubts about the Chinese government’s way of interpreting the data. Let us use for now the number of two million Falun Gong practitioners which was underreported by the state media in China since the start of the persecution (the actual estimate by Public Security Bureau was 70 million). Among two million practitioners, 1,700 of them supposedly died since July 22, 1999, which constitutes a death rate of less than 0.03%. Yet this is much lower than the nation’s natural death rate of 0.65%. If, according to the Chinese government, “Falun Gong does not allow people to take medicine or go to the hospital,” these data suggest, to the government’s dismay, that Falun Gong is quite effective at healing disease and keeping fit, for it resulted in a death rate 20 times below the national average. If one keeps in mind the fact that a large portion of the practitioners were seniors and those with illnesses that could not be cured by hospitals, this healing effect is actually even more significant.

It is true that most Falun Gong practitioners do not take medicine, both of us included. This is because after practicing, we became healthy and therefore do not need to take medicine. In fact, before the persecution, the Chinese government lauded Falun Gong practitioners for saving the country’s medical expenses. In December 1993, at the Beijing Oriental Health Expo, Mr. Li received the highest honor of “The Cutting-Edge Science Award," a “Special Expo Golden Award," and a title of “The Most Popular Qi-gong Master” for the incredible healing power of the practice during the Expo.

In December 2002, Professor Hu Yu-Whuei of National Taiwan University published a research report that showed that 72% of Falun Gong practitioners in Taiwan used their health insurance card only once a year after practicing Falun Gong, a reduction in usage of almost 50% (Hu 2002). The report pointed out that Falun Gong had a remarkable effect on getting rid of many unhealthy habits, such as smoking (-81%), alcohol abuse (-77%), gambling (-85%), and chewing betel nuts (an addictive and unhealthy habit common in Asia, -85%). The data suggested that practicing Falun Gong indeed has positive and remarkable effects on improving the social environment (Hu 2002).

While Falun Gong is indifferent as to whether a practitioner takes medicine or not, it does encourage and discourage many other activities. For example, in cultivation one is encouraged to cultivate diligently, cultivate in only one way at a time, and to be truthful, benevolent, and tolerant all of the times. A practitioner is also discouraged from killing, smoking, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, being jealous, committing adultery, and showing off.

On “internal dissent within the Falun Gong organization” (Langone Question 3)

Does Falun Gong have any organization or membership?

When Langone (2003) welcomed the reform movement within ISKCON and believed that “dissent is an essential aspect of any organization that permits members to think for themselves," and then extended the same logic to Falun Gong, he had indeed made an assumption that Falun Gong had an organization and/or a membership.

In reality, Falun Gong does not have an organization. Local practitioners voluntarily gather to study, practice the exercises, and share experience in cultivation together. Mr. Li Hongzhi is the only teacher who passes down the teaching, and all practitioners are equal. “At the same time, you cannot call a practitioner (a disciple) who passes on Falun Dafa ‘Teacher’ or ‘Master,’ for there is only one master in Dafa. All practitioners are disciples, no matter when they began the practice” (Li 1999a, p.142). To “organize” such a large group of people would require substantial financial resources, human capital, and physical facilities, all of which Falun Gong simply does not have nor intends to have. Whatever organizational structures Langone (2003) had in mind, be it hierarchical, horizontal, vertical, or grass root, they really don’t apply to Falun Gong practitioners.

Falun Gong is a cultivation practice. And, “cultivation depends on one’s own efforts” (Li 1999a, P34), everyone must do it through upgrading his/her own “xinxing," the mind or heart nature including morality and tolerance, in order to succeed in cultivation. Having an organization does not help with this self-cultivation in any manner. This is rather similar to college students whose ultimate goal is to obtain their degrees, a goal that is utterly up to them to achieve individually, and not collectively. Neither does Falun Gong have any membership. Whoever happens to download the book and instruction video from the internet, free of charge, and starts practicing becomes a practitioner, and no one else may even know about his practicing.

After the persecution started in July 1999, Falun Gong practitioners worldwide have become “organized," or more accurately, coordinated, in a way only to do one thing and one thing only—call for an end to the persecution in China. Yet they are not organized to practice cultivation, for it remains an individual matter. Facing Jiang’s regime‘s organized crime using unlimited state power against Falun Gong, a coordinated effort is needed to expose and end the persecution. The Jiang regime’s persecution has utilized deceit, torture, brainwashing, forced-feeding, and even murder, while Falun Gong practitioners have responded with only truth clarification, great compassion, tremendous tolerance, and have never resorted to violence of any kind. These ad-hoc “organizations” are for purely practical reasons. For example, if the Chinese consulate has distributed slanderous material to all of the government officials, as they have done in the past, it is inconsiderate for practitioners to call senators and representatives over and over to ask them the same questions. On the other hand, had the persecution never happened, we would not have to have “organized” or coordinated ourselves. If the persecution stops tomorrow, we would not need to have these make-shift “organizations” anymore. Then, Falun Gong practitioners worldwide would be practicing their cultivation, just as Chinese practitioners did before 1999, in parks or in living rooms, quietly and peacefully.

Is there any “dissent” among Falun Gong practitioners?

In Mr. Li’s first lecture, he says: “The most fundamental characteristic of this universe, Zhen-Shan-Ren, is the highest manifestation of the Buddha Fa. It is the fundamental Buddha Fa” (Li 1999a, p15). Zhen-Shan-Ren, when translated into English, means Truth-Compassion-Forbearance. These are the highest teachings of Falun Gong and are always followed by true practitioners. There is no “dissent” among Falun Gong practitioners regarding this teaching, since a practitioner would not practice Falun Gong if he/she did not believe that the goal of cultivation is to assimilate oneself to Truth-Compassion-Forbearance.

Mr. Li also points out, “different levels have different Fa” (Li 1999a, p8). Therefore Falun Gong practitioners all have different understandings regarding Mr. Li’s specific teachings. In the process of cultivation, we always have lots of questions or even doubts. In fact, Mr. Li has always encouraged practitioners to think independently and to find our own answers through reading the books and from daily practice. When asked specific questions, Mr. Li frequently refuses to answer the specific issues and instead speaks broadly. “If I explain all the questions in your life, what will be left for you to cultivate? You must practice cultivation and become enlightened on your own” (Li 1999a, p383).

Having questions and/or doubts is an essential element in self-cultivation and an important checkpoint that ensures practitioners in the same school of cultivation follow the right path. A practitioner will not be able to advance him/herself if he/she does not have any questions. Practitioners are encouraged to share their different understandings at conferences or at our many forums of exchange and sharing, such as the (or as well as through means of personal communications. Practitioners are also encouraged to bring “outside” opinions into discussion. Langone had the concern that Falun Gong practitioners may be “only likely to hear that all is well within Falun Gong and all ‘bad’ events are due to negative ‘outside’ forces.” This is unnecessary, for the opposite is true. We completely understand that as practitioners, we make mistakes and stumble on the road of cultivation. That is how we make progress and advance. We pick up from where we fell and learn from our mistakes. We actively look for problems within ourselves and in practitioners around us, everyday. Our non-practitioner friends and families are often the best source to get direct and honest criticism of our attitude and behavior, and we take note of that and correct ourselves. Furthermore, as we are all doing this independently, the actions of one individual does not translate necessarily to the entire group.

Mr. Li has repeatedly told us that we should never attribute our problems to “outside forces," but rather that we need to seek inside ourselves. As far as self-cultivation is concerned, Mr. Li told us, “You must cultivate your inner self and not pursue things externally” (Li 1999a, p28). “You should always look within whenever you run into problems - it's guaranteed that many of the problems are your problems” (Li 2001). Practitioners are encouraged to compassionately point out others’ mistakes. “Since every one of you is cultivating Zhen-Shan-Ren, you should be a good person in any circumstance. If you see his shortcomings and see when he can't move upward, why can't you point them out to him with a kind heart?” (Li 1999b)

On “what goes on inside practitioners’ mind during the exercises” (Langone Question 4)

Simply put it, there is “nothing” going on in practitioners’ mind when doing the five sets of exercises. “If you can’t think of good things, at least you should not think of bad things. It’s best if you don't think about anything” (Li 1999a, p194). “Our practice is unlike ordinary practice that makes one absent-minded, in trance, or infatuated. Our practice requires you to cultivate yourselves with full awareness…. We have said that your Main Consciousness must be conscious, because this practice cultivates your own self. You should make progress with a conscious mind…. How do we practice meditation? We require of everyone that no matter how deeply you meditate, you must know that you are practicing here. You are absolutely forbidden to be in a state of trance wherein you know nothing” (Li 1999a, p339).

For that reason, there is no explicit or implied affinity with so-called “mind-emptying forms of meditation” Langone (2003) keenly worried about. Because we are fully in control of our mind, we are not letting anyone else attempt to control our thinking. Neither do we seek any alternate levels of consciousness or mental states but we try and become more “awake” and more sober-minded. Apparently Ching (2001) was not aware of the true meaning of qigong exercises. Qigong does not seek to “cease” human thinking; rather, it seeks to pause human’s thinking of bad things, such as greed, lust, ideas harmful to others, and thoughts that aim at personal gains at the expense of others. In doing so, the mind (main consciousness) is freed from these bad, tiring ideas and is fully rested during meditation. That is why people who practice meditation feel rejuvenated afterward. Numerous scientific studies have found that relaxation techniques associated with meditation have been shown to be healthy (e.g., Davidson 2003).

In fact, not only will Falun Gong not cause any “adverse psychological effects” (Langone 2003), but it can correct abnormal physical and psychological states. Mr. Li has discussed in great length some phenomena, mentalities, and behaviors in qigong practices that may cause harm, such as “cultivation insanity” (Li 1999a, p214). He pointed out how the perceptions were developed, the reasons and underlying causes for these phenomena, and most importantly, how to avoid these problems. In fact, some practitioners who were depressed, had social problems, or thought about leaving ordinary society and their families have fully recovered and have been living a very normal and healthy life (Dolnyckyj 2001).

On “Mr. Li Hongzhi and his relationship with his students” (Langone Questions 5)

First of all, nowhere in Mr. Li Hongzhi's books, lectures, speeches, or any published audio and video files has he ever claimed to be a god, a buddha, or a deity. Instead, he has instructed practitioners to treat him like a man. “So you should just regard me as a human being like you. What I’ve discussed isn’t alarmist talk—I’m only teaching the Fa and telling you the principles of the cosmos. Whether to believe it and whether you can cultivate are fully up to you, yourselves” (Li 1998a). He also discourages any kind of religious ritual. “We do not practice the ritual of kowtowing or bowing. That kind of formality serves little use, and it performs like a religion. We do not practice it” (Li 1999a, p93).

Practitioners at different levels will have different understandings and perceptions as they advance through their course of cultivation. Our personal relationships with Mr. Li are as follows:

[Frank] Initially, when I first studied the book Zhuan Falun, I was, of course, a reader of the book and Mr. Li was the author. Later, I found this book to be an excellent book that explained many of the questions that had puzzled me for a long time, such as: Where are we from? Where are we in the universe? Why are we here? Is there a god or gods? Are there beings beyond what we can see? What is the meaning of life? Are Buddhism, Christianity, and Daoism real? One by one, the book Zhuan Falun provided answers to my questions. I then decided to practice the exercises, and therefore became a student of this cultivation practice, and Mr. Li became my teacher. As I continued my study and exercises and went through rote learning, comprehension, and “critical” thinking, there had been much improvement in my physical body, mental health, as well as my temperament, compassion, and level of tolerance. With all these incredible improvements spiritually and physically, consciously and clear-mindedly, I became a disciple in Falun Dafa cultivation, and Mr. Li became naturally my master in guiding my cultivation.

[Tracey] I started my practice of Falun Gong in 1997 after reading Zhuan Falun. I never thought about my relationship with Mr. Li until the persecution started in July 1999 when various personal attacks on Mr. Li poured in from Jiang’s regime. Some of them, I knew by my heart that they were not true from my then two year experience of practicing Falun Gong. Some of them I was not sure about. I had to re-think why I chose to practice Falun Gong and how I should regard Mr. Li. I remembered that when I first started to practice, I did have many doubts in my mind regarding specific teachings in the book although I very much agreed with the principle of Truth-Compassion-Forbearance. Nevertheless I decided to try cultivating myself according to the teachings. In the process of cultivation, I found many of my questions answered while many new questions emerged. However, it always turned out that it was me who failed to realize the meaning of the teaching rather than that the teaching having any problem. The improvement in my health and refinement of my mind has constantly been happening as Mr. Li promised in the book. I practice Falun Gong to my own benefit and not to that of Mr. Li. I consider him a sage or an enlightened person. I feel very fortunate and grateful to be his student. However, I never considered worshiping him.

[Frank] In Zhuan Falun, Mr. Li systematically and thoroughly explained all the requirements of cultivation in Falun Dafa, the steps involved, the purification of the body, the extraordinary phenomena in the community of cultivators, etc. Personally, I have experienced the cleaning up of my body to an illness-free state, the celestial eye, and precognition & retro-cognition, all happened under my clear, conscious, and sentient state. I was fully aware of what was happening and clearly knew where I was, what I was doing, what I was thinking, and what I was experiencing. All of these happened according to the specifications described in Zhuan Falun. I have to rationally conclude that one would have to have gone through that whole process oneself in order to possibly describe, explain, and elucidate all these phenomena to the fullest extent. In other words, the person who has explained and explicated all these must have completed the process of cultivation successfully oneself. The ultimate goal of cultivation practices, when achieved, is enlightenment. This person who has completed the cultivation process is, then, an enlightened person in cultivation. An enlightened person through cultivation is, in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, a Buddha.

So in my eyes, Mr. Li Hongzhi is a man; he is the author of a great book that has awakened the sleeping souls of millions of people; he is a teacher of some 100 million students studying Falun Dafa worldwide; he is a master for millions of true practitioners; and he is an enlightened person through Buddha Fa cultivation.

[Tracey] When I heard that Falun Gong practitioners in China were beaten and tortured with electric batons and cruel slavery tools, female practitioners were stripped naked and thrown into male cells, babies were tortured as a way to subdue the parents, healthy practitioners were forcefully injected with neurotoxic drugs in mental hospitals, spouses were forced to divorce practitioners, families were so financially broken that they had to beg for food, and that the number of deaths as result of the persecution increased everyday, I had to think even harder what I would have done had I been in China. I could not understand why Jiang’s regime would utilize the whole nation’s resources to persecute a practice that is so beneficial to its citizens. What is wrong with following the principles of Truth-Compassion-Forbearance to become a better person? Then I realized that all the measures that it used were only for one thing – to force the practitioners to give up their belief. It is an ideological battle.

Calling it “Spring wind transforming into rain," the Jiang’s regime has been using various brainwashing methods to “re-educate” and “transform” Falun Gong practitioners. A very vicious brainwashing method they are using is to take Mr. Li’s words out of context and distort his true meanings. Other methods include continuous propaganda attacks, sleep deprivation, and physical torture. If a practitioner has any uncertainties about his/her cultivation or blind trust for Mr. Li, he/she would not be able to endure even a fraction of this kind of persecution.

Willing to accept it or not, the persecution has become a part of our cultivation. Mr. Li has actually foreseen problems like this and taught us, “Your mind must be right” (Li 1999a, p245). I realized that as a practitioner of Truth-Compassion-Forbearance, I must truthfully and compassionately explain what I know about Falun Gong to people who have been deceived by the lies and help to end the persecution in China. In this process I must tolerate any prejudice or misunderstandings people may have and not use violence. Because of Mr. Li’s teaching, I have been able to achieve this. I felt that his wisdom, or his Fashen (Li 1999a, p200), has always been with me. I believe that his wisdom, or Fashen, is also with practitioners in China all the time, otherwise they would not be able to uphold their belief in this extremely difficult time. We have to attribute this extraordinary strength to the teaching of an enlightened being.

But again, regardless of how we might personally think of him, Mr. Li has said, on numerous occasions, to just treat him like a man.

On other issues raised by Langone (2003)

As to the leader/leadership argument, there is no leadership versus membership relationship among cultivation practices, including Falun Gong. The mentality seems to derive from the cultic group presumption that a group must exist for the benefit of its leader. But what if there is no “leader” but only a “teacher” in the group? What if the teacher does not seek anything in return for his teaching? All Langone’s assumption and subsequent analyses would fall apart under such conditions. For Falun Gong, that is exactly the case, as we have indicated earlier. The teaching is there, free, including the guiding principles and the practice exercises. When one practices by relying on the “Fa as the teacher," one really does not need anyone to “lead” him/her.

The leadership-membership disagreement argument doesn’t apply since there is no leader-member relationship. In cultivation practices, there does not need to be disagreements. Instead, goal congruency is omnipresent because the teacher aims at bringing students to higher levels, and students aim at achieving higher levels and improving themselves with the help of the teacher. One does not have to disagree, because one simply does not need to disagree. If one disagrees, one can simply stop practicing, join another way of cultivation, or give up cultivation altogether. If one has to argue for a resolution of a “disagreement," then there are indeed three ways to resolve it: stop (practicing in this method), seek (an alternative cultivation method), and stop (cultivations altogether). In the light of this, the crisis resolution methods of coercion, emotional manipulation, and ostracism all become irrelevant and meaningless. Besides, coercion, emotional manipulation, and ostracism are all directly against “benevolence and tolerance”—two of the three principles in Falun Gong, and are therefore never going to be considered by practitioners.

We can certainly understand how conventional thinking of ACM (anti-cult movement) personnel leads to their eagerness to link Falun Gong to a cult, or a group that is un-scientific, or something outright “paranormal.” There seems to be at least two reasons for that. One might be that it is easy to classify something inconceivable to something familiar, under the categorization theory. The second is that there might be some who do not believe in the existence of beings beyond our physical dimension. They would not believe it when it is derived from their own cultural heritage, let alone believe it when it is from afar, for the term cultivation and the process from cultivator to deity is totally foreign to them. We’ll address these issues further in section V.

V. Positivist Research on Qigong? A Caveat

Modern empiricist and positivist science stipulates that laws are in the form of a generalized conditional, having empirical content, possessing nomological universality, and being systematically integrated (Hunt 1991). That is, all laws are in the “if-then” form of relationship, empirically testable, the phenomena do not occur by “chance," and form an integrated whole with existing theories. One important aspect of the modern empiricism and positivism-guided research tradition is the requirement of “inter-subjective verifiability.”

It is meaningful that Langone (2003) also mentioned “empirical evidence” in his attempt to study Falun Gong. Those people who felt that what is in Zhuan Falun is inconceivable are probably not aware of the profoundness of qigong in general, and Falun Gong in particular. In this section, we explain some of the scientific experiments carried out by top scientists in China during the 1980s.

[Frank] A caveat on research on qigong and cultivation practices needs to be given. In studying cultivation or qigong, because of the supernormal nature of the subject area, traditional empirical or positivist approaches may not always work. In answering Dr. Langone’s question in section IV, I described some extraordinary phenomenon that I have experienced, such as the third eye (Celestial eye). The ability of seeing things that do not exist in our physical world is not a unique phenomenon among Falun Gong practitioners. It is a relatively common phenomenon among other qigong practitioners or even everyday people. There have been many discussions in science about “the third eye” or the pineal body located at the base of the brain. In 1999, Lucas et al. published an article in Science where they found that the pineal body can actually perceive light (Lucas 1999). It has the same photosensitive proteins and a whole optic transduction system. This research shed light on the mystery of the Celestial eye.

With regard to my experience with the third eye, how could I possibly prove this observation “empirically” to someone and anyone? How could this be inter-subjectively verified? Inter-subjective verifiability is something essential to positivist research and prevailed in virtually all subject areas of study in modern sciences, natural and social. In studying something supernatural like qigong, one would encounter numerous obstacles in using this approach. One is either led to not believe it happened, or one would have to admit that there are facts beyond what can be empirically tested in this dimension. As first a physical scientist and then a social scientist by training, I would be untruthful to deny what I actually experienced. Let me give another example regarding the profoundness of qigong.

I was a graduate student in science in China in the mid-1980s, during a time when the enthusiasm about qigong was at its peak. My advisor in my alma mater (Peking University) for my graduate studies was also very much involved in qigong research. Together with my advisor, I was in contact with some researchers on supernormal human capabilities associated with qigong exercises. One day in 1986, we went to see a documentary in a conference room of a government office building in Beijing. This internal documentary recorded, using high-speed cinematography, an experiment involving a then famous qigong master in Beijing, Baosheng Zhang. Under tight scrutiny, Zhang held a glass medicine bottle with both of his hands. The bottle's cap was sealed with wax and the seal had the signature of a researcher to ensure that the seal was not broken. He shook the bottle slightly, and the numbered pills inside the bottle fell to the tabletop in front of him. After all the pills were out, the seal, the cap, and the bottle were all examined and determined to be intact. The whole experiment was designed and executed by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science, Peking University, Chinese Navy Headquarters, and the Defense Science and Technology Commission of China, which oversees all military related research and development and is responsible for the recent launch of China’s manned space mission. Any and all possibilities of falsification and cheating were carefully eliminated by methods such as double-blind experiments. In one still picture from the high-speed cinematography, a medicine pill was, astonishingly, photographed stuck in the middle of the wall of the glass bottle, with half of the pill inside the bottle, and half outside.

Basically, this qigong master had some supernatural capabilities that he was not fully aware of as to where they were from, what they were for, and why he had them while most other people did not. Scientists involved in this study were deeply puzzled because they could not explain what was going on, except that they knew something very extraordinary happened, and it was documented. Some ten years after I watched this experiment, in the book Zhuan Falun, I was able to get an answer. Indeed, qigong is profound and supernatural, just as Mr. Li indicated, “qigong was not invented by this human kind of ours…it was inherited through a quite remote age and it was also a type of prehistoric culture” (Li 1999a, p22).

Even though healing and curing diseases are not a goal in Falun Gong cultivation, Falun Gong has, nonetheless, surprising healing capabilities. I have been very healthy most of my life. The only ailment I had in the past thirty some years was a hernia that started in my high school years and worsened during my college years. This problem, which recurred every couple of months and continued on and off for decades, suddenly disappeared soon after I started practicing Falun Gong. This phenomenon, which can’t be explained by modern medicine, is actually nothing compared to the healing stories of other practitioners, where there have been reports of healing of chronic, serious, and even life-threatening illnesses.

Some of the modern empiricist research has actually touched upon the profound nature of qigong and meditation. Using brain topography, Wisconsin neuro-psychologist Richard Davidson published a study in Psychosomatic Medicine which showed that meditation makes one’s attitude better. In addition, researchers at University of California San Francisco studied the heartbeats and blood pressure of the participants, and found that sitting in meditation improved psychological states of the participants (Davidson 2003).

[Tracey] My last visit to Beijing, my home city, was from September to October in 1998. When I was there, a health survey was conducted among Falun Gong practitioners in Beijing. Hundreds of practitioners at the site, where I did my morning exercises, were given survey forms with detailed questions about their health information. I did not participate since I was just visiting. As it turned out, a total of 12,731 valid forms were collected. The data showed that 93.4% of those 12,731 practitioners suffered from chronic illness, with 48.9% having had at least three diseases before they started their practice. Through cultivation and exercises in Falun Gong, the overwhelming majority of them (99.1%) reported improved health.. For those who suffered from diseases of any kind, a healing rate of 58.5% was reported. The category of people belonging to "extremely energetic and healthy" changed from 3.5% in the sample population before cultivation to 55.3% after cultivation. A total of 96.5% of the practitioners experienced enhanced energy and health level (Clearwisdom 1998). Another survey conducted in Taiwan in 2002 gave similar results (Hu 2002).

I once saw the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) reports of a patient who had liver cancer with metastasis to his omentum. After three month of practicing Falun Gong, the repeated MRI showed disappearance of the omentum mass and shrinking of his two original liver tumors. Many senior women who practiced Falun Gong experienced regaining of their menses – the same effect as hormone replacement therapy and a sign of rejuvenation. Many people who had thyroids removed came off of their thyroxin and were tested as having normal thyroid functions. All these can be researched and verified by independent medical examiners. The human body has the most complicated system. If Falun Gong can make things out of “nothing," as in the case of thyroidectomy patients, and turn gene-alternated cancer cells into normal ones, would it be such a surprise that it could do other things as well?

We believe that body, mind, and sprit are one entity. If even plants have the ability to adapt to human wishes and to communicate with man, respond to music, and possess curative powers (Tompkins and Bird 1996), would one still be laughing at various extraordinary capabilities in humans, the most intelligent beings on earth? If even water has memories (Benveniste 1988) and can distinguish between good and bad (Emoto 1999), shouldn’t we humans, the most capable beings on earth, be more conscious about our choices?

Before the microscope was discovered, people thought that the first person who suggested that diseases were caused by microbes was crazy. Now everyone agrees that bacteria and viruses are associated with the majority of diseases. Ancient Chinese doctors with extraordinary capabilities have seen the operations of meridians or energy channels in the other dimension of human body and developed Chinese Traditional Medicine and acupuncture. Qigong practice works at transforming materials in a more microscopic level than where bacteria and viruses are in other dimensions. Although no one knows how it works at the present time, it does not mean that science will not advance to be able to measure it one day and we may actually see it making miracles. In order to hasten this day, we need to first admit that these phenomena are not just some crazy people’s illusions and that these facts are not just fabricated stories. Only then, can we adopt a humble attitude and truly devote some effort to investigate the underlying causes. This is actually how true science should advance itself.

“What today’s scientific and technological community has discovered is sufficient to change our present textbooks. Once human kind’s conventional mentalities form a systematic way of working and thinking, new ideas are very difficult to accept” (Li 1999a, p20). We encourage psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals to put down their preconceived notions about Falun Gong, qigong, and cultivation, and examine, carefully and completely, the potential benefits of Falun Gong to your patients, customers, friends and families, and even yourselves.

VI. Closing Remarks

Contrary to the slander of Jiang Zemin’s regime, Falun Gong is an ancient cultivation practice based on the principles of Truth-Compassion-Forbearance, and is characterized by its open, non-discriminatory, peaceful, and non-violent nature. Practitioners from over 60 countries worldwide have benefited from its ability to upgrade one’s physical health and morality. We explored the “reasons” behind the persecution, which is centered on Jiang’s prejudice, jealousy, and narrow-mindedness. No matter what the reasons for the persecution, this prolonged, brutal persecution, initiated and led by Jiang, is illegal, immoral, against freedom of belief, and against universal human rights It must be stopped immediately.

There seems to be some unfriendliness, antagonism, and even hostility among cult critics towards qigong, meditation, and cultivation, as evidenced in their adoption of terms such as “irrational and strange ideas” (Rahn 2000), “paranormal” (Rahn 2002), “cease human thinking” (Ching 2001), “mind-emptying forms of meditation” (Langone 2003), and “the risk of adverse psychological effects” (Langone 2003). In Rahn's (2002) vocabulary on her writing about Falun Gong, internet blockage and censoring by the Chinese government had become "internet restrictions.” There really need not be such hostility, if one is able to look at meditation and cultivation from a new, objective perspective, as truth and scientific discoveries are often derived from inconceivable, “strange” ideas. Cultivation is profound, extraordinary, and oftentimes regarded as “inconceivable.” But “if human beings are able to take a fresh look at themselves as well as the universe and change their rigid mentalities, humankind will make a leap forward” (Li 1999a, Lunyu).

It also appears to be the case that some cult critics might have pre-judged Falun Gong as a cult. Subsequent study then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where all succeeding “evidences” that support this notion are accepted, while those refuting it are rejected. As we have mentioned above, the teachings in Falun Gong contradict the core definition of a cult. Moreover, in the eleven years since Falun Gong has been practiced worldwide, in over 60 countries, there has never been a single, credible case of Falun Gong causing any practitioner any harm whatsoever. The only so-called examples of these concerns have come from Chinese state-controlled media and a handful of anecdotal cases that were one-sided and not peer-evaluated (e.g., Luo 2003). In actuality, our own investigation of Luo’s two subjects revealed starkly different responses. Some cult researchers claimed to have surveyed family members of Falun Gong practitioners, but they had not directly surveyed the Falun Gong practitioners themselves, or heard the practitioners' side of the story.

A fair and unbiased evaluation of Falun Gong by non-practitioners is not often seen in Western media and academics, with the notable exception of Schechter (2000). The major obstacle in scholarly research and evaluation of Falun Gong and its practitioners seems to be that the beliefs of researchers and people who are concerned about this cultivation practice are in opposition to the beliefs held by Falun Gong practitioners. Therefore, based on their own beliefs, notions, and previous experience with cults, and fearing that Falun Gong practitioners might indeed do harm to themselves or others in the society as the Chinese government has described, they would come to the conclusion that Falun Gong is probably a “harmful cult," or has the “tendency” to become one, regardless of a lack of concrete evidence. If unfamiliar, “strange," and “inconceivable” ideas were all that were needed to label something a cult, wouldn’t the story of God commanding Abraham to kill his son and feeding thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish make Christianity and Judaism cults as well?

Some cult critics believe that what is happening in China is a standoff between a government that might have done something wrong or too harsh and a group that has also done something wrong, and therefore a “reconciliation," or “backing off” by both sides is needed (Rosedale, personal communications, 2003). This is not the case. The so-called “misconduct” of Falun Gong took place after the persecution started and are a result of the persecution, not a cause. On one side of this standoff is the police power of an authoritarian regime with unlimited use of state resources, on the other side are defenseless civilians, many of them women and retirees. On one side is a government that controls all the propaganda machines of TV, newspapers, radios, and the Internet; on the other side are civilians who could not openly defend their views with a single word in newspapers or a single voice on radio or TV, and who are lucky if their truth clarification video clips could be inserted in TV signals for a few minutes. On one side is a regime that is notoriously known for lying and has all the motivation to lie in this case; On the other side is a group of people who hold “truthfulness” as one of their basic principles. To “back off” from this standoff they were forced into, Falun Gong practitioners would have no choice but to give up their beliefs and practices, for they are already against the wall. They have been deprived of their right to defend themselves, in public or in court. They have been forced to work in labor camps. They have been brainwashed in “re-education” centers using sleep deprivation and torture. They cannot sit quietly in lotus position anywhere in the 960,000 square kilometers of Chinese soil, when all they need is an area no larger than a page of a newspaper. And, they cannot even open a blue-covered book to read in the privacy of their homes.

For Falun Gong practitioners, to “back off” from this standoff would mean to give up a cultivation practice that is peaceful, benign, and beneficial to the practitioners and to the society. Asking practitioners to “back off” is tantamount to asking them to give up their beliefs, which is precisely what the goal of the repressing regime in this persecution against Falun Gong is. It is a persecution against a belief, simply and straightforwardly.

Looking back at history, we all know and understand the persecution against Christianity and the hardships Christians endured hundreds of years ago. It wasn't until hundreds of years after Jesus Christ was crucified and his followers persecuted that people started to see the value of what they believed. Now, a persecution against a righteous belief is happening again, and on a much larger scale—the entire world. How long does it have to take the people of today's world to see through the misinformation, regardless of the intended malice, and know that Falun Gong is good and its practitioners should not be persecuted? As history turns the pages, we believe that people in the future will realize that Falun Gong practitioners have been following the principles of Truth-Compassion-Forbearance. Now at this very moment of persecution when history is being written, what is one’s conscientious choice and where does one stand? That is a question all of us on earth will have to answer.


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About the authors

(The bio sketches will go in profiles to which the names under the title will be hyperlinked.)

Dr. Frank Tian Xie is Assistant Professor of Marketing, in the Department of Marketing, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. ( He received his Bachelor’s degree in science from Peking University and MBA in finance and Ph.D. in business administration from Georgia State University. Prior to his career in academia, he had eight years of experience in the industry, serving in technical, supervisory, managerial, and consulting positions in scientific, retailing, financial, and marketing services companies. His research appears in The Meteoretics, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Journal of Marketing Channels, and World Economic Review. He is also the Director of Marketing, of the Greater Philadelphia Asian Culture Center (GPACC), a non-profit organization serving to bridge between Chinese and Western communities. His weekly column on marketing and selling appears on Epochtimes, a worldwide Chinese language newspaper.

Dr. Tracey Zhu is a board-certified physician of internal medicine practicing in New Haven, CT. ( She has done five years of research on Molecular Biology at Yale Medical School, before starting her residency at Hospital of Saint Raphael in 1997. She has published molecular cloning articles on scientific journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her other publications on Falun Gong include “Falun Gong – A Way of Cultivation Practice," Qi – The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness, Winter 2000. (

Appendix: A Personal Statement from Mr. Gang Chen

(Presented at AFF conference on October 18, 2003 in Hartford, Connecticut)

Ladies and gentlemen:

My name is Gang Chen and I am from Marlton NJ. I came to U.S. three months ago from Beijing. I used to be the logistics manager at the Beijing branch company of Carlsberg int’l Corp. I would like to share my personal experience as a Falun Gong practitioner in China. In June 2000, I was sent to Beijing Tuanhe Forced Labor Camp for 1-year detention without trial, simply because I practice Falun Gong.

In the labor camp, the police guards used a whole set of brainwash methods to force me giving up Falun Gong. The methods they used included threats, lying, propaganda, physical and mental tortures. On one day of September, 2000 I saw police beating and shocking another Falun Gong practitioner named Tiantong Sun with about 10 electric batons simultaneously, because he refused to attend the convention condemning Falun Gong. During my detention I was always forced to read or watch the “brainwashing” materials. Some of them were filled with personal attacks of Mr. Li, some of them were distortions of Mr. Li’s teachings by taking his words out of context or by making up lies, and some of them were fabricated accusations of Falun Gong practitioners including many bloody scenes. For example, I had to watch the photographs over and over, in which a mad man cut himself open and exposed his bloody abdominal content. One thing that I would like to bring your attention to is that in the labor camp I have seen Chinese state media articles claiming that a certain American anti-cult organization supported the persecution of Falun Gong.

When I was in labor camp, I was only allowed to sleep for less than four hours a day. In September 2000, they did not allow me to sleep for fifteen consecutive days while doing intense labor work, or enduring physical torture during the day. On one day of October, 2000, a policeman whose last name is Shi shocked me continuously with an electric baton to such a degree that large areas of my arms, neck, head and back skin were burned.

On one day in February 2001, because I refused to slander Falun Gong, the police mobilized a dozen inmates who had given up their Falun Gong practice under pressure to beat me up ruthlessly. Some of them were fellow practitioners whom I knew before. They beat me until my body was full of wounds and my face became deformed. They then taped my mouth and tied me up with my arms behind, forced my body bend forward and tied my head and my legs together. At that moment I was almost suffocated and I felt the excruciating pain in my low back. I almost fainted and felt on the edge of death. This painful torture exceeded my limit of endurance. I collapsed and gave in against my will. I was unable to walk during the next two weeks. Another practitioner named Lu Changjun who suffered the same torture became paralyzed and was never able to stand up again. I would never forget the horrible scene: I lay on my bed, in tears, like a dead fish because of the injuries, hearing the horrible screams from practitioners being tortured! I felt like being in hell! But the most painful wound was in my heart!

Since the persecution, I lost my job and was taken away from my happy family. All I received was humiliation and torture. In addition to physical tortures, these police guards destroyed my confidence and dignity. They forced me to become a person that I despise, tarnished my soul and destroyed my hope. I fell into deep depression. I felt as if a crowd of malicious monsters were making fun of me while torturing me, saying: “you deserve living in Hell! You deserve being humiliated and there will never be an end to it!”

I once promised to follow the principle of “truth, compassion and tolerance," but I betrayed my consciousness under extreme pressure! I could not imagine how to face my family, friends, and people I know. I did not want them to know that I was a coward. I was suddenly overwhelmed by anxiety, depression and helplessness. I even thought about committing suicide. I have eye-witnessed many former Falun Gong practitioners, after having given up Falun Gong under pressure, beating and cursing others in order to show that they were truly “transformed”. Their behavior manifested the true nature of this persecution - turning good and kind people into violent and cruel perpetrators! I said to myself, “I cannot become one of them. I want to be a good person! Regardless of what happened, I will still follow the principles of “truth, compassion and tolerance”! This thought to some extent smoothed my painful heart and carried me through the darkest period of my life.

In contrast, some people who were brainwashed by these malicious lies have lost their identities totally and became mentally ill due to tremendous pressure. I witnessed six such cases including my friend Zhu Zhiliang, an engineer with a Master degree. He became delirious and could not recognize his parents and wife, and talked nonsense after he came out of the brainwashing labor camp in Feb 2003.

After I was released in December, 2001, the nightmare of my labor camp experience constantly haunted me. I felt dizzy, exhausted, depressed, scared, guilty and helpless. I developed palpitations and insomnia.

Because I became so guilty that I gave into the brainwashing, I was frustrated in my cultivation. I felt shame whenever I thought about Falun Gong. I tried many other ways, such as traveling, sports, reading, etc. to get away from the bad feelings, but I failed. I had even developed hostility against the society. The reason was that I had lost respect and hope for myself. Finally, it was Falun Gong that helped me to regain my confidence and self worth. I take comfort in realizing that I have come back to a peaceful and righteous way of life.

After my release from the labor camp, I was very fortunate to have received an offer for a position with a U.S. company, because of my specialty in import-export related business. That is how I got an H-1 visa and came to the U.S., where I can now talk freely about my experiences. Other practitioners in China are not so fortunate.

I understand that AFF’s job is to help victims of brainwashing. It is indeed a meaningful thing. I believe that all of you treasure lives and protect human rights and justice. I hope that you could help those people who are being mind-controlled by CCP.

Please help us stop this persecution.

Sincerely yours,

Chen, Gang

Marlton, NJ

Oct 15th 2003

Dr. Frank Tian Xie is Assistant Professor of Marketing, in the Department of Marketing, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104. ( He received his Bachelor’s degree in science from Peking University and MBA in finance and Ph.D. in business administration from Georgia State University. Prior to his career in academia, he had eight years of experience in the industry, serving in technical, supervisory, managerial, and consulting positions in scientific, retailing, financial, and marketing services companies. His research appears in The Meteoretics, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Journal of Interactive Advertising, Journal of Marketing Channels, and World Economic Review. He is also the Director of Marketing, of the Greater Philadelphia Asian Culture Center (GPACC), a non-profit organization serving to bridge between Chinese and Western communities. His weekly column on marketing and selling appears on Epochtimes, a worldwide Chinese language newspaper.

Dr. Tracey Zhu is a board-certified physician of internal medicine practicing in New Haven, CT. ( She has done five years of research on Molecular Biology at Yale Medical School, before starting her residency at Hospital of Saint Raphael in 1997. She has published molecular cloning articles on scientific journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Her other publications on Falun Gong include “Falun Gong – A Way of Cultivation Practice," Qi – The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness, Winter 2000. (