THE PARADOX OF FALUN DAFA
Persecution, Propaganda, and Practice
Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a cultivation movement originating in China. Falun Dafa was founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, and grew to be one of the most popular cultivation methods in modern China. Falun Dafa, which means “Great Law of the Law Wheel,” is a system of spiritual cultivation that combines qigong-like physical exercises and adherence to the moral code of Zhen-Shan-Ren (Truthfulness-Benevolence-Forbearance) with the aim of achieving enlightenment.
After staging a protest at the Chinese government compound in Zhongnanhai on April 25, 1999, Chinese authorities retroactively banned the movement, denouncing it as an evil cult (xiejiao). In addition to launching a smear-campaign against Falun Dafa full of heavy-handed rhetoric (for example: comparing Li Hongzhi to Hitler), the CCP arrested and interrogated practitioners all over the country. In just the first few months following the ban an estimated 35,000 practitioners were detained, 300 jailed, 5,000 sent to Re-education Through Labor camps. An additional 50 were committed to mental wards, and an estimated 200 practitioners died during the initial phase of the crackdown. These numbers have only increased as time has gone on.
Shortly after the Chinese government banned Falun Dafa in 1999, sociologist John Wong predicted that the “quasi-religious” cultivation practice, now prohibited in China and unappealing to the majority of non-Chinese, would face serious expansion problems. He concluded his essay on the movement by stating:
With FLG [Falun Gong] banned in its homeland, it would be difficult for it to flourish overseas. Since FLG is deeply grounded in Chinese philosophy and traditional Chinese mysticism, its overseas followers are largely ethnic Chinese steeped in Chinese culture and traditions, …It would not be easy for the largely culture-specific FLG to convert the non-Chinese. Hence also a...