Interviewee: Li Jie, reporter of Facts.org.cn
1. What kinds of people participate in cult prevention in China? Why? Why did you decide to take up this work?
There are mainly three kinds of people involved in the work of cult-prevention in China. One is government functionaries. Starting from 1999, government at all levels in China have set up departments for guarding against and handling cult cases, such as the State Council office for Guarding against cults and Handling cult Cases. As have all the provinces (cities, counties). Their major tasks are: to coordinate the work of all related departments, carry out investigations and study, strengthen cooperation with organizations of other countries, protect the basic human rights of the citizens and protect citizens against harm done by cults.
The second is NGOs, such as the China Cultic Studies Association. They are made up of people of all circles, including religion, law enforcement, journalism, science and technology and volunteers. They aim to help the general public know how to recognize and keep away from harmful religious movements.
The third is volunteers, including former members of cults, their family members, cult researchers. For instance, Wu Yuxia is a former Falun Gong practitioner in the city of Shijiazhuang, in north China’s Hebei Province. After she quit the Falun Gong cult, she wrote a novel “The Dream of Heavenly Kingdom” and has become a volunteer to help other Falun Gong victims. Another is Shi Xingwang, who tracked down the Church of Almighty God, also known as Eastern Lightening, after his wife came to believe in it. He created a website called “Family of Cult Victims” to provide assistance to cult victims.
I have come into contact with many cult victims and their family members, including the family of Wang Jindong, who tried to burn themselves in Tian’anmen Square in Beijing on January 23, 2001. Many of them were originally kind-hearted people, but fell into the cult trap because they wanted to keep fit and pursue a better life. But after being brainwashed, they were acting and speaking in eccentric ways, thus leading to the break up of husband-wife relationships, of families and the death of family members.
Some resorted to self-mutilation and even killed others, bringing great calamities to families and society. From 2000, I began to take up of the work of helping cult-members and have saved a number of victims. This work is very rewarding as it can help people. Cult-prevention work is likely to become my life-long cause.
2. Please describe in detail the whole process of the establishment of Facts.
On July 22, 1999, the Chinese government banned Falun Gong. After that, Falun Gong began to launch a number of websites, such as Minghui, the Epoch Times, New Tangren and Voice of Hope to spread its doctrine, manipulate its members and attack media and scholars that criticize it.
In March 2006, a Falun Gong website fabricated the rumor about the supposed “Sujiatun Concentration Camp”, saying that the Sujiatun thrombotic Disease Hospital in Shenyang secretly imprisoned 6,000 Falun Gong followers and carried out “organ harvesting” to sell them. The rumor aroused attention from all quarters, so much so that the US embassy in China and its consulate in Shenyang sent people to the hospital to investigate. Soon, the rumor was exposed to the light of day. The US State Department came out to refute the rumor, saying that Sujiatun Hospital is nothing but an ordinary hospital.
In order to give the lie to the rumors of Falun Gong and let the public know the true nature of the Falun Gong cult, Kaiwind.com officially went into operation on May 1, 2006, with the support and help of people of all circles. There were only the simplified and traditional Chinese versions at the time. In October 2007, foreign language versions in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and Korean were added. The number of original articles uploaded a day has increased steadily, from one or two at the beginning to about 30. The Falun Gong website often organized attacks against and cursed us. At present our website has become China’s portal website in the fight against cults and a platform for uniting the anti-cult personages of the whole world in fighting against the Falun Gong.
3. How does China understand beliefs and scope of belief? In what circumstances does the law interfere in religious activities?
Article 36 of China’s Constitution states: Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.
The state attacks and stops criminal activities that jeopardize state security and public safety through the exploitation of religion.
4. How do state organs and the public coordinate in carrying out cult prevention work? Apart from the functions of providing information, what are other functions of social organizations in cult-prevention work?
Cult-prevention work needs the participation of all members of society. In China, the work is led by the government, with social organizations as support and the masses as participants. Some localities have creatively carried out activities of encouraging families to refuse cults and creating cult-free communities.
Social organizations are playing an increasingly important role. They release alert information about cult activities, expose cult deceptions, provide tips to the people for identifying and guarding against cults, and help cult followers get away from them. The Gulou District of Nanjing City established a people’s organization called “Love Home”, which has successfully helped more than 50 Falun Gong followers kick the cult. We have also carried out research and provided information for government departments in their policy decisions. In addition, we have put up a platform for communication between the government and the people.
5. In the present-day, many cults are international. Have you exchanged experience and information with Western scholars and social activists that study cults? Which country’s cult-prevention experiences are you interested in or do you think are beneficial? Conversely, what experience does China have to share with Western countries?
As a NRM research website, we are closely watching the developments of global NRM research and translating their information. We are open to cooperation with any cult research agencies and individuals. Of course, there are also some victims, experts and scholars who have contacted us and provided us with useful information and research.
France has passed a law cracking down on destructive sects. On May 30, 2001, it adopted the About-Picard Law to strengthen the attack against cult activities. In March 28, 2014, the Fifth District Court 0f the State of Utah, USA, passed a ruling depriving the Mormon members of their rights as guardians of their children. Former president of the American Psychologists Association has provided mental counselling to Falun Gong victims, helping them return to their families and society. Russia has designated “Zhuan Falun” and other propaganda books as extremist publications. I am keen on the above subjects, which are worth referencing.
6. What other dangerous cults are there in China apart from Falun Gong? What troubles they have created? Give me some information about these cults.
Falun Gong is the most harmful cult in contemporary China. It has caused more than 2,000 deaths. From May 25 to June 27, 2003, Falun Gong follower Chen Fuzhao of Cannan County, Zhejiang Province killed 16 innocent people by using rat poison in order to enhance his “gong”. At present, Falun Gong is still instigating its followers not to seek medical attention or take medicine when ill, harming the health of its followers.
The Church of Almighty God (or Eastern Lightening) is a cult which has been very active in recent years. Its leader is Zhao Weishan, who is now in the United States. The cult distorted the “Bible”, saying that the almighty god is the only real god, and has been reincarnated in the image of an oriental woman. They call her “female Christ’. On December 21, 2012, the cult declared that the “doomsday of the world” had arrived. On May 28, 2014, six followers were publicizing the cult at a MacDonald’s restaurant in the city of Zhaoyuan, Shandong Province. They asked a female customer for her telephone number. The women refused to give it to them, so they beat the woman to death in the presence of the customers. This case shocked the whole country.
There is another cult, called “Society of Disciples (Mentu Hui),”, also known as “San-shu Christ”, “Kuangye Zaimen” and “Mengtou Jiao”. It was founded by a villiager called Ji Sanbao in Shaanxi Province. He died from a car crash in December 1997. He professed to be a Christ or “Sanshu”, the incarnation of God, using “Sanshu” to replace Christ in the Bible. The Society of Disciples (Mentu Hui), advocated for doomsday, asserting that there would be calamities toward the end of the 20th century. People who refused to believe in him would all die. He asserted that prayer can cure diseases and urged his followers not to take medicine. He said that he could bring the dead back to life. He said that each person should only eat 100 grams of grain and that it is not necessary to plant crops, as God would bestow them with inexhaustible sources of grain. The Mentu Hui tricked people out of their money and property, causing some followers to go mad, engage in self-mutilation and suicide. Some followers suffering from illness only prayed to be healed and died without going to the hospital.
Other cults include Supreme Master Ching Hai, Huazang Zongmen, “Xue-Shui-ShengLing”(Blood, Water and Holy Spirit) and Sanban Puren Pai.
7. Are there any Falun Gong followers in the present-day China? What is the attitude of the Chinese general public toward Falun Gong followers?
Statistics show that there were about 2 million Falun Gong followers by the end of June 1999, when the Chinese government banned it. Now, most of them have left the cult and the number has dropped to just tens of thousands. The figure is very small as compared with the 1.3 billion people in China. Falun Gong has totally lost its market in China. Even pupils of primary schools know that Falun Gong is a cult.
Falun Gong followers are cult victims. China persists in the policy of uniting and educating the vast-majority of the followers and punishing by law only a tiny number of crime-committing followers. Followers who have quit the organization are not discriminated against in society and are taken care of by their families and volunteers. The daughter of Wang Jindong, who burned himself on Tiananmen Square, had been obsessed with Falun Gong for years. Now she has returned to a normal life in society and teaches in a kindergarten. Luo Xiangming, leader of a Falun Gong coaching station in Quchou County, Hebei Province, returned to a normal life and took up a job at the county’s Taxation Bureau after quitting Falun Gong. He has even joined the Communist Party of China.
8. In what ways have Falun Gong followers broken the law after the cult was banned?
The common features of cults are anti-humanity, anti-society and anti-science. Li Hongzhi’s Falun Gong is no exception. A portion of his followers have been instigated by Li Hongzhi to embark on the path of violating the law.
Li Hongzhi professed to be a “world creator”, the “Main Buddha of the Universe”, creating the illusion of establishing the Falun Kingdom to rule the world. The Chinese government banned Falun Gong, making Li Hongzhi unable to realize his scheme. But, he has instigated his followers to attack the Chinese government. Some followers have defied the danger to seriously sabotage law and order and even instigated people to overthrow the state power.
Some key Falun Gong members took advantage of Li Hongzhi’s doctrines to rape female followers, cheat them out of their money and property and engage in group sex. Du Hongyan, a backbone Falun Gong follower in Shenyang City defrauded other followers of 4.3 million yuan. A Falun Gong follower by the surname of Sun in Huixian County, Henan Province, raped 17 female followers in the name of “Double cultivation of a Man and a Woman” advocated by Li Hongzhi. Some Falun Gong followers put into action what Li Hongzhi said in Lecture Five “Double cultivation of a Man and a Woman” and organized group sex. In recent years, the police on the Chinese mainland have uncovered a number of group sex cases involving Falun Gong followers.
Some Falun Gong followers, induced by Li Hongzhi’s “driving away demons” and “salvaging people”, adopted cruel methods to kill people. According to statistics compiled by webizen “Bai Yi Zi”, by the end of July 2009, Falun Gong followers killed 53 people and disabled 28 others. On April 7, 2008, in the city of Changchun, Jilin Province, Falun Gong followers Wang Haipeng Yu Xuewei, Gao Hongqing and Jin Mingdong mauled their fellow follower Xiao Rong to death in the name of driving away demons. They violently kicked his head with slippers and used steel needles, boiled water and ice blocks and other extremist methods, breaking six of his ribs, destroying his liver, kidneys and lungs.