Falun Gong had something of a public relations meltdown in San Francisco this month. And despite its best efforts at spin control could not right its sinking ship within the Chinese American and gay communities in the Bay Area.
It all started over a popular holiday event. The group, which has been labeled an "evil cult" in China, claimed it was experiencing discrimination because its devotees would not be allowed to march in the Chinese New Year parade.
However, parade officials saw things quite differently.
"We have strict rules No political statements," said Wayne Hu, president of San Francisco's Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which runs the parade.
Falun Gong frequently uses whatever events it can to promote itself and increasingly Chinese American communities have decided to rebuff such efforts.
The group put pressure on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for a statement of support, but that effort seemingly backfired, ending in an empty resolution without mention of its avowed nemesis the Chinese government.
But this should come as no surprise to the followers of "Master Li Hongzhi," the founder of Falun Gong, who has been repeatedly described as both "homophobic" and a "racist."
The exiled leader of Falun Gong who now lives in New York teaches his followers that gays are "disgusting" and somehow a "black substance" accumulates within the bodies of gay men. "Disgusting homosexuality shows the dirty abnormal psychology of the gay who has lost his ability of reasoning at the present time," says Hongzhi. And one day he claims gays will be "eliminated" by "the gods."
In the liberal and gay friendly city of San Francisco even an empty resolution of support for Falun Gong has angered many.
"What a disappointing vote. I have compassion for the practitioners but I think the supervisors have been duped by the master's party line." Thomas Brown told the Bay Area Reporter.
"I challenge any gay person in this city to get any Falun Gong practitioner to state they do not agree with their master's belief. I have never heard them refute what he has said. There is deception here," Brown said. "I think it is a vote that will come back to haunt some of the supervisors."
Brown's roommate, Samuel Luo, called the resolution "a huge disappointment" and warned that the group will use it "to recruit members. It makes it hard for people like me to get family members out of the cult." Luo's parents are involved with Falun Gong and he has expressed concern for how the group has affected their lives.
"I think it is great that the leadership in the Chinese community recognizes the homophobia of this group and I would support their efforts not to let them march," said Thom Lynch, executive director of the LGBT Community Center
Interestingly, in a letter published by the San Francisco Sentinel Samuel Luo noted an apparent contradiction in Falun Gong's battle for human rights. "Last year when the International Cultic Studies Association organized a program on the Falun Gong in which I was one of the presenters, the Falun Gong threatened the organization with a lawsuit and successfully suppressed our freedom of speech" he said.
It seems that Hongzhi's followers have become adept at an old Scientology strategy. That is, filing what can be seen as harassment lawsuits against their perceived enemies. Lately this also included suing an Australian official for restricting their use of loudspeakers and banners outside a Chinese embassy reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
Apparently Falun Gong wants everyone to recognize its right to speak out loudly and boldly, but not the right of its critics like Luo to tell what they know in an organized public forum.
Falun Gong reportedly will be crashing the Chinese New Year parade in San Francisco, even though its members remain unwanted there reports Bloomberg News.
"They crashed the parade…[last year], and I am prepared for them to do this again this year," Wayne Hu told the press.
Hongzhi's followers don't seem to care how much they upset Chinese Americans, gays or anyone else, as they pursue their master's agenda.
Meanwhile North American Chinese communities just want to celebrate the coming New Year without political statements or "cult" entanglements.
L.A. Chung writing for the San Jose Mercury News said that Falun Gong "could espouse a doctrine based on loving fluffy kittens or for kicking Tibetan monks. I don't think the group's philosophies really matter to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce."
Li Hongzhi's followers have now filed a legal action to stop San Francisco from using $77,000 in city money to support the parade, which has left local Chinese leaders fuming and the public perception that they are spoilers.
The San Francisco parade in Chinatown is the largest such celebration in North America and the Chinese community there is the second-largest in the U.S. followed by New York. Fallen Gong has caused similar problems in New York surrounding community events there.
The narrow focus of Falun Gong devotees upon their own self-serving agenda continues to alienate many Chinese Americans. And after this most recent fiasco it appears doubtful that the controversial group will regain any ground or goodwill it has lost in the Bay Area.
(Cultnews.com, February 18, 2006)
Original text from: http://www.cultnews.com/?p=1738