On July 22, 1999, China's Ministry of Civil Affairs declared that the "Falun Dafa Research Society" and the "Falun Gong" organizations under its leadership were illegal and should be banned in accordance with the law. Then, what kind of illegal organization is "Falun Gong," after all?
For a few years prior to the ban, Li Hongzhi had been a very "capable" man. Driven by ulterior motives, he plotted behind the scenes, issued orders and decrees one after another, ordering practitioners across China to gather together to besiege and harass government organizations, enterprises and institutions here and there, and eventually to the point of besieging Zhongnanhai, the seat of the Chinese government. Large numbers of practitioners came and went at his command, as if under a magic spell. Under the pernicious influence of "Falun Gong," thousands of practitioners found their families disintegrated and themselves deranged, and some even committed suicide. Despite that, these practitioners believed they had attained all-round fulfillment in so doing. When the fraudulent nature of Li Hongzhi's teachings was fully revealed, "Falun Gong" organizations fell apart, and the absolute majority of "Falun Gong" practitioners became determined to make a clean break with their past. However, a handful of practitioners, who were still deluded and entranced by "Falun Gong"'s deceitful doctrines, and who refused to face the appalling facts of the tragedies that belief in it had caused, persisted in allowing themselves to be controlled by Li Hongzhi from afar, and continued to "defend" and sacrifice themselves for "Falun Gong" in spite of repeated persuasion. How on earth can "Falun Gong" exert so strong an evil influence on its followers' minds?
Only a cult exhibits such features. A lot of evidence shows that "Falun Gong" is no ordinary illegal organization, but in fact a cult in the true sense of the word. In short, "Falun Gong" is nothing but a cult. Li Hongzhi closely guarded the secret of "Falun Gong" as a cult by claiming on many occasions that "Falun Gong" is "neither heretical nor religious, certainly not a cult." This is just like a guilty man giving himself away by overly protesting his innocence. If we strip "Falun Gong" of all its ostentatious and pretentious trappings, all the salient features of a cult will be revealed.
1. Hierarchical Structure
One prominent feature of a cult is its hierarchical structure, through which practitioners strictly follow the instructions of the leader of the organization, and are willing to sacrifice themselves for this spiritual leader. Just like such cult leaders as Jim Jones (the People's Temple), David Koresh (Branch Davidians) and Shoko Asahara (Aum Shinrikyo), who boasted that they were God or God incarnate, Li Hongzhi brags that he is able to "transport and fix things, exercise mind control and make himself invisible" and even able to postpone the explosion of the Earth. He claims to be the Savior who "will transport mankind to the heavenly kingdom" and "bring mankind to a bright world." He made the preposterous statement that, "in the present world, only I preach the true law" and " if I cannot help you, then nobody can help you." He has gone so far as to boast that he is superior to Lao Zi (the founder of Taoism), Sakyamuni (Buddha) and Jesus Christ, and whatever he says is infallible scripture. He demands that people believe in him as the almighty Savior and practice "Falun Gong" under his direction for no other purposes but to control these practitioners' minds, manipulate them as he likes and collect money. Influenced by his deceptive remarks and ideas, the "Falun Gong" disciples who worship him and put themselves at his beck and call tend to think, act and even give their lives at his command.
2. Mind Control
Mind control is a basic means used by a cult head to consolidate his "divine" position and keep his disciples loyal to him. In exercising control over the minds of "Falun Gong" practitioners, Li Hongzhi takes three steps: enticing, brainwashing and intimidating. He entices his disciples with the bait of physical fitness and under the signboard of truthfulness, benevolence and tolerance, preaching that by practicing "Falun Gong" one can not only avoid illness, keep fit and cultivate one's mind but also can benefit one's relatives and friends. Then he demands that they "learn the Dafa (Great Law)" by rote and by copying what they are taught to do and say, and make a thorough break with all other theories and drive them away from their minds, so that they become obsessed with "Falun Gong." Besides, Li Hongzhi preaches that, being omnipresent, he can travel to many levels of space, protect his disciples, and monitor their minds and behavior. Thus he succeeds in gaining absolute obedience from his disciples, who think that they will prosper if they follow his instructions; otherwise they will die. Such mind control constitutes invisible shackles used to exercise organizational and bodily control over the practitioners. As a result, the practitioners become depressed and stupefied, and lose their sense of responsibility for their families while devoting themselves morbidly to the "cultivation" and "promotion of the Dafa." Li Hongzhi often says, "You can come and go as you like." However, he knows clearly that once their minds are controlled, the practitioners will never be able to tear themselves away from "Falun Gong." At the same time, they are exhorted to "promote the Dafa" and introduce more people to the organization in order to show their piety and pursue "all-round fulfillment." On July 4, 1998, on the way to Sanya to "promote the Dafa", seven "Falun Gong" practitioners from Haikou died and one was injured in a traffic accident. In a letter to Jiang Xiaojun, one of the practitioners who witnessed the tragedy, Li Hongzhi said, "Only those disciples who have gone to the world of the Falun (Wheel of the Law) can achieve all-round fulfillment. I know your heart is broken, but when you read this letter those eight disciples will have achieved fulfillment in a different world." It is with such evil skills that Li Hongzhi propels his disciples to the world of the Falun. And that is why "Falun Gong" has spread like a plague and the "Falun Gong" organization has grown in strength.
3. Fabricating Heretical Ideas
Every cult head fabricates heretical ideas to deceive and entrap the people. To expand the "Falun Gong" organization and realize his covert objectives, Li Hongzhi made up a series of heretical ideas, such as the "doomsday" theory and the "explosion of the Earth" fallacy, so as to frighten his disciples into following his instructions without question. Li Hongzhi lies that "all the periodic extinctions of human society in prehistory occurred when humanity plunged into total depravity," despising mankind as "depraved" and "hopeless," and spreads rumors about "catastrophe for mankind" and "impending doomsday." In addition, he also says, "Mankind will be destroyed 81 times," declaring that the Earth will explode, that only he can postpone the explosion and transport mankind to heaven, and that only "Falun Gong" is the "supernatural way" of saving the entire human race. In the past few years, oppressed by the threat of the "doomsday" theory and the "explosion of the Earth" fallacy, many "Falun Gong" practitioners have committed suicide or gone mad, and some of them have even killed their relatives, friends or others. Notwithstanding his utter ignorance of religion and modern science and technology, Li Hongzhi cobbles together many terms taken from Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and modern science and technology for his sinister purposes.
There is a general tendency for cults worldwide to take advantage of ordinary people's concern with ways to keep fit and combat illness. Some cults have established themselves by offering "a panacea for all diseases," some have claimed to be able to exorcise diseases by means of witchcraft, and so on and so forth. In the process, they have extorted large amounts of money out of their gullible followers. Whatever their guises, they all employ the camouflage of "curing diseases" to lure their victims. Li Hongzhi is no exception: He trumpets the absurd claim that one does not need to see a doctor or take medicine if one practices "Falun Gong" or acquires "Falun Dafa". At the same time, he instructs his henchmen to falsify records so that they purport to show that "illnesses have been cured by receipt of the Gong (force or energy)." The practitioners are instigated to discuss on a daily basis what they are supposed to have learned from practicing "Falun Gong," that is "belief is effect, and practice leads to benefit." Under the harmful influence of these false ideas, some sick practitioners deceived themselves by assuming that the "Falun Gong" rituals would cure them, and as a result refused to take medicine and stopped consulting doctors. Some died because of delayed medical treatment. Incomplete statistics show that more than 1,400 people across China have died as a result of practicing "Falun Gong," and over 100 practitioners have suffered psychological distress, as shown by the records of seven hospitals in Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei Province and Shandong Province. It is a great pity that these victims who started to practice "Falun Gong" for the sake of physical fitness surrendered their rights to health and life to Li Hongzhi, the preacher and manipulator of "Falun Gong." The series of heretical ideas fabricated by Li Hongzhi have caused sickness, madness, physical impairment and even deaths. Does not this amount to crimes? "Falun Gong" is an extreme example of the absurdity and harmfulness of cults.
4. Collecting Money
Most heads of modern cults are upstarts making their fortunes by illegal means. Li Hongzhi and some of his core henchmen once declared that the "Falun Gong" organization was not profit-oriented, in order to cover up its true money-making purpose. The "Falun Gong" organization collected money from its followers through the illegal production, publication and sales of books, pictures, video and audio products, cultist emblems and "Falun Gong" practicing accoutrements, which spread Li Hongzhi's lies. Li Hongzhi and other core members of the organization became rich overnight through exploiting the wealth and labor of "Falun Gong" practitioners and by evading taxes. They purchased villas and cars, obtained visas and bought green cards for entry to the United States, frequented gambling dens and other places of ill repute abroad, and spent money like water. The results of a preliminary investigation conducted by departments concerned show that from May 1992 to the end of 1994, Li Hongzhi collaborated with others in holding 56 sessions of "Falun Gong" training class and collected more than three million RMB yuan from the attendees. The Wuhan Shenshen Group Corporation, established by the man in charge of the Wuhan General Station of "Falun Gong" earned over 90 million yuan from illegally publishing books and audio and video materials related to "Falun Gong." According to a contract signed with Li Hongzhi, the corporation had to pay Li not only expenses for his authorship and proofreading but also 8% of the total listed price of those publications. This case, uncovered recently, and two other cases about "Falun Gong" organizations engaging in illegal business involve an illegal business volume of up to 160 million yuan. Moreover, the illegal profits thus earned exceed 40 million yuan. Li is reported to have fat bank accounts overseas.
5. Secret Association
In general, a cult is tightly organized with the hierarch at its core, in order to engage in clandestine activities. Li Hongzhi has claimed more than once that "the great way has no definite form" and "Falun Gong" is not organized but "convened by practitioners voluntarily." In fact, its supreme organ in China is the "Falun Dafa Research Society" in Beijing, headed by Li Hongzhi himself. Under the society are 39 general stations, 1,900 instruction centers, and 28,263 practice sites, controlling a total of 2.1 million practitioners throughout the country. "Falun Gong" has a complete organizational system based on the following documents drafted by Li Hongzhi himself: "Constitution of China `Falun Gong,"' "Requirements for Falun Dafa Instruction Centers," "Regulations on the Teaching of Falun Dafa by `Falun Gong' Disciples" and "Notice to Falun Dafa Practitioners." In addition, the society has various departments which are in charge of such work as public relations, instruction and practice, translation, office work and retirees' activities. It also has strict management rules regarding the establishment, merger and cancellation of general stations in localities as well as the examination, appointment and removal of station directors and assistant directors. Li Hongzhi requires that heads of instruction centers should be participants in the training classes organized by him. "Falun Gong" is well organized, and it communicated, conducted activities and plotted riots in secret. It is very difficult for an outsider or even an ordinary practitioner to know the inside story. With this tightly organized system and modern means of telecommunication such as the Internet, Li was able to send his secret orders speedily to every practitioner. The core members of "Falun Gong" were also good at using counter-reconnaissance means, for example discussing important issues in a moving car lest the public security organs monitor them. When planning the illegal besieging and harassing of Party and governmental departments, they also took elaborate precautions by requiring each practitioner present to wear an emblem or carry a book on "Falun Gong" so that they would easily recognize each other.
6. Endangering Society
The danger from a cult lies mainly in its extreme opposition to the rest of society. Most cult heads have political ambitions, either right from the beginning or when their strength has grown to a large extent. Dissatisfied with their control of an "underground kingdom," they desire to extend their control to the country or even the whole world. To fulfill their political ambitions, they either sacrifice the lives of their followers or shock the world with anti-social and anti-humanity outrages. Jim Jones, head of the People's Temple who attempted to realize his political ambitions by organizing a cult, enticed more than 900 cult members to kill themselves after his misconduct was exposed. After his efforts to enter the Japanese political arena were frustrated, Shoko Asahara of the Japanese Aum Shinrikyo cult retaliated by releasing nerve gas in a crowded Tokyo subway station, causing a casualty of more than 5,500. Li Hongzhi tricked the practitioners of "Falun Gong" into joining his "kingdom," and gradually separated them from mainstream society, eventually convincing them to fight against it. Since Li ordered his followers to surround the editorial office of the Guangming Daily in August of 1996, "Falun Gong" has held 78 illegal demonstrations, each with more than 300 people participating. The gathering of thousands of "Falun Gong" followers outside Zhongnanhai on April 25 this year fully reflected Li's attempt to fulfill his political ambitions. It was both a direct challenge to and a demonstration against the Central Government, and was also held in consonance with the anti-China machinations of outside forces. The action was carried out under the pretext of "asking for a fair comment on `Falun Gong.'" In relaying Li Hongzhi's "scripture," a core member of the "Falun Gong" organization said, "It would be better to shed some blood." Therefore, it was far from an attempt to get a "fair comment," as they would not have hesitated to allow ordinary practitioners to shed their blood.
A huge amount of evidence proves that "Falun Gong" is not "neither heretical nor religious" as Li Hongzhi would have us believe. All that "Falun Gong" preaches are false and heretical ideas. It engages in dishonest practices and gathers evil forces. That is to say, it is an illegal organization and a cult through and through.
A cult is not religious. It embraces heretical ideas and evil forces. Cult groups refer to those illegal groups that are found using religion, Qigong (traditional breathing exercises) or other things as camouflage, deifying their leading members, recruiting and controlling their ordinary members and deceiving people by concocting and spreading superstitious ideas, and endangering society. Li Hongzhi and the "Falun Gong" organization headed by him abused some religious and Qigong terms and concepts, but dared not call "Falun Gong" a religious sect or a kind of health-promotion organization. Such a nature of belonging to no party, religious sect or health-promotion body and the severe harm the organization has done prove exactly that "Falun Gong" is a cult. A clear distinction must be made between "Falun Gong" and normal religious and Qigong organizations. The broad masses, scientists and personnel from religious circles should fight resolutely against the activities organized by "Falun Gong" and the bad consequences thus produced.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, various cults have been cropping up and running amok in Western countries, creating a series of earth-shaking incidents and causing great harm to society. The demand of the people for a crackdown on such cults has never been so urgent as at present. No government will turn a blind eye to a cult's illegal deeds, which are a threat to people's lives and social stability. The Communist Party of China, which takes the well-being of the people as its prime concern, will firmly enforce its ban on cults. Leniency toward any cult organization means infringement on people's human rights.
A cult spreads through illegal organization, which gains influence with the aid of cult forces and thus does great harm to society. Only when the people have gained a full understanding of the nature of "Falun Gong" as a cult can their awareness of the harmful effects of the illegal "Falun Gong" organization be enhanced. This, in turn, will help us better perceive the significance of the CPC Central Committee's decision on settling the "Falun Gong" issue as soon as possible. It is a grave, complicated and fierce struggle that will take a long time. We should heighten our vigilance and win a complete victory by making the utmost efforts to eradicate the evil forces of "Falun Gong."
The campaign against "Falun Gong" should be launched in strict accordance with the law. Contradictions of different natures should be distinguished from one another, and close attention should be paid to the applicable scope of relevant policies with a view to uniting the vast majority and isolating the tiny minority of diehards. The central government stressed shortly after this campaign started that different policies should be applied to different people so as to unite, educate, and convert the vast majority of practitioners, while at the same time isolating and cracking down on the tiny recusant minority. Those wire-pullers, organizers and core members of the "Falun Gong" organization who refuse to mend their ways, follow Li Hongzhi, antagonize the people and violate the law, should be punished severely. The majority of practitioners, who were deceived and victimized due to lack of knowledge about the heretical nature of "Falun Gong," have now broken with "Falun Gong." Governments at all levels should help extricate these people from "Falun Gong" rather than confuse them with the diehard cult followers. They have suffered both physically and mentally from the mind control of "Falun Gong." It is true that some of them may not be able to change their minds for the time being, but they should not be condemned and spurned as cult members. We should stretch out our hands to help them and persuade them patiently. At the same time, it is our sincere hope that they can learn from their mistakes, discern the true features of "Falun Gong" as a cult, break with it resolutely and cooperate with us in preventing it from ever appearing again.
(People's Daily October 28, 1999)