The story of Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong began in 1988 in Changchun City, Jilin Province. Li Hongzhi was working for a state-owned grain and oil company in Changchun and, caught up in the post-Mao nationwide promotion of qigong, took classes in two of its disciplines. He later combined them with elements of Thai dance to create in the early 1990s the esoteric school notoriously known as the Falun Gong.
Before December 1994, Li Hongzhi had established his reputation as a qigong master with healing powers. The fees Li Hongzhi charged for his healing sessions ranged between scores and hundreds of Renminbi. Tickets to his training courses sold for RMB 30 to 50. At that time, Falun Gong practitioners were ordinary qigong enthusiasts.
Treating diseases with his qigong brought huge profits to Li Hongzhi, but his credibility was soon challenged.
Li Hongzhi was forced to refund a treatment fee of RMB 30 at the 1993 Qigong Expo in Beijing, at the insistence of Expo staff, when he failed to cure a particular case.
Another loss of credibility occurred at one of Li Hongzhi's training courses in August 1994, when Falun Gong adherent Li Shulin from Liaoning Province suffered a cerebral thrombosis. The qi that Li Hongzhi sent out failed to revive Li Shulin; he died a few days later.
December 1994 was the date of publication of Li Hongzhi's Zhuan Falun. It signified Li Hongzhi's elevation to spiritual leader of what was to become the Falun Gong cult.
Li Hongzhi thus transmogrified from qigong master to "greatest Buddha of the universe." The Introduction to Li Hongzhi compiled by the Falun Gong organization states: "At age 8, Li Hongzhi learned the essence of Buddhism and attained the supernatural powers of telekinesis, the ability to mend things, controlled thinking and the ability to become invisible. He understands the truth of the universe, has insights into life and can see both the past and future."
Each Falun Gong practitioner was required to buy and make twice daily obeisance to the above "Fa Photo" of Li Hongzhi, in which he wears a costumier-obtained robe and stands on what are actually papercuts of lotus leaves against a "Buddhist Light" backdrop.
Falun Gong thus evolved from qigong to "Dafa " (great law) wherein, as explained by Li Hongzhi in his preface to Zhuan Falun: "The Buddha Fa is most profound; among all the theories in the world, it is the most intricate and extraordinary science...The Buddha Fa enables humankind to understand the immeasurable and boundless world. Throughout the ages, only the Buddha Fa has been able to perfectly provide a clear exposition of humanity, every dimension of material existence, life, and the entire universe."
After publication of his book Li Hongzhi stopped teaching qigong and giving mass personal healings. He focused his energies instead on lecture tours, which enabled him to expound his theory to a wider audience. Li Hongzhi thus elevated Falun Gong's purpose from within the temporal sphere of physical health to a means of escape from earthly woes to eternal life on another plane thereafter -- as a god, Buddha or king. Li Hongzhi guaranteed Falun Gong practitioners immortality in 10 years. Shortly before the 2002 "deadline," however, he informed his followers that enlightenment was still a decade away.
Li Hongzhi illegally published more than 20 books in the Zhuan Falun veinwhich: "give guidance to practitioners in their cultivation of vital energy" prior to July 1999, when the Chinese government banned Falun Gong. The bulk of Li Hongzhi's adherents bought all 21 of his books, along with their meagerly revised editions. The Falun Gong merchandising business also continued to flourish on sales of Li Hongzhi photos and cushions.
Police investigated, from 1992 to the end of 1999, the illegal publication under the name of Falun Dafa Research Society of 10.57 million Falun Gong books, 5 million of the organization's audio and video products and1.29 million pictures. Sales of Falun Gong merchandise were found to have grossed RMB 1.61 billion and generated illegal profits of more than RMB 41 million.
Craig S. Smith's article American Dream Finds Chinese Spiritual Leader (Wall Street Journal, November 1, 1999) discloses Li Hongzhi's purchase, for several hundred thousand dollars, of a home in New Jersey, near Princeton University, within one year of arrival in the U.S. Also that Li Hongzhi earned US$10,000 or more per lecture during his tour of 1994.
It was at this point, however, that potential profits began being superseded by grave events.
More than 1,400 persons, directly or indirectly, died as a result of Falun Gong prior to its being banned by the Chinese government in July 1999.
The main causes of death were:
-- Practitioners refusing medical treatment, which resulted in their rapid deterioration and eventual death.
※ Huang Haoxiang, a retired worker from Shanghai and hypertension sufferer, refused to see a doctor or take medicine after May 1998, when he took up Falun Gong. It was untreated hypertension that led to Huang's death, from a cerebral hemorrhage, in June 1999.
This obdurate refusal to seek medical advice originated in Li Hongzhi's contention that: "Taking medicine while practicing Falun Gong indicates a lack of faith in Falun Gong's power to cure illness. If you truly believe, why take medicine?"
-- Belief by practitioners with schizoid tendencies that, on basis of the Falun Gong theory, committing suicide was a viable shortcut to enlightenment.
※ In January 1998, Wang Chengxiang, a 66-year-old retired worker from Heilongjiang Province, jumped six floors to his death in the belief that he would fly straight to heaven.
Li Hongzhi once said said: "The ability to let go of the mortal round of life and death signifies godship; the inability so to do signifies mortality."
-- Adherents being denounced as demons and killed by their fellow Falun Gong practitioners.
※ In February 1998, Falun Gong practitioner Wu Deqiao from Wujiang City, Jiangsu Province stabbed his wife to death, utterly convinced she had become a demon when she criticized his obsession with the cult.
Li Hongzhi once said "you cannot practice when distracted by devils," and "These devils must be killed."
Sieges by practitioners and threats leveled at the more than 20 media organizations who had publicized the dreadful harms Falun Gong had inflicted.
Beijing TV aired a report on May 24, 1998 on the severe psychopathic disorders suffered by Falun Gong practitioners. It prompted a furious siege on the TV station by thousands of Falun Gong practitioners.
Falun Gong practitioners mustering an attack on Beijing TV Station.
Shortly after, Li Hongzhi published his tract, Digging Out the Roots,in which he calls on Falun Gong practitioners to emulate their fellows in Beijing.
Falun Gong, at Li Hongzhi's command, gathered together the more than 300 adherents that surrounded and attacked Party and governmental organizations, and other public institutions, notably the Guangming Daily Press Office. These acts seriously threatened social stability and legal order.
Ten thousand Falun Gong followers illegally demonstrate on April 25, 1999, surrounding the Chinese central government compound of Zhongnanhai.
Falun Gong adherents besiege the Henan Provincial Government office building in mid-July 1999.
Falun Gong followers lay siege to the Hubei Provincial Government office buildings in 1999, at a crucial point in the province's flood relief measures.
The 22 July demonstration outside the Guizhou Provincial Government office building.
On July 22, 1999 the government, in response to voices from the masses, particularly clerical circles, legislated an official ban on the Falun Gong organization.
The Chinese government later made successful use of the mass media to convince two million or more followers to give up Falun Gong. This was achieved through portrayals of the early history of Li Hongzhi and Falun Gong, and reports on the deaths of 1,400 or more devotees. The campaign also included insider accounts of the organization by those who had managed to escape its clutches, as well as warnings from experts. Li Hongzhi's core members in China, namely, Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen and Ji Liewu, meanwhile, were sued and convicted for causing mass deaths by their violation of China's laws prohibiting cults.
The US became the new Falun Gong headquarters soon after the Chinese government had banned the organization. But Li Hongzhi continued to manipulate his remaining followers into violent acts that caused their death, disfigurement and spiritual enslavement.
On January 23, 2001, seven Falun Gong practitioners, five of them women including a 12-year-old girl, set fire to themselves on Tian'anmen Square. One woman died on the spot. A month later, her 12-year-old daughter also died from her horrific burns. Li Hongzhi had shortly before this act warned practitioners that time was tight, and that they should rapidly cast aside the temporal world and aim for enlightenment.
Young, pretty Chen Guo, student at the Central Conservatory of Music, before her self-immolation.
Burns covered 80 percent of Chen Guo's body.
On June 23, 2002, the Sino I satellite transmitter of scores of TV channels was attacked by Falun Gong signals from Taiwan. This onslaught on civil satellites that included Sino I, Asia Pacific Sat VI and Asia 3S, when 252 attacks occurred over a period of 160 hours, lasted until August 7, 2007.
The Chinese American man who attempted to destroy a communication cable in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province claimed in court that his activities could not be deemed as violations of law as long as they successfully disseminated "Dafa."
In recent years, Falun Gong behavior has changed considerably. The organization now plays the role of victim of persecution.
Li Hongzhi said, at the Teaching and Explaining Fa at the Metropolitan New York Fa Conference: "Dafa disciples should now focus on just three things: clarifying the facts; sending out righteous thoughts……; the third is cultivating yourselves and studying the Fa well. "
"Clarifying the facts" encompasses "discovering" and "circulating" the facts. One instance of the latter took the form of an article in the Falun Gong paper, Epoch Times, in March 2006. It told of a concentration camp in Shenyang, Northeastern China where, the article alleged, more than 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners were held. After periodically harvesting their vital organs for commercial purposes, a full two thirds were regularly cremated there. Local media, however, proved this story to be an unfounded. The findings of an investigative report by the US embassy in Beijing and consulate in Shenyang, published by the US Department of State also refuted the existence of any such camp. This is an example of the essential Falun Gong concept of "speaking the truth," whereby hearsay evidence of large scale persecution of Falun Gong members is disseminated in China in order to win sympathy.
The Sujiatun Thrombosis Treatment Center of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine in Liaoning Province.
The so-called crematory mentioned by Falun Gong media …
... Which turned out to be a boiler room
The rumor about the Sujiatun crematory was eventually quashed. But the organization continued to fabricate similarly damning stories. A subsequent article spoke of cases in other areas of China of: "live harvesting of organs from Falun Gong practitioners". Two Canadians, David Kilgour and David Matas, who had never been to China, published on July 6, 2006 a terrifying "Case Study Report" on the harvesting and sale of vital organs. But in January 2007 the pair stated in an amended "Report" that the evidence upon which that of July 6, 2006 had been based was little more than speculation. Also that it was unclear and riddled with inconsistencies, to the extent that it failed to support the allegation.
This is a further example of the Falun Gong concept of "clarifying the facts," whereby the organization fabricates and spreads tales of unspeakable persecution suffered by followers of Falun Gong in China.
The third item, "Sending forth righteous thoughts" is a kind of curse, whose use is strictly defined by Li Hongzhi. In practice, it is the constant public voicing of condemnation of any organization or individual that criticizes the organization. Li Hongzhi has also been known to circulate grim accounts of the deaths of Falun Gong criticizers consequential to "sending forth righteous thoughts" or of answering for what they have done to Falun Gong.
Foremost to those who still believe in Falun Gong, however, is their study and sustained wholehearted belief and trust in the organization, as well as wholesale rejection of negative media reports that inhibit the: "practice of no other manner of cultivation" as defined by Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong devotees genuinely believe that straying from the organization's stricture means ruination along with the rest of humankind. Minghui net, the main channel of communication for Falun Gong in China, does not have much new content in its website, the most updated news is that the promised time for enlightenment will be postponed for another ten years.
An unimaginable change has occurred in China Falun Gong taboos. Believers now feature largely in cultural events such as art exhibitions, choral and dance concerts, as well as in movies and on TV. All these cultural pursuits, however, fuse into the ultimate intention of generating a more positive, mainstream "Dafa" PR image. Falun Gong's New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) has since 2004 constituted the main cultural medium through which to disseminate Dafa, not least by means of its annual New Year spectacular.
The Falun Gong-organized "human rights torch relay," signifying disapproval of the Beijing Olympic Games, occurred in August 2007. The event, and its complete absence of foreign state government support, was barely mentioned in the western mainstream media. Another example of attempted Falun Gong-style veto is that of the New Year 119th Rose Float Parade of 2008, sponsored by the US city of Pasadena. On this occasion Falun Gong tried every means possible to ban the float celebrating the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but the American sponsors were immovable.
That Falun Gong is intent upon keeping tabs on its government, NGO and individual critics until it amasses evidence enough to cause trouble is evident in the Falun Gong claim on March 5, 2008; that it was investigating Chairman of the IOC Jacques Rogge with a view to prosecution. He would thus be punished for his instrumental role in the Beijing Olympic Games, and avowed opposition to politicizing them.
Such are the origins and features of the Falun Gong Organization, whose overseas adherents are given to believe that they are the latest generation in an age-old traditional Chinese cultural tradition.
Theoriginal intention of qigong was to synchronize mental and physical activity through breath control, thereby maintaining a healthy physique and high spirits.
Originally a master-disciple discipline enacted in small groups, the snowballing popularity of qigong among the broad masses during the late 1980s and early 1990s culminated in establishment of a special qigong research organization. Members of the organization made profits by teaching qigong, and some even broke away from the qigong mainstream to form their own schools to reduce the number of their competitors. Leaders of these "splinter" schools often assumed mystical, guru-style personas, claiming the power to heal diseases as serious as cancer without even touching a victim. These spiritual healing powers were demonstrated, for a hefty fee, at various mass rallies. Qigong training courses, which mainly comprised school leaders sending out healing, spiritually reviving qi to the multitude of disciples in attendance, were another money spinner.
(China Association for Cultic Studies, May, 2008)
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