Home  /  Editor's Pick

Falun Gong excluded from Asian fest

2009-06-22 Author:By: Peggy Fletcher Stack

A small skirmish erupted at last weekend's Asian festival, pitting festival organizers against Falun Gong practitioners.

Festival spokesman Michael Kwan, a judge in Taylorsville, said the problem was simply a matter of the group not following the rules and pleasing the sponsors, while Utah's tiny Falun Gong community claims it's about Chinese politics.

Sometime before the festival, Patrice Loung, a practitioner of Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa, as it is also called) applied for a booth at the popular event. The group, which says it preaches a unique set of meditative exercises meant to understand the truth of human life and to cultivate higher levels of existence, had space at the 2007 Asian event. Members decided it was a good venue to dispel some myths about their beliefs and practices.

Initially, organizers approved the Falun Gong application. After further investigation, organizers denied it.

The rejection was based on a negative experience at the 2007 event, Kwan said.

Falun Gong came in at the last minute without properly applying, and, while performing on the stage, covered up sponsors' banners with their own.

"They went overboard with not paying for their booth and offending sponsors," he said. "Because of this, the committee decided they would not be allowed to participate for five years."

Falun Gong members also distributed fliers about how the Chinese government had persecuted some 70 million Falun Gong practitioners during the past few decades.

"I have no problem with their religion," Kwan said, "but we are here to celebrate our culture in Utah. It's not a place for political messages about China or anywhere else."

A Falun Gong practitioner said the 2007 banners simply read, "Truth, Compassion and Tolerance," and "Falun Dafa is good."

Falun Gong representatives then sought help from Sen. Bob Bennett's office, Rep. Jason Chaffetz's office and Linda K. Oda, the state's director for Asian Affairs.

Festival organizers plan to meet with Falun Gong members in the coming weeks.

"We have no interest in not letting groups participate," Kwan said, "but you also can't break the rules."

(The Salt Lake Tribune, June 21, 2009)

Original text from: http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_12651435