Last week, as Macau prepared to celebrate the first anniversary of its handover to China, police scuffled with Falun Gong practitioners who protested the Chinese government’s crackdown on the group. As Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrived, authorities detained more than 20 adherents of the meditation sect.
A year ago, China formally labeled Falun Gong a cult. An estimated 100 million Chinese citizens, including members of the Communist Party, are practitioners. Beginning in December, China intensified its crackdown by demolishing hundreds of churches and temples practicing “unauthorized” worship along the southeastern coast.
Beijing charged that Falun Gong: “fully abandoned national pride, threw themselves into the arms of overseas anti-China forces and were willingly used by international hostile forces as tools to interfere in China’s internal affairs.” According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, scores of the Falun Gong members arrested have been tortured to death during detention.
Danny Schecter, author of “Falun Gong’s Challenge to China: Spiritual Practice or Evil Cult?” sees a popular movement that is being persecuted for its religious freedom. He charges that China has jailed 35, 000 Falun Gong followers and destroyed 7.8 million books by the movement’s leader, Li Hongzhi.
Critics charge that Falun Gong is a greedy cult manipulating gullible followers. Christopher Hitchens in a recent “Nation” column called Falun Gong a “fringe sect that babbles about higher consciousness and the supernatural.” Its leaders, he says, have warned of the dangers of homosexuality and have “induced the credulous to part with their money” through trickery.
- Li Li, Professor of Economics at Pace University, New York City and a practitioner of Falun Gong for four years.