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Inside Falun Gong

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http://www.writing.co.nz/bookclub/?p=4

 

 


Inside Falun Gong

“Witnessing History: One woman’s fight for freedom and Falun Gong” Jennifer Zeng, Allen & Unwin.

Like many, I have been flabbergasted at the Chinese government’s crackdown on Falun Gong. What on earth have they done to deserve persecution? Even if it is a weird cult, why put Falun Gong practitioners in prison?

So I read Jennifer Zeng’s personal account with interest (and visited various web sites in search of more information too). Sure enough, they seem a harmless bunch. What is Falun Gong? It’s a set of Qi Gong exercises for health plus a simple Buddhist-based philosophy. Its leader seems to live quietly in the USA without stirring up his followers to any political activity. All they want is to practise their religion in peace.

Truthfulness, compassion and forbearance is the Falun Gong philosophy, and boy, do they need forbearance. Jennifer Zeng describes her discovery of Falun Gong and the instant benefits to her health. Qi Gong became very popular in China in the 80s, she says, but there is a separate version for every health problem. In 1992, Li Hongzhi started teaching Falun Gong. By July 1999 Falun Gong was said to have had 70 million practitioners in 40 countries.

Jennifer Zeng, a young mother and scientist, was arrested, detained, tortured and “re-educated” over 12 months. When released, she was expected to collaborate with police and fled to exile in Melbourne.

So why the phenomenon of Falun Gong? I am guessing that Chinese people were hungry for a clear moral philosophy with a Chinese flavour. That the simplicity of the exercises appeals, and the fact that they are said to take you straight to a high level. That a unified approach automatically boosts the numbers. That persecution itself created a movement: otherwise practitioners could have happily practised alone or in small isolated groups forever.

And why this ruthless persecution by the Chinese authorities? Fear of religion? Fear of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance? Fear of arms waving around in the air?

The only nutty thing in Jennifer Zeng’s book is the Appendix, an “open letter to the media, 8 November 1999″. Here she attempts to persuade editors and journalists that evolution is not scientifically proven and the existence of God is scientifically proven. Oh, Jennifer, Jennifer, why did you do it? This is not Falun Gong, this is not Buddhism. It throws the whole book out of whack.

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