Post-Mao Chinese society subsists within the Communist governance system that has been enforced since the triumph over the Nationalist Party in 1949. A government that controls literally every aspect of Chinese lifestyle, the Communist Party leaves little room for any form of liberty, whether it is regarding the size of your family or your religious preference. In particular, the regime stands strongly against any new organization, affiliation, or movement with a unique ideology, and insists that an organization or a movement must undergo complete state-control before it is officially legalized.
The fundamental reason behind this suppression of non-governmentally controlled innovative beliefs is simple: fear. China has a historical precedent for fear of new groups or organizations, particularly if they are large with a captivating leader, as every past form of political uprising has involved a large mass of people lead by a charismatic leader. The Communist Party is constantly concerned with the idea that another large movement will be able to defeat their own degenerating administration, mainly because of the vast amount of anti-Communist protestation that has occurred over the past few decades.
Falun Gong, interchangeably known as Falun Dafa, is therefore openly susceptible to the Communist Party’s attack. It is a movement that is neither state-run nor state-appreciated, and its popularity is astounding – since its public inauguration in 1992 by its founder Li Hongzhi, the movement has grown to such an extent that it has more members than that of the Communist Party. Said to be a practice and not a religion, the spiritual movement known as Falun Gong aims to attain improvement in this life (rather than achieving an afterlife) and health benefits by simply studying the practice’s teachings and by performing five meditative exercises.
Falun Gong’s overall purpose can be seen in the literal sense of its name, “Dharma wheel practice”- the Dharma wheel is a literal form of inner energy that rotates within the human body and unites an individual with the rotation of the cosmos. Falun Gong movement members trust that focusing the mind on a visualized wheel spinning within the center of the body will allow for spiritual healing, which in turn will lead to biological healing (such as preventing and curing illnesses, provoking well-being and extending one’s lifetime).
As the movement attempts to cultivate Truth, Benevolence, and Forbearance, which are referred to as the supreme principles of the universe, during the performance of the exercises, it is possible to see how an outsider might perceive the movement as a religion rather than as a health practice because of the lack of distinction between what is spiritual and what is physical. However, members of Falun Gong see their exercises as something they do, not something they believe, and therefore do not consider Falun Gong a religious movement.
The Communist Party does not agree. Utilizing the argument that the Falun Gong movement is indeed a religious one, the government claims that the movement is both a cult and a threat to the safety of the Chinese people. The silent protest of ten thousand movement members outside the Zhongnanhai, the compound of the Communist Party leadership in Beijing, on April 25, 1999, proved to be the deciding factor for the government to ban the movement in mid-July of that year.
The Communist Party used and still does use violence, false propaganda, reeducation, imprisonment, and labor camps to suppress the movement’s existence throughout the country, and is even going as far as attempting to suppress its spread to other parts of the world. This has consequently sparked a diverse collection of opinions, all of which attempt to debate the ethicality of the government’s actions. Is utilizing unmerited methodology that defies basic human rights necessary to prevent what is only a fear of the government and not an actual political issue?
Evidently, the Chinese government’s fear of having a possible political takeover blocks rational decision-making, and it has come to the point that anything that may touch the minds and hearts of more Chinese citizens than the Communist Party is valued as a threat, regardless of whether or not any political ideology is involved. The Communist Party attempts to justify the prohibition of religious or spiritual freedom that is not state-controlled by claiming certain facts about Falun Gong that have been either exaggerated to prove their points or completely falsified.
Such an example would be the propaganda campaign sponsored by the government, in which there was a gross publication of statements from people identified as former Falun Gong movement members denouncing the movement and its leader, as well as praising the Communist Party’s rigid action against the movement. This propaganda campaign was released in hopes of convincing as many Falun Gong members as possible to denounce the movement. However, there is no way to prove that these supposed former movement members exist.
The Party also claims that the Falun Gong movement has caused many deaths, supposedly because people refused medical treatment due to their Falun Gong beliefs. However, this allegation cannot be independently verified. The Communist Party even tries to go as far as stating that the Falun Gong’s demonstrations proved to be illegal under Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Law, as they were the work of an alleged heretical organization that is attempting to besiege the government.
However, the demonstrations held by the movement were entirely peaceful. The government’s attempts at using fallacious information and hyperbole to validate the outlawing of the Falun Gong movement are weak, and therefore in no way justify the ways in which the government attempts to restrain Falun Gong followers. Thousands of Falun Gong members have been imprisoned for their association with the Falun Gong movement.
Many members have been sent to labor camps, or deported for reeducation. Detention centers use torture devices, such as forcibly inserting electric batons into female practitioners’ genitalia and shocking them, or applying electric shocks to sensitive areas such as palms, foot arches and nipples. Detention center police officers also beat Falun Gong members upon arrival, stating that is a direct order from high above in the Communist Party.
Torturing by force-feeding members sickening drinks that cause internal injury, or forcing them to denounce Falun Gong as they step on a photo of leader Li Hongzhi (while being shocked electrically) also occurs in these centers. Can the Communist Party honestly claim that their violent and torturous methods of suppressing the movement are justifiable? Can the Communist Party assert that outlawing the movement and tormenting those that do not abide by the forbiddance of this personal spirituality are ways to protect the country’s government of what is not even a political organization?
The fact that the Communist Party actually believes in utilizing phony information to justify the outlawing of the Falun Gong movement when it is really causing absolutely no harm to society is revolting. The lack of spiritual freedom allowed in China is demeaning, as every person should be permitted freedom of thought. Even if the Communist Party perceives the Falun Gong group as a religion and the group considers itself a practice, the government has no morally correct way of prosecuting Falun Gong members in such violent ways if they are not causing any direct harm to society.
If the Party fails to recognize its wrongdoings effectively in the near future, its ability to maintain political power might decline because of its own inability to recognize that an effective government caters to the general public. With the Falun Gong movement encompassing such a vast amount of people, it could just be that the political future of the Communist Party will deteriorate at the hands of the very people whom are trying to maintain it.