July 28, 1999
To the Editor:
The Chinese authorities' real objection to the spiritual movement Falun Gong lies not only in the group's alarming organizational capacity but also in its members' possible allegiance to an alternative source of authority, in this case Li Hongzhi, whose residence in New York places him beyond the Beijing leadership's control (front page, July 27).
Similar objections underlie the Government's wariness of Roman Catholics who acknowledge the Vatican and of Tibetan Buddhists who revere the Dalai Lama. Such religious groups are by definition latently subversive. In this logic, official tolerance can be premised only on group members' undertaking never to transform the threat of subversion into even potential reality.
Associate Professor of Chinese History
New York University