H-ASIA: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture [H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU]
January 3, 2001
From: Patsy Rahn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Jumping/falling deaths
On Jan. 3, 2001 AFP and BBC had stories from the Hong Kong based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy regarding several Falun Gong followers dying, respectively titled "Four More Falungong followers die in police detention: rights group" and "Falun Gong members `die after beating.'
Four more followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement have been killed in Chinese police custody in the past two weeks, a human rights group has said. In the reports, one of the people, a 32 year old woman named Su Jinghua, died after she fell off her sixth floor balcony. This is the ninth death of a Falun Gong practitioner by falling or jumping, as reported in the press. This report is the first time that the Information Center, or the FLG office, has suggested that the person fell due to contact with someone else. The AFP report says: "Meanwhile, Su Jinghua, 32, was also reported dead after she fell or was pushed off the sixth floor balcony of her apartment in Suining city . . . She had locked herself in her apartment in an effort to avoid being arrested and got into a fight with the police after they tried to lower themselves into her apartment from the roof. During the fight she fell from the balcony, the center said." The BBC report states that she "fell to her death from her sixth-floor apartment when police tried to arrest her." Of the nine deaths that have occurred by jumping or falling, three have been people who jumped from moving trains, and six from jumping or falling from a window. The very first news story that reported a FLG death (as far as I can tell) was the death of Wang Guoping, who fell from an 8th storey window, his death reported 27 October 1999 by AP and CNN. Others who died by falling from an upper storey window include: Yao Baorong, reported May 2000; Li Faming, reported September 2000; Zhuang Guangxin and Zhong Hengjie, reported October 2000, and Su Jinghua reported Jan. 2001. Those who died from jumping from a train were: Zhao Dong and Chen Ying, reported October 1999; and Zhang Zhiyou, reported October 2000.
The FLG suggests that these jumping deaths were due to the practitioners responses to torture at the hands of police, or a fear of further persecution. However, Li has stated in his teachings that one is not to commit suicide in order to avoid suffering, so these deaths are not referred to as suicides by the FLG, although they are listed as suicides by the Chinese government. The only news report that quotes an eye witness is a 6 September 2000 report by AFP, "Three More Chinese Falun Gong Members Die in Police Custody." It states that Li Faming, a 52 year old man, died 10 August "under suspicious circumstances" after the "police took him to his apartment." It goes on to say that "several of Li's colleagues then saw him falling from a window of his 4th floor apartment...(and) A spokesman at the state-owned-factory (said) it appeared Li jumped from the window." The report goes on to present the interpretation given by the police and the FLG: "Police said Li committed suicide, but Sophie Xiao, a Falun Gong spokeswoman based in Hong Kong, said it is against the group's teachings to commit suicide."
If these jumping/falling deaths are not suicide in order to avoid suffering, how can they be understood? In the article "Suicide as resistance in Chinese society," Sing Lee and Arthur Kleinman (see: Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance) point out that China has the largest number of reported suicides in the world, and that suicide has a long history in China where it has often been connected to societal critiques. It is possible that these deaths are not, or not only, a desperate act in a moment of fear, but a political protest.
There is also another possible influence that should be considered. In his teachings, Li states that he has special powers that will protect every practitioner of FLG so that, as he said, "you will not be exposed to real dangers." (Zhuan Falun, Lesson 3, Teacher 5/6). He explains he can do this because he has "countless Law bodies who possess very great divine powers and my Law potency, and who can display great supernatural powers and great Law potency." Accordingly, every FLG practitioner will be "followed by more than one of my Law bodies" and is therefore "under the protection of my Law bodies, so you will never be in any danger." Li repeatedly states that his law body will protect a practitioner. He tells them: "I assure you that you will be in no danger."
Li also teaches that at a certain point, when a practitioner's "Great Heavenly Circuit is opened up," that they will be able to fly. In Zhuan Falun, the main FLG text, he says: "In fact, let me tell you that a person will be able to take off in the air once the Great Heavenly Circuit is opened up, and this is so simple... I would say that it is not incredible for many thousands of people to be able to reach this level, because the Great Heavenly Circuit is, after all, the beginning step of cultivation" (Lesson 8, Heavenly Circuit).
Li's teachings say that his Law body will always be there to protect a practitioner, that they will never be in any real danger and that at some point they will be able to fly. Could there be a connection between the teachings and the jumping /falling deaths? In a moment of anxiety and fear, and/or a moment of heightened belief in Li's teachings, could some practitioners have put their total trust and faith in the teachings to the point where they have leapt, fallen, expecting to be protected, expecting to escape?