H-ASIA: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture
Date: Sat, 31 Jul 1999 02:19:22 -0400
From: Thomas DuBois <email@example.com>
Subject: Falun Gong - Impressions from Tianjin
I have not been reading H-Asia recently, so these comments may be superfluous, but I will write just in case - I am currently in Tianjin, finishing up doctoral research on popular religious groups and was here when the campaign against Falungong broke out. As I am sure you are aware, it has been a saturation campiagn on television, newspapers and other propaganda vehicles. This campaign is very closely modeled on the 1951 campaign against Yiguandao, which was directed at a more credulous population. From what I have seen in Tianjin, however (Tianjin remains one of the centers of the teaching) is open cynicism towards the campaign itself. Everyone seems to know someone (brother, cousin, neighbor) who follows Falungong, and most insist that it is just a form of qigong. Innocent inquiries such as "I see Falungong is in the news again" are answered by often bitter tirades about the campaign itself. Many even accuse the government of launching the campaign as a way of directing public attention away from more pressing problems at home. In other words, it has been written off by many as a political tool and is at least considered highly suspect by many more.
In the countryside, the campaign has gotten more tacit support, but even there, it is hardly accepted without criticism. Local religious organizations immediately recognize the resemblance to earlier campaigns - including the exaggeration of charges, as well as the nature of the charges themselves (cheating money, impeding science, connections to reactionary forces). Even in the villages, people seem to view the campaign as artificial in its intensity and questionable in its motives.
August 4, 1999
From: Jian-Zhong Lin [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Re: Falun Gong - Impressions from Tianjin
Regarding the warrant for Li Hongzhi:
The Chinese government's attack on Li does look over-enthusiatic to many of us who live outside China. But the warrant on Li is not based on his spreading superstition. According to the Chinese government, Li's Falun Gong Society is an illegal organization because it was never registered. Secondly, Falun Gong groups paralyzed government agencies, TV stations, newspapers, and universities with sit-ins. Those sit-ins are considered "demonstrations" requiring permits from the police which Falun Gong groups never applied for. A third reason for the warrant is over 20 law suits--so far--filed against Li by the families which have lost their loved ones to Falun Gong. The official figure is that, by July 26, 743 deaths have been reported to have resulted from the practice of Falun Gong.
Falun Gong has been around since 1992 and its practitioners never got into any trouble doing their thing in public. But on that fateful day in April, they stepped on the wrong toe by surrounding Zhongnanhai. The Chinese government may have over-reacted but its need for control/stability makes the campaign against Falun Gong understandable--although possibly objectionable . Both American media and unofficial Chinese media have reported that Jiang Zemin was personally furious at the sit-in outside Zhongnanhai. As we have known too well, politics, very often, is personal.
Eastern CT State University