H-ASIA:   H-Net list for Asian History and Culture [H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU]
February 20, 2000

From: "Charles A. Laughlin"
Subject: Religious Practice in PRC

The flap about Falun gong left a bitter taste in my mouth because, while I despise the Chinese government's harsh suppression of the movement, Falun gong itself inspires my sympathy far less than, say, the 1980s democracy movement. One of my strongest feelings coming out of the Falun gong suppression is that if the Chinese government would let up just a little bit more on traditional, organized religions, mainly Christianity, Buddhism and Islam, the appeal of organizations like Falun gong among the Chinese public would be much reduced and there would as a result be much less potential for friction between the faithful and the state. I hope that if there really is (slowly, hiddenly) growing tolerance for democracy, reform and religious practice among the authorities, they will learn from experience that they have little, indeed perhaps nothing, to fear (and much to gain) from organized religion if they are in harmony with it. Lest I be read on the list as an apologist for Communist dictatorship in China, I should explain that I don't mean to be, but given current conditions I have gradually been coming around to the view that the chances for positive change are much better in the form of small struggles within the system -- religion, freedom of the press, proliferation of electronic media, labor and peasant organization -- than they would be in the form of some kind of dramatic overthrow, even if peaceful a là the Philippines.

Charles A. Laughlin
Yale University

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