On April 15, 1999, 10,000-15,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered outside the central government offices in Beijing, China, to protest a slanderous attack on their organization in a state-sponsored magazine. Since then, according to human rights groups, the Chinese government has waged a vitriolic attack on what they claim is an "evil cult," comparing it to the Branch Davidians in America or the Aum Shinri Kyo in Japan. There have been 70 deaths and 50,000 arrests in the crackdown. Almost 8 million books by the founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, have been burned.
In this report and reader, veteran journalist and Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Danny Schechter takes a hard look at this assault on the spiritual movement that claims 100 million practitioners that is about double the size of the membership rolls of the Chinese Communist Party.
Falun Gong, which can be translated as the wheel of law, is a branch of qigong one of the four pillars of Chinese traditional medicine along with acupuncture, massage, and herbal remedies. This nonviolent spiritual movement emphasizes working on mind, body, and spirit in tandem. An American practitioner of Falun Gong calls it an exercise system with five sets of physical movements; a meditation practice; and a moral code emphasizing the virtues of truth, compassion, and forbearance.
In order to broaden the understanding of the Chinese government's attack on Falun Gong, Schechter includes material on a timeline of major events; experiences of practitioners in China under the crackdown; representation of the movement in the Chinese state-controlled media; human rights reports; and teachings of Li Hongzhi, the 72-year-old exiled leader of the group who lives in Queens, New York.