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Falun Gong

Falun Gong (法輪功) is a Chinese Qigong practice with influences from Buddhism and Taoism, which purports to improve the mind, body and spirit.

It was introduced to the general public in 1992 by Li Hongzhi[?] and grew very swiftly in popularity not only in China but worldwide. It was popularised widely under the PRC government's supervision for 7 years. An estimate of the PRC government presented in 1998 on the public television (state owned) in Shanghai mentioned that in mainland China alone the number of practitioners were aprox. 70-100 million. The practice is present in more than 60 countries, mainly in those of North America and Europe.

The three basic moral principles of Falun Gong are: 'Zhen, Shan, Ren', which translate approximately as 'Truthfulness, Benevolence or Compassion, and Forbearance or Tolerance'. It is through focusing on these qualities that a Falun Gong practitioner is able to develop their Xinxing (moral character) which then gives them a greater potential to develop high levels of Gong ("energy", which is actually said to be essentialy different from "Qi") potency.

As well as a set of moral beliefs, there are five sets of exercises central to the Falun Gong system which are supposed to enhance the circulation of energy in the body. The final exercise, a sitting meditation, also helps to create a tranquil mind and, according to the teachings, strengthens 'Divine Powers' of the individual. All exercises are taught free of charge by other Falun Gong practitioners and are detailed in Li's books.

Although the practice was spread widely in mainland China for 7 years, it has been persecuted in the People's Republic of China since July 1999. Some argue that this happened because the number of Falun Gong practitioners in China grew to a larger number than the membership of the Communist Party of China. However others argue that groups similar to Falun Gong have suffered less or little persecution (in China there are 12 Christian churches currently banned and labeled as "evil sects"). However no evidence has shown that members of Falun Gong is more than the members of Chinese Communist Party, which is the largest political party in the world, consisting of 60 million people.

In April 1999, in Tianjin, as a result of an article in a local paper written by a member of Chinese Academy of Science[?], about a thousand Falun Gong practitioners surrounded the newspaper office. Some protesters were arrested and claimed that they were beaten by the police. Several days later, about 10,000 people gathered outside Zhongnanhai, the headquarters of Chinese Communist Party. It is believed by many that the government's efforts at crushing Falun Gong began after this demonstration.

This persecution is currently the subject of complaints by many worldwide human rights groups. In 2000, Ian Johnson[?] of the Wall Street Journal investigated the reports of abuse, and published a series of investigative articles that won him the Pulitzer Prize the following year.

The Chinese government claimed that Falun Gong is an evil cult. There are many reports that some believers hurt or kill themselves after reading the books by Li Hongzhi. Even before the crackdown, many scientists in China has already warned that there was no scientific evidence to show Falun Gong is beneficial for health.

Some people also think that Li's purpose of introducing Falun Gong is just to earn money. There is no evidence that Li has ever tried to overthrow or go against the government before 1999. Reports also said that Li did not even write the books himself. Many concepts of Falun Gong are taken directly from Buddhism, Taoism or other Qigong. The concept of "Falun" itself also long exists in Buddhism.

The campaign of government criticism started in 1999 was considered by most observers to be largely ineffectual until January 2001, when persons claiming to be Falun Gong members allegedly doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square. However, Li Hongzhi strongly denied that the persons can have been actual Falun Gong members, since killing is strictly forbidden by the principles and precepts of the movement. Some strange inconsistencies present on the video footage of the incident released by Chinese Central Television (the main TV channel in China) call into question the integrity of the material. An independent, third-party, investigation by North American media was denied several times by the PRC government. Many now consider that the whole incident was a media hoax and was set up by/with the Chinese government's consent in its campaign to discredit Falun Gong.

In 2001, a group of Falun Gong believers tried to burn themselves in Tiananmen Square. Among them there was a thirteen-year old kid. They were sent to hospital immediately and one of them died.

Nevertheless, most observers believe that the incident helped turn public opinion in China against the group and has had the effect of helping the government in intensifying its crackdown.

Whether Falun Gong is an "evil cult," as claimed by the PRC government, is subject to much debate.

Today Falun Gong is no longer influential in China. However outside China there are still many believers.

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