Maybe you haven't heard: the latest craziness happening in
China is the large-scale protests against the recent
banning of the heretofore little known New Age
religion known as Falun Gong (pronounced fah-luhn gung).
The Chinese government has launched an all out campaign
against the estimated two million followers in China,
including mass arrests, and BRUTAL propaganda attacks,
which have now spilled onto the Internet.
Despite the official ban, tens of thousands of angry followers of the sect have
been proving its popularity by streaming out to large-scale protests all over
China. Tiananmen Square hasn't seen so many protectors since the 1989
student crackdown. Many of them have been arrested -- some viciously beaten,
and dragged into police vans by their hair.
The Chinese government outlawed Falun Gong on July 22, when it feared the
organization was getting too big, and posturing toward political power. China
does not allow independent political organizations of any kind, fearing
eventual challenges to the supreme uber-rule of the Chinese Communist Party.
Like the followers of Tai Chi, Falun Gong followers do funny exercises in
public parks, and other large outdoor areas. The religion is sort of an
amalgamation of Buddhist and Taoist philosophies, deep breathing exercises
known as Qi Gong, with a dash of martial arts thrown in.
Started by a former clerk and trumpet player named Master Li Hongzhi
(pronounced Hongshee) in 1992, Falun Gong quickly grew in China, and so did
Li's legend. Some of his followers claim he can perform fantastic feats, such
as cure cancer and turn white hair black. By 1995, his following was so
large, and his "energy potency" at such a high level, that the Chinese
authorities chased him out of the country.
Currently he is a U.S. citizen living in New York. It is rumored that he spent
significant time in Canada, where he honed his philosophies and literature.
Once the decision to suppress the sect was made, the roust was swift and
extreme. At least 100 spiritual leaders of the following were rounded up all
over the country, homes of practitioners ransacked, and nearly two million
books and other Falun Gong materials confiscated and quickly tossed into
Beijing has ordered the arrest of the Master Li, and purportedly even offered a
$500 million reduction of the United States' trade surplus in exchange for Li's
extradition back to China. Lucky for him, he has a green card.
The Chinese government has also launched a massive propaganda offensive, which
includes an hour a day of anti-Falun Gong denouncements on Central China
Television (CCTV). The Gongers are accused of spreading "superstitious, evil
thinking," and advocating everything from eschewing scientific medicine to mass
suicide. The followers of Falun Gong deny the allegations.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this story is how both the Chinese
government and the followers of Falun Gong have been using the Internet. China
immediately shut down every Falun Gong Web site within its reach, and suspended email
access throughout the country for 48 hours after the ban.
There is a large International community of Falun Gong followers, spreading the
word of Master Li, and the latest news and information about what's going on in
China, on Internet forums and swastika-bedecked Web sites (the swastika seems
to be a symbol important to Falun Gongers), but the Chinese Government is
furiously on the Info Warpath.
The Associated Press is reporting that Falun Gong Web sites in the United States and
elsewhere have been under heavy attack by hackers, who may be in the employ of
the Chinese government. One ham-fisted hack attempt was traced back to the
Chinese national police bureau in Beijing.
There are also anti-Falun Gong Web
sites maintained by the Chinese authorities.