Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Where Can You Say "Falun Dafa Is Good"?

While in Taitung, Taiwan a couple of days ago I saw this sign:

sign in English and Chinese saying Falun Dafa is good

There was at least one other similar sign elsewhere in Taitung.

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a "spiritual discipline" that has roots in China and was once viewed positively by the Chinese government.  However, as noted in Wikipedia: the mid- to late-1990s, the Communist Party and public security organs increasingly viewed Falun Gong as a potential threat on account of its size, independence from the state, and spiritual teachings. By 1999, some estimates placed the number of Falun Gong adherents at over 70 million, exceeding the total membership of the Chinese Communist Party.[8]

In July 1999, Communist Party of China (CPC) leadership initiated a ban on Falun Gong and began a nationwide crackdown and multifaceted propaganda campaign intended to eradicate the practice. In October 1999 it declared Falun Gong a "heretical organization."[1][9][10] Human rights groups report that Falun Gong practitioners in China are subject to a wide range of human rights abuses; hundreds of thousands are believe to have been imprisoned extra-judicially, and practitioners in detention are subject to forced labor, psychiatric abuse, severe torture, and other coercive methods of thought reform at the hands of Chinese authorities.[11][12][13][14] In the years since the suppression campaign began, Falun Gong adherents have emerged as a prominent voice in the Chinese dissident community, advocating for greater human rights and an end to Communist Party rule.

The signs brought to mind something I saw while in Seattle, USA for a business trip two winters ago:

banners on hillside saying Falun Dafa Stop Genocide in China

On this small grassy mound near the popular Pike Place Market in Seattle were people presenting information about the struggles of Falun Dafa in China.  The most visible banners say, "Falun Dafa -- Stop Genocide in China".

On numerous occasions I've informally shown my photos from the US to friends in China.  If the above photo from Seattle comes up it can sometimes cause a stir.  I recall one time in particular when a friend was shocked that some people in the US would support Falun Dafa and even suggest that China is conducting genocide.  I didn't know much about Falun Dafa so together we read the Wikipedia entry on it and further searched the Internet (using my VPN to avoid any potential censorship due to China's Great Firewall).  Much of what she believed was consistent with the efforts of the Chinese media described in the Wikipedia entry on Falun Dafa under the section "Media Campaign".  For example:

According to China scholars Daniel Wright and Joseph Fewsmith, for several months after Falun Gong was outlawed, China Central Television's evening news contained little but anti-Falun Gong rhetoric charging that it cheats its followers, separates families, damages health, and hurts social stability. The government operation was "a study in all-out demonization," they write.[146] Falun Gong was compared to "a rat crossing the street that everyone shouts out to squash" by Beijing Daily;[147] other officials said it would be a "long-term, complex and serious" struggle to "eradicate" Falun Gong.[148]
On the eve of Chinese New Year on 23 January 2001, five people attempted to set themselves ablaze on Tiananmen Square. The official Chinese press agency, Xinhua News Agency, and other state media asserted that the self-immolators were practitioners while the Falun Dafa Information Center disputed this,[150] on the grounds that the movement's teachings explicitly forbid suicide and killing,[151] and further alleged that the event was a cruel but clever piece of stunt-work.[152] The incident received international news coverage, and video footage of the burnings were broadcast later inside China by China Central Television (CCTV). Images of a 12 year old girl, Liu Siying, burning and interviews with the other participants in which they stated their belief that self-immolation would lead them to paradise were shown.[150][153] Falun Gong-related commentators pointed out that the main participants' account of the incident and other aspects of the participants' behavior were inconsistent with the teachings of Falun Dafa.[154] Washington Post journalist Phillip Pan wrote that the two self-immolators who died were not actually Falun Gong practitioners.[155] Time reported that prior to the self-immolation incident, many Chinese had felt that Falun Gong posed no real threat, and that the state's crackdown had gone too far. After the event, however, the mainland Chinese media campaign against Falun Gong gained significant traction.[156] As public sympathy for Falun Gong declined, the government began sanctioning "systematic use of violence" against the group.[157] According to Falun Gong websites, the number of Falun Gong adherents tortured to death rose from 245 in 2000 to 419 in 2001.[158]

After reading several sources on the Internet that day, I don't think she was convinced that Falun Dafa was necessarily "good" and that a genocide had occurred, but she was now deeply suspicious of much of what she had previously learned about Falun Dafa and how the Chinese government responded.
The full Wikipedia post on Falun Dafa can be found here.  It is detailed and provides numerous references.  I suspect that many, whether in Mainland China, Taiwan, the US, or elsewhere would find much in the entry that would be new to them.  What people take away from it could be very different, though.

For now, I simply want to say that like the students' use of Facebook in Hualien, Taiwan discussed in the previous post, the signs in Taitung contrast with what is possible in Mainland China.  I doubt such signs would be permitted to stand long in Mainland China.  I certainly haven't seen any.

Signs supporting Falun Dafa may seem like a very distant issue from access to Facebook.  However, you don't need to make a sign to share the opinion "Falun Dafa is Good" with many people.

You could do it with Facebook as well.

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