INTRO: Groups, such as the outlawed Falun Gong, are
not uncommon in China. V-O-A's Stephanie Ho reports
these groups are evidence that people are trying to
fill a vacuum in a country where the emphasis in the
last 20 years has been on economic development.
TEXT: China is floating in a sea of change - as
people worry about their jobs, health care and the
education of their children.
Many analysts say President Jiang Zemin has none of
the charisma of his two predecessors, Mao Zedong or
Deng Xiaoping, which means today's China lacks a
This drift has been exacerbated(made worse) by the
recent emphasis on material improvements, while less
attention has been paid to spiritual sustenance.
More than two decades ago, Mr. Deng declared that to
get rich is glorious. This phrase became the
country's new motto, as it hurtled toward rapid
economic growth and focused on improving living
One result of this is the rise of groups like the
outlawed Falun Gong, which blends Buddhism and Taoism
with meditation and traditional breathing exercises,
known as Qigong.
Freelance journalist Sima Nan, who has spent more than
a decade working to debunk what he calls fake
spiritual groups, says the existence of Falun Gong is
not an independent phenomenon.
Mr. Sima says Chinese history is full of charismatic
masters like the group's founder, Li Hongzhi. He adds
that Chairman Mao, who founded China in 1949 and was
the country's top leader until his death in 1976, was,
himself, actually quite similar to these masters.
// SIMA CHINESE ACT - IN FULL, FADE OUT //
Mr. Sima says the image of Mao Zedong looking down
from the Tiananmen rostrum while millions of people
fervently shout the Chairman's praises reminds him of
a Qigong exercise.
Mr. Sima says Falun Gong is not even the largest group
of its kind in China, and that outlawing it will not
solve the problem.
The need for a spiritual compass is evident in Falun
Gong followers - who say it has given them a moral
framework and teaches them to be good people.
Twenty-five year old member Mr. Wang, a bank clerk who
came to Beijing from northeastern Jilin province, says
he used to smoke and drink liquor before he starting
studying Falun Gong.
// WANG CHINESE ACT - IN FULL, FADE OUT //
Mr. Wang says by getting rid of his bad habits and
becoming healthier, he is able to work hard and make
more money. This way, he says, Falun Gong is not only
beneficial to his body and soul, it also helps him
improve his material life. He says given this
reasoning, he is baffled by the government ban.
The size of Falun Gong may be one reason the
government is trying so hard to quash (destroy) it.
The actual membership lies somewhere between Falun
Gong's claim of 100-million followers and the
government's estimate of only two-million. By
comparison, the ruling Chinese communist party has
around 60-million members.
Last week, thousands of Falun Gong followers from
around the country descended on Beijing to protest a
crackdown on the group that began in July. The
Chinese government officially branded it a cult, and
then, on Saturday, passed legislation outlawing groups
it considers cults.
The government also announced it has brought criminal
charges against four Falun Gong leaders, who will be
the first from the group to go on trial.
In the meantime, Mr. Wang says he does not know what
he will do next. But he says many fiercely devoted
Falun Gong members, who have already come to the
Chinese capital, want to continue appealing to the
government to change what they consider to be a wrong
02-Nov-1999 07:18 AM EDT (02-Nov-1999 1218 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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