Emergency & Security Service
WRITENET Paper No. /
PR CHINA: FALUN GONG:
ASSESSING ITS ORIGINS AND PRESENT SITUATION
Barend J. ter Haar
Sinological Institute, University of Leiden
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
CP 2500, CH-1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Web Site: http://www.unhcr.ch
The Falun Gong was founded by Li Hongzhi in 1992 in the north-eastern Chinese city of Changchun. It rapidly became a major popular movement, both in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) itself and in Chinese communities elsewhere. It was also successful on a small scale among Westerners. The movement explicitly denies that it is religious in nature. However, Li’s teachings explain the cosmos and man’s place in it in the same definitive way and with the same purpose of giving meaning and direction that religious movements usually do. There is a foundation myth, cosmology, elaborate ethical thinking and ritual (the Falun Gong exercises). The Falun Gong builds on traditional religious ideas in a number of ways, modifying them in the process. However, one major difference between the Falun Gong and traditional religious activity is that it does not include incense-burning in its practices, while this has been a central part of religious practice in China for many centuries.
Following a silent, 10,000 strong demonstration on 25 April 1999 outside the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at Zhongnanhai in Beijing, the Falun Gong movement was declared dangerous and prohibited. An intensive campaign of suppression followed, in the course of which many members have been arrested and placed in camps or psychiatric institutions, with several hundred people dying in the process. Already some years previously, in 1996, Li Hongzhi had left the PRC for the United States. From there the movement has actively protested against the persecution. Inside the PRC itself, the movement recently carried out a series of hijackings of public television time, but otherwise those followers who have escaped persecution have gone underground or become inactive. The movement was not originally political in orientation, but clearly the ongoing persecution has forced it to resist and to take a stance on issues that are defined as political in the Chinese context. The way in which the Falun Gong has put up public resistance inside and outside China makes it a very special phenomenon, quite independent of the merits of its teachings and exercises.
There were always charismatic teachers on the road in traditional China with messages of healing and salvation. The size of their audiences depended on a teacher’s contribution to defining and then solving their problems. These teachers competed with local religious institutions (ranging from Buddhist and Daoist monasteries to monks, priests and spirit mediums associated with temples or shrines), as well as doctors, fortune-tellers, and so forth. Nobody was strong enough to enforce one normative world view. The state itself did not have sufficient means nor was it really interested in imposing its own world view, provided these local sources of influence did not encroach upon the state’s claims to legitimacy. Persecution was not systematic, but often followed religiously inspired uprisings, and could extend to unrelated groups and individuals as well.
On a local level, everybody could have recourse to any kind of solution, since there was no prerequisite of being a member of the particular religious institution from which one expected some form of assistance. Instead, one paid the specialist with money or in kind (this was construed as a system of gifts) and one made donations to the institution. Solutions offered by competing world views could be accessed consecutively for one and the same problem by the same group of persons. This is still the dominant approach today, although the exclusivist claims of both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM, a modern reformulation of Chinese medical traditions) and Western medicine have become very influential. Choices between approaches are made in terms of efficacy, rather than doctrinal or ideological affiliation (be it Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism or even Communism). Categories such as the latter have actually been strongly influenced by Western perceptions and are applied in an ideological way that does not represent the lived experience of most people.
Unlike earlier Chinese religious and philosophical traditions, the ideologists of the PRC do lay claim to possessing the only true world view, which forms the crucial basis for the legitimacy of Communist Party rule. Essential to this normative world view are notions of objective truth and a material basis to all forms of being, in accordance with Marxism-Leninism assisted by modern science. Since 1976 there has, however, been greatly increased room for alternative forms of religious expression, even though the normative world view has not been relinquished Repression has not disappeared, and there are still regular campaigns against local temples, festivals, ritual performances, different kinds of specialists and new religious groups. Traditional religious institutions are weak and are kept that way, e.g. by restrictions on their right to own property and thus achieve financial independence, not least because they might otherwise become the centre of alternative social networks.
The communist state has promoted some alternative philosophies that share its scientific and materialistic orientation and are free of what it perceives as religious elements and more amenable to state control. The so-called Qigong movements of the 1980s and 1990s, but also the Falun Gong itself, have become possible as a result. In these movement there is always an inspirational teacher who possesses powerful techniques (gong) that can draw in cosmic substance/energy (qi), which can heal and provide wholeness to people’s lives. Now that these, too, are developing world views and organizational structures beyond state control they have become a threat that “needs to” be dealt with.
The Falun Gong is sufficiently coherent in its teachings, even as these evolve over time, and its local networks of members cohesive enough, to speak of a movement. Although it lacks formalized institutions, the use of the Internet and other modern forms of communication creates extensive networks of followers. Propaganda against the movement uses such pejorative terms as “cult” (in Northern American discourse the common term for religious or life style movements of which one morally, religiously or politically disapproves) and “sect” (still the most common Western European term for such movements). Neither term will be used in this analysis, even though they could theoretically be redefined in a more neutral way.
The Falun Gong does not see itself as a religious movement, but as the transmission of objective truth. The teacher occupies central stage as the only one who possesses this truth and who can convey it to others. This fits the earliest (pre-China) form of Buddhism, in which the historical Buddha was first and foremost a teacher and role-model. In Chinese educational practice, whether Confucian or Communist, the teacher is also highly respected. In post-1949 China, Mao Zedong himself was also construed as such as teacher. Teachers tend not to be the actual organizers of a movement as such, a pattern that we also find in the Falun Gong.
For a number of years a biography circulated within the movement which created an image of Li Hongzhi as a charismatic figure much in the way of traditional hagiography. According to this biography Li Hongzhi was born into a family of some education in a small township in Jilin Province on 13 May 1951, a date which the biography goes on to identify as the eighth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar, which happens to be the traditional Chinese festival for the birth of the Buddha. Li Hongzhi had a precocious understanding of Truthfulness (zhen), Goodness (shan), and Forbearance (ren), which were to become central moral values in Falun Gong thought. He received extensive instruction from numerous masters, which opened up his innate understanding of the cosmos and built up his expertise in the exercises that can draw in cosmic substance/energy (qi). By 1989 (the year of the Tiananmen Square student and labourer protests in Beijing) he had perfected his teachings, but postponed teaching in public until 1992.
In his writings, Li states that his teachings already existed since time immemorial and that he has merely recovered them in this time of the decline of the teachings (dharma in Buddhist doctrine, a term also adopted by the Falun Gong). Both the biography and Li Hongzhi’s writings stress the potency and efficacy of his teachings and practice above all other approaches, without claiming that the latter are in themselves false. Li does not explicitly call himself a Buddha, but all Falun Gong materials – including Li’s formal portrait, videos of him performing the Falun Gong exercises, and pictures on the Internet - suggest to the follower that he actually is on that enlightened level.
Opponents of the Falun Gong have made much of the hagiographic nature of Li Hongzhi’s biography, arguing for instance, and probably truthfully, that he was born on 7 July 1952 and only much later altered the date on his birth certificate for religious reasons. This kind of discussion is not very relevant towards understanding the nature of this biography. Like Li Hongzhi’s writings, his biography is intended as a demonstration of religious truth, not as an objective historical source. We learn much more about the movement, when we read such writings analytically on a par with similar texts in other religious traditions, rather than as statements of scientific truth (this despite the Falun Gong’s own claims that their teachings are, in fact, scientific).
to Li’s secular biography, he led an ordinary life until 1992. He came from a
officials and received some secondary education near and in the
large city of Changchun. He grew up in the heavily industrialized north-east
(better known as Manchuria), but never himself worked in the industrial
complex. Instead, he held low-level positions in the army and police, followed
by an equally modest post in the state-run Cereals and Oil Company of
Changchun, until he left voluntarily in 1991.
Judging from his teachings, his knowledge tends to come from secondary digests
of original materials, coupled with some exposure to Qigong and/or martial arts
practices. There is no indication that he ever practised as a lay believer of
established Buddhist or Daoist traditions or that he ever belonged to the new
religious groups of a previous era, which survived the Communist repression.
context of his jobs and the highly politicized era in which he grew up, we can
surmise that Li Hongzhi received basic literacy teaching, but that his
education like that of most of his contemporaries was of a very elementary
level. Through the Maoist mass-campaigns of the 1950s and 1960s, he was taught
to see the world in terms of violent conflict, with highly polarized
definitions of friends and enemies and with violence seen as
of dealing with enemies, a view he shared with many of his contemporaries as
well as with leading figures in the Chinese Communist Party. In dealing with
real-life enemies (such as criminals or political adversaries) or when
exorcising disease-causing demons, violence can become very real and concrete
and is not considered morally reprehensible.
In his teachings, where he stresses morality and non-violence, Li Hongzhi
consciously reacts against this world view, but preserves its polemical
In 1992 Li Hongzhi started to teach his exercises and give lectures, at first in Changchun itself and soon also in Beijing and across northern China. His lectures were roughly edited by his followers and published. Even today, oral pronouncements (in lectures or over the phone) are his preferred form of communication, to be turned into written form by his closest followers. In this, Li Hongzhi follows the venerable model of the Buddha, Confucius, Laozi and many other teachers. Curiously, he also has a predilection for producing religious poems, in which he comes close to traditional forms of spirit writing.
In 1992, he also founded the Falun Xiulian Dafa Research Society in Beijing, which joined the Qigong Research Society the following year. The movement built up respectability and legitimacy by gathering all kinds of awards, certificates, and written statements. This is common practice for all types of public activity in China, whether by theatrical groups or museums, and even small restaurants. New Falun Gong study groups were set up each time a nucleus of followers came into being in a new location.
In 1994 the Zhuanfalun [Turning the Dharma Wheel] was published, in the form of nine lectures and in highly colloquial language. Li himself stopped teaching in public in China itself soon after the publication of the book. Since then, this book has become the core text of the movement, with translations in most modern foreign languages. Later lectures outside China were also published and partly translated into other languages. From 1999 Li’s public appearances became extremely rare and new pronouncements were mainly made from a distance, though since 2001 he has again begun to appear in public more frequently. The focus on written texts has allowed the concrete personal dimension of Li Hongzhi to be written out of the teachings, with the persona of the teacher becoming increasingly elevated and remote.
The Great Teachings of the Dharma Wheel (Falun Dafa) – as they are called within the Falun Gong movement - have proved their appeal to Chinese of very different levels of education, including not a few people with higher education degrees. Crucial to Li’s appeal is his assertion that his teachings are not based on divine revelation, requiring the superstitious acceptance of an outside authority, but that they are scientifically true (kexuede). This obviously undermines the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist state, which derives its legitimacy from a world view that also sees itself as scientifically true.
The attractiveness of the claim to being scientifically true is obvious enough, but the sensitivity of the Falun Gong to claims of being a religious movement is also understandable. Throughout the twentieth century in China there have been campaigns against “superstition” (temples, magical healing, possession etc.), as well as against the book-oriented traditions of a Buddhist, Daoist, Islamic or Christian background. By 1976 much of the former religious infrastructure had been destroyed for ever and many thousands of people had died. Only part of this infrastructure has come to life again. Like all of his contemporaries, Li Hongzhi himself was also subjected to extensive propaganda concerning the “feudal” (fengjian) and “superstitious” (mixin) nature of all religious culture. In urban China, this is still the dominant way of looking at religion and it is not surprising that this is also the attitude taken by Chinese Falun Gong followers, though their self-definition as scientific has been challenged, for instance when the Qigong Research Association in 1996 cancelled the Falun Gong’s membership. Thus, whilst according to Western norms and values, Li Hongzhi’s teachings and practices could be called “religious” without any negative implications, the term is coloured quite differently for his followers and for a Chinese audience.
As in most Chinese religious and philosophical traditions, Li Hongzhi sees everything and everybody in the universe as interconnected. We are the universe/cosmos (microcosm) and the universe/cosmos (macrocosm) is us. This cosmos can be called the Great Ultimate (taiji, written Tai Chi), which is represented as a circle containing both Yin and Yang (in contrasting colours or black and white, each with a dot of the other colour inside). The circular movements of the Falun Gong exercises enact the Great Ultimate, allowing the practitioner to draw in cosmic substance/energy (qi) (as also in Taiji Quan, China’s famous “shadow boxing”).
Li Hongzhi sees the Great Ultimate as a manifestation of the Dharma Wheel (or falun, which gives the movement its name), which he represents symbolically with the wan-character as the Buddhist equivalent of the micro/macrocosm. He himself places this Dharma Wheel in the lower abdomen of new followers, if necessary from a great distance. The rotating movement is likened by Li to the turning of the electrons in an atom, the planets around the sun, and the Milky Way as a whole. Clockwise, the rotation takes in substance/energy (qi) from outside; counter clockwise, it emits energy. It is fed both by the influence of the teacher’s own powerful Dharma Wheel and by the proper practice of the exercises, but only when and if accompanied by the cultivation of certain moral values.
The above-mentioned substance/energy (qi) makes up the cosmos, according to traditional Chinese concepts. It combines the aspects of matter and of energy. Above this substance/energy (qi), Li Hongzhi has placed another kind of energy, which he calls gong and defines as the result of true (i.e. Falun Gong) cultivation. Given Li Hongzhi’s constant stress on moral development, the traditional translation of “merit” would also fit in very well, but Li gives it an almost materialistic connotation. Followers have to raise their level of gong by means of a moral lifestyle and the exercises.
Our present life is determined by the effects of our actions in previous lives, which we carry with us through an endless chain of incarnations. These effects are called karma (ye) and as long as we produce karma we continue to be reborn. All karma is bad in traditional Buddhist thought and according to Li Hongzhi as well. He depicts this karma as something material (a black substance), which he can actually see. Getting rid of karma will increase one’s de. This terms is left untranslated in all non-Chinese versions of Li’s writings. While the conventional reading of de is “potency, potential”, i.e. the ability to work good, Li, curiously, explains de as a kind of matter (a white substance). Although Li therefore gives the notions of karma and de a specific expression of his own, he certainly builds on existing ideas. Thus, when he points out that karma is at the root of all our diseases, he is quite consistent with Buddhist doctrine in arguing that therefore medical aid, though by no means prohibited, is rather pointless, since it cannot affect one’s accumulated karma.
Crucial to Li Hongzhi’s teachings is his stress on moral attitude. The purpose of “cultivation” (the term used in English language Falun Gong literature roughly in the sense of “moral development” and which Li distinguishes from the lesser “practice”) is to lift one’s xinxing, which might be translated as “the nature of one’s heart” and is explained as the capacity to realize de in one’s life. This moral capacity can be explained in its most simple form as the ability to express (and be guided by) the three core values of zhen “truthfulness” (traditionally zhen is translated as “true-ness”, whereas the usual term for Li’s interpretation would be cheng or sincerity), shan “benevolence” (traditionally shan is translated as charitableness, whereas the usual term for Li’s interpretation would be ren), and ren. This last term does not readily fit into a known Chinese context. We find it many times in the Bible, however, in the precise Falun Gong sense of “forbearance”, and it was long prominent in
Communist propaganda. Countless campaigns during the 1950s and 1960s tried to instil this virtue in the minds of China’s adults and youths, such as Li Hongzhi himself.
An important way to lose karma (i.e. the bad black substance) and gain de (i.e. the good white substance) is by practising “forbearance”. This raises one’s xinxing or moral capacity. In fact, it is believed that by practising “forbearance” in stressful situations in general or in personal conflicts or by suffering persecution with equanimity it is possible to get rid of a great deal of karma all at the same time and even absorb the de of one’s persecutors. This somewhat resembles the notions of martyrdom in present-day Islam or blood-baptism in early Christianity. In a more routine form, the practice of “forbearance” appears to be very inspirational also in the various kinds of stress situations that followers face in their workplaces and at home.
Li Hongzhi places his teaching activities in the context of “the dharma-ending period” or “the final period of Last Havoc”. This is actually a mainstream Buddhist notion according to which the historical Buddha taught that following his own entry into Nirvana (his extinguishing or “death”) his teachings would decline in three stages of five hundred years. The last stage of “final dharma” would be characterized by moral decay and the loss of any understanding of the Buddha’s teachings. The idea was frequently used by Buddhist reformers in order to argue for monastic or doctrinal reform, and/or strengthening lay routes to salvation. It was definitely not intrinsically messianic or millenarian. In fact, we see no influence of traditional Chinese messianic teachings whatsoever. More recently, the specific problems of the Falun Gong since mid-1999 have given rise to a more pessimistic view of this time and age, but there is no indication of concrete messianic or millenarian expectations. In fact, Li Hongzhi himself has recently specified that the disasters which he predicted have already taken place or been averted.
All in all,
Li Hongzhi provides a very materialistic interpretation of such concepts as gong
(the Buddhist “merit” becomes for Li “a higher form of energy”), ye
(the Buddhist karma becomes “bad, black substance”), de (the
Confucian “potency, potential” becomes “good, white substance”), or falun (both
fa, the Buddhist dharma
) of modern science. What makes Li’s
teachings distinct from the Qigong movement is his polemic attitude, his use of
written texts and propaganda, his extensive moral philosophy and the relative
lack of importance of the ritual healing and possession that are so crucial in
The actual size and internal structure of the following of the Falun Gong were not systematically studied before the persecution started in mid-1999. Claims of 2 million or 100 million (or anything in between) appear to be largely rhetorical. Still, a former core following of some 2 to 10 million people is not impossible. New religious movements generally have a very open approach to “membership”. One comes to a meeting or takes part in an initiation ritual, after which one is counted as a member, even though one never turns up again. There is often no formal institutional structure. In network-cultures like China this is almost always the case. The Falun Gong does not even have a formal initiation ritual and everybody can join the movement’s public exercises at any time (or could, as far as the Chinese mainland is concerned). Thus, the common statement by the Chinese state that the Falun Gong movement had a “structure of thirty-nine main ‘stations’, 1,900 ‘guidance stations’, and 28,000 ‘exercise sites’” exaggerates the degree of overall cohesion. From the top down, nothing was formalized beyond the level of local networks. Being the head of a station did not mean that one was the chairman of a real organization, but merely that one had responsibility for a place of “cultivation”. However, the demonstrations of April 1999 and subsequent protests indicate that quite rapid communications were possible, at least in the Tianjin and Beijing regions. The best analytical approach to these “stations” and “sites”, however, is not as a purely organizational structure, but as a distribution channel for the teacher’s charisma, in other words as a network for channelling information reflecting the teacher’s charisma out to all followers (rather than an exchange of all kinds of information in all directions of the network, an essential prerequisite for real institutions).
Falun Gong followers have to spread the teachings and practices without making any modifications. They are not permitted to earn a living out of their activities, and the success of all proselytization is entirely due to the impact of the teacher. In Chinese culture – and not just in the Communist system – rote learning is the main form of education even on the highest level. In the Mahayana Buddhism current in China, the words that make up the teachings (the sutras) equal the teacher himself (Buddha). Worshipping the word physically and reproducing it as literally as possible was and is a major form of Buddhist worship and a means of obtaining salvation. Thus, the Falun Gong faithfulness to the words of their teacher reflects common Chinese norms, rather than some kind of sectarian naivety.
The slowness with which the persecution gained momentum from mid-1999 suggests that the state was not working from a formalized Falun Gong organizational structure with membership lists etc. or anything similar when attempting to locate members. Instead the security apparatus is working from information gathered in a wide variety of ways, such as house to house searches, arrests of those who reveal their membership in public, informants, etc. Typically, it is networks, rather than isolated individuals, that are apprehended. Some formal structure probably resulted from the movement’s short-lived membership of the Qigong Research Association and may have survived after the movement was thrown out of (or left) the association. Smaller networks have survived the persecution. There evidently also still is some communication with the Falun Gong centre in New York, since the latter is kept informed of who has fallen victim to the persecution and some propaganda materials (such as the videotape on the January 2001 suicides) seem to originate from abroad.
Many practitioners of the movement who were not in the police records by late 1999 will have gone over to other forms of Qigong practice or have opted out of such activities altogether (at least for the time being), since a substantial number of people came to the movement from other pursuits, both Qigong and lay religious traditions, to which they may now have returned. Others have continued to practise in hiding and some have joined those who are keeping up some form of symbolic (through leaflets etc.) or even activist (hijacking cable TV time) resistance. Among those arrested an unknown number have renounced their original beliefs, but the value of this is evidently doubtful. Outside the PRC, the movement has survived in Hong Kong (despite increasingly hard times) and so far in complete freedom on Taiwan. It is strong abroad, among students and graduates of Chinese origin in Western universities and colleges, especially in the natural sciences and technical disciplines. On the other hand they are not strongly represented, at least in Europe, among traditional immigrant groups from Fujian and Guangdong.
Any attempt to assess the size of the current following of the movement inside the PRC would have to be based on a variety of partial sources. For instance, in April 1999 the movement was able to mobilize 2,000 or so followers for a sit-in in Tianjin and estimated 10,000 for a demonstration in Beijing (more on these events below). These would have come from these two cities themselves and nearby townships connected by bus services (no independent research exists on this topic), though it is unlikely that all Falun Gong followers in these two areas were present. Some might have had to work, in spite of the demonstrations taking place at the weekend; others might have been too frightened to take part. However, these two events did demonstrate very eloquently the movement’s ability and willingness to mobilize its followers.
There are no independent sources for the number of people who have been arrested, detained in one way or another, or died. Falun Gong sources give the following information (as of July 2002):
Arrested or detained
Sentenced to prison terms
Sent to mental hospitals
Sent to labour camps without trials
Died as the direct or indirect result of torture
Interestingly, these numbers are much lower than any estimate of the size of the Falun Gong following. However, leaving aside the vague figure of 100,000 for arrests, the numbers do very roughly match the number of people who were involved in demonstrations, small-scale protests and the like (together with other people in their networks). At any rate, even these figures suggest that many followers have either reneged or decided to hide their Falun Gong affiliation. I see no reason to doubt the size of these numbers as rough estimates. We face the same problem of absence of precise statistical information with respect to the number of victims of earlier political campaigns (many hundreds of thousands) or to the judicial system in general. Even a more critical analysis of the number of deaths still comes to several hundreds.
The rough geographical distribution of the membership seems to be clear. The two demonstrations and subsequent Falun Gong protests and state persecutions all indicate that the movement was represented to some considerable extent in the big cities of northern and western China (including Beijing, Tianjin, and Chongqing), as well as across all northern provinces. When we look at a sample of the people who have died in the course of the suppression campaign, we find that the majority of the victims come from the north (Hebei 13, Heilongjiang 29, Jilin 22, Liaoning 28, Shandong 48), whereas 11 victims are reported for Sichuan and considerably less for each of the extremely populous and urbanized provinces which border the Yangzi river or the equally populous and urbanized Guangdong and Fujian provinces. All the hijackings of cable television time (which, unlike hijacking of satellites, requires local presence) also took place in Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Shandong and Chongqing (Sichuan).
There are several sources of information that provide more than cursory evidence on the social and educational make-up of Falun Gong followers inside the PRC before April 1999. One is an analysis by medically trained authors, most likely favourable to the Falun Gong, on the medical benefits of Falun “cultivation” experienced by 355 persons in Beijing in 1996. They have analyzed the professions and level of education of their sample as follows:
Number of People
*SM&T: Scientific Medical Worker & Teacher ** JVE&SE: Joint-venture Employee & Self-employed
From this skewed sample, it is hard to draw definitive conclusions, but we are certainly not dealing with the disempowered here. These are the sort of people whom medical specialists are likely to encounter in their professional work, including a suspiciously high number of direct colleagues. In addition, the number of people from the capitalist sector, office cadres (administrators) and retired people is quite high. Among the retired people, the same range of former professions is found, with 88 out of 145 formerly office cadres, scientific and technical personnel, medical workers and teachers, making up 60.7% of the retired group. These certainly were not merely marginal or poor people. A large majority were middle aged or over: 204 persons (57.5%) were between 40 and 59 at the time, 99 persons were 60 or above (27.8%). They were well educated with 247 persons (69.5%) having at least graduated from senior high school or even from universities. Finally, well over two thirds of the sample (255) were female. The absence of peasants and people with a truly rural background (rather than smaller townships) is well-attested in all types of sources on Falun Gong followers. On the other hand the Falun Gong following from the earliest beginning included members of the security apparatus (both army and police) and of the Chinese Communist Party, which contributed much to the successful spread of the movement.
The reasons for taking part in Falun Gong activities are extremely varied, but one reason is conspicuously absent, which is political motivation. Even when the date 1989 does appear in statements it is never in connection with the events of the Beijing Spring or its suppression. Instead a wide variety of personal reasons are mentioned, and followers draw on Li Hongzhi’s teachings – such as the extremely crucial notion of “forbearance” – to provide them with “wholeness” (which might include healing, but also a sense of discipline and purpose) and belonging. Many have suffered personal and emotional difficulties; others tell proudly how they had been moved to returning money they had found, paying for a ticket they had omitted to pay for etc. Healing as such is not a large part of the story; acquiring a new sense of moral values is much more important. In this process reading the Turning of the Dharma Wheel and (in the early days) hearing Li Hongzhi speak played an important role. We find the same type of motivation in reports of people who have continued to practise after April 1999. In these accounts, and quite unlike the picture presented by anti-Falun Gong propaganda, the question of appropriate behaviour in all kinds of situations really takes central stage.
After the persecution started in the middle of 1999, Falun groups certainly continued to function at least for some time. For instance, a recent newspaper article on a Shaanxi trial combined with Falun Gong’s own internal news indicates that local followers had brought some 53 people together there as late as October 2001. Before that occasion the organizers had already met repeatedly, to prepare the printing of Falun Gong materials etc. The meeting was broken up by police and all the participants arrested. One of the women died in custody as a result of force-feeding, others were sent to camps or formally tried. A close reading of the government’s propaganda site in conjunction with the Falun Gong’s own inside reporting (often quicker and more informative) indicates that the movement has by no means disappeared. Like many other religious groups the Falun Gong movement may well succeed in continuing an underground existence for decades to come.
The Falun Gong is not the first, nor the only group to be persecuted in the PRC. It is not likely to be the last one either. The record of religious and political persecution in the PRC dates back to its very founding. Today, too, other Qigong groups and new religious movements are being actively suppressed. Torture and psychological and social pressure are essential elements in this suppression. Unconfirmed numbers of people have died as a result, whether directly in custody or through committing suicide after breaking down. Many more have ended up in reform camps, prisons or mental institutions.
In 1996, the Falun Gong movement withdrew from (or was expelled from) the Qigong Research Association, and the Turning the Dharma Wheel was prohibited. Li Hongzhi also left the country in 1996 and was given asylum in 1997 in the United States. Since the movement had already changed its propaganda methods from personal meetings to publishing books, having a presence on the Internet and networking, Li’s personal presence was no longer crucial. The movement evidently did not lose momentum due to the absence of its teacher. Obviously, this is also a distinct advantage in the present situation.
the Falun Gong was criticized in a Tianjin university journal (19 April 2002),
as dangerous to the health of the population. The author He Zuoxiu, himself a
prominent physicist, had long been attacking Qigong movements, including the
Falun Gong, as false science. He also made a direct connection between the
teachings and the mental instability of some student-followers. What he
overlooked is that students everywhere are under enormous pressure, as part of
the growing-up process, because they are living in different environments far
from home, and due to the enormous expectations put upon them by their
families. Suicide rates at this age are relatively high. The author was a known
opponent of Qigong movements and the Falun Gong, and had been the target of a
year before, at the Beijing television studios. This time the movement first
organized a sit-in on the university campus in Tianjin to protest against the
publication and subsequently the famous silent
demonstration in Beijing on 25 April to underline their point: they wanted
equal media attention in order to respond to these criticisms.
Human rights issues only came much later, after the persecution had started and
under the influence of Chinese followers living in the United States. In itself
this introduction of human rights issues (drawing on United Nations standards)
is an important new development in the history of protest in Chinese culture.
By now the
Falun Gong had been proselytizing successfully for a number of years; they had
built up a considerable following, including
among members of the
Chinese Communist Party and within
the security as well as army networks ; their leader had been sent out of
the country; and they were no longer formally recognized as a Qigong
organization. There had been criticisms and attacks from within Qigong and
Buddhist circles, as well as among natural scientists (though some of these
criticisms appear to have been suppressed under state influence). They had
suffered a certain amount of friction with local authorities.
Yet, until then the movement itself had made every endeavour to stay out of
politics and evidently with some success (and possibly thanks to protection by
party members at various levels of power).
state’s inertia until the Beijing demonstration, it is most likely that only
the particular sequence of events in April 1999 created the dynamic that
generated the persecution.
Similar to the Beijing Spring in 1989, miscommunication led to protest, leading
to further miscommunication and protest, eventually resulting in violent
The sit-in protest in Tianjin following the publication of an article and then
the demonstration at Zhongnanhai in Beijing on 25 April 1999 were intended, in
the perception of the Falun Gong, as attempts to seek redress against unjust
criticisms. Public protest and violent conflicts on a local level are a
surprisingly common feature in China today.
The China Labour Bulletin and Western newspapers frequently record
industrial and rural conflicts, involving large groups of people, demonstrative
suicides, blockades, etc.
When seen in that light and given the desperate situation of many
Chinese living in the urban regions from which the Falun Gong movement draws
its following, the organization of a sit-in or a silent demonstration is by no
means unusual. Many of the Falun Gong leaders actually originated from the
industrial regions of north-eastern China, which have seen a wave of such
protests over the last few years. To them, their protest may have seemed quite
similar to labour protests and for all we know this may be where they took their
cue. The real difference, of course, is that
labour protests are
incidental and focused on the concrete livelihood of individual groups, whereas
the Falun Gong movement defended (and still defends) the abstract right of
religious freedom and its own view of itself. Still, it did so in a peaceful
manner and few would have predicted the kind of suppression that was to follow
from the summer of 1999 onwards.
The Falun Gong and similar movements are persecuted on the grounds of being “feudal” and “superstitious”, posing a threat to people’s health and to the state. Attacks are directed at the cosmological (scientific) claims made by or on behalf of Li Hongzhi himself or the threat which Li’s ideas purportedly pose to public health. Much attention is also devoted to character assassination, which makes sense from a propaganda perspective, but is always a two-edged sword. Nonetheless, apart from the scale of the peaceful demonstration on 25 April 1999, little had changed within the Falun Gong and most of these objections were put forward only retrospectively (in addition to being rather unspecific). In a centralized, single party political system like the PRC, however, any sizeable movement which does not limit its activities to a concrete single event, whether an independent union, a lifestyle movement or a religious group, poses a significant threat. The Beijing demonstration is very likely to have been the first time that the central leadership became aware of the, to them, alarming size of the movement. It was clear that the Falun Gong did not bow to state pressure in the way such movements were supposed to do. In the absence of documentary evidence, however, we can only speculate on the concrete process of decision-making that led to the harsh treatment of the Falun Gong.
Ironically, the very success of the Falun Gong movement’s protests from 1999 onwards has shown the Chinese communist leaders to be right, at least from their own power-oriented perspective. After all, the Falun Gong is the first movement since 1949 which has succeeded in sustaining some form of public protest to persecution inside China itself. After the persecution started the movement also succeeded in building a highly visible international campaign surrounding the theme of human rights. Despite the persecution, the movement also still maintains its own communication channels with the mainland, whether to obtain information on persecuted followers or to keep in touch with people who are carrying out public protests. This public demonstration of the system’s lack of total control is clearly perceived as a threat by the central leadership. In the Chinese context, this movement is therefore political, not in the conventional Western sense of the word (since it does not seem to strive for political power), but in the sense that it wants certain rights that the communist state is not prepared to give to them (or to any other religious group). The central role of former party cadres in the core network around Li Hongzhi makes it likely that they would have been aware their actions would be seen as “political”, although I also suspect that they may have thought that they would continue to escape sanctions, since they had done so successfully until the Beijing demonstration of April 1999.
Some objections against the Falun Gong can be fairly easily understood, without suggesting that they would be justification for persecution. For instance the state’s claim that the movement’s teachings pose a substantial threat to public health was a major line of objection among intellectual opponents of the movement before April 1999. The potential conflict between the freedom of religious practice and other obligations is of course also prevalent in other countries – with examples such as religiously motivated resistance by parents to inoculation campaigns for their children, or insistence on the right to refuse medical aid. In addition, it is clear that classical medical approaches cannot solve all problems of health and hopelessly fail in the face of death. Nor does medicine help in the case of most of the other issues for which people draw on religious approaches, including the Falun Gong teachings. Thus, disagreement with the Falun Gong point of view that diseases are caused by one’s karma (and cannot be truly healed by medicine) is understandable, but reducing the movement to its approach to health also overlooks its much broader appeal.
Li Hongzhi legitimates his view of the universe and man’s place in it by drawing on science, history and UFO-logy. He uses the specific Chinese term kexue, which translates as “science”, but is used in China in the wider sense of any verifiable knowledge. Qigong movements in general claimed to be scientifically true and Li’s is no exception. It is this claim (which has even been the subject of scientifically looking investigations) combined with the absence of worship or ritual which made Qigong movements attractive to the Chinese communist state, but also to urban people who had for decades been taught that “religion” is bad. The exercises and the practitioner’s focusing on a photograph of the teacher are usually not perceived to be “ritual”. Such movements offer answers to the widely felt need for emotional support and help in rebuilding one’s life, including health, as well as much else, at relatively low cost (unlike professional medical or psychological help). The label “scientific” rather than “religious” was in itself attractive to many, while at the same time annoying many intellectuals. It comes as no surprise therefore that intellectuals, or even just dissidents, living outside China have not come to the support of the Falun Gong as a human rights issue. For them, Western notions of science are often crucial to their philosophical and political points of view, and the Falun Gong claims pose a direct challenge.
Comparisons have been made by Western observers between the Falun Gong and religiously inspired rebellions of the past. Indeed, religion can be a powerful motor for human action and the Falun Gong is no exception to this rule. Nonetheless, I do not find many traces of a truly messianic movement. The notion of a “dharma-ending period” (mofa) underlines the need for powerful and effective teaching, such as the one presented by Li Hongzhi. The teacher does not claim that the end of time is really upon us, but only warns that we need to deal with the moral decay of our times or suffer the consequences. However, the link between the Falun Gong and past religiously inspired rebellions is not very prominent in communist propaganda. This should not surprise us, for these rebellions were long depicted as positive moments in Chinese history, since they were supposedly carried out by the dispossessed against the traditional elites and the imperial system. Since the present political system claims to have inherited the task of representing the dispossessed from these earlier rebellions, it cannot afford to make too many links between such rebellions in the past and the Falun Gong in the present.
A much more
important reason for suppressing the Falun Gong movement may well be
for a moral renewal. After all, the Chinese communist claim to being a higher
ethical force than any pre-existing Chinese philosophical or religious
tradition was an
essential element of its claim for legitimacy. The Falun Gong movement itself
probably derived its own focus on moral renewal from the many intensely
moralistic campaigns of the late 1950s and the 1960s, as well as the sense that
after 1978 Chinese society had increasingly lost its moral direction. By the
early 1990s any communist claims to possessing the moral high ground would have
sounded hollow and other movements were taking over, the Falun Gong among them.
In a way, the Falun Gong was usurping the role of moral guide that the CCP had
been claiming for itself throughout its history. There can be no doubt that
this is threatening to the Communist Party centre, although it is hard to see
what they might be able to put in its place. At this point we should keep in
mind that China is presently facing enormous social and economic problems,
despite all economic growth. State-owned industries have already broken down or
soon will, with many labourers left without support. Similarly, the army has
retired large parts of its officer corps and these have tended to stay in the
cities, looking for meaningful roles to play. There is no welfare system to
help them and networking is the only answer. The Falun Gong provides such
networks, as well as real answers to people’s sense of misery and moral
emptiness. From the Communist Party’s point of view, then, the Falun Gong and
similar movements do pose a significant threat to its authority.
The PRC has inherited traditional elite and statist ways of looking at religious phenomena, including new religious movements. Crucial here is the common practice of labelling all kinds of religious groups and ritual (or magical) practices “heretical teachings”, which then in itself becomes sufficient cause to persecute them. In the process additional negative characteristics are ascribed to these so-called “heretic teachings”, which have tended to stay the same over the centuries. These are for instance a propensity for rebelliousness, causing social disruption, holding clandestine meetings, extorting money, etc. Since both followers and opponents of movements that are labelled in this way effectively share the underlying assumptions, this may lead to paradoxical situations. Thus, the awareness of criticism of the moneymaking aspect of the movement (using early evidence concerning Li Hongzhi, when he was still active in China itself) has led to an explicit injunction to all Falun Gong followers against using their knowledge to make money. Publicly, Li Hongzhi himself also no longer makes money, even though we can be sure that he is financially supported by his followers. It is overlooked that no movement, not even a religious one, can do without funds to keep it going. In China as elsewhere, religious activities are also often a professional activity and involve making money.
labelling of groups or persons of which one disapproves has far-reaching
consequences in China also because of a specific characteristic of the judicial
process (although by no means uniquely Chinese), namely the crucial importance
of the confession for reaching a guilty verdict. Without a confession no case
can be closed, despite all other forms of evidence. Once the prosecution (i.e.
the state) is certain of someone’s guilt, then all forms of physical and
psychological pressure are allowed. The focus of the investigative process will
not be on finding reliable evidence, but rather on confirming a priori
applied labels. The judicial process itself is merely the public demonstration
that the suspects are indeed guilty and therefore an intrinsic part of the
punishment, rather than a open-ended trial;
rather it constitutes
the first elements of a long process in which the state attempts to convert the
“guilty” party back to its norms and values.
The accusation that the Falun Gong is a threat to public health is a good example of the way in which the labelling process works, ignoring that the movement actually has a much broader moral agenda, of which health is only one dimension, and ignoring also that the Falun Gong view can be legitimated quite well within Buddhist doctrine. The evidence is presented in a very one-sided manner and no critical investigation whatsoever is carried out. All “cases” are extremely weak on context and medical detail, making it impossible to carry out a counter-investigation.
The PRC, and until recently also the Republic of China (Taiwan), have prohibited many new religious groups, as well as trying to control that part of religious culture which it did permit. The PRC in particular has a long and bloody record of persecution, oppression and state control dating back to 1949. Nonetheless, local cadres these days are quite likely to tolerate the activities of local leaders who organize religious activities, since these provide a much-needed focus for the community. In return for such tolerance or even cooperation, cadres might receive support during elections or in other contexts. Thus, the situation is no longer only black and white. Generally, purely localized forms of religious expression associated with permanent institutions (such as temple cults or monasteries) get more leeway (freedom is not quite the appropriate term here), than the activities of individual teachers or supra-regional movements (including Christian ones). The latter are still being persecuted, with the death penalty as the ultimate and frequently applied sanction.
In the meantime, the situation on Taiwan has changed in a very fundamental way. At first the Republic of China (both in its days on the Chinese mainland and in its first decades on Taiwan) also tried to control Chinese religion, although never in the all-out destructive way that we have seen on the Chinese mainland. New religious groups were formally prohibited and its members might find their public careers obstructed, but they could otherwise function well as long as they did not draw attention to themselves. There were also attempts to regulate temple activities, but local politicians also started to use such activities to gain a following. Already before the abolition of martial law in 1987, the environment was such that an ethnographical investigation could be launched to establish to what extent new religious groups (especially the long persecuted Unity Way or yiguan dao, still prohibited in the PRC) should continue to be prohibited. The conclusion was that there was no need for such measures. With the abolition of martial law, all new religious groups were legalized – including some groups that had been outlawed for centuries. The Falun Gong has simply added to this spectrum, encountering no hindrance from the state on Taiwan and causing no problems whatsoever. In Hong Kong, observers consider the degree of freedom that can be maintained by the Falun Gong to be a good indication of the degree to which this region can maintain its overall political autonomy.
The fact that, for the first time in PRC history, a group is putting up protracted resistance against persecution has surprised many Chinese and outside observers. The movement has been very careful only to use peaceful means of resistance (largely sit-ins, pamphlets, videos, the Internet). The Beijing demonstration of April 1999 was motivated by the perceived unfairness of representations of the movement in public media, but unusual as it was, it was entirely passive. The public demonstrations by smaller numbers of followers, propaganda and hijackings of television time are still not violent acts.
The small group close to Li Hongzhi in the United States, with Gail Rachlin and Zhang Erping as its most publicly visible representatives, has been exceedingly successful in lobbying to get (and keep) the Falun Gong on the international agenda as a case of human rights abuse. This struggle in turn provides those that have stayed inside the movement with a very clear sense of identity. Many Chinese visitors to and residents in other countries than the PRC avail themselves of the Internet to check out alternative views on the Falun Gong, including the movement’s own websites. They talk with Falun Gong adherents and among themselves, carrying out much more nuanced discussions than is possible in China itself. This generates an alternative discourse and a certain level of alternative understanding that filters back into China, certainly to the larger urban centres. Given the large amount of international traffic by Chinese, this form of communication and feedback should not be underestimated.
movement inside China has not yet withered away completely, but we have no
reliable knowledge of its present size. At first, Falun Gong members actively
protested at the persecution on a central level (especially by appearing on
Tiananmen Square), but also locally. Most of these people were arrested and have
suffered severely. As already indicated above, “forbearance” (ren)
during stressful situations of all kinds was a crucial
contribution of Li
Hongzhi’s. It also means that when one is persecuted, passively and publicly
protesting its unjustness can be a means of drawing in the de (good
white substance) of the opponents and getting rid of one’s karma (the
bad black substance). Nonetheless, no such protest seems to be taking place
now. This suggests that the inner circle of followers is now either in prison
or dead, or too afraid to speak out. Outside China, there is a strong core in
the United States and there are smaller groups all over the globe, consisting
of mainland Chinese (usually well-educated, prosperous and of northern Chinese
origin) and Westerners in search of truth.
A much contested event is the collective suicide of seven Falun Gong followers on 23 January 2001, on Tiananmen Square. It has become one of the most important propaganda items on the Chinese state’s side, used to prove that the Falun Gong teachings delude people and are therefore dangerous. This is actually the same argument as the April 1999 article in the Tianjin university journal. First of all, we should note that there is a respected tradition of self-harm in Chinese Buddhism (including self-mutilation and immolation). Furthermore, suicide is a traditional means of protest, whether in labour conflicts or family disputes. On the other hand, there can be little doubt that the Falun Gong is right in pointing out that at least part of the events, and most certainly its public representation in the media and on the Internet, has been manipulated by the Chinese state.
Most recently, Falun Gong followers have succeeded in tapping into cable networks and satellite broadcasts for varying periods of time, in order to refute state propaganda. Confirmed reports of hijackings of public television time are available from Chongqing (Sichuan) on 1 January 2002 (cable television), Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning in March 2002 (all cable television), and from all over China in June 2002. The earlier broadcasts included a video arguing that the supposed Falun Gong suicides of January 2001 were really state manipulations. It is uncontested that the hijacking of cable-television was the result of actions by Falun Gong followers. This has not yet been confirmed for the technically much more sophisticated and expensive hijacking of satellite broadcasting.
The PRC is embarrassed by the ongoing protests. It has compiled extensive lists of all suspected Falun Gong followers inside the PRC itself, including their relatives. The persecution is carried out on the basis of such lists and we can be certain that many Falun Gong followers and/or activists outside China are also recorded on such lists. When people do return, a seemingly lenient policy is followed, which is already well-attested for Chinese students, scholars and the like who had protested at the time of the Beijing Spring in 1989 (with the exception of its leaders). After some time, many of them returned (or wanted to), but on arriving at a port of entry they are taken aside, interviewed and made to sign statements that they will not be involved in political activity (including any kind of critical activity which the state might at any given point define as “political”). Hence, they live under a permanent cloud and are likely to be subject to further pressure at any time. The famous poet Bei Dao has refused to return under these conditions.
The Chinese authorities have also compiled lists of suspected Falun Gong adherents or human rights activists living in the West (including many Westerners). The existence of these lists became quite clear during the recent visit of President Jiang Zemin of the PRC to Europe (including Iceland and Germany), when they were used by Western companies and authorities to prevent potential protestors from entering Iceland (a large scale protest, by local standards, still took place) or from coming too close during Jiang’s visit to Berlin. Hong Kong now also prevents people on such lists from entering.
The opening up of the Chinese economic system since 1978 has led to a vastly increased geographic mobility, first internally, but now spilling over to the rest of the world, in classical chain migration style. Migration in general may take several forms, whether legal in the form of family reunion, permanent or temporary jobs and higher education, or illegal (independently or, more commonly, with the assistance of professional traffickers), and finally as refugees or through seeking asylum.
There are two ways in which Falun Gong followers might end up outside China, most likely in Western countries with pre-existing Chinese communities. One is through the established routes of human trafficking between China and Europe, Australia and Northern America. Alternatively they may arrive on temporary visa, for instance as tourists, business people, students or researchers. Both categories might apply for asylum.
As pointed out above, the Falun Gong has been quite successful in building a following among Chinese students and professionals abroad, usually those with a technical or science background. Such individuals are already abroad and do not immediately require special status for religious reasons. When their visa or short term residence permits run out, they may apply for asylum. Since the Chinese security apparatus has compiled extensive records on Falun Gong followers and activists, they may well face heavy pressure and possibly punishment upon their return. They may choose to accept this fate in line with the Falun Gong teaching of “forbearance” or they may try to stay in the West. It is unlikely that this will involve large numbers of people, and will also mainly be limited to people with high levels of education. The dangers facing Falun Gong practitioners returning to China are much greater than those affecting for instance the Beijing Spring dissidents, in view of the much more brutal persecution suffered by the Falun Gong. At the same time those who still consider themselves Falun Gong followers are less likely to agree to sign statements that they have given up their adherence to the teachings.
country through human trafficking is not impossible: leading dissidents
succeeded in getting out in the aftermath of the suppression of the Beijing
Spring of 1989 and individual Falun Gong followers have also been able to leave
the country in various ways.
However, larger groups of people would have to move through the regular
channels exist only for people from specific migration regions in southern
China. In these regions we find a “culture of migration”, in which migration is
considered a superior way of achieving something in life for oneself and the
larger kinship unit. Once established, the strength of this culture is such
that mere government policies or changing socio-economic circumstances are not
enough to alter it.
These migration regions are southern Zhejiang (the hinterland of the Wenzhou
port), northern Fujian (Fuzhou/Fuqing) and Cantonese and Hakka speaking
communities in Hong Kong and the Pearl River delta. In the United States,
Guangdong was historically the main province of origin of migrants until the
1980s, but this has since changed to northern Fujian. Illegal immigrants,
transported along complicated and expensive trafficking networks, come mainly
from northern Fujian (going to Europe and North America) and southern Zhejiang
(going to Europe). People with the same regional and cultural background who
are already in the country serve as a support network; some of them may be
directly involved in the trafficking itself.
For people who do not stem from these classical migration regions, leaving the country is much harder. The existing routes for human trafficking require passports and other documents that are only obtainable with the cooperation of local officials. In the classical migration regions such cooperation will be forthcoming, since officials know that expatriates tend to reinvest in their home region, whether by sending home remittances for relatives or by setting up commercial and industrial enterprises. The officials are also paid for their services. Leaving China is, however, an expensive matter that requires heavy investment of money, which is usually provided by relatives and must be paid back. To leave in secret is therefore quite impossible. Given that the Falun Gong movement is weak in these classical migration regions, this is not an option realistically open to any significant number of followers.
Another issue is when migrants to Europe and North America apply for right of residence based on a claim of actual or feared persecution, which is then assessed by the relevant authorities. Common grounds cited include the one child policy in China or membership of persecuted religious groups (Christian or otherwise). Claims of persecution on the grounds of membership of the Falun Gong have certainly already been used in this connection, but how often can not be quantified. It is widely acknowledged that such applications are often unjustified. When asylum is not granted, such migrants usually disappear into the illegal circuit, since they have normally had to invest heavily in order to get to a Western country to begin with and this investment has to be recovered. They usually come from the classical migration regions, indicating that we are dealing here with a general form of migration, rather than purely politically motivated migration. Whatever the reasons for applying for asylum, the applicants will not want to return.
The direct future of the Falun Gong movement is impossible to predict. What may happen is that its following changes, at least inside China itself. People who want to be part of legal mainstream society may drop out (or have dropped out already). Only people who are already somewhat marginal to Chinese society are likely to stay in. Outside China, the movement continues to be successful among students, researchers and businessmen from the PRC. Whether labour protest inside China might link up with local Falun Gong networks is a matter for speculation, but the dissident movement outside China certainly has shown little interest in defending the overall right of religious freedom that is also involved here, and there is not much visible cooperation.
In the same
way it is unclear what the Chinese state will do. In the short term, Jiang
and other leading party and government officials have invested too much of
their credibility in the successful suppression of the Falun Gong and similar
movements to allow them to become more conciliatory. Much will depend on
internal power struggles, the outcome of which is hard to predict from the
outside. Much also depends on the degree of international pressure, although
this is not an issue where the Chinese state is likely to be offering
compromise. Ideology is essential to maintaining legitimacy, at the very least
within the leadership itself, and therefore not negotiable.
Whether the Falun Gong movement will be able to sustain the international momentum of its human rights campaign or will fade away into oblivion is yet another open question. Its campaign did survive the events of 11 September and the ensuing focus of the Western world, especially the United States, on “terrorism” and on the Middle East. As long as these problems and international perception of them continue in the present form, this will be to the advantage of the Chinese government. The movement will find it difficult to remain on the international agenda.
The daring propaganda struggle of the Falun Gong in China during the last few months raises not a few questions and has changed the movement from one that could claim to be apolitical to a strongly political one. But let us not forget that religious movements all over the world have tended to involve themselves in politics, and there are numerous examples of political parties with a strong religious orientation. However, the Falun Gong movement is not political in that way: it does not aim to change the political system and it does not aim to impose its own values on all of the population. It “merely” wants the freedom it needs to sustain itself and to practise its teachings. In a different type of society, which tolerated the full spectrum of religious or spiritual movements, the Falun Gong movement would probably function without much ado and would then have to compete with many other groups and movements.
The current level of persecution will undoubtedly generate asylum requests from Falun Gong adherents who are already abroad on short term visas or residence permits. Since the Chinese security apparatus has built extensive files on people suspected of a link with the Falun Gong and such people are usually treated very harshly, people with some kind of Falun Gong connection do have a justified fear for their well-being after returning to the PRC. A steady stream of refugees is not to be expected, however. This is not because the persecution is not brutal enough, but simply because the particular mechanics of human trafficking in China do not allow large numbers of people outside traditional migration regions to leave the country easily.
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Pieke, F.N., Recent Trends in Chinese Migration to Europe: Fujianese Migration in Perspective, Geneva, International Organization for Migration, 2002, http://www.iom.int//DOCUMENTS/PUBLICATION/EN/mrs_6_2002.pdf [accessed July 2002]
Pieke, F.N. and Mallee, H. (eds.), Internal and International Migration: Chinese Migration, London: Curzon, 1999
Poisonous Deceit, Deep Six Publishing, 2002, http://www.deep6-publishing.org
Rahn, P., The Chemistry of a Conflict: The Chinese Government and the Falun Gong, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 14, No.4, fc Winter 2002
Reporters Without Borders, Severe Crackdown in Defence of the State Monopoly on Information, 21 May 2002, http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=1386 [accessed 16 July 2002
Restive Rural China, Washington Post Online, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/world/issues/ruralchina/ [accessed 17 June 2002]
Reuters, Falun Gong Taps into TV again in China, 26 June 2002, http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=1135607 [accessed 1 July 2002]
Saari, J. L., Legacies of Childhood: Growing up Chinese in a Time of Crisis, 1890-1920, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1990
Sing Lee and Kleinman, A., Suicide as Resistance in Chinese Society, in Perry, E. J. and Selden, M. (eds.), Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 221-40
Skeldon, R., Myths and Realities of Chinese Irregular Migration, Geneva: International Organization for Migration, 2002, http://www.iom.int/iomwebsite/Publication/ServletSearchPublication?event=detail&id=456 [accessed July 2002]
Song Guanyu, Tiandao gouchen: Yiguan dao diaocha baogao, Taibei: privately published, 1984
United Kingdom, Country Information and Policy Unit, Revolution of the Wheel: The Falun Gong in China and in Exile, London: Immigration and Nationality Directorate, April 2002, http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/default.asp?pageid=2806 [accessed July 2002
The Weekend Australian, 16 March 2002
Ye Hao, Falungong zhenxiang – cankao ziliao huibian, http://www.minghui.ca [accessed 20 May 2000, but not found on the present Minghui site]
Zhang Liang (comp.), Nathan, A. J. and Link, P. (eds), The Tiananmen Papers, London: Little, Brown, 2001
Zhang Rongjia [Beijing Medical Universtiy] and Xiao Jun [Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine], A Report on the Effect of Falun Gong in Curing Diseases and Keeping Fit Based on a Survey of 355 Cultivators of Falun Gong at Certain Sites in Beijing, China (Preliminary Study), 1996, http://www.falundafa.ca/world/health/survey96.htm [accessed 20 June 2002]
Zhang Weiqing and Qiao Gong, Falun gong chuangshiren Li Hongzhi pingzhuan, Taibei: Chengbang wenhua shiye, 1999
The Falun Gong and the propaganda-battles that surround it are very much an Internet affair. For this report I have attempted to recheck and update all weblinks. It is, however, possible, that links will change in the future. I was also unable to find certain materials on new versions of Falun Gong websites, but all substantial materials have been downloaded by me for archival preservation. The following are key websites specifically focusing on the Falun Gong:
§ www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/falun.htm (scholarly website by Barend J. ter Haar on the Falun Gong movement, including frequently updated bibliographies and weblinks)
§ www.faluninfo.net (the Falun Gong’s main English language newssite on the persecution of the movement in China)
§ www.falundafa.org (the Falun Gong’s own website for spreading the teachings and practices of Li Hongzhi)
§ www.mingjing.org.cn (the main People’s Republic of China website against the Falun Gong)
 The term Falun Gong (the practice of the Dharma Wheel) stresses the exercises and is in common, general use. The term Falun Dafa (the Great Teachings of the Dharma Wheel) focuses on the teachings at the centre of the movement. It is the term which the movement itself prefers to use. Both terms are used without pejorative connotations.
 The reality of this campaign is beyond doubt. Falun Gong itself provides extensive documentation, e.g. on their website, http://www.faluninfo.net/ [accessed July 2002]. In addition both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have provided well-documented reports. See Human Rights Watch, Dangerous Meditation: China’s Campaign against Falun Gong, New York, January 2002; Amnesty International, The Crackdown on Falun Gong and other “Heretical Organizations”, London, 23 March 2000. Journalists like Ian Johnson of Wall Street Journal and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, John Leicester of Associated Press and many others have independently and against great odds demonstrated that this campaign really does take place. See e.g. Johnson, I., A Portrait of the Unreformed Side of China: The Falun Dafa Protests, New York: Wall Street Journal, 2002. Another case, well-documented in interviews by Western journalists, is that of Zeng Zheng (Jennifer), referred to in note 80 below.
 Ownby, D., A History of Falun Gong: The Religious and Social Context, paper presented at Conference on the Falun Gong, Montreal, May 2002. For the following paragraphs see for instance Naquin, S., The Transmission of White Lotus Sectarianism in Late Imperial China, in Johnson, D., Nathan, A. J., Rawski E. S. (eds.), Popular Culture in Late Imperial China, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pp. 255-91, and Haar, B.J. ter, Local Religious Culture from 1644 until circa 1840 (unpublished ms.). The analysis provided here is of course a simplification.
 Full analysis and annotations are impossible here. Amnesty International’s The Crackdown on Falun Gong, p. 1, note 1, has chosen to ignore this problem, but does not use the term “cult”. More on these terminological issues can be found on Barend J. ter Haar’s website, http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/falun.htm, and in Haar, B.J. ter, The White Lotus Teachings in Chinese Religious History, Leiden: Brill, 1992
 Detailed analyses of the biography have been made Benjamin Penny, in Penny, B., The Life and Times of Li Hongzhi: Falun Gong and Religious Biography, China Quarterly, fc 2002, and Penny, B., The Body of Li Hongzhi, in The Body of Master Li, The Australian Association for the Study of Religions, fc 2002. In the first article, he points out that the original biography was written by a journalist and then edited for Falun Gong usage. After 1999, it disappeared from the Falun Gong websites and from their reprints of Li Hongzhi’s Zhuanfalun, of which it was an appendix. The present author downloaded the biography on 4 June 2000.
 This coincidence is not made explicit in any Falun Gong or analytical writings known to the present author.
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture One, Section: Qigong shi shiqian gongfa. For this report I have used a Chinese pdf-version downloaded from http://www.falundafa.org on 18 June 2002. There is also a convenient web-version in English, which can be easily searched on given topics.
 Penny, B. The Body of Li Hongzhi
 Zhang Weiqing and Qiao Gong, Falun gong chuangshiren Li Hongzhi pingzhuan, Taibei: Chengbang wenhua shiye, 1999, pp. 340-5; See also a document emanating from Chinese security circles, Li Hongzhi qiren, http://www.mingjing.org.cn/jybl/02.htm [accessed 19 July 2002]
 Haar, B.J. ter, China’s Inner Demons: The Political Impact of the Demonological Paradigm, in Woei Lien Chong (ed.), China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution: Master Narratives and Post-Mao Counternarratives, Boulder CO: Rowman & Littlefield, fc 2002, a revised version of a 1996-1997 article. Patsy Rahn has taken up these ideas and developed them much further in Rahn, P., The Chemistry of a Conflict: The Chinese Government and the Falun Gong, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 14, No.4, fc Winter 2002
 Not surprisingly, there is a strong concern about control over the contents of the teachings. See Zhang and Qiao, pp. 58-9 for a good example. The disappearance of the Li Hongzhi biography from the websites and Zhuanfalun reprints is another example.
 These days he communicates through the Internet site, which is obviously maintained by his close followers. Western spokespersons are Gail Rachlin and Zhang Erping.
 The best survey of events (which can also be found elsewhere in slightly different forms) is provided in Bruseker, G., Falun Gong: A Modern Chinese Folk Buddhist Movement in Crisis, unpublished thesis [University of Alberta], http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/bruseker.rtf
 Penny, Life and Times...; David Ownby, personal communication, 8 July 2002. Li Hongzhi’s increased visibility is also apparent from the main website, http://www.falundafa.org.
 The main work by Li Hongzhi containing his teachings is the aforementioned Zhuanfalun, which is available in many editions and translations, although crucial connotations are certainly lost in the non-Chinese versions. It can also be downloaded from all Falun Gong sites. Here I only present a selection of key concepts in the light of my understanding as an academic student of Chinese religious culture.
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture One (sections Qigong jiushi xiulian and Qigong shi shiqian gongfa); his activities as described in the Falun Gong biography (on which see note 5 above).
 See Human Rights Watch, Detained in China and Tibet: A Directory of Political and Religious Prisoners, New York, 1994; Human Rights Watch, China: State Control of Religion, New York, 1997. For further references, see http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/chinPRCbib.html
 The sensitivity of Qigong movements in general, as illustrated by their denunciation of the Falun Gong in 1996, is motivated by the same considerations. See Zhang and Qiao, pp. 69-72, 96-109. More background information on Qigong in Penny, B. Qigong, Daoism and Science: Some Contexts for the Qigong Boom, in Lee, M. and Syrokomla-Stefanowska, A.D. (eds.), Modernisation of the Chinese Past, Sydney: Wild Peony, 1993, pp. 166-79. See also http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/chinPRCbib.html.
 This is a Buddhist symbol, which Westerners tend to interpret as an inverted swastika, but which actually has absolutely none of the Western associations with the Nazi-symbol.
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture Three (sections Falun dafa xueyuan zemmayang chuangong and Falun dafa de tedian). All references to the Zhuanfalun are selective. Usually, one topic is treated in more than one location.
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture One (section Qigong weishemma bu changgong) and Lecture Three (section Laoshi gei xueyuan yixie shemma)
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture One (section Qigong weishemma bu changgong)
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture Seven (sections Zhibing wenti and Yiyuan zhibing yu qigong zhibing)
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture One (section Qigong weishemma bu changgong)
 This has been checked with the use of an on-line concordance to a Chinese bible, available at http://www2.ccim.org/~bible/ [accessed July 2002]
 For an illustrated introduction to this notion, through Chinese poster art, see Landsberger, S.R., Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages, http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/index.html [accessed July 2002]
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture Four (sections Shiyude and Yeli de zhuanhua)
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture Three (section Falun dafa de tedian)
 Penny, B., Falun Gong, Prophecy and Apocalypse, East Asian History, 2002, fc.
 Li Hongzhi, statement dated 19 May 2002, http://www.falundafa.org/book/chibig5/chm/jw.chm [accessed 24 June 2002]
 See Bruseker, pp. 49-59, for data available as of early 2000. See also Human Rights Watch, Dangerous Meditation... and Amnesty International, The Crackdown on Falun Gong, p. 23
 Li Hongzhi yu ‘Falungong’ zuzhi, http://www.mingjing.org.cn/jybl/05.htm [accessed 19 July 2002]. This text does not provide real analysis or evaluation.
 Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture Three (section Falun dafa xueyuan zemmayang chuangong); Zhang and Qiao, pp. 79-80, 83-5
 One critic who was writing before the persecution of the movement started sees this as the reason why so many highly educated scientists and managers (who were party members) also joined. See Zhang and Qiao, pp. 93-4. Although focusing on an earlier period, the most readble introduction to this problem is Saari, J. L., Legacies of Childhood: Growing up Chinese in a Time of Crisis, 1890-1920, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1990
 Based on materials gathered by the Falun Gong itself, http://www.faluninfo.net/devstories/deathcases/index.asp [accessed July 2002], but confirmed by persecution sources on http://www.mingjing.org.cn/ [accessed July 2002]
 Ye Hao, Falungong zhenxiang – cankao ziliao huibian, http://www.minghui.ca [accessed 20 May 2000, but not found on the present Minghui site]
 This is evident from the reporting by John Leicester and Ian Johnson, quoted above.
 See e.g. Falun Gong Breaks onto China’s Airwaves, BBC News, 7 March 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk [accessed July 2002]
 See Johnson, A Portrait of the Unreformed Side of China..., especially reports dated 20 and 25 April, 8 and 10 May, 25 August, 2 and 9 October, 22 November, 13 and 26 December, all 2001
 Personal observations and impressionistic testimony by various anonymous Chinese sources. Also, David Ownby, statements at a workshop on the Falun Gong in Amsterdam, May 2001
 Government sources stress the ability of the Falun Gong to gather large numbers of people for demonstrations, which – unlike Western observers – they regard as illegal. China Daily, 8 August 1999, http://www.mingjing.org.cn/e-falun/cult/417.htm [accessed 2 July 2002]
 See http://www.faluninfo.net/faq.asp [accessed 19 July 2002]. The numbers on the Chinese Faluninfo website are higher due to more up-to-date information. Unconfirmed deaths may push the number higher still, according to the Falun Gong.
 Falun Dafa Information Centre, List of Deaths, http://www.faluninfo.net/devstories/deathcases/index.asp [accessed 20 June 2002]. These data, which are obviously essentially indicative, do match other qualitative information from the Falun Gong itself as well as from the Chinese state, in which the same provinces occur time and time again.
 Zhang Rongjia [Beijing Medical Universtiy] and Xiao Jun [Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine], A Report on the Effect of Falun Gong in Curing Diseases and Keeping Fit Based on a Survey of 355 Cultivators of Falun Gong at Certain Sites in Beijing, China (Preliminary Study), 1996, http://www.falundafa.ca/world/health/survey96.htm [accessed 20 June 2002]. Also used by Bruseker
 Zhang Rongjia and Xiao Jun, Table 2. I have left their categories unaltered.
 Idem, Tables 1 and 3
 Other data gathered by Bruseker, pp. 54-9, confirms these conclusions. In a collection of personal experiences of the teachings by some hundred followers, entitled Lun xiulian dafa bufen dalu xueyuan xiulian xinde tihui, Beijing, 1996 (mimeograph), medical staff and cadres are much less prominent, but we do find people with menial jobs, students and researchers, and some cadres, as well as retired people. The descriptions of people who have died under the persecution or testimonies on the Falun Gong website also indicate the wide socio-educational distribution of the Falun Gong following within China itself.
 The Lun xiulian dafa... is full of detailed information, which is confirmed by other material on the Falun Gong websites.
 See e.g. Johnson, A Portrait of the Unreformed Side of China..., Associated Press, Leicester, J., TV Hijackings, E-mail Attacks: China’s Government, Falun Gong Battle for a Hazy Concept, Truth, 8 April 2002
 Falun Dafa Information Center, Falun Gong Practitioner Sun Guilan from Baoji City, Shaanxi Province Tortured to Death for Attending a Cultivation Experience Sharing Meeting, 20 May 2002, http://www.faluninfo.net/displayAnArticle.asp?ID=5667 [accessed 2 July 2002]; Huashangbao, 28 June 2002, http://www.mingjing.org.cn/zxxx/2020701/02.htm [accessed 2 July 2002]
 The following reports together demonstrate this beyond any doubt. There are outside evaluations, such as Amnesty International, The Crackdown on Falun Gong...; Munro, R., Judicial Psychiatry in China and Its Political Abuses, Colombia Journal of Asian Law, Vol. 14, No 1, 2001; Human Rights Watch, Dangerous Meditation... In addition there is the wealth of documentation produced by the Falun Gong itself and available on http://www.faluninfo.net, both in the form of reports and of individual evidence.
 Bruseker, pp. 67-9 speculates on the reasons for these events. See also Zhang and Qiao, pp. 96-104. The usefulness for the Falun Gong of continued membership and the fact that Li Hongzhi left for the United States subsequently suggest to me that it is more likely that the movement’s membership was cancelled unilaterally.
 Zhang and Qiao, pp. 185-199. There have been more local Falun Gong demonstrations of this type, see list at http://126.96.36.199/fanduixiejiao/eng/10/10109.htm [accessed 16 July 2002]. This is a propaganda site, but not necessarily unreliable in its facts. Falun Gong websites uniformly stress that He Zuoxiu is also the brother-in-law of the head of the security apparatus Luo Gan, who is said to have instigated the entire persecution through He Zuoxiu. Although this link is interesting, it does not conform to the timing of events, since He had been writing against Qigong movements for many years already.
 Oral communications from Chinese intellectuals. Johnson, I., China’s Rigid Policies on Religion Helped Falun Dafa for Years, The Wall Street Journal, 13 December 2000; Zhang and Qiao, pp. 189-191
 Bruseker, pp. 72 ff; Zhang and Qiao, pp. 69ff
 This should not be misread as implying that the persecution was therefore justified. Even a violent demonstration would not justify this kind of suppression.
 Bruseker, pp. 73-83
 Perry, E.J., Collective Violence in China, 1880-1980, Theory and Society, Vol. 13, No 3, 1984, pp 427-54; Perry, E.J. , Rural Violence in Socialist China, China Quarterly, No 103, 1985, pp. 414-40
 Labour Disputes and Actions [list of Articles of Previous Years], China Labour Bulletin, http://iso.china-labour.org.hk/iso/article_listings.adp?category_id=3 [accessed 17 June 2002]. See also articles listed under the heading Restive Rural China, Washington Post Online, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/world/issues/ruralchina/ [accessed 17 June 2002]
 The recent anonymous e-book Poisonous Deceit, Deep Six Publishing, 2002, http://www.deep6-publishing.org, does the sameby attacking Jiang Zemin. The Falun Gong websites also focus on Jiang Zemin, but this book is particularly vehement.
 But compare Zhang Liang (comp.), Nathan, A. J. and Link, P. (eds), The Tiananmen Papers, London: Little, Brown, 2001. Poisonous Deceit, if and when reliable in terms of facts, also suggests that not everybody thinks the same way.
 See note 18 above for references.
 Buruma, I., Bad Elements: Chinese Rebels from Los Angeles to Beijing, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001, provides a readable introduction to their political and/or (often Christian) religious views.
 Haar, The White Lotus Teachings, [passim].
 For criticism of moneymaking activities expressed since the start of the persecution, see http://www.mingjing.org.cn/jybl/05.htm [accessed July 2002]. For the Falun Gong view, see Li Hongzhi, Zhuanfalun, Lecture Three (section Falun dafa xueyuan zemmayang chuangong). See also the discussion in Zhang and Qiao, pp. 105-9
 Haar, B. J. ter, Ritual and Mythology of the Chinese Triads: Creating an Identity, Leiden: Brill, 1998
 Dutton, M.R., Policing and Punishment in China: From the Patriarchy to “the People”, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. The author discusses many aspects of crime, punishment and control, including whether there are continuities between past and present Chinese attitudes and practice.
 See references in note 17.
 Song Guanyu, Tiandao gouchen: Yiguan dao diaocha baogao, Taibei: privately published, 1984. Personal observations throughout the 1990s.
 See for instance their website, based in Taiwan, which lists 794 locations where public exercises are held regularly, http://www.falundafa.org.tw/falunintaiwan/place.htm [accessed 24 June 2002]. Taiwanese intellectuals have expressed their pride in this newly-won tolerance in private communications to the present author.
 Comments on Northern America by David Ownby at the May 2001 Falun Gong workshop in Amsterdam; the present author has made similar observations in Germany and the Netherlands.
 As seen on the anti-Falun Gong website, http://www.mingjing.org.cn, and in other forms of propaganda
 On self-immolation, see Benn, J. A., Where Text Meets Flesh: Burning the Body as an Apocryphal Practice in Chinese Buddhism, History of Religions, Vol. 37, No 4, 1998, pp 295-322; for further references see the present author’s online bibliography, Violence in Chinese Culture, http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/bth/violence.htm. On suicide out of protest or desperation in China today, see for instance the list of articles in China Labour Bulletin (see above, fn 59), which contains several references to suicides; also Ji Jianlin, Committed Suicide in the Chinese Rural Areas, Updates on Global Mental and Social Health: Newsletter of the World Mental Health Project, Vol. 3, No 1 June 1999, http://www.hms.harvard.edu/dsm/wmhp/updates/news0301/suic0301.htm [accessed 17 July 2002]; and finally Sing Lee and Kleinman, A., Suicide as Resistance in Chinese Society, in Perry, E. J. and Selden, M. (eds.), Chinese Society: Change, Conflict and Resistance, London: Routledge, 2000, pp. 221-40
 See the Falun Dafa website for an analysis of (part of) the evidence, http://www.faluninfo.net/devstories/tiananmen/immolation.asp [accessed July 2002]
 Reporters Without Borders, Severe Crackdown in Defence of the State Monopoly on Information, 21 May 2002, http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=1386 [accessed 16 July 2002; Reuters, Falun Gong Taps into TV again in China, 26 June 2002, http://www.reuters.com/news_article.jhtml?type=worldnews&StoryID=1135607 [accessed 1 July 2002]; Chinese Satellite TV Hijacked by Falun Gong Cult, People’s Daily, 9 July 2002, http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200207/08/eng20020708_99347.shtml [accessed 16 July 2002]
 Personal communications from fellow scholars. A very convenient, older summary is Canada, Immigration and Refugee Board, China: Political Dissent – An Update, Ottawa, June 1995, http://www.irb.gc.ca [accessed 24 June 2002]
 On the Chinese version of the Falun Dafa Information Center’s website, extensive information on this issue can be found, mostly as a result of the Iceland visit of President Jiang Zemin. See, http://chinese.faluninfo.net/gb/index.htm. It was also reported in the Western media.
 An excellent starting point is Pieke, F.N. and Mallee, H. (eds.), Internal and International Migration: Chinese Migration, London: Curzon, 1999, particularly for Chinese migration to Europe. For the United States a good starting point is Ko-lin Chin, Smuggled Chinese: Clandestine Immigration to the United States, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999. Convenient online resources are the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board’s report China: Internal Migration and the Floating Population, Ottawa, 1998, http://www.irb.gc.ca [accessed 15 June 2002] and the more concise Pieke, F.N., Recent Trends in Chinese Migration to Europe: Fujianese Migration in Perspective, Geneva, International Organization for Migration, 2002, http://www.iom.int//DOCUMENTS/PUBLICATION/EN/mrs_6_2002.pdf [accessed July 2002]
 This happened in 1989 and is for instance reported for Australia in the case of Falun Gong followers. Personal communication by fellow scholars.
 An important case is that of Zeng Zheng (Jennifer), who holds a MA in geochemistry from Beijing University and is a CCP member (though undoubtedly expelled since then). She verified, for Falun Gong prisoners, a practice otherwise widely known and with a long history in China, namely the use of prisoners as unpaid labour in the export industry (in her case making dolls for Nestlé). She has been interviewed in numerous Australian media; see e.g. Burke, Kelly, Cute Toy Rabbits Belie Ordeal of Chinese Labour Camps, Sidney Morning Herald, 28 December 2001, http://old.smh.com.au/news/0112/28/national/national19.html, [accessed 21 July 2002]. More information in The Weekend Australian, 16 March 2002, and Callick, R., Out of China to Outer Melbourne, The Australian Financial Review, 21 June 2002
 This analysis draws on Pieke, Recent Trends... , pp. 32-3
 Pieke, Recent Trends... and Skeldon, R., Myths and Realities of Chinese Irregular Migration, Geneva: International Organization for Migration, 2002, http://www.iom.int/iomwebsite/Publication/ServletSearchPublication?event=detail&id=456 [accessed July 2002]
 Pieke, Recent Trends... , p. 23.
 Immigration sources in Canada, UK and the Netherlands. The best source is still [Nic Carlyle for the] Country Information and Policy Unit, Revolution of the Wheel: The Falun Gong in China and in Exile, London: Immigration and Nationality Directorate, April 2002, http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/default.asp?pageid=2806 [accessed July 2002], especially sections 3a (Migration Issues) and 3b (Asylum Cases)
 Barnett, D., The Coming Conflict over Asylum: Does America Need a New Asylum Policy?, Washington: Center for Immigration Studies, March 2002, http://www.cis.org/articles/2002/back102.pdf [accessed 25 June 2002]; Martin, D., The 1995 Asylum Reforms: A Historic and Global Perspective, Washington: Center for Immigration Studies, May 2000, http://www.cis.org/articles/2002/back500.pdf [accessed 25 June 2002]
 Pieke, Recent Trends..., p. 26. On returning asylum seekers, see Koser, K., The Return and Reintegration of Rejected Asylum Seekers and Irregular Migrants, Geneva: International Organization for Migration, May 2001, http://www.iom.int//DOCUMENTS/PUBLICATION/EN/mrs_4_2001.pdf [accessed July 2002].