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Question #62941 posted on 04/26/2011 1:56 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

What are your opinions on the treatment of Falun Gong practitioners in China?

I have heard conflicting opinions from people, some who say that the Falun Gong are exaggerating or making up things to make the Chinese government look bad, and others who say that it is probably far worse than the Falun Gong say. Some say that this is a peek behind the mask which reveals the evil nature of the Chinese government, while others say that the modern Chinese government is, for the most part, good.

How bad are these crackdowns from an international perspective? If they are so atrocious why don't more people talk about these crimes against humanity?

- Don't know what to believe anymore


Dear doesn't know,

Originally I was going to write a really intense answer about Falun Gong, the Chinese government, and maybe even try to give you a less biased view of what things are "really" like in China. Unfortunately, I can only give you one out of three. The simple fact of the matter is that there is no unbiased view out there, and it is impossible for me, or you, or anyone without first-hand experience to give an accurate representation of what is happening over there. 

Okay, so here it goes. First of all, for anyone who doesn't know about Falun Gong, you can either read the really long Wikipedia article, or here is my quick summary of the group: Falun Gong (or Falong Gong) is a new religious movement in China. They have many theological teachings as well as general moral teachings (e.g., have compassion). They combine teachings from traditional Chinese religions and practices as well as more modern ones. The group was formed in 1991 and has grown exponentially since then. In about 1996 the Chinese government basically decided that Falun Gong was, in some ways, a threat to the government and decided it was time to take a stand against the group. How was it a threat? In the same way that communism in the 1950's U.S. was a threat! The group challenged the main way of thinking; it was religious in nature (which the PRC is not), and it was growing at an alarming rate. 

Anyway, you really just asked for my opinion on the treatment of Falun Gong in China. I personally believe that the group is mainly innocent (besides small infractions of the law, like protesting without a license, but it was peaceful protesting so maybe didn't deserve such harsh consequences). Accounts of what the PRC has done to practitioners, like putting them in reeducation camps, beating them, gang rape, and more, seem really horrific. How widespread is that? Is it policy or a few deranged humans acting alone? That is the real question. I like to believe that the Chinese government is not entirely evil, but rather tries to do more than it can handle.

I can see why people would say that this reveals the ultimately "evil" nature of the Chinese government. However... and this may make me sound like a bad guy, but I think we are highly influenced by the U.S.'s propaganda. Yeah, that's right, we are taught that communism is evil. People in the 1950's were taught the same thing. Is communism inherently evil? No. Could it work? Maybe, we just haven't seen it yet. Do we really have the right to force our favorite type of government and morals on countries? I don't think so.

That being said, I have no doubt that there are horrible things going on. There are too many reports of people having been abused by government officials for their involvement in Falun Gong for it to be fabricated. So why don't more people talk about these crimes against humanity? First of all, a lot of people do. Amnesty Intentional, among other groups, has monitored the treatment of Falun Gong. This fact sheet from 2008 gives succinct information about the climate towards Falun Gong practitioners, and you can read more here and here. The second link is more general information, but the first link actually gives information on what you can do to try and help people in China who are being persecuted. Just because we don't hear about what people are doing to try and curb these atrocities (and just because most of us haven't even heard of Falun Gong in the first place) doesn't mean no one in the world cares. Keep in mind we are in the U.S. What is our media concerned with? Things that the U.S. is directly involved in. There are atrocities around the world every day that the Western press doesn't cover. That's just the way it is; there are newsworthy items in the U.S. that no one in China hears about, either.

You asked for my opinions and that is what you got. Sorry if it was mostly rambling. I talked with a professor here who recommended you read a book or two by the historian David Ownby. (Here is a review of one of his books, and a preview of it on Google Books.) He has written a great deal on Falun Gong and their treatment in China.