Falun Gong Practitioners Directing Attention To Human Rights Issues In China
Image by infomatique
In April 1999 over ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners gathered at Communist Party of China headquarters, Zhongnanhai, in a silent protest against beatings and arrests in Tianjin. Two months later the People’s Republic of China government, led by Jiang Zemin, banned the practice, began a crackdown, and started what Amnesty International described as a "massive propaganda campaign." Since 1999, reports of torture, illegal imprisonment, beatings, forced labor, and psychiatric abuses have been widespread. 66% of all reported torture cases in China concern Falun Gong practitioners, who are also estimated to comprise at least half of China’s labor camp population, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, and the US Department of State respectively. In 2006, human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian secretary of state David Kilgour published an investigative report concluding that a large number of Falun Gong practitioners have become victims of systematic organ harvesting in China and that the practice is still ongoing. In November 2008, The United Nations Committee on Torture called on the Chinese State party to commission an independent investigation of the reports, and "ensure that those responsible for such abuses are prosecuted and punished."
Since the 1999 persecution, Falun Gong practitioners abroad have held activities directing attention to the Human Rights situation in China. They protest on a regular basis as the Spire in O’Connell Street.
Falun Gong has garnered diverse public attention on several occasions. The late psychologist Margaret Singer derided it as a "cult." Political scientist Patricia M. Thornton at the University of Oxford refers to Falun Gong as a cybersect, due to the group’s reliance on the internet "for text distribution, recruitment and information-sharing among adherents".
Brian Edelman and James T. Richardson writing in the Journal of Church and State argue that the cult label applied to Falun Gong has no "empirical verification or general acceptance in the scientific community," and is merely a label that has been conveniently used to attack the practice. David Ownby, Director of the Centre of East Asian studies at the University of Montreal, states that Falun Gong is "by no means a cult." Livia Kohn, Professor of Religion and East Asian Studies at Boston University and a scholar in Daoism, says Falun Gong has "a high success rate in creating friendlier people, more harmonious social environments, and greater health and vitality."