Falun Gong

New Jersey celebrates the 20th anniversary of Falun Dafa

Adriana Rambay Fernández, Hudson Reporter: People came out from across New Jersey on May 12 to observe World Falun Dafa Day, which was held in Secaucus for the first time. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ancient Chinese Buddhist tradition, which consists of meditation and Tai Chi-like exercises.

Adults and children wearing blue and yellow t-shirts with Falun Dafa slogans gathered during a sunny day on the Buchmuller lawns and before the stage to hear live music, watch dance performances and to learn exercises. Mayor Michael Gonnelli spoke during the day’s events to welcome the group.

Proclamation by town

The mayor and …

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Falun Gong brings tranquility to Times Square

Joshua Philipp & Zachary Stieber, Epoch Times: Something unique happened on Times Square on Saturday. From the morning until late afternoon, it became calm. Beneath the flashing billboards and amidst the bustling of tourists, hundreds of people sat in meditation while soft Chinese music played above low voices.

The event was one of several throughout the city marking the 20th year since Falun Gong was introduced to the public in China. Meditation lasted through the easy afternoon, and turned to music and Chinese dance as the day drew on.

And although this was a celebration, people standing on corners with fliers for …

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Vietnam’s Falun Gong under pressure

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Ian Timberlake, AFP News: In silent meditation, the Falungong members did not flinch when a shirtless, tattooed man slapped them on the head, or when a burly female security agent dragged a dried palm leaf across their faces.

Vietnamese practitioners of Falungong — a Buddhist-inspired traditional Chinese spiritual discipline practised in more than 70 countries.– say treatment like this has become routine. They say communist authorities in Hanoi have bowed to pressure from China, using police and hired thugs to harass, assault and detain members of the movement.

Their plight has been highlighted with the jailing by a Hanoi court in early November of two Vietnamese Falungong …

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Viet Nam: Falun Gong practitioners detained over meditation protest

Mariah Jen: The beating and arrest of at least 30 peaceful Falun Gong demonstrators outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi yesterday is an unacceptable violation of freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

The demonstrators were protesting the trial and mistreatment of two local Falun Gong broadcasters, Vu Duc Trung (right, wearing white shirt)) and Le Van Thanh (behind, center), who had worked for the movement’s radio station The Sound of Hope. The trial of Vu and Le is due to take place on Thursday.

“The repression of these Falun Gong practitioners by the Vietnamese authorities is a violation of their rights to freedom …

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Meditation causes changes in brain structure

A study by scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Bender Institute of Neuroimaging in Germany found that deep meditation for 27 minutes a day for eight weeks produced changes in the areas of the brain associated with memory, empathy, and stress.

Dr. Britta Hölzel was the lead author of the study, published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging on Jan. 30. She says, “It’s fascinating to see the plasticity of the brain, and the practice of meditation can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase prosperity and the quality of life.”

“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of tranquility and physical relaxation, doctors have long argued that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day,” says Dr. Sara Lazar, a coauthor of the study.

Sixteen people participated in the study. They underwent a brain scan two weeks before and two weeks after the study. The magnetic resonance images of the brain structures of…

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the individuals showed an increase in gray-matter density in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that deals with memory, emotions, spacial orientation, and navigation.

Currently, meditation is seen as a great tool for reducing anxiety, improving health and well-being, and increasing the capacity of internal and external perception.

Meditation’s major benefits are being discovered by those who practice in a continuous, disciplined, and dedicated manner.

Meditation is done by sitting comfortably with one’s back straight and tension-free and having a positive, sincere, and respectful attitude. A suitable environment and proper position is essential for successful meditation. It’s helpful to have a good guide or instructions from a master.

Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese practice of mind, body, and spirit, includes exercises and meditation that refine the body and mind, allowing one to enter deep tranquility. Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a form of qigong, which has roots in China’s ancient culture.

The aim of many forms of meditation practice is to awaken one’s inner wisdom and to live harmoniously with others.

In July 1977, the American Psychological Association recognized meditation as an important healing agent and a facilitator of the therapeutic process.

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Falun Gong and rival group battle for Chinese hearts and minds in Flushing

On the bustling thoroughfare of Chinese immigrants that is Main Street in Flushing, Queens, countless people hand out fliers for massage parlors, calling cards, English classes, money-wiring stores and other services.

But one group of regulars that offers fliers from its daily spot is not commercially minded. Its message is an ideological one: to disparage Falun Gong, the spiritual and meditation movement founded in China. It’s a movement, Falun Gong organizers say, that has found its largest following outside Asia in Flushing.

The group denounces Falun Gong as a cult, and it incorporates this charge into its name: the Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance. The alliance set up a small folding table in the summer of 2008 on Main Street near Sanford Avenue, not far from the numerous tables staffed by Falun Gong volunteers who hand out literature lambasting the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, which has banned and persecuted Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa.

For two years, the two factions have staked out their turf on Main Street like rival gangs, and they have waged a bitter ideological battle nearly daily for hearts and minds. They have created a scaled-down version of the tension between Falun Gong and the Chinese government.

Falun Gong members are convinced that this opposition group is an arm of the Chinese government and that its members are working as political operatives to oppress Falun Gong here.

“They are secret agents for the Chinese Communist Party,” said Rong Yi, 45, a Falun Gong organizer in Flushing. “They are puppets for…

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the Chinese government. The Chinese Communist Party is paying them to suppress Falun Gong.”

Ms. Yi’s nemesis on Main Street is Huahong Li, 49, chairwoman of the anti-Falun Gong group, who has become a well-known and polarizing figure in Flushing. Ms. Yi said Ms. Li’s group was trying to keep Falun Gong from publicizing the mistreatment of many of its members in China by the government.

Ms. Li calls the spy accusation laughable and says she is simply motivated by the need to warn the public that Falun Gong is an “evil cult” that has “severely damaged the image and reputation of the Chinese people.”

Ms. Li has gotten into countless confrontations with Falun Gong members. She has been arrested, sued and vilified constantly in The Epoch Times, the free daily newspaper that supports Falun Gong. She keeps scores of clippings from the paper on display at her booth, along with a poster-size collage of snapshots of Falun Gong followers she has argued with. She claims the members have come to her table to harass her, seize her camera and strike her with objects.

Ms. Yi said, however, that these members were approached by Ms. Li. She also accused Ms. Li of orchestrating the distribution of “hate material” against Falun Gong, instigating attacks on members and routinely gathering up and destroying copies of The Epoch Times in sidewalk boxes. Ms. Yi claims Ms. Li has been seen — videotaped, in fact — entering the Chinese Consulate in Manhattan.

Ms. Yi is president of a group called the Global Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party, whose mission is to find immigrants who were party members in China and persuade them to swear off their membership. The center’s headquarters are above a Chinese bakery on Main Street, two blocks from where Ms. Li sets up her table, and they double as the main offices for Falun Gong in Flushing.

Ms. Yi said that despite Ms. Li’s efforts to thwart her group, about 80 people a day shed their party affiliations with the group’s help. These people sign a list and agree to have their identities entered into a database on a private page on The Epoch Times Web site, she said.

Ms. Yi said she told immigrants that even if they planned never to return to China, it was crucial to quit the party officially in protest of its oppressive actions. To remain a member is to essentially condone all this, she says, but to quit is to obtain freedom from the bottom of their hearts.

“We tell them that God or Buddha will punish you in this life or the future if you still follow them,” Ms. Yi said. “It will be bad luck for you and your family. We tell them that if they quit, their future will be secured and God will bless them.”

Several blocks away, Ms. Li, urges immigrants to quit the “Quitting” party.

“Departing from cult resuscitates oneself,” one of her signs reads.

The two sides have been feuding since the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province that killed more than 60,000 people. Groups of Flushing residents accused Falun Gong of disrupting fund-raising efforts on Main Street for victims by demonstrating with lively music and attacks on the Chinese government.

Ms. Li calls Falun Gong disingenuous and insulting to Chinese immigrants. Her literature charges that Falun Gong practices “anti-human and anti-society practices” and irresponsibly advises members to eschew conventional medicine for daily exercise and meditation for health.

Her main charge is that Falun Gong paints itself as a peaceful, persecuted group, but behind the scenes it is highly disciplined and ruthless, and burnishes its image with its media outlets, political alliances, ubiquitous demonstrations and lobbying tables.

Ms. Li said she lacked the political, strategic and English-language skills to defend herself against Falun Gong’s attacks on her. She said her anti-Falun Gong group had grown in two years to more than 100 people, though its numbers are dwarfed by the thousands of Falun Gong members in Flushing. Last month, for the first time, her group gained a spot in the annual Chinese New Year parade on Main Street, marching near Falun Gong members.

Ms. Li’s most prominent run-in was with a well-known Falun Gong member named Wenyi Wang. In June 2009, Ms. Wang accused Ms. Li of destroying copies of The Epoch Times and approached her with a camera. Ms. Wang said Ms. Li seized the camera, and Ms. Li was arrested and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny. She is now under an order of protection forbidding her to approach Ms. Wang.

All this was reported extensively in The Epoch Times, where Ms. Wang is a contributor and somewhat of a celebrity among Falun Gong adherents for her actions at the White House in 2006 when she gained admittance with Epoch Times press credentials and shouted against Chinese President Hu Jintao while he spoke. She was quickly escorted away, and President Bush later apologized to Mr. Hu.

Ms. Li and her supporters roll their eyes at the idea that their sidewalk spot is a front for cloak-and-dagger espionage.

“Who knew it was that easy to become a government agent?” said one of her colleagues, Zhu Zhirou.

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Curious Indonesian Muslims join peaceful but controversial Falun Gong

Nyoman Suryanata must have greeted at least 100 people at the National Monument complex in Jakarta last Sunday, trying to persuade passersby to sit down with him and try the controversial practice of Falun Gong.

“Please, Ma’am! Try out our meditation. It only takes a couple of minutes. Sir, have a go at meditation! Free of charge,” the 59-year-old businessman called out, offering brochures he had made himself.

Surya, as he prefers to be called, had prepared 100 brochures — at the end of the day there were none left.

From a distance, a young couple observed the practice carefully.

They were intrigued by the group’s slow-motion movements, designed to help members “cultivate” their mind and soul.

However, the couple remained skeptical and hesitant to approach the group.

“Look, some of them are wearing headscarves,” the woman pointed out to her husband.

“That’s interesting. I was wondering whether these people are part of a religion or something,” her husband said.

Falun Gong is a spiritual movement founded by Li Hongzi in 1992.

The practice aims to focus the mind and body through a series of movements and meditative exercises based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.

Its teachings include ideas from Buddhism, Taoism, Qigong and other traditions that date back to Chinese antiquity.

The major difference between Li Hongzi’s spiritual movement and other religions is that Falun Gong does not involve prayer or worship of the divine.

This has been part of the movement’s broad appeal, attracting followers from many different backgrounds, including Indonesian Muslims.

“The main focus is to enhance your own spiritual consciousness. You can pray according to your religion as much as you want, but if you’re not spiritually conscious, all of your prayers will amount to nothing,” Suryanata said.

Falun Gong has been banned by the Chinese government since July 20, 1999, denounced by government propaganda as a cult “that poisons people’s minds.”

Members of the movement have since been arrested, tried without the presence of legal counsel, sent to labor camps and inflicted with physical and psychological torture.

“There is well-documented evidence of the persecution and ill treatment suffered by Falun Gong members,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Philem Kien.

Over the course of just seven years, he said the movement grew to an estimated 70 million people in China.

“The Falun Gong is seen as a threat to the Communist regime, who wish to maintain monopolistic control over Chinese society,” he added.

The persecution of Falun Gong members in China has forced its members to flee abroad and seek refuge in countries across Asia, including Indonesia, as well as in western countries such as Europe and North America.

However, the persecution of the movement has only served to increase curiosity in it among those living outside China.

Sixty-year-old Hertati, who has been practicing Falun Gong for more than 10 years now, was one of its early members in Indonesia.

“I remember it was the year 2000 and Gramedia had just launched a book about Falun Gong,” Hertati recounted.

“I had heard about Falun Gong before on the news. I was intrigued and attended the book’s discussion session. I thought to myself: how can a movement that teaches truthfulness, virtue and patience be dubbed as a dangerous and heretical cult in China? If it was really a cult then they would have drained our pockets dry by now. But no, members are not even allowed to accept payment for teaching others Falun Gong.”

“I have been a member for 10 years and have never been asked for a single cent,” she added.

There are now more than 100 Falun Gong communities spread over fifteen provinces in Indonesia.

In Jakarta, there are about 20 places where Falun Gong members practice, attracting up to 50 people in a single session.

One man at the National Monument on Sunday joined in the movements of the Falun Gong members, but wanted to maintain a good distance from the pack.

“Okay, but promise you’ll join us next week,” Surya said to the man.

“If it is faith, then he’ll come back. I’m sure of it. He took my brochure, we’ll see if he is destined to join us,” Surya said with a smile.

[via Jakarta Globe]
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Qantas loses fight with Falun Gong flight attendant

Qantas has been ordered to reinstate a flight attendant banned from international duties over her practise of Falun Gong.

Sheridan Genrich, from Sydney’s Lane Cove, was demoted to a short-haul attendant after she was threatened by authorities during a 2008 stopover in Beijing and deported because of her spiritual beliefs.

In making his ruling, Fair Work Australia Commissioner Frank Raffaelli said he was unimpressed with the way Qantas had carried out its investigation into Ms Genrich’s case.

“The implication of Qantas’s action is that there is a restriction on the practice of her spiritual beliefs in private, which is contrary to both Australian and international law,” Commissioner Raffaelli said in his judgement, which was obtained by The Epoch Times.

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DUIN: China’s Falun Gong still suppressed

The Washington Post: At noon Thursday on the lower west terrace lawn of the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress, human rights and religious freedom activists will meet to commemorate a sad anniversary: 10 years of imprisonment and torture of the Chinese meditation group Falun Gong. Read more here.

You may remember how Wenyi Wang, a reporter for the Epoch Times, sneaked into the press section during an April 20, 2006, speech on the South Lawn of the White House just before Chinese President Hu Jintao was to give a speech. Suddenly, “Stop persecuting Falun Gong,” she screamed while unfurling a yellow banner with the group’s name on it. It took several minutes for the Secret Service to arrest her.

Falun Gong is a Chinese spiritual discipline that is Buddhist in nature. It consists of moral teachings, meditation and four exercises that resemble tai-chi.

The group says 3,200 of its members, at a minimum, have been tortured to death by the Chinese government. It cites Wang Lixuan, who had to watch her 7-month-old son die in front of her after he was hung upside down. Then police broke her neck and crushed her skull.

Then there are the forced organ transplants, one of the things Miss Wenyi was protesting. Just before her White House visit, this newspaper interviewed a Chinese journalist who uncovered a secret detention center in northern China that was used to harvest human organs for sale to domestic and international buyers. (The Chinese, of course, denied such a place exists.) The journalist estimated 6,000 Falun Gong prisoners were being mined for body parts. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, which chronicled the practice in March 2007, said the harvesting began in 2001.

What got the communist government going on April 25,1999, was the Falun Gong’s ability to summon 10,000 of its practitioners, standing in silent protest, in a mass demonstration in Zhongnanhai, the government’s compound in Beijing. The government struck back July 20, arresting the ringleaders of the April demonstration. Thousands of practitioners, the Falun Gong says, were dragged from their beds at dawn that day by police.

The Falun Gong is one of many groups I have listed in the fat religious persecution folder in my office. Buddhists, Muslims (especially out west) and Christians likewise get brutalized in China. But the Falun Gong, whose numbers were 70 million to 100 million at its height, seem to outrage the Chinese leaders the most. Maybe it’s because the Falun Gong outnumbered the membership of the Communist Party and their practices are so quintessentially Chinese.

New Jersey Reps. Christopher H. Smith, a Republican, and Robert E. Andrews, a Democrat, plus 59 other members of Congress wrote a July 8 letter to President Obama asking that, “In view of the extreme brutality of the persecution faced by Falun Gong practitioners, our government should speak very clearly and specifically on their behalf to the Chinese government.”

Mr. Obama hasn’t said much about religious persecution during his brief time in office and the U.S. government isn’t exactly known for standing up to China on human rights issues. Our massive indebtedness to China gives us little heft when it comes to pressuring them. But where there’s a will, there’s a way and the Falun Gong deserves a break.

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When meditation spurs revolution (Taipei Journal, Taiwan)

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Manik Mehta, Taipei Journal: Normally imperturbable New Yorkers have recently been visibly shaken by simulated scenes of religious persecution in China staged in bustling areas of New York such as Times Square and Grand Central Station.

Followers and friends of the Falun Gong movement, which professes only to teach traditional Chinese methods for improving psychic and physical wellness involving simple exercises, meditation and development of xinxing–or heart-mind nature–enacted scenes dramatizing Beijing’s brutal suppression of the movement. They replicated the torture chambers purportedly used in China to punish Falun Gong members who refuse to renounce their beliefs and practices.

Amateur actors dressed as Chinese prison guards pretended to administer electric shocks to chained female Falun Gong practitioners, with faces contorted in agony and bodies covered with torture marks. Another simulation showed a woman prisoner in chains hunched over in a cramped “birdcage.” “Eeeek!” screamed a female passerby upon seeing the birdcage and its bruised and bloodied occupant. “Don’t tell me this is really happening in China?” Similar anti-torture tableaux, in tandem with petition and letter-writing campaigns, have been staged in cities and on university campuses the world over since November. The disgust and horror of onlookers, be they in New York, Munich, Taipei or Lima was proof that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

According to data provided by the Friends of Falun Gong organization, more than 1,600 followers have been tortured to death in China, while hundreds of thousands continue to languish in jails without formal charges or legal recourse. More than 100,000 have been sent to labor camps and another 1,000 have been tortured in mental hospitals, it is claimed.

Worldwide sympathy and support for the Falun Gong can only mount if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership persists in its knee-jerk reaction to even loosely organized groups that it perceives as posing a threat to its authority. Already, virtually every democratic society in the world is highly critical of Beijing for its violation of human rights on a vast scale. It is notorious for its suppression of religious groups, its complicity in driving farmers off their land, its backsliding on its legal commitment to allow Hong Kong to function as a free and autonomous entity, or its calculated annihilation of the Tibetan people’s cultural and linguistic heritage.

China’s embassies and consulates around the world are regularly bombarded with petitions pleading respect for Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans and other abused religious, ethnic and social groups.

For its part, the U. S. Congress has expressed its strenuous objection to the Chinese government’s treatment of Falun Gong members. On July 24, 2002, by a vote of 420-0, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed resolution H.R. 188, urging the Beijing authorities to cease such persecution.

The resolution reads, “The campaign of persecution [against the] Falun Gong has been carried out by government officials at all levels, and has permeated every segment of society and every level of government in the People’s Republic of China.” An issue of particular concern to U.S. politicians is the fate of an American citizen of Chinese origin, Charles Li, who is languishing in a prison in Nanjing and, according to Falun Gong sources, being beaten and subjected to brainwashing because of his association with the organization. When he refused to attend a brainwashing session in July at the behest of prison guards, it is said, another inmate knocked Li to the ground and dragged him down a staircase.

According to Falun Gong members taking part in anti-torture street presentations, Li has gone on hunger strikes and been confined to the prison clinic. It has been reported that when a U.S. consular official traveled from Shanghai to Nanjing to pay him a visit, prison officials refused him entry.

The Beijing authorities have categorically denied that Li’s arrest was related to his personal beliefs or association with the Falun Gong. The movement’s supporters point out that they deny such a connection because, otherwise, it would be tantamount to admitting that they are engaging in religious persecution–this, despite their insistence that freedom of religion is well-protected in China.

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