[Editor's note: The Geneva "Le Courrier" newspaper carried this article on March 20, 2001, page 16]

On the opening day of the annual Human Rights Commission (Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, resigned yesterday), 1,500 people sat in meditation in front of the United Nations to denounce China's persecution and imprisonment of Falun Gong practitioners.

In 1998, invited by officials of Palais des Nations, Mr. Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, gave a speech to 1,200 people at Palais des Nations of the United Nations.

Back then, Beijing supported and encouraged Qi Gong because it brings good health benefits to people. Then, why did they change their attitude and in July 1999 started the brutal persecution of tens of thousands of women, retirees, children, workers and intellectuals, who practice the meditations in the public parks?

As of today, 165 people have died and 10,000 people are cruelly tortured and are put into labor camps. Women are stripped of their cloths and raped by the police and criminal inmates. Practitioners were expelled from their jobs, schools and driven out from their homes...

The Fear of the Plot

"Falun Gong has expanded very rapidly and many [party name omitted] Party officials also practice Falun Gong. The government is in fear of rebellion. That's absurd. We have no interest in government power, we only consummate ourselves." explained Erping Zhang, a psychologist, consultant, and the Falun Gong spokesperson in New York (Mr. Li Hongzhi now lives in New York). "Do not say [that we are] carrying on a movement," he corrected, "we have no temples, no religious rituals, no offices, no fees or binding membership. Every one of us tries to live the daily life in accordance with the principle of Zhen-Shan-Ren [Truthfulness-Benevolence-Forbearance]. Everybody is a volunteer and there is no consideration for cost or reward."

What kind of people are they, then? Are they, as the Chinese government claimed, a group of dangerous and fanatic followers? Or are they, like Jesus' first followers, or Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., conscientious people who are using non-violent means to protest the injustice?

The Characteristics of the Universe

In fact, some western media's use of words like "cult, founder of religion, followers," happens to fall into the snare set by Beijing. In their spiritual war against Falun Gong, they know that the word "cult" could cause a huge reaction in the western society. This is their lethal weapon and it can destroy the reputation of the victims whom they attack. However, the so-called heresy and superstition do not match the facts. David Ownby, a History Professor and Sinologist from Montreal wrote an article in New York Times called "China declares a war on itself." "Most Falun Gong practitioners I know in North America are young people with good education. Many of them work in the fields of natural sciences." He wrote in his article, "They truly believe that Zhen-Shan-Ren are the characteristics of the universe."

"Falun Gong has attracted millions of people. These people have lost their belief in the obsolete [party name omitted] which advertises capitalism." wrote Danny Schechter from the US, who is a reporter, a movie director, and the author of Falun Gong's Challenge to China (Akashic Books Publishing).

Directing the Tragedy

Schechter thinks that the five-people immolation incident in early January in Beijing was a tragedy directed by the police and it was photographed by people who knew of the incident prior to its happening. Several factors give support to this idea. For instance, the Chinese News Agency issued the news report in English several minutes after the incident. A Washington Post reporter residing in China conducted an investigation in the city of Kaifeng [Henan Province], where the woman who died in the incident used to live. The investigation revealed that the woman was a nightclub hostess and no one had seen her practicing Falun Gong.

Here is another mysterious point. On the same day of their trachea surgeries these injured immolators could speak to the Chinese reporters (but not the western reporters) and stated "[they wanted to] to break off with the [Chinese government's slanderous term omitted]."

Also, according to Erping Zhang, Falun Gong prohibits committing suicide or taking a life.

Image Issue

This matter has already become the point upon which China and USA oppose each other. Beijing is involved in serious struggles with government corruption and the economical reforms which create million of unemployed. Setting up a new "public enemy" may prevent opposition's raising unwelcome questions. Afraid of China's trade invasion after it joins the World Trade Organization, the US uses the human rights to put pressure on China. The United States is preparing to pass a resolution in Geneva.

The future of the Falun Gong victims is also decided by another factor: Whether Falun Gong can be recognized by the international society as "correct" dissidents, like those of the Democratic Movement or those from Tibet?