On April 25, 1999, more than 10,000 Falun Gong (Falun Dafa; hereafter FG) devotees held a silent, non-violent demonstration in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, as they harmlessly went through their physical exercises in order to achieve inner-peace. Disregarding international attention, the insecure Chinese government acted swiftly in brutally crushing what it considered another political threat to its dictatorial grasp on power in China.

A few months later, in the early morning hours of July 19, 1999, the government of the People's Republic of China (hereafter PRC) made another typical mockery of its constitution as it illegally raided houses of Falun Gong members and arrested them without due process of law.

Three days later, on July 22, 1999, again without due process of law, the Chinese government officially outlawed the Falun Gong movement. Not content with illegally raiding, arresting and outlawing members of this religious [group], the PRC on July 29, 1999 issued a warrant for the arrest of Li Honghzi, the [group's] founder. Instead of allowing FG members any due process of law, the Chinese government denied its own citizens their basic constitutional rights.

The [party's name omitted] accuses the Falun Gong of being a [Jiang Zemin government's slanderous term omitted] that is a danger to society. However, the PRC is not free from the accusation that its own political superstitions are also a danger to society, as it feels threatened by a religious organization that simply advocates physical exercise to reach the path of inner-peace. In light of the Chinese government's regular practice of denying its own citizens of their basic constitutional rights and freedoms, the real question that needs to be raised is not whether or not the FG is a danger to society, but whether or not the zealous communist leaders in China are a danger to the Chinese people, society and the rest of the world as it seeks to keep political power at any cost.

While the PRC constitution stipulates that "all citizens of the People's Republic of China are equal before the law" (Chapter II: Article: 33), it is inconsistent as all people - including adherents of the FG - are not equal before the law. It is quite clear that the PRC has completely ignored its constitution that states, "All Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration" (Chapter II; Article: 35). Unless I'm misreading Article 35, it clearly reveals that the PRC is making a mockery of its own constitutional vision of life as members of political and religious groups are being denied their basic freedoms of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of demonstration. When FG members were holding non-violent demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, they were well within the constitutional rights of the PRC.

Not only has the PRC conveniently forgotten about Chapter II; Article 35 in its constitution, it has also conveniently forgotten about Chapter II; Article 36, which stipulates that "All Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief." In other words, "No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion (Article 36)." Clearly, the PRC has not only discriminated against FG members, but, as a state organ, it has compelled its own citizens not to believe in anything but the communist political cult.

As far as we know, most FG members were involved in "normal religious activity." As far as we know, most FG members were not engaged "in activities that disrupted public order, impaired the health of citizens, or interfered with the educational system of the state." Even if some FG members were doing such things, the PRC has no right to deny all FG members their basic freedoms and rights as stipulated in Article 36. While the PRC constitution stipulates that all citizens have the right to religious belief, it discriminates against religious groups like the FG from practicing its own form of religious belief.

While it is no secret how the PRC regularly deprives its citizens of their basic constitutional rights for political expedience, it becomes evident that FG members were deprived of their basic constitutional right of due process under the law. In fact, the PRC completely ignored the stipulation that "the personal dignity of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable. Insult, libel, false charge or frame-up directed against citizens by any means is prohibited (Chapter II; Article: 37)." If this is not bad enough, FG members were also denied their basic right of "the freedom and privacy of correspondence of citizens of the People's Republic of China"(Chapter II; Article: 40). Adding legal insult to personal injury, FG members were not granted their "right to criticize or make suggestions to any state organ or functionary" (Chapter II; Article: 41), nor were their homes considered "inviolable" (Chapter II; Article: 39) as their homes were unlawfully searched.

As such it is quite clear that not only were FG members denied their basic constitutional right of public demonstration and freedom of religion, they were also denied their basic rights of legal protection and the due process of law under the PRC constitution. While the PRC cannot deny all these embarrassing contradictions of its own constitution, they pragmatically turn the spotlight off their own constitutional responsibilities and onto the embarrassing contradictions in the U.S. constitution with the legacy of slavery and racism. While the PRC acknowledges that there are still many contradictions to its own constitution, it ostensibly admits that it is not perfect and that it is seeking to improve its horrendous record on human rights.

While I'm neither a fan nor a zealous member of the Falun Gong or the PRC, it is political suicide for the PRC to ban such religious or political groups for no other reason than it feels that these groups are a threat to its political power. When a political or religious system denies its own members their basic freedoms and rights, it is a system that needs to be deprived of its right to exist. It is even more disconcerting when world governing bodies, human rights treaties, governments, and corporations subtly condone - by not condemning - such regular infringements of human rights as they turn the political, economic and moral blind eye in fear of offending the PRC, and thus impeding globalization and profit.

The writer is a visiting professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the Catholic University of Korea, Bucheon. - Ed.