February 17, 2003

Falun Dafa practitioners at Iowa State are contacting state officials for support in the release of a fellow practitioner from a Chinese prison.

Falun Dafa -- also called Falun Gong -- is a practice of meditation and teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, said Yiqin Chen, who graduated from ISU with a degree in electrical engineering in 1998. [Practitioners often] speak out for the truth and put other's benefit before theirs, Chen said.

The practice is not a religion, but a way for people to promote good health and moral standards, said Margaret Jiang, graduate student in food science.

[Margaret] Jiang said the most recent case of persecution is of Charles Li, a doctor from California. Li returned to China to visit his family for Chinese New Year, but was arrested for practicing Falun Gong and is being detained, Jiang said.

The government has accused him of sabotaging the public TV system, which is controlled by the government, and broadcasting [information] about Falun Dafa, she said.

"We believe he was specifically targeted because he is an active Falun Gong practitioner and was also active in human rights work," Jiang said.

She said she has been trying to get governmental support in an effort to get Li out of prison.

Practitioners have received support from Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, and Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ames, as well as Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., Jiang said.

Jiang said most of her efforts include spreading the word about the persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners to the public to dispel propaganda from the Chinese government.

She said the practice has gained many followers since its beginning in 1992.

"It became very popular in a short time. The health benefits were so significant that many people came to the practice," Jiang said.

Both Chen and Jiang said they believe this popularity was what caused the Chinese government to outlaw Falun Gong.

"Before 1999, there was 17 [Editor's correction: 70] million people practicing Falun Gong exercises," Chen said.

"The previous head of the Chinese Government [Jiang Zemin] treated these people as a threat to his power."


Chen said the Chinese government controls all of the media, so people do not get to hear the truth of Falun Dafa.

"It's like the people cannot hear different voices other than the government voice," she said.

Jiang said even if people know the truth of Falun Dafa, they are often too afraid to speak out against the government.

"[Chinese citizens] try to protect themselves, they don't want to make trouble and don't have the courage to speak for [the persecuted practitioners]," Jiang said. "They don't want to be persecuted either."

[Margaret] Jiang said there have been at least 560 deaths from the persecution of Falun Dafa [practitioners] by the government. Jiang said the number may be as large as 1,600 people.

Persecution does not only include imprisonment, Jiang said. Students have been expelled from school, people have lost jobs and been defamed and tortured because of their beliefs, she said.

"The previous president ordered three things [for Falun Dafa practitioners]: terminate economic sources, defame them and destroy them from the body," Jiang said.