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Post Gazette (Pittsburgh): Small group holds rally in Oakland to voice support for Falun Gong

January 14, 2002 |   By Joe Smydo, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Sunday, January 13, 2002

During a taxi ride around Beijing in November 2000, Emma Jin and some former classmates struck up a conversation about Falun Gong, the spiritual movement that has drawn the wrath of China's [party name omitted] officials.

Jin acknowledged practicing Falun Gong -- and found out later how dangerous an admission that was. The taxi driver told her that he and other drivers had orders to drive Falun Gong supporters straight to the police station, but he decided to cut her a break.

"I heard about the persecution, but I really didn't realize it was so close to me," said Jin, who helped organize a vigil in Oakland last night to condemn China's crackdown on the movement. It was one of about 30 such vigils to be held this weekend in cities around the world.

Practitioners claim to heal their minds and bodies through Falun Gong's combination of exercises and meditation. Describing the group as a [slanderous term omitted], China's [party name omitted] leadership stepped up the crackdown in recent months.

"Almost every day, we get news somebody was killed in China because they practiced Falun Gong," said Weihua Li, one of a dozen people who attended the rally on a grassy strip near Hillman Library on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

Participants lit candles to symbolize those who have been killed and tortured in Chinese prisons. As many as 22 are reported to have been killed in the past 20 days.

"Falun Gong practitioners are not against the government," said Li, a geologist who resides in Plum and has lived in the United States since 1985. Her husband, daughter and mother also attended the vigil.

Li and Jin, a software engineer from Shadyside who has lived in the United States since 1997, said Chinese leaders fear the group because it rivals the [party name omitted] party in size and influence.

Adherents claim the soothing effects of Falun Gong have cured chronic headaches, fatigue and other ailments. The movement has a moral component, too, advocating truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.

Jin said her skittish parents, still in China, don't want her to mention Falun Gong when they speak by phone. Li said her brother spent four weeks in jail because of the movement.