Finnish Practitioner Interviewed by a Local Broadcasting Station in New York
WBAI 99.5 FM - NEW YORK
APRIL 8, 2004
I want to share with you a bit about a situation that is taking place in China. In 1998, a Chinese government survey discovered that more than 8% of the entire Chinese population was practicing Falun Gong, an ancient practice of exercise and meditation rooted in traditional Chinese culture. Within July 1999 they became illegal persons simply by virtue of their beliefs. The campaign to wipe out Falun Gong was orchestrated by Jiang Zemin and a few key supporters of his within the government. While it is not the action of the Chinese Government as a whole, Jiang's power and influence while he was head of the Communist Party, central government and military, allowed him to command the entire state apparatus to this end. And now the campaign's web of complicity is stunningly vast. And we are now calling for decisive action to end the genocide in China!
There is a draft resolution proposed by the United States. On April 2, 2004, during the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the US mission to the United Nations held a consultation to discuss the draft resolution on China's human rights abuses, which the US government plans to introduce to the UN Human Rights conference this month. More than 100 representatives from various government's and non-governmental organization's missions to the United Nations participated in this consultation. The US Ambassador to the United Nations Mr. Richard Williamson presided over the meeting.
And in order to make an introduction to this issue I will share with you a short interview I did with Pia-Maria Sandas. Pia-Maria is a woman like any other woman in the world, she is not particularly political in the sense that she is motivated by her belief in this system of practice. It's a basic practice of meditation exercise. So we will listen to her interview just to get a bit of an update on what is going on and a bit of an understanding and then we will be following up in weeks to come and I will be speaking with some of the people who have been tortured in China over this issue, so stay tuned. We will proceed with this interview in just a moment.
Kathy: Today we are speaking with Pia-Maria Sandas; she is a Finnish citizen, a former fashion model and a person who also worked in TV for some time. Now she is the PR and Product Training Manager for an international cosmetic brand, but she is here today to speak about something totally different. She is here to share with us some information about Falun Dafa. This is a group that comes from the Chinese culture and has been practiced for some time but has found itself under severe, severe attack in China, and we want to share with you a little bit of information about Falun Dafa. And Pia, I also want you to let our listeners know why you personally feel that this is such an important issue. Maybe you can start by telling us a bit about Falun Dafa. What is it?
Pia-Maria: Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice that comes from China. It was first introduced to the public in 1992 by its founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi. And now today, it is practiced by about 100 million people in over 60 countries.
Kathy: That's an amazing thing. Probably here in New York many people are familiar with it or have seen groups of people practicing.
Pia-Maria: Yes, there are practice sites all over the US and here in Manhattan and New York too.
Kathy: Before going into your personal experience, maybe you can tell us a little about what's been happening in China, and how people who do this practice are being oppressed there.
Pia-Maria: Yes, but I just want to add something about the practice itself first. Falun Dafa consists of an exercise part. There are five gentle and slow exercises: four standing exercises and one sitting mediation. And then the other part, which the whole practice is based on, are the three universal principals Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance, and how to incorporate these principles into our hearts and daily lives, and to live every situation, confront every situation, by following these principles. They are the cornerstones of humanity and they are really the most important principles in the world. I also think they are principles that are lacking today.
Kathy: For people who might not understand what you are talking about: most people are familiar with Taichi and Taichi is a practice that comes from ancient practices, ancient arts, and qigong, which is similar to Taichi, and is something that was cultivated over many generations. Falun Dafa may look like some of those things but it has a different context, I think, than some of these other practices?
Pia-Maria: It is a cultivation method and about the teachings of the universal principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. Before it was taught from Master to disciple, but it was introduced to the public 1992.
Kathy: Can you tell us a little about the founder, Li Hongzhi.
Pia-Maria: Mr. Li Hongzhi introduced it to the public in 1992, and then in the coming years he traveled to, was it 52 or 54 cities, around China to teach the practice. Very quickly it became the most popular qigong in China that won a lot of awards. It was very well-supported, and they did a lot of health studies with amazing results. He is a very respected man who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize the last three years. Only just here in the US and Canada Mr. Li Hongzhi and the practice Falun Dafa has received over 800 awards and proclamations.
Kathy: Now maybe you can share with our listeners how this situation managed to degenerate in China to the point that people are being imprisoned for practicing it.
Pia-Maria: From 1992 to 1999 Chinese organizations and the government gave awards and it was a very supported practice, but then in 1999 when the former dictator Jiang Zemin, who is now head of the military, discovered that 70 million Chinese people were practicing Falun Dafa he banned it in an instant, even though 6 of the other 7 members of the Chinese Politburo were against his decision. Because of one man's decision this persecution came about. It was personal envy and fear, fear to his power somehow, even though Falun Dafa has absolutely nothing to do with politics. It is a cultivation practice!
Kathy: But I think perhaps that because there is a human rights issue in China to begin with. I could understand the feeling of threat that the government might feel with these principles because it sort of encourages people to blossom and to really speak their mind and to think their own thoughts, I would think, so maybe he felt that as a threat, do you think?
Pia-Maria: I really can't say what would possibly have gone through his mind. All that we know, and this is an internationally well-known fact, is that it is really a handful of people who made this decision, which is Jiang Zemin and a few of his followers like Luo Gan and a few others. So it is not even the Chinese Government's persecution of Falun Gong. It is really one man's decision and then a few of his colleagues that are supporting him in this.
Kathy: So now maybe you can tell us something about what is happening to the practitioners in China.
Pia-Maria: Seventy million people are being persecuted, and brutally so. About 100,000 practitioners have been put in jail: women, people any age...There are over 800 documented cases of people who have been tortured to death, but it talks for itself: the real number is much higher. They also try to force the practitioners to give up their belief, to sign statements; they send them to brainwashing classes and forced labor camps. It is a very, very sad situation. I have a friend, Jane Zhizhen Dai, she is a very beautiful and kind woman, and she has a daughter, Fadu, only 4 years old. Two years ago they tortured her husband to death, just because he went to Beijing with a letter saying please stop the persecution of Falun Gong from which my family has benefited a lot. They killed him. He was only 34 years old...
Kathy: Was he an American citizen?
Pia-Maria: No, he was a Chinese citizen. Jane and her daughter Fadu are alive today because they have Australian passports, otherwise they might have had the same fate as him.
Kathy: ...that is not a happy situation at all...For people who are listening to this and might still be somewhat confused and think that there must be a reason why the Chinese Government is persecuting, why don't you share with us your own experience with the practice so that people can see this is something that can be benefited from and that they should understand that these people need to be in some way defended.
And that was part of an interview from Pia-Maria Sandas talking about the situation of Falun Dafa in China. And for those of you who would like to perhaps do some research, find out more, have an opportunity to sign petitions to support the resolution that is being introduced to the UN, and in order to support the rights of people in China who are doing this practice, you can go to www.faluninfo.net and you can become more engaged in this process, and in coming weeks we will be able to bring you more information.