On April 8, 2007, the Chinese Cultural Freedom Movement Committee presented Falun Gong with its "2007 Special Spiritual Faith Award" ceremony at the Aotea Center in Auckland, New Zealand. The following interview is with Zhong Wei Guang, an expert in contemporary studies of totalitarianism and one of the founders of the Chinese Cultural Freedom Movement.

"What makes us feel most gratified is that for the past eight years, when Falun Gong was being persecuted, we have been on their side!" Zhong Weiguang said emotionally when he spoke of the "Chinese Cultural Freedom Movement" issuing the "2007 Special Spiritual Faith Award" to Falun Gong in early April this year in New Zealand.

Zhong Weiguang is a scholar, currently residing in Germany, who focuses his

research on contemporary totalitarianism. He is also one of the founding members of the Chinese

Cultural Freedom Movement. What journey has he taken from not knowing much about Falun Gong to issuing Falun Gong this award?

Question: In April this year, the Chinese Cultural Freedom Movement, which you and others initiated, issued Falun Gong the "2007 Special Spiritual Faith Award." This is the first time overseas Chinese had ever issued an award to Falun Gong since the onset of the persecution of Falun Gong. Why did the Chinese Cultural Freedom Movement take this action?

Zhong Weiguang: First of all, being an intellectual, since 1999 I quickly felt the spiritual profundities of Falun Gong and the social impact the practice had brought about; besides, by observing Falun Gong practitioners I realized they are dissolving the culture of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP); they are promoting a new culture and the revival of morality in Chinese society.

I thought this should have been the duty of Chinese intellectuals; however, I felt that the

Chinese intellectuals had never formed a group that pursues such a new culture, which promotes morality and the opposition to totalitarianism.

I said in November 2006, the early days when our organization first started, that we should thank the Falun Gong practitioners. We would have been unable to take our first steps had it not been for Falun Gong practitioners. After 2003 and 2004 in particular, and after the publication of The Epoch Times' publication of Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, Falun Gong practitioners had already prepared an excellent environment for China's intellectual sector to eliminate the CCP Party Culture and promote a new culture.

Exploring this spirit, we can see that Falun Gong practitioners have already made huge efforts and have made significant contributions to China and even to all mankind. We felt that the Chinese Cultural Freedom Movement should express our respect toward such faith in pursuing spiritual freedom; thus we decided to issue an award to Falun Gong.

Question: Just now you mentioned that, since 1999, you had quickly felt the spiritual profundities of Falun Gong and the social impact the practice has brought about. Did you begin your contact with Falun Gong in 1999?

Zhong Weiguang: Yes. In April 1999, by coincidence I watched a news item on German TV, which said that Falun Gong was appealing in front of Zhongnanhai. The news came as a surprise to me, and I also felt very strange. How could so many people all of a sudden gather around Zhongnanhai? So, from then on I started to pay attention to Falun Gong.

Question: After you started paying attention to Falun Gong, what did you understand about them?

Zhong Weiguang: First, the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance promoted by Falun Gong represent the typical, traditional Chinese spirit. Second, from my contacts with Falun Gong practitioners and from their website I see traditional Chinese virtues. For example, to my great surprise, they have posted the traditional Chinese 24 filial duties on their website and are promoting such virtues as filial piety.

Recently NTDTV presented the 2007 Chinese New Year Spectacular, a series of performances by the Divine Performing Arts, that helped us gain an even deeper understanding. The most outstanding characteristics of this show has enabled us to see the character of traditional Chinese culture.

Question: What you are saying is that the Falun Gong phenomenon is a kind of revival of Chinese

traditions. Have you developed any more new thoughts?

Zhong Weiguang: Yes, of course. I only had such a feeling by the end of 1999. Later, when I was

reading Mr. Li Hongzhi's books and from my contact with Falun Gong practitioners and through my observation of their actions, my feeling has ascended to a new level of rational understanding.

In April this year, when the Chinese Cultural Freedom Movement issued the " 2007 Special Spiritual Faith Award" to Falun Gong, we felt extremely honored to receive the inscription of the words "Reviving Chinese Divine Culture" from Mr. Li Hongzhi. I feel these few words contain significant meaning. For example, Chinese intellectuals during the last half century believed Chinese traditions were devoid of religion. But now we should realize that we were wrong. In the past, we in the intellectual sector believed that there was no faith in Chinese traditions, and there were no gods. Mr. Li Hongzhi tells us that we were wrong. There were gods in Chinese traditions, which were actually divine entities passed on by gods.

Besides, I feel the few words from Mr. Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, as well as the pursuit of Falun Gong practitioners in faith and in the spirit of freedom should enable us intellectuals who have been on the so-called path against tradition since the May 4 Democratic Movement in 1989 to once again reflect upon ourselves and clarify our thoughts.

Question: Can you tell us your feelings when interacting with Falun Gong practitioners?

Zhong Weiguang: I began my extensive contact with Germany's Falun Gong practitioners in the year 2000. Through these interactions I discovered they were not like what we heard in the rumors from China's propaganda, "Falun Gong practitioners are all elderly people with low level of education and poor health. They believed in Falun Gong to try to improve their health." The fact is, Falun Gong practitioners outside of China are mostly highly educated people; these people's eminence has greatly surprised me; they have pronounced righteous qualities.

Question: Could you explain what you mean by "righteous?"

Zhong Weiguang: I see Falun Gong practitioners' righteousness evidenced:

First, they are very compassionate; second, they do not work for fame and fortune; third, although there might be also conflicts among Falun Gong practitioners, why are these conflicts not as

intense as other conflicts in society and why are they different than the fighting that takes place among people endorsed by the CCP's philosophies? The reason is that they believe in Falun Gong's "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance." They esteem inner cultivation of one's character.

Additionally, the supposed economic reform in China is a reform that has no regard for anything else but making money through any tactic -- even illegal and fraudulent means, or the means of harming people. Chinese society has sunk into an age of ethical collapse and moral corruption. I feel that we can see even more clearly the pure and righteous character of Falun Gong practitioners during these times, notice their esteem of traditional family values and how they perform deeds without pursuing fame or fortune.

Question: You mentioned that Falun Gong practitioners perform deeds without pursuit of fame or

fortune. There are people who believe that Falun Gong practitioners attend activities for money. What is your view on this?

Zhong Weiguang: Many people say that Falun Gong is a mysterious organization. In the past Falun Gong was mysterious to me as well. I wondered what this organization was about. Why was it when activities were held in certain places so many Falun Gong practitioners would suddenly appear? People in today's society, if asked to do something that is of no benefit to them, they would not participate. However, I saw that these Falun Gong practitioners use their own money and resources to attend these activities, to call for a stop to the persecution. I really wondered what it was that mobilized them? I discovered eventually it was their belief in "Truthfulness-Compassion- Forbearance." I have gained a deeper understanding of this issue through my contact with them.

Question: Speaking of belief, besides the obvious appearance of "working with one mind," do you think the belief in "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance" can be seen in other concrete manifestation from Falun Gong practitioners?

Zhong Weiguang: My deepest feeling is that Falun Gong practitioners could very quickly eliminate the Communist Party culture in them. I began to gradually see the Communist Party's anti-human nature in the 1970s. The change in my own speech and way of thought, however, was a very slow process. It took approximately 20 years for me to finally get rid of the false, pretentious, and inane expressions, and the false, pretentious, and inane thoughts, and to really clear out the things that violate humanity. For example, those songs that we often hear in Mainland China like "the Party, my mother;" "the Great Party, you are like the lofty mountain" are all examples of false, pretentious, and inane expressions. In China, even if you don't purposefully listen to or sing the songs, these elements of the Communist Party culture would subconsciously enter one's ear and thoughts, to unconsciously change the way one thinks. These would involuntarily manifest in your everyday life and actions. But, I saw that many Falun Gong practitioners had completely changed and eradicated these elements in only three or four years' time.

During a later, casual conversation with a Falun Gong practitioner I suddenly became awakened from his talking. How could they change so quickly? It is because of their belief. After one's belief is changed, adjustments ethics, speech, habit and other issues will follow.

Question: There are still many people in China today who do not really know Falun Gong, or do not understand it. As a non-practitioner, is there anything you would like to say to them?

Zhong Weiguang: There are a few things I would like to tell these Chinese people. First, I hope the intellectuals and young university graduates in China can personally come in contact with Falun Gong, with its books and Falun Gong practitioners themselves. Only then should you arrive at your own judgment instead of simply believing the newspapers and CCP propaganda. Second, you should have some doubt toward the frame of thought you have built up in the past; don't view Falun Gong through the Communist Party-tinted glasses; then you will see more clearly what Falun Gong practitioners are like.

Question: Does the "pair of glasses given by the Communist Party" refer to the Party culture?

Zhong Weiguang: Yes. Using my own experience as an example, those of us who grew up in China do not realize or sense that we are influenced by the Communist Party culture. We don't feel that we are wearing a pair of tinted glasses. In reality, every one of us is under the influence of the Party culture. For instance, if one is an atheist or believes in materialism, people who grew up in that environment would all feel this is natural and correct; however these things are not natural and correct, and we should rethink what these issues are about after all.

I feel if you can let go of your own frame of thought before making judgments about others you will have a deeper understanding about them. Imagine if you were a Falun Gong practitioner and if gods did exist, what would the situation be like? If we think this way, we will see a big change.

I also hope everyone will think calmly about some fundamental issues. First, we are against the Communist Party's persecution; second, when others are abused for upholding their beliefs we should support their adherence to their beliefs. I think these two principles should remain unmoved under all circumstances.

Question: Thank you for the interview.