(Clearwisdom.net) To honor the 15th anniversary of Falun Dafa's public introduction on May 13, 2007, the mayor of Snoqualmie, Washington State issued a proclamation for Falun Dafa, and designated May 13, 2007 as Falun Dafa Day. The day after the proclamation was issued, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco sent two officials to meet with Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, asking him to cancel the proclamation for Falun Gong. The mayor rejected their request, and invited local Falun Gong practitioners to participate in the meeting with Chinese consulate officials. Journalist Seth Truscott from local newspaper Snoqualmie Valley Record wrote a detailed report on this incident entitled "Snoqualmie's international incident" on June 6, 2007.
The article published in Snoqualmie Valley Record on June 6 entitled "Snoqualmie's international incident"
The following is the article published in Snoqualmie Valley Record on June 6, 2007:
Snoqualmie seems to be getting a lot of international attention lately. A week ago, 26 people from South Korea toured the city to learn more about urban planning, and Snoqualmie was the focus of similar attention from Russia last fall. However, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson got some unexpected attention from the Chinese government after he signed a proclamation in support of the Chinese meditation and exercise practice, Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa.
In 2005, a Falun Gong group, of which Snoqualmie resident Allison Pan is a member, entered a float in the Snoqualmie Railroad Days' parade. Falun Gong's float won first place. Beside Pan, participants on the Falun Gong float came from as far away as Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle. In April, Larson received a letter from Pan seeking official support for a Falun Gong celebration on May 13.
The proclamation issued by Snoqualmie, Washington
"We will celebrate both the tremendous benefits of the practice and the profound courage of those who will continue to stand up for their basic human rights," Pan wrote to the Snoqualmie City Council in April. "We would be honored if you would join us in celebration by issuing a proclamation we can read at our event." The proclamation that Mayor Larson issued, she said, "was all peaceful and beautiful."As signed by Larson, the city's statement read: "Falun Dafa is an ancient Chinese meditation practice" with more than 100 million people practicing in 60 countries, dealing with stress and anxiety "through a set of tranquil exercises." Larson duly proclaimed May 13 as Falun Dafa Day, but refrained from taking up an overt, political tone.
"We wanted to make it very subdued," Larson said, "to make it clear we were just supporting the local organization, and not making any more than that.
"I didn't want to put my own city council in a position where suddenly we're weighing in on things that really don't have much import to Snoqualmie," he said. "But at the same time, it did not seem fair to ignore or dismiss an organization that's active in the community.
"It was a matter of wanting to recognize an organization that certainly didn't seem to have anything evil or suspicious about it," Larson said. "It's a practice based on the core principles of truth, compassion and tolerance. I think most people would read that those are good things, positive things to teach children and espouse in the community. They emphasize beauty and discipline." World Falun Dafa Day was held Sunday, May 13, in Seattle's Westlake Center. The following Monday, May 14, two officials from the Consulate General's Office of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco, led by Deputy Consul General Zhu Weimin, contacted Larson and arranged a visit that day.
The official visit by two consular officials took Larson by surprise. "We were taken aback," he said. "By giving this so much attention, you're going to have the opposite effect that you intend. You're bringing more attention than what it merits.
"They emphasized that, 'Oh no, we take this very seriously,' which is clear by the fact that they would spend the resources to fly two gentlemen up from San Francisco just to personally meet with me."
The first thing Larson showed them was the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, respecting freedoms of speech, religion and the right to assemble.
"They seemed well aware of it," he said. Larson had already told the officials that he had no intention of rescinding the proclamation. "I basically said, 'Don't waste your time.' They said, 'No, we just want to come up and meet with you and make it clear to you what this organization is.'"
The consulate visitors handed Larson a document, apparently a transcript of a television program in which male and female commentators criticize a Falun Gong promotional video. "It seemed like the most egregious crime they could claim was maybe... that they were looking to challenge the government," Larson said. "My response was, 'That's bad because ---? I'm supposed to be sympathetic to communism?'
"They seemed to suggest that if we let this group rampantly go about in the United States, they're eventually going to undermine our way of life,"
Larson said. "I've certainly not seen a shred of evidence to suggest the Falun Gong group is going to threaten the U.S. government.
"I don't think it's my job to interject into international politics," Larson said. "But after the fact, I wasn't inclined to roll over, just because a couple of guys come into town to pressure me."
The consul's office did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
The article published in Snoqualmie Valley Record on June 6, 2007
What is Falun Gong?
According to its practitioners, Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is a meditation exercise for the mind and body, and is part of China's tradition of qigong.
"It's actually an exercise," Pan said. "It's not a religion." Falun means "law wheel," and Gong means "energy." Dafa means "great way."
During the 1960s, qigong became popular in China, and "by 1990, people were searching for high-level practice," Pan said. "That's when Falun Gong [leader] came in to teach the public. Prior to that, it was private teaching - the master would select a good disciple."
Now living in the United States, Falun Gong founder Li Hongzhi began teaching exercises in China in 1992, as well as giving lectures on his philosophy, centered around three guiding principles, which translate to "truthfulness, compassion and tolerance." Falun Gong is not just physical exercises, Pan said. "It's mind-body," she said. "It goes hand in hand." Falun Gong practitioners claim benefits such as improved health, newfound energy, mental clarity, stress relief and peace of mind, according to the Falun Dafa Web site, www.falundafa.org.
After moving to America as a young woman, Pan began practicing Falun Gong in 1998 as a cure for constant insomnia. At the time, she was living in Maryland, going to college and working full time as a software engineer. "It was a lot of stress," Pan said. "I had insomnia for four years back then.
One of Pan's friends suggested she try Falun Gong. At first, Pan figured she was too busy. But eventually she went to a Falun Gong practice site. After four sessions, her insomnia was gone.
About a year later, persecution of Falun Gong started in China. "That's when they started banning books, harassing people, sending police and spies," Pan said.
The Chinese government had previously endorsed qigong, but by 1997, according to Pan, 70 million people in China were practicing Falun Gong. "The Chinese Communist Party is afraid of anything with a large crowd," Pan said. "Falun Going is truth, compassion, tolerance, that's the opposite of communists. And so they are very scared.
"When persecution started, I felt it was ridiculous," she said. "I felt I had to go out and tell people. I felt compelled to show what Falun Gong is to people. I've been involved in parades, dancing, Chinatown performances." "To us, [Falun Gong] is a treasure from China," Pan said. "Our master told us we can share it with anyone, but don't share it for the purpose of gaining fame and money. We regard it as a treasure for mankind."
Every time a proclamation is issued, or challenged, it raises awareness about Falun Gong. "It's an opportunity," Pan said. "Otherwise, how will I be able to tell the truth? "I'm American," Pan said. "It's my constitutional right to follow my tradition. "I'd like to see persecution ended," she added. "We want the truth to be revealed. We want the public to know."
Historic meeting puts Chinese officials, Falun Gong representatives side by side
Published in Snoqualmie Valley Record on June 6, 2007
By Seth Truscott
The meeting of Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, Chinese Deputy Consul Zhu Weimin and Falun Gong practitioners may be a world first. "This is historically the first time a government official, when they are being pressured from the Chinese government, has invited Falun Gong practitioners into the same room," Snoqualmie resident and Falun Gong practitioner Allison Pan said. "That was the very first time I had ever heard of that. Our practitioners said this is historic."
Larson invited the Falun Gong representatives to sit in on the May 14 meeting with the deputy consuls, explaining that he wanted to get both sides of the story.
"The deputy was pretty amiable about it, but the other guy [Chinese official] was insistent that this was inappropriate, [and he] protested that they were there.
Larson said that at the meeting, "I said, 'I don't know much about the Falun Gong. All I wanted to hear was your side of the story.'"
The visiting delegation from the consulate, Pan said, "were very shocked when they saw us, absolutely shocked."
"I never imagined [we] could sit in the same room," said Pan, who tried to get one of the Chinese officials to shake her hand. "When we were downstairs, I tried to shake hands and they just ignored me. When we were in the same room, I asked Mayor Larson to introduce [us]. Then I reached over to shake hands again, and he did this time. Well, he looked pretty awkward.
"Those people from the Chinese consulate, they're doing their job," Pan said. "I hope these guys will someday realize that they should do the right thing for the people."