Washington Post (EDITORIAL): China's Falun Gong Obsession (8/1/00)


Tuesday, August 1, 2000; Page A22

IT HAS NOW been just over a year since the government of China began its effort to stamp out the nonviolent spiritual movement known as Falun Gong. Thousands of Chinese followers of the group have been subjected to surveillance, harassment, arrest, torture and, in some two dozen cases, death. The two most recent Falun Gong members to perish in police custody were 44-year-old Li Zaiji and 68-year-old Wang Peisheng, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. They both died in the first two weeks of July.

Falun Gong adherents nevertheless marked the anniversary of the government crackdown by raising banners and otherwise protesting peacefully in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Few visitors to the vast square even noticed, because police immediately seized the protesters and hauled them to jail. Hundreds are said to have been detained.

The Communist government portrays its battle against Falun Gong as an effort to protect China from an evil cult bent on destabilizing society. In fact, the authorities are reacting out of instinctive hostility to the growth of an independent organization that appears capable of offering Chinese a spiritual alternative--however obscure--to official ideology.

Yet for all its determination to deny Falun Gong practitioners their right to the free exercise of their beliefs, Beijing has been unable in a year to restore the monochromatic ideological climate its rulers require. The effort to destroy Falun Gong will be a "long-lasting, complicated and acute struggle," a July 20 editorial in the official People's Daily conceded. This backhanded compliment to the undeniable courage and tenacity of Falun Gong's adherents was also, alas, probably a threat of even greater official violence to come.

2000 The Washington Post Company