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The Longmont Daily Times-Call: Falun Gong

January 01, 2001 |   Erin Laspa

"The Chinese government has detained and harassed [hundreds of] thousands of practitioners since July of 1999. Those who have made peaceful, legal appeals for their right to practice have been forced from their homes, sentenced to jail terms, beaten and tortured." Zheng Qu, a Boulder resident and Falun Gong practitioner

December 16, 2000

The Longmont Daily Times-Call

BOULDER COUNTY -- Over the past year and a half, thousands have been persecuted for their belief in the Chinese practice of Falun Gong.

Unable to freely exercise in their own country, Chinese practitioners have brought the tradition to other nations.

In a series of workshops this week, Boulder County residents were introduced to the practice and encouraged to learn how to improve the mind and body through gentle exercise and meditation--effectively relieving stress and strengthening mental and physical health, according to licensed practitioner Jingduan Yang..

The intention of the seminars, however, was to spread not only the healing powers of Falun Gong but also the knowledge of the persecution experienced by those who practice in China.

"The Chinese government has detained and harassed thousands of practitioners since July of 1999," said Zheng Qu, a Boulder resident and Falun Gong practitioner. "Those who have made peaceful, legal appeals for their right to practice have been forced from their homes, sentenced to jail terms, beaten and tortured."

In fact, according to Qu, 90 have died while in the custody of the Chinese police.

"One 58-year-old woman was beaten to death by police," Qu said, cringing at the memory. "I too was detained in China last year for practicing--along with my 2 -year-old son. There, I saw four policemen punch and kick a practicing woman until she was involuntarily on her knees and carried off. I've never seen her since."

According to Qu, the practice of Falun Gong was done in secrecy until 1992, when the founder, Li Hongzhi, introduced it to the Chinese public.

Because freedom of speech and press are not upheld by the Chinese government, awareness of the practice spread verbally.

"Even though it was just through word of mouth," Qu said, "in seven years, there were 75 to 100 million practitioners."

According to Qu, the efficacy of the practice lent to its quick growth.

"When the Chinese government realized its popularity in April of ྟ," he said, "they began cracking down--arresting, detaining and sending practitioners to labor camps without a trial. They would not tolerate anything but the communist ideology."

"The Chinese government, an officially atheist regime, refuses to acknowledge its citizens' basics rights of freedom of belief," Yang added, "and continues to ignore the request for an open dialogue to resolve the situation."

By July 1999, the Chinese government declared the practice against the law.

As a result, homes were ransacked and published books shredded and burned.

According to Qu, the government's means of persecution are unfathomable.

"Some are sent to mental hospitals," he said. "Women are stripped and put in male inmates' cells."

"One man who was put into a mental hospital was continually injected with medicine," Broomfield resident and new practitioner Jie Sun said. "When he came out, he couldn't recognize anyone, couldn't eat. He died."

Despite persecution, most are unwilling to stop practicing.

"It's the best thing they have found," Qu said. "It works for them."

For many, Falun Gong has become a vital part of their lives, just as tai-chi or yoga.

"That's why we appeal to the government to let us practice," Qu said. "Why we bring it to this community--so others can benefit."

According to Yang, Chinese medicine is most valuable at diagnosing and treating illnesses at their early stages.

"Chinese medicine emphasizes prevention," he said. "It believes that the best physicians are those who treat people when they are not ill."

"It is a cultivation, not a religion," Qu said. "A cultivation to attain balance with the universe."

Those who have recently begun practicing in Boulder County have seen the practice's benefits.

"I'm healthy," computer programmer Sun said. "My inner self is more peaceful, happier."

Lafayette resident Wes Carpenter agreed.

"I quit smoking after just four days," he said. "I just had no desire. I felt healthier, more energetic."

Carpenter believes Falun Gong is different than other spiritual practices in that one doesn't have to die to receive its benefits.

"It proves itself right away," he said.

According to founder Hongzhi, because the spirit and the body are a unified system, it is when one's moral character improves that his or her health does.

Any emotional distress is the key factor causing internal dysfunction in the body.

Thus, by acting in accordance with the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance, practitioners cultivate their minds, bodies and spirits.

The health found is what keeps practitioners fighting for the freedom to practice Falun Gong.

"We want to prove it is not some evil cult," Qu said. "That it is good to society. Our non-violent appeals want to change the brutality of the totalitarian government--to provide for the future and freedom of the next generation"

Qu is not alone in his beliefs.

Harold Koh, assistant secretary of state for democracy for human rights and labor agreed, saying, "The detention of tens of thousands of adherents of Falun Gong and other spiritual movements, simply for peaceably manifesting their beliefs, constitutes an unmistakable violation of universal human rights."

President Clinton also has criticized the behavior of the Chinese government.

"(China's) progress is still being held back by the government's response to those who test the limits of freedom," he said. "A troubling example is the detention by Chinese authorities of adherents of the Falun Gong movement."

Qu hopes spreading his truth to the international community will put pressure on the Chinese government, helping to establish an open dialogue to resolve the situation peacefully.

American practitioners agree, happy that the practice was able to reach them half way across the world.

"I'm glad I had a chance to lean and practice it," Sun said. "I don't know how much we can do here, but we must do something to help peacefully end this brutalizing persecution."

"The best thing we can do for China is allow others to have the opportunity to practice," Carpenter said. "The best thing we can do is to continue to let others know what's going on.

"Persecution will only bring more attention," Carpenter added. "That's the way it was with Buddhism, and that's the way it was with Christianity.

"That's the way it will be again."