The Communist regime in China has a long history of religious suppression which began in the 1950s when Mao Zedong drove missionaries out of China, and established an officially atheist government. Recently, the government has escalated its attacks, demolishing Christian churches, requiring Tibetan Buddhist monks to undergo “reeducation,” and prohibiting Tibetan children from attending religious services. Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, is a Buddhist-related Chinese spiritual practice introduced in 1992, which by 1999, had 100 million practitioners and enjoyed the support of the Chinese government. But all that changed in 1999 when the government cracked down, arresting many practitioners allegedly on the orders of Communist Party head Jiang Zemin.
Robin Munro, former director of the Hong Kong Office of Human Rights Watch and now deputy director with China Labour Bulletin, said that large-scale psychiatric abuses are the most distinctive aspect of the government’s protracted campaign to “crush the Falun Gong,” with forced incarceration in mental hospitals, drugging and electroshock to force recantations. Even more horrific is the claim that the government has harvested organs for the transplant market from executed Falun Gong members.World Religion News (WRN) recently interviewed Marie-Paul Baxiu a practitioner of Falun Gong since 2009 who works for the Los Angeles branch of Epoch Media Group, a New York-based global media company that has been at the vanguard of covering prominent human rights issues in China, including the persecution and forced organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners. She is a native of Paris, France and has been a resident of the United States for the past 35 years.
WRN: Will you describe your primary unique beliefs?
Baxiu: We, as Falun Dafa practitioners, believe in living our lives by the three principles that govern this universe: Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance. Falun Dafa is an ancient Chinese spiritual discipline from the Buddha School. It consists of moral teachings, a meditation, and four gentle exercises that are quite effective in improving overall health. The practice is also known as Falun Gong, which refers specifically to the exercise and meditation aspect of the practice.
WRN: What primary misconception is there about your faith?
Baxiu: Few people today are aware that Falun Gong and its practitioners received much in the way of official recognition in China during the 1990s, prior to a dramatic and violent change in political winds in 1999 which saw the practice persecuted. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, the persecution has lasted until this day, with the communist regime attempting to justify it by spreading misinformation and disinformation. Before the suppression occurred, Falun Gong was the most popular meditation practice in China.
In 1999, The People’s Public Security News — the official newspaper of China’s Ministry of Public Security — praised Mr. Li, who founded Falun Gong, for his contributions “in promoting the traditional crime-fighting virtues of the Chinese people, in safeguarding social order and security, and in promoting rectitude in society.”
That same year, Chinese officials went so far as to quantify Falun Gong’s benefits, such as when one official from China’s National Sports Commission, speaking with U.S. News & World Report, declared that Falun Dafa “can save each person 1,000 yuan in annual medical fees. If 100 million people are practicing it, that’s 100 billion yuan saved per year in medical fees.”
The same official went on to note that, “Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that.”
WRN: Is there a head of your religion and do you always agree with that person?
Baxiu: Although Falun Dafa is a practice of the Buddha School, it is not a religion. In Asia, spiritual practices are often referred to as “cultivation,” or “self-cultivation” practices. Ancient Chinese culture included Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian practices that were of this type.
The practice was passed from teacher to student since ancient times. Its founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi, imparted the practice to the public. His teachings are based on universal principles, and each person who reads it has his or her own understandings and views.
After practicing consistently, Falun Dafa students gradually rid themselves of negative desires and addictions, they gain insight, inner purity, serenity, and a much higher state of selflessness. Ultimately he or she approaches a state of spiritual attainment that in the Asian tradition is known as “enlightenment” or “attaining the Dao (Way).”
Mr. Li has always insisted that the practice be taught for free and available to all, and as such, all Falun Dafa books, video recordings, and the like are available for free viewing online, according to the Falun Dafa Information Center.
WRN: What do you feel is a major issue we need to address in today’s world?
Baxiu: I would say moral values have been lost nowadays, and it has especially worsened over the past several decades. Many people seem to behave as though there’ll be no consequences for their actions. The truth is that a massive shift in humanity’s respect for the divine has occurred in the last couple hundred years. The divine’s existence was wholeheartedly believed in during ancient times, and human culture, in general, was imbued with a strong belief in God. That belief had guided humanity for centuries. In the last couple hundred years, though, atheism has become something people have embraced, and communism has lead the charge in advocating this. It has affected the entire world, rather than just the unfortunate people who have lived or are living in communist states.
WRN: Any other pressing issues you would like to speak about?
Baxiu: Well, in my opinion, the persecution of the Falun Dafa practitioners, which has taken place continuously since 1999, has been under-reported, under-investigated, and virtually ignored by the business community worldwide. Although governments and human rights organizations around the world have expressed concern about the persecution, and I appreciate that – the people practicing Falun Gong in China appreciate that – the slaughter needs to stop immediately.
In June 2019, an independent tribunal into forced organ harvesting was headed by Sir Geoffrey Nice, the lead prosecutor of Slobodan Milosevic, former president of Serbia, for his crimes against humanity. The tribunal concluded that, beyond a reasonable doubt, China is and has been engaged in forced organ harvesting of a large number of victims.
WRN: On September 12 of this year, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy issued a statement marking 20 years of “arbitrary detention and brutalization of Falun Gong practitioners and other religious and ethnic minorities” by Chinese authorities. The Chinese government, said Leahy, “Should release political prisoners from reeducation centers, decriminalize religious and spiritual practices, and allow international human rights groups and journalists to interview survivors. It should commit to ending the use of torture, organ harvesting of prisoners, and propaganda against minorities.”