On an early spring day eight years ago, Liu Shujuan reluctantly sat herself on a sofa in a community lounge, still putting Falun Gong scriptures on the desk in front of her.
Liu was attending a “rehabilitation workshop” that aimed to help Falun Gong practitioners get over their obsession with the cult which was established in China by Li Hongzhi in 1992.
The Chinese government banned the Falun Gong cult on July 22, 1999, accusing the group of exploiting religion of brainwashing practitioners, cajoling money from them, and even encouraging practitioners to burn themselves in order to fulfill spiritually.
Three years after the ban, Liu learned that many peers had been waken from Li’s cheating scheme through such rehabilitation workshops. Liu didn’t think she would be one of them, for the former devotee had fancied herself as sloughing off “all the worldly trappings of wealth, prestige, love and family” under Master Li’s order.
The middle school teacher, 31 years old at that time, once ran away from home for the sake of practice, leaving her four-year-old child behind.
Through several weeks’ critical scrutiny over Li Hongzhi’s cult books at the rehabilitation workshop, Liu’s infatuation disappeared. “Li Hongzhi taught us that truthfulness, compassion and forbearance are the ultimate criteria in judging a good man. But those virtues don’t fit for him in every bit,” Liu told Xinhua.
Liu managed to break away with Falun Gong in March 2001.
Deng Wen, another Falun Gong follower who attended the workshop in 2005, said, “I used to think all practitioners are kind, but gradually I found many evil things in it.”
Deng, now 37, joined Falun Gong in 1996 and sat in protest together with her peers around Zhongnanhai, China’s central leadership compound in downtown Beijing, on April 25, 1999.
Official statistics show the Falun Gong groups had organized more than 300 unauthorized protests to exert pressure on the media and the government.
Deng said she took part in the protest because Master Li said such a gathering would be beneficial to her spiritual progress.
“When I began to think in exchanged positions and reconsidered my stonehearted attitude toward my family, I realized that Li Hongzhi is a liar,” she said.
With a 40-day “excruciating” reflection, Deng was deprogramed and became a community worker.
Falun Gong leader Li Hongzhi jumped on the bandwagon of doing breathing exercises in the 1980s which was popular at that time both at home and abroad.
After learning that some people got rich by teaching the exercise, Li patched up the Falun Gong works and began to spread it in May 1992.
Under the pretence of building physiques, the Falun Gong cult had set up more than 28,000 training and exercise centers across the country.
To tighten his spiritual control over practitioners, Li misappropriated the Buddhist concept “Falun”, a cycling weapon symbolic of the arrival of Holy King, and churned out his work “Cycling Falun” in December 1994 to advocate the so-called “life consummation”, according to Xi Wuyi, a research fellow of the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Li Anping, deputy secretary-general of the China Anti-Cult Association (CACA), said the book “Cycling Falun” was a good testimony to Li Hongzhi’s evilness.
“The book is completely against science and humanity,” he said,adding it used bodybuilding and principals compassion as disguise in order to control people’s mind.
An investigation in July 1999 showed that about 1,600 Falun Gong practitioners died in abnormal ways.
On the eve of China’s Spring Festival on Jan. 23, 2001, Wang Jindong and six other Falun followers set themselves on fire at the Tiananmen Square. Two people died and three were badly injured.
A former practitioner Li Chang told Xinhua in jail, “People with a bare bit of reason would not agree that they could become a Buddha by simply burning the body with gasoline.”
Li Chang, 70, once a backbone member of Falun Gong, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in December 1999 on charges of using the cult to obstruct law enforcement, causing the deaths of people and obtaining state secrets in an illegal way.
Li Chang said he learned the Tiananmen self-immolation incident via TV news in jail in 2001.
The graduate of the Tianjin-based Nankai University’s Physics Department in 1964 was very angry when he realized that Li Hongzhi had lied about his birthday.
“Li Hongzhi declared that he was born on the same day with the holiest Shakyamuni Buddha. That’s cheat!” He said. Li Hongzhi went to the government’s household registration department to change his birthday in early 1990s.
Researcher Xi said normal religious practice emphasized humanity and opposed frantic wildness, but Falun Gong was just the opposite — it encouraged practitioners to pursue the extreme, which harms the society.
Professor Ren Dingcheng of the Beijing University’s Science and Society Research Center said the ban on Falun Gong was to protect human rights, rather than trespass them.
Li Anping of the CACA said about 80 percent of the two million Falun Gong practitioners in China had separated themselves from the cult in 1999 when the government issued the ban on it. Ten years after the ban, about 98 percent have been converted and comeback to normal life.
“Many people feel strongly disgust about Falun Gong’s propaganda via telephone or leaflets in the public,” Li Anping said.
“Li Hongzhi’s overseas instigation can go nowhere,” he said, adding the CACA had helped practitioners get rid of the control of the destructive cult.
“It is hard to change one’s mind. Our work is creative,” he said.
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