The rise and subsequent attack on the Falun Gong by the Chinese Communist Party powerfully illustrates China’s deep fear of religious and spiritual movements. It also shows just how far the Chinese Communist Party will go in its persecution of those who hold beliefs that are not in keeping with the Communist Party line.

The Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, derives from a variety of Chinese traditions, notably Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. It was founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, and it was one of many qigong practices that took root in the 1980s and 1990s with the support of the Chinese Communist Party as a means for showcasing Eastern traditional medicine. Falun Gong is founded on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. It also focuses on a few key exercises that are designed to help cultivate an enhanced connection between the body and mind.  

Despite initial support, the Chinese Communist Party soon concluded that the Falun Gong were becoming too successful, popular, and above all, too independent. When the Falun Gong refused to become co-opted by the Chinese Communist Party, the movement fell out of favor. Before the Chinese Communist Party began its brutal crackdown, the Falun Gong had between 70 and 100 million adherents, as contrasted with the Chinese Communist Party, which only had 63 million members.

In 1999, the conflict between this spiritual movement and the Chinese Communist Party came to a head when an officially sanctioned article was published accusing the Falun Gong of being a cult. When Falun Gong adherents staged a peaceful protest at the magazine's headquarters, security forces were brought in, who then assaulted and detained many of the protesters. In response to this heavy handed reaction, a few days later 10,000 Falun Gong adherents held a separate protest in Tiananmen Square. Fearing that the Falun Gong could develop into a country-wide social movement, the Chinese Communist Party decided to adopt a zero-tolerance policy with the aim of eradicating the Falun Gong from Chinese soil. The Chinese Communist Party has not relented from this policy ever since.

The story of the attack on the Falun Gong is very disturbing, with Falun Gong adherents generally experiencing the worst of the Chinese Communist Party’s various forms of abuse. In the immediate aftermath of the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown against the Falun Gong, more than 30,000 people were detained. In the first two years of the crackdown, it is estimated that up to 450 Falun Gong leaders were sentenced to prison terms of up to 20 years. In the first ten years since 1999, more than 2,000 practitioners are reported to have been tortured to death, and in one of the most shocking allegations against the Chinese Communist Party it is estimated that more than 65,000 practitioners have been killed in order to harvest their organs.

The following are examples of the types of abuse faced by Falun Gong practitioners, which persist to this day:

This is just a sampling of the swath of persecution taking place against the Falun Gong in China. For more detailed reports, please view the following:

Human Rights Watch – Report:
     Dangerous Meditation: China’s Campaign against Falungong (2002)

U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China – Hearing:
     Falun Gong in China: Review and Update (2012)

U.S. Congressional Research Service – Report:
     China and Falun Gong (2006)