Falun Gong to hold rallies across world

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 April, 2009, 12:00am

The Falun Gong plans to hold rallies today in major cities across the world, including Hong Kong, to mark the 10th anniversary of a protest in Beijing that resulted in the government banning them on the mainland.

Falun Gong members will march to the Chinese embassies in New York and Tokyo, protesting the crackdown and persecution of followers on the mainland, a spokesman for the group said. He did not say how many people would be taking part worldwide, although the demonstration in New York, where the Falun Gong is principally based, would see the largest turnout.

In Hong Kong, members would gather in Victoria Park in the afternoon and march to the central government liaison office after 2.30pm, spokesman Kan Hung-cheung said. Five hundred local practitioners would take part and would be joined by followers from Taiwan, Australia and other overseas countries.

'We invited Hong Kong legislative councillors and human rights activists to join us, too.'

In the past years, the Hong Kong Immigration Department has refused entry to overseas Falun Gong practitioners. On August 24, last year, a Chinese Falun Gong practitioner who has a British passport said he was denied entry hours before the Olympic Games closing ceremony was to begin. But Mr Kan said there were no problems so far.

Practitioners on the mainland would not hold any public activities, Mr Kan said. It is unclear how strong the Falun Gong is on the mainland following the government's decade-long effort to stamp it out. The group claims it had 100 million followers inside the mainland before the crackdown, but that they now number around 40 million.

In the protest on April 25, 1999, about 15,000 Falun Gong practitioners from many cities on the mainland stood outside the Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound in Beijing. They were protesting against an article by physicist He Zuoxiu's where he said the Falun Gong was a cult that promoted superstition and 'anti-science'. Police were called in and dispersed them peacefully. Beijing responded by banning the group and labelled it an 'evil cult' three months later.

Hong Kong political commentator Poon Siu-to said the Falun Gong had become a shadowy underground force on the mainland, similar to the secret agents during the Kuomintang era.

'Falun Gong activities are very similar to the secret work done by the communist agents when it was suppressed by the Kuomintang during the 1930s and 1940s,' Mr Poon said. 'It's very difficult to root out an underground power as Communist Party officials themselves know as they sprang from secret groups.' He said the central government should change how it dealt with the group. 'I think Beijing should reconsider the measures it uses against the Falun Gong because it's a religious group, where all the members are devoted and ready for sacrifice.'

Taipei-based political analyst Paul Lin, who has tracked the Falun Gong's development overseas since Beijing's crackdown in 1999, said that many Falun Gong leaders were previously senior officials from the Communist Party.

'That's why the Falun Gong has learned so much from the party because they know both its merits and weakness of the party very well,' Mr Lin said. 'Indeed, the Falun Gong has many hi-tech wizards, who have made software to help their mainland fellows break through firewalls.'