March 16, 2008
The article written by Tim Hume "The gospel truth: Falun Gong" is troubling. I have written a report with David Kilgour which concludes that Falun Gong practitioners in China have been killed in the tens of thousands so that their organs could be sold to transplant tourists. Hume's article casts doubt on our report in a number of gratuitous ways.
However, my primary concern with the article lies elsewhere, its unfair generalizations about Falun Gong practitioners. Through the travels I have undertaken around the world, including New Zealand, to publicize our report, I have met many Falun Gong practitioners. Though I myself have never practised Falun Gong, the extensive contact I have had with the Falun Gong community in over forty countries has taught me at least this.
Falun Gong is not an organization. It has no leadership. It has no funding. It has no membership. It is rather just a set of exercises with a spiritual dimension. The people who engage in Falun Gong exercises have as much or as little cohesion, planning, coordination and organization as people who engage in running or swimming or any other form of exercise.
Because Falun Gong has a spiritual dimension, one can think of it as a religion. But it is a religion without congregations or priests or preachers or churches. The writings of Li Hongzhi which inspired Falun Gong are all publicly available through the internet.
Falun Gong practitioners understandably get worked up when their co-practitioners in China are persecuted for something as innocent and beneficial as exercising. Individual practitioners throughout the world volunteer time, effort and money in an attempt to end the persecution. But this indignation, even when fervent, does not bespeak a plan or a policy or a platform. It is, or at least should be, a normal human reaction to the torture and killing of innocents.
Hume's article, which is quite long, throughout treats the Falun Gong as a group or an entity and attributes to this entity the behaviour and words of individual Falun Gong practitioners. It is as if one attributed the words and behaviour of some fervently patriotic New Zealanders to all New Zealanders, or of some enthusiastic swimmers to all swimmers. The article, because of its failure to grasp the nature of Falun Gong, is fundamentally misconceived.