I was profoundly sad to read Lea Marshall's take on the
cancellation of Shen Yun Performing Art's production. Ms. Marshall
appeared to take the opportunity to impugn and degrade the Falun Gong spiritual discipline. She cites a 12-year-old New York Times
report to substantiate the notion that Falun Gong is a "cult" —
allegations that are profoundly inconsistent with mainstream
understandings within the scholarly community.
Falun Gong is a form of meditative practice whose central values
are truth, compassion and tolerance. Does Falun Gong believe in
extraterrestrial life? Yes. So does Stephen Hawking. The existence
of aliens is a peripheral concept mentioned in passing in Falun
It plays no important role in either Falun Gong's greater
cosmology. The practice also counsels against activities such as
premarital and extramarital sex, as well as homosexuality. In this
respect, Falun Gong is no different from Christianity or Buddhism.
By late 1998, the Chinese government estimated that 70 million
people were practicing Falun Gong. Demographic surveys from the
mid- to late-1990s showed that Falun Gong practitioners in China
held college degrees at a rate 10 times higher than the national
average (28 percent compared to 2.8 percent).
It was for this reason that some of the party leaders felt
threatened by Falun Gong. In 1999, then-party leader Jiang Zemin
launched a persecution of the practice that continues to this day.
Falun Gong practitioners have responded to this persecution in a
remarkable fashion. They have completely eschewed violence even as
they are vilified in the media. Instead, they have dedicated
themselves to promoting freedom of information in China, and — in
the case of Shen Yun — seeking to convey an uplifting message of
hope, moral courage and peace. For these efforts, they deserve
respect, not derision.
Dong Xiang, Executive Director
Falun Dafa Association of Washington
More: The Style Weekly (USA)