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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Oppressed for exercising Falun Gong

Oppressed for exercising: Refugees' tale resonates

Posted 7/02/09

Howard County Times/The View: Perhaps before you go to the picnic and take in the fireworks this weekend, you'll head for your Saturday morning yoga class, where once a week you spend an hour with 10 or 12 people similarly seeking physical well-being and a sense of spiritual peace and focus.

Now imagine police bursting into the studio, smashing the boom box playing waterfall sounds and hauling you and your friends off to jail, where you're beaten until you renounce the subversive practices of mountain poses and meditation.

Running that scenario through your mind will give you some idea of the experiences of a group of people profiled in this week's edition.

For the past 10 years the Chinese government has suppressed Falun Gong, a practice with similarities to yoga that adherents describe as spiritual, though not religious. By 1998, according to the Falun Dafa Association, at least 70 million people in China alone had taken up the practice. The Chinese government, apparently threatened by Falun Gong's popularity and fearing it as an engine of political unrest, imposed a crackdown.

Falun Gong devotees who escaped to the west -- including some who have renewed their practice in weekly sessions in Centennial Park (see story, Page 42) -- recount arrest, detention and torture.

It's difficult for most of us to fathom how a style of exercise could inspire this kind of brutality. That's a testament to the kind of society -- imperfect though it may be -- that we and our forebears have built in America on a foundation of principles outlined in our Constitution.

You might think about that as you're enjoying Saturday night's fireworks and consider for a moment the deeper symbolism behind the pyrotechnic fun.

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