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1. Q: When and how did the Falun Gong cult come into being?

A: Contrary to the presumption of many people, Falun Gong came into existence rather lately. It was founded in 1992 in the city of Changchun, Northeast China, by an ordinary Chinese citizen, Li Hongzhi, who did so simply by piecing together some elements from Qigong with certain poses of the Thai dance. However, Li later proclaimed that Falun Gong was his innovation millions of years ago and that he had imparted Falun Gong to the people on several previous earths. At the beginning, Li Hongzhi explained that Falun Gong practice would keep practitioners free of disease and he held classes to teach Falun Gong to his followers and "cured illness" through his "own energy and power". However, in that process, things went inevitably wrong, since his "patients" were persuaded not to go for any medical treatments, while being "cured" by Li himself. As a result, many of his patients died. In order to get out of trouble, Li soon gave up "curing" illness through his "own energy and power". He began to ask his followers to learn his theory instead, which, as he put it, could cure their illness and help them escape from mortality and fly to a place what he described as "heaven". Of course, every follower was supposed to buy his books and attend classes accordingly. From this business, he accumulated a huge amount of money and became a millionaire. To say the least, Li amassed $5.4 million through publication of Falun Gong materials and tax evasion.

2. Q: What are the main arguments of Falun Gong? Why is it deemed a cult (heresy)?

A: Falun Gong has a set of ridiculous ideas, the basic one of which claims that the doomsday is coming, that human beings will be extinct soon, that modern science can do nothing to prevent the catastrophe, that only Falun Gong can save mankind, and that Li Hongzhi is the sole "savior". Many Falun Gong practitioners were driven into such intense fear by these heresies that they became insane and even committed suicide or killed their loved ones.

"Government is useless" is another of Li's ideas, one to make Falun Gong the ruling ideology in the world and to allow him to seize power that "overruns the government and the law". Social problems have been emerging, he said, and no government can solve them. And, because neither the government nor the rule of law can solve social problems, he should be the rightful ruler.

He renounced modern science and said that the world should listen to him, otherwise everything will be lost. Li said that the Falun Dafa is the only grand theory that can save mankind and is the most profound and superb of all sciences and philosophies and a ladder for people to ascend to heaven.

Although the banner of Falun Gong is said to be "Truthfulness, Benevolence and Tolerance", whenever Falun Gong is criticized, he gets his followers to create a disturbance. One good example is their besieging of media organizations' office buildings in 1998.

Li said that to practice Falun Gong well, people must make a clean break with other ideas and cannot mention what they learned before and are forbidden to use what they feel, see, or know, or the doctrines of other beliefs. Otherwise, they will learn a false grand theory and damage the grand theory.

By spreading these fallacious ideas, Li has actually signed a life-and-death contract with his followers, who have to obey all his instructions and depend on him for everything. He forbids them to read other books or learn other theories and deprives them of the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

With those means and the tight control of the highly organized group, Li forces practitioners to follow his fallacious ideas. He also borrowed Buddhist doctrines to deify himself and claims that he possesses the "body of law" and can install "the wheel of law" in practitioners and give them extrasensory perception.

Li ordered that Falun Gong practitioners not to take medicine when they are ill. He preaches that the power achieved by practicing Falun Gong can automatically kill disease and break away with the karmic chain -- the cosmic principle that acts from previous lives are rewarded or punished in this life. Some followers were deceived by this fallacy and began to look for supernatural powers and many have become psychopathic. In 1997 and 1998, a fifth of the patients in the psychopath ward of a hospital were Falun Gong practitioners.

Li usually belittles great scientists like Charles Darwin and Issac Newton. He said that he is the only person who can explain the mysteries of the universe and that the earth is nothing but a garbage dump. He also said that man was created by gods and life and death and disease are debts and sins acquired in previous lives.

Many people have been confused by these fallacious ideas and have refused to go to hospital for medical treatment when they became ill, and a number have died as a result.

Since Falun Gong was founded in 1992 until 2002, more than 1,700 Falun Gong practitioners died. Among them, more than 1,400 died from their refusal to take medicine, about 300 committed suicide with the attempt to "fly to heaven".

In summary, Falun Gong has all the inherent characteristics of a cult, namely, blind worship of its leader, systematic mind control, spreading heretic ideas, amassing wealth, secret organization and endangering the society. It is nothing else but an evil cult, just as the Japanese Aum Doomsday cult and the so-called "White Brother" cult that was spread in some former Soviet Republics during the 1990s.

Why did Falun Gong have so many followers in China at that time? In my view, firstly, it applies to people's desire to find a cure for illness. Secondly, it scares people by exaggerating social problems. Thirdly, it uses the disguise of "Truthfulness, Benevolence and Tolerance" to mislead people who lack mental or spiritual ballast to wish for illusory things

3. Q: What is the Chinese Government's position on the Falun Gong cult? What about the public opinion in China?

A: The Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, has deceived and harmed a lot of people and it was involved in many illegal activities that seriously disrupted public order, misguided people, and confused right and wrong. In order to protect the human rights and fundamental freedom of the citizens and maintain public order, the Chinese government took necessary measures to prevent Li and his accomplices from inflicting more harm to others. In doing so, we made a strict distinction between the cult core members and ordinary practitioners who are victims of Li's evil cult, with the former being dealt with according to law and the latter not accountable for once they break with Falun Gong.

The government's policy has been well received by the populace. 99% of Falun Gong adherents quitted the cult after realizing its evil nature. In China, Falun Gong has definitely lost its "momentum".

On 16 August 2000, leaders from the five different religious beliefs in China, namely, Buddhism, Taoism, Islamism, Catholicism and Christianity, denounced Falun Gong for stealing Buddhist and papist phrases to spread its fallacies and defame these religions, and urged the authorities to ban this cult.

4. Q: Does the Falun Gong cult have any political background?

A: After the Falun Gong cult was outlawed in China, the cult leader, Li Hongzhi, escaped abroad. Later on, the cult was supported by some anti-Chinese forces and totally became a political instrument of them to conduct activities against the Chinese Government. Li Hongzhi has founded a well-organized network all over the world, using all means including internet and mass media to discredit the Chinese Government.

As part of the network, the so-called "Baltic Falungun and Falun Dafa Association" was registered in Latvia in 2001. In accordance with instructions from their boss outside Latvia, the local Falun Gong followers have taken a series of anti-Chinese activities aimed at hindering the smooth development of China-Latvia relations. They even print a newsletter named "Epoch Time" in Russian in Moscow and spread them in the Latvian territory.

5. Q: What are the main differences between Qigong and Falun Gong?

A: It has been noticed that many of the local Falun Gong practitioners here in Latvia got involved into it, mainly with such original intentions as building up their body and improving their health. Unfortunately, as they are not aware of the radical differences between Qigong and the Falun Gong cult, they ended up being misled and controlled by the fallacies of Falun Gong.

Qigong is a general term referring to different sets of regulated, controlled breathing exercises. The major premise of Qigong is that all forms of life are animated by an essentially like-force called qi. Qi also means "breath" and "air", similar to the Hindu concept of prana. Invisible, tasteless and odorless, qi nonetheless permeates the entire cosmos. In general, Qigong is a set of gymnastics to promote health and cure diseases by combining physical exercises with self-massaging and regulated, controlled breathing. No wonder it could help in maintaining physical and metal soundness and leading to a long, healthy life.

According to the strength used to conduct the movements, sets of Qigong exercises can be divided into two types, the dynamic and static types. There are different schools of Qigong exercises--medical Qigong, martial art Qigong, etc. On the basis of Chinese Qigong that found its way into the West in the 20th century, European and American doctors have developed a variety of new therapies--the auto-breathing therapy of Germany, the relaxation and meditation therapy of the United States, etc.

Qigong is subject to diverse interpretations, but it is generally believed that it lets the body and mind to regulate their functions in a completely natural state of relaxation and ease. Wu shu, or Kong fu, which is better known in the West, is closely linked to Qigong. A typical example of their combination is the Chinese shadow boxing known as tai ji quan, which features high concentration of the mind and slow, regulated breathing that accompanies the rhythmical motions of the arms, legs and body.

Let nature take its course--that is the principle that has been guiding the Chinese in doing different kinds of exercises to keep fit. That means doing everything with the limit of one's physical strength. In addition, it is believed that one must never indulge in sensual pleasure. Not a few Chinese emperors died of poison which they had believed would make them immortal. This made people believe that to keep fit whether through medication or exercising, one must never do anything without proper guidance.

However, what Falun Gong has been advocating is anything but the fundamental principles of Qigong. Falun Gong's premise is that through a set of five exercises a practitioner cultivates an golden-colored entity called the falun, which resides in one's gut and spins continuously, absorbing energy from parallel universes, thereby making the body invincible to disease. As Li Hongzhi has always boasted, he has some serious falun that allows him to walk through walls and perform magic.

Yet seekers of the falun may not realize that the exercises are very different from other forms of Qigong, which have been honed over centuries of practice. First, there's qi (pronounced as "chee") inside people's body, loosely defined as vital energy. That is the core concept of Qigong. Through controlled breathing, practitioners of Qigong direct vital energy within the body to locations that need it the most. While in Falun Gong there is no breath work. Second, Qigong movements are precise, in order to maximize the flow of qi. While Falun Gong asks its practitioners to worry less about the precision of their movements and indeed many practitioners render the poses very differently. Falun Gong practitioners think that their moves are watered-down versions of Qigong exercises, but in fact, the two have nothing in common. Further, Qigong is practiced in different forms to address different ailments and goals. However, Falun Gong is supposed to be a single set of exercises billed as a "cure-all" practice.

Stephen Barrett, a retired American psychiatrist and editor of the Web site Quackwatch, said that Falun Gong practices "can be mentally dangerous, though, when they instill false beliefs. False beliefs lead to bad decisions". He points out the possibility that a belief in the absolute power of Falun Gong could lead sick people to refuse standard medical treatments. According to Barrett, movements like Falun Gong enter into the realm of quackery, as they consistently make health claims that cannot be verified scientifically. This includes healing by touch, raising the paralyzed, curing cancer at far higher success rates than conventional medicines, sending vibes across the sea to heal at a distance or living for several hundred years -- all claims that have been made for Falun Gong.

Lastly, I'd like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation of the Latvian people's interest in the Chinese traditional culture. It will be the great pleasure of the Chinese Embassy in Latvia if we could be of some help to facilitate your efforts in reaching a better understanding about the Chinese culture and in stepping up your self-cultivation or self-perfection.
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