Exhibiting Falun Gong

Posted by Brian Millett , The Yass Tribune Online (Australia)


Recently Yass has been fortunate to host two very interesting and very different exhibitions, with each addressing issues of considerable importance.

Last week this column referred one of them in the very successful display of indigenous art supported by the Bowning and District Lions Club. It was a pleasure to view the art with the added bonus of meeting and talking with some of the artists whose work was on display.

Of an entirely different nature was the exhibition related to the Falun Gong movement, which is an ancient form of what is described as ‘a Chinese cultivation practice’. The essential elements of the movement are in its belief in the three principal characteristics of the universe in truth-benevolence-forbearance and it places a strong emphasis on these essential characteristics and also on gentle meditation exercises (rather like Tai Chi). Followers seek to emphasise the cultivation of one’s moral character with the goal of bringing them towards wisdom and enlightenment.

Like indigenous art, Falun Gong has had a troubled history and, where indigenous art has made its way to a full acceptance in the community, Falun Gong has been very harshly received in its country of origin in China. Its adherents seem to have been ruthlessly suppressed by their government.

Falun Gong differs from other such movements by its absence of fees or formal membership, the lack of daily rituals of worship, its greater emphasis on morality and the theological nature of its teachings. Western academics have described Falun Gong as a spiritual movement, based on the teachings of its founder in the tradition of Chinese antiquity.

Although the Falun Gong initially enjoyed considerable support from Chinese officialdom, by the mid- to late-1990s it increasingly became viewed as a potential threat to communist rule due to its expansion, its independence from the state and its spiritual teachings. By 1999, some estimates placed the number of Falun Gong adherents at over 70 million, exceeding the total membership of the Chinese Communist Party, which began a strong campaign against Falun Gong.

The exhibition graphically, and at times garishly, portrayed what it claims are some of the horrific practices of the Chinese government against Falun Gong practitioners with extreme violations of human rights including public beatings, severe torture, false imprisonment and even organ harvesting from prisoners, who were held in Chinese government prisons.

It is important to be made aware of movements like Falun Gong. It is one of many minority groups around the world persecuted because of their beliefs, either religious or political, as well as race, colour, ethnicity or tribe.

It is of value for Australians to see exhibitions such as this one from Falun Gong as there should be an acute awareness of such oppression. It can reasonably be said that Australians are often rather too complacent about the freedoms that they take so much for granted.