October 19, 2002
|SPEAKING OUT: Falun Gong practitioners |
stage a protest of Chinese government policies
in front of Tyler City Hall Saturday afternoon.
(Staff Photo By Herb Nygren Jr.)
About 15 members of a China-based meditation movement said they plan to be heard when President Bush meets his Chinese counterpart at his Crawford ranch on Friday. (Oct. 20, 2002)
Despite the turnout of a single reporter at their Saturday press conference on the steps of Tyler City Hall, about 15 members of a China-based meditation movement said they plan to be heard when President Bush meets his Chinese counterpart at his Crawford ranch on Friday.
The followers of the Falun Gong movement - many of them U.S. citizens with family members detained and allegedly tortured in China - drove from the East Coast and plan to meet up to 35 other followers in Crawford, where Bush is slated to meet with Chinese President Jiang Zemin during a three-day visit this week.
"We know this is a very precious chance for Falun Gong participants in China," said Li Ding, a University of Maryland graduate student who emigrated from China five years ago. "We sincerely wish President Bush can directly raise the issue when he meets the president of China."
The quasi-spiritual movement, [ ] gained millions of adherents before the Chinese government outlawed it in 1999.
In the past year, Zemin's government has strengthened its efforts to discredit the movement,[ ] Meanwhile, exiles like Xu Cailu, who spoke in Tyler on Saturday, relate stories of family members detained for practicing and promoting the outlawed meditations.
Xu said his wife was arrested three times over a one-year period, landing her in a women's labor camp after distributing pro-Falun Gong flyers near Beijing. He has since had no contact with his wife, but has received reports that she has been mentally tortured and is allowed only three hours of sleep each night.
A mechanical engineering professor who said he has also been detained several times, Xu defected to the United States in July.
"The brutal persecution against Falun Gong has ruined my whole family," Xu said in a prepared statement.
Falun Gong, which centers on meditation and breathing exercises, was introduced by founder Li Hongzhi in 1992. The practice also embodies Buddhist and Taoist principles, but differs by offering a moral element as well.
Its practitioners seek to embrace three central character traits - truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
Li said Falun Gong practitioners have never exhibited a violent backlash against persecution from the Chinese government.
"Whenever there is any interpersonal conflict, the practitioners are always urged to look inward and not point fingers to anyone else," Li said. "So it's really a benign practice."
Despite mounting diplomatic challenges in Asia for the Bush administration, including North Korea's recent revelation of a nuclear weapons program, the Falun Gong practitioners headed for Crawford on Saturday said they have high hopes.
"There are many diplomatic or economic methods he (Bush) can resort to. He talked so much about how he treasures the American people," Li said, referring to recent remarks Bush made about homeland security at an Atlanta fund-raiser.
"The fundamental issue is these are U.S. citizens speaking to him."
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