Banned in China in 1999 after mass protests at the illegal detention and beating of practitioners, the spiritual movement Falun Dafa will soon be represented in Bristol as Friends of Falun Dafa joins the list of official Union societies.
The Chinese Government [continues to spread slanderous allegations against the practice.] But practitioners fear that such state propaganda is part of a deliberate plan to discredit the movement, which is in fact law-abiding and aims to promote moral and physical health through exercises and meditation.
It is this spiritual aspect of Falun Dafa, along with its huge size and ability to mobilise widespread support, that alarmed the Communist authorities. With members of Falun Dafa exceeding Communist Party membership, the government began to denounce the practice and eventually banned it, persecuting all those who continue to be associated with it.
Falun Dafa, literally meaning “the Great way (Dafa) of the law wheel (Falun)” is part of ancient Chinese culture. It became public in 1992 when Li Hongzhi, now its figurehead and teacher, set up a practice centre in Changchun. These days there are millions of practitioners the world over, from the US to Australia and now here at Bristol University.
Louis Makiello, a first-year Physics student and Falun Gong practitioner, says that its three key principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance enabled him to give up smoking and made him a far calmer and more patient person. Currently there are around eight students who meet with him every Monday night in order to practise the exercises together. Their present venue is an old people’s home but they intend to move to a park in the summer.
In setting up Friends of Falun Dafa, members wish to widen public awareness of the persecution in China. Evidence has been found suggesting that at least 1,500 people have been tortured to death for associations with the movement, whilst rewards are being offered to people who denounce fellow citizens as practitioners. Internationally, both governments and NGOs have raised concerns over the anti-Falun Dafa propaganda and detentions taking place. Other religious organisations have also been targeted by the Chinese authorities. Christian groups have been persecuted as well, and allegations have been made regarding the repression of Muslim ethnic groups in the Xinjiang region in the name of anti-terrorism.
In Bristol, however, it seems that the powers-that-be have no fear of being meditated out of existence and are allowing the society to apply for official recognition. Maybe this summer, amidst the barbecues and Ultimate Frisbee players, it will even be possible to catch sight of Louis and his friends, practising Falun Gong exercises on the Downs.
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