US funding of Falun Gong’s GIFC software

Few topics ignite such automatic and knee-jerk responses as Falun Gong, so let me get the disclaimers out of the way up front: I have never been a supporter of FLG, which I see as a kooky cult. On the other hand, I’ve never been a supporter of the CCP’s harsh (to put it mildly) reaction to them, and I’ve been especially put off over the years by the sloganeering and tape-recorded rants that the topic arouses among the fenqing.

We all know the pre-recorded tapes, the ones that describe the “Dalai Lama clique,” or refer to Taiwan as “a baby needing to return to its mother’s arms,” and the ones that thank god Deng had the courage to open fire on the students lest China’s economic miracle be nipped in the bud and the nation hurled into chaos and corruption like Russia after the Soviet Bloc evaporated.

The scripts for FLG are equally predictable: their leader is a lunatic who believes, among other things, that he can fly. They don’t allow practitioners to see a doctor when they’re sick, causing a terrible threat of disease and loss of life. They recruit and multiply and they can’t be trusted. Of course, the No. 1 script is the “dangerous cult,” a phrase that has been permanently soldered onto the words Falun Gong and can be heard in virtually every conversation with Chinese people about it.

I’ve always believed the cult part, and I’ve never believed the dangerous part. I would see FLG members practicing their breathing exercises outside the National Museum in Taibei, and while they may have looked odd they certainly didn’t seem to be threatening anyone. In Country Driving, Peter Hessler describes how the family he shadows in Book Two participated in the dangerous cult before it was banned:

Falun Gong was hard to define. – in some ways it felt like a religion or philosophy, but it was also a basic exercise routine. All of these elements combined to create something enormously popular, and this was especially true in the economically challenged parts of northern China. In Sancha, practitioners liked having a new structure to their lives, and soon others began to join them. By the late 1990s, it seemed most villagers met every morning on the lot at the top of the dead-end road. Cao Chunmei and Wei Ziqi became part of the faithful, and years later she described that period fondly. “Wei Ziqi didn’t drink or smoke in those days, because Falun Gong says you shouldn’t do that. And he was so angry then. It seemed the people in the village were happy we all spent time together in the morning.

I can think of other things that sound a bit more dangerous than that.

Which brings me to a post that’s already several days old but that gave me enough pause that I knew I wanted to write about it. It’s by one of my very favorite bloggers, Custer, whose site is featured prominently on my blogroll. What the argument boils down to, in effect, is that since the Chinese government goes ballistic at the every mention of FLG and is hypersensitive to the point of derangement on the subject, it was a “terrible idea” for the US to give funding to software developers affiliated with our dangerous cult.

Regard­less of your feel­ings about whether FLG is an “evil cult”, there is no rea­son what­so­ever to give a ton of money to an FLG-affiliated group unless you’re inten­tion­ally try­ing to piss off Bei­jing.

That “ton of money”? $1.5 million. From the article he links to:

State Department officials recently called the group, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, offering it $1.5 million, according to Shiyu Zhou, one of the group’s founders. A State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed the offer.

The decision, which came as the United States and China have recently moved to improve ties after months of tension, appears likely to irritate Beijing just as the two are set to resume a dialogue on human rights Wednesday for the first time in two years.

“GIFC is an organization run by elements of the Falun Gong cult, which is bent on vilifying the Chinese government with fabricated lies, undermining Chinese social stability and sabotaging China-U.S. relations,” said Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington. “We’re strongly opposed to the U.S. government providing whatever assistance to such an anti-China organization.”

I do understand that China is very, very sensitive and we need to go on tippy-toe whenever one of those touchy subjects like Taiwan and Tibet and FLG are in play. But to what extent do we allow that touchiness to affect our policies and determine who to fund and who not to? At what point does cooperation become appeasement? Back to the blog post:

Granted, the con­cept itself is a bit antag­o­nis­tic — devel­op­ing soft­ware to ensure Chi­nese peo­ple can cir­cum­vent the GFW — but it’s the kind of for­eign antag­o­nism plenty of Chi­nese neti­zens could get behind, espe­cially those who haven’t yet fig­ured out how to jump the GFW but are inter­ested in it. By con­nect­ing the soft­ware with FLG, the State Depart­ment is vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee­ing a polemic response from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, but let’s be hon­est, that’s prob­a­bly going to hap­pen any­way. The dif­fer­ence is that this approach is also sure to piss off plenty of Chi­nese neti­zens who might oth­er­wise sup­port it.

Yes indeed, offering freedom to those who do not have it will always be “antagonistic” to those depriving them of that freedom. (And I’m not saying the CCP doesn’t give its people plenty of freedoms; they do. But they sure don’t give them Internet freedom.) And yes, this certainly inflamed the usual suspects in the fenqing sector (which isn’t really that hard to do) and hurt some feelings in Beijing. And why did the US do this? Custer explains:

The answer, as it turns out, is lob­by­ists. The deci­sion to choose GIFC fol­lowed a four-year lob­by­ing cam­paign by the group, and caused a bit of con­tro­versy within the Obama admin­is­tra­tion, accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post. There was also a fair amount of pres­sure, appar­ently, as the lob­by­ing cam­paign also tar­geted the media

And here I must take issue with the bolded part. It was not the FLG, or at least not only the FLG, that did the lobbying. From the article:

The decision to fund GIFC followed a three-year lobbying campaign by Washington insiders, congressional pressure and opposition from some human rights advocates and Internet experts. It was also controversial within the Obama administration, sources said, despite the commitment of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Internet freedom.

In fact, if you read the article, most of the lobbying was done by one man, Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute, and not the FLG. Not only is this key piece of information missing, but so is the history of the GIFC software, Freegate, which is not some kooky FLG concoction. Back to the Washington Post:

Freegate figured prominently in the demonstrations that rocked Tehran last year as Iranian dissidents used it to access Twitter and YouTube, which were blocked in Iran, to organize protests and post videos of the marches.

At times, the traffic from Iran was so heavy that GIFC officials had to limit Iranian access, said [Shiyu] Zhou, who serves as GIFC’s deputy director. He said the main element preventing GIFC from expanding its current system — which can accommodate 1.5 million users a day — is its lack of servers.

But, he added, the $1.5 million funding from the U.S. government will not be enough. “We had asked for $4 million,” he said. “For this little amount of money we don’t expect to achieve the things we really want.”

One NYT columnist (not my favorite) had this to say about the software last year:

Freegate amounts to a dissident’s cyberkit. E-mails sent with it can be encrypted. And after a session is complete, a press of a button eliminates any sign that it was used on that computer.

The consortium also makes available variants of the software, such as Ultrasurf, and other software to evade censors is available from Tor Project and the University of Toronto.

Originally, Freegate was available only in Chinese and English, but a growing number of people have been using it in other countries, such as Myanmar. Responding to the growing use of Freegate in Iran, the consortium introduced a Farsi-language version last July — and usage there skyrocketed.

Soon almost as many Iranians were using it as Chinese, straining server capacity (many Chinese are wary of Freegate because of its links to Falun Gong, which even ordinary citizens often distrust). The engineers in the consortium, worrying that the Iran traffic would crash their servers, dropped access in Iran in January but restored it before the Iran election.

“We know the pain of people in closed societies, and we do want to accommodate them,” Mr. Zhou said.

So I think it’s important that readers know there is greater context to this story, and it is not a case of the US throwing money willy-nilly at the FLG. No matter how much we may dislike the cult, we have to give credit where it’s due, and this software certainly deserves some credit. It may even deserve funding, even if it results in some long faces over in Zhongnanhai and in Beida dorm rooms.

The other script present in some of the comments is the FLG’s rejection of medical treatment, something I find abhorrent but certainly no justification for the harsh repression of the cult starting in 1999. I don’t know how many people have died as a result of this belief, and I don’t know how many practitioners abided by it. Looking at what Hessler writes and other accounts I’ve read, most of the practitioners saw it as exercise, something enjoyable to do, just as they enjoy dancing in groups on the street as the weather warms up.

But the most important contextual nugget missing is the actual reason why FLG is so terrifying to the Chinese government, and it is mentioned in the WaPo article (and I’ve mentioned it in this blog numerous times before): in 1999, some 10,000 FLG practitioners surrounded the home of a party official (some accounts say it was closer to 20,000) in Beijing. The crackdown that ensued, harsh even by CCP standards, had nothing to do with concern for the lives of practitioners refusing medical help. (Were this such a pressing concern the government would clean up its hospitals and take other steps to protect citizens’ lives like cracking down on cars speeding through pedestrian cross-walks.)

No, any organization that can, pre-Twitter, spread its message to tens of thousands of Chinese citizens and motivate them to appear at a set destination at a moment’s notice is going to scare the living shit out of the Chinese Communist Party. To cite the leader’s belief that he can fly or his various nutty mantras as reasons for why the party forbids them (as some of the commenters do) is disingenuous. Those things are irrelevant. The medical issue is irrelevant. The FLG was amorphous and nebulous and out of reach of the party and had an unprecedented ability to mobilize the masses. And that is something the CCP will under no circumstances tolerate, and any group with power like that must be crushed at all costs. As if they care that the leader thinks he can fly.

Yes, giving the teensy $1.5 million grant to the GIFC was sure to rumple party feathers. And no, I do not support or like the FLG. But China gives direct comfort to far more execrable characters like Kim Jong-Il and Robert Mugabe, and you don’t see many Americans weeping in their coffee because as much as it might offend us we can shrug it off, or complain about it rationally. We know China does stuff like that. And besides, the software, unlike the FLG, has shown that it can be used for a good purpose and is not a tool of the devil. I’m very sorry if Chinese people are upset, but when seen in context this was not a terrible idea or an act of aggression. There are many more substantive things to raise hell about.

The Discussion: 32 Comments

I agree there are more substantive things to raise hell about. But a man has to keep up the post frequency (present company excluded, Mr I-never-update-anymore), and I still think it’s kind of a dumb idea. In retrospect, “terrible idea” might be a bit of an overstatement. My point is basically just: why ruffle feathers when we don’t have to? It’s not that I care so much about “hurt feelings” — anyone who reads ChinaGeeks knows that we hurt the feelings of the Chinese people by slandering their justice system on a nearly daily basis — but here it seems pointless. Is GIFC really the only group capable of making this software?

Also, you kind of ignored the church/state issue, which is something that’s pretty important to me, although I understand that (1) this kind of stuff happens all the time and (2) not everyone is as creeped-out by religion/government entangelements as I am.

That said, my opposition to the move appears to have been based mostly on something that isn’t entirely true. The WaPo article said that the GIFC posts Falun Gong ads on their website, but now that I have uncensored internet, I’m looking and not seeing any ads at all. Maybe there were ads that have since been taken down? Or perhaps I’m not looking in the right place…

Anyway, the masses are clearly on your side here. Something like 700 votes in favor of giving the $ to the GIFC…

May 19, 2010 @ 9:46 am | Comment

Thanks for the reply, Custer. I love your posts, but as I said, this one seemed too strong and needed context. I don’t see FLG as a religion and based on what I’ve read many of its practitioners don’t either, so I really don’t understand that argument. The facts behind why the money was granted: the software worked, it was proven in the field, and it was a measly amount of money. About the ads, I don’t know, but my attitude, if the ads ever existed, is basically so what? When’s the last time you clicked an ad? When I used Anchor Free it gave me ads all the time that I never clicked on (until they forced you to, at which point I switched to Witopia).

And I admit, I voted in favor of the masses on this one. Thanks for inspiring me to post again after a too-long hiatus.

May 19, 2010 @ 10:43 am | Comment

I tend to agree with Charlie’s original post at China/Divide. Funding a Falun Gong-related organization like GIFC — at least openly — is a rather terrible idea. This is because Falun Gong is an organization dedicated to the overthrow of the CCP. Just take a look at their “Nine Commentaries”:

“Only without the Chinese Communist Party, will there be a new China. Only without the Chinese Communist Party, does China have hope.”

So, to the CCP and many Chinese citizens (who, anecdotally, largely believe FLG to be a violent dangerous cult), the U.S. funding Falun Gong is a bit as if the Chinese Foreign Ministry had announced that it was funneling a couple million to Al-Qaeda. Obviously, Falun Gong doesn’t engage in anything similar to the violence and nonsense that Al-Qaeda does. I draw the analogy only in the sense that FLG and AQ are dedicated to the collapse of the CCP and U.S. gov, respectively.

That’s why I’d have to disagree with Richard that such funding is the same as China supporting North Korea and Mugabe — they just don’t pose the same existential threat to the U.S. gov that Al-Qaeda does.

That said, when I talk to university students in China about climbing the GFW, literally 100% of those them use Freegate (Ziyou Men). Very few of them know that it’s affiliated with FLG, and probably wouldn’t use it if they did. That suggests to me that Freegate is a widely distributed and successful circumvention tool. Most say that it’s fast and effective. So, going on my anecdotal evidence, perhaps funding GIFC in a more tactful manner (under the table) isn’t such a bad idea.

P.S. The university students also report that Freegate lets them access Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and so on, but blocks pornography! Seems like you have to abide by FLG morals to surf the free internet.

P.P.S. Charlie, most of those that voted “yes” on your china/divide are guaranteed to be FLG voters organized through a forum or mail list. The disparity is just way too overwhelming.

May 19, 2010 @ 10:45 am | Comment

That’s why I won’t have voting on my comments. Too easy to manipulate.

Compare Falun Gong to Al Qaeda all you want. Al Qaeda sends suicide bombers here to commit mass slaughter and mayhem. The Falun Gong are a relative nuisance, a mosquito. I didn’t say Mugabe or Kim pose an existential threat, just that we might find funding them offensive, but we don’t go nuts over it.

I’ve been in lots of talks about FLG with Chinese friends and commenters, online and off. FLG’s commitment to overthrowing the CCP that you refer to is never a factor in their discussion, which is remarkably uniform. The CCP in its objection to the grant never raised this, either. The script is always that they are a dangerous, subversive cult that refuses to take medicine, and for reasons that don’t seem entirely clear, this cult must be crushed at any and all cost.

May 19, 2010 @ 10:58 am | Comment

Richard, I only write here to suggest that you read the long notes on this subject that I wrote to Mr. Custer. They are on his blog.

I agree with much of what you write, but there is a basic misunderstanding of what a cult is and how that word has been applied to this group. A group cannot be a cult just because it has odd beliefs. The term “cult” relates to the organisational structure of a group, not to the content of its beliefs. Ignorance of this fact allows the term to be inappropriately applied to Falungong. What you all probably mean is that you think Falungong’s beliefs are stupid. Instead of saying this, the label “cult” is used–a rather anti-intellectual, dehumanising, and in this context wholly inaccurate term. It also conjures all the same images–of a dangerous group that brainwashes and wreaks destruction on its adherents–that are used to persecute it, and that are associated with genuinely dangerous groups.

Some of what I wrote addresses this. I think these labels are cheap, and reveal bigotry and lack of real intellectual engagement with the issue.

May 19, 2010 @ 1:06 pm | Comment

David Palmer’s book Qigong Fever gives an excellent historical background, well researched. These movements were not limited to FLG and many were supported and encouraged by Central government. Good reading, bringing many ideas into context. Thoroughly recommend it.

May 19, 2010 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

FLG meets my definition of a cult based on the fanaticism of at least a portion of its adherents. Their odd beliefs are not my criterion for labeling them a cult. I actually had to deal with this issue as part of my work back when I lived in Singapore, when I saw first-hand how far out on a limb some of the die-hard fanatics were willing to go. But I get the strong feeling I won’t win you over, so we can leave it at that and agree to disagree.

May 19, 2010 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

[…] gifted with vision, will have noticed that I made a post about a cer­tain cult recently that was not well received. Before we get to the meat, I need to come clean about some­thing: I recently got access to […]

May 19, 2010 @ 2:53 pm | Pingback

Falun Gong is a cult, period. They worm their way into overseas Chinese associations, take advantage of homesick students, and force their way into any kind of Chinese-related activity that goes on in the States. I once organized a celebration for the Mid-Autumn Festival in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, and had to go to some lengths to tell the Falun Gongers that they were not welcome and that we did not want them to show up. They showed up anyway. They have good PR overseas, admittedly — but they are still a cult. Fuck those guys.

May 19, 2010 @ 6:31 pm | Comment

Amazing. They are tortured to death for their beliefs in China, and not allowed into overseas Chinese events either? And Fuck them? The term “cult” here is being used simply as an epithet, totally divorced from its sociological meaning. It’s a group that does not charge money, keeps no membership lists, has no centralised organisation, and is about meditation and traditional morality. For people who are supposed to know a lot about China, the negativity towards Falungong is odd and surprising. It’s not like they are an aberration or something. Why do you guys think there were 70 million Chinese people doing Falungong in the 90s? Because it’s a cult? The alleged fanaticism of some followers of a group does not make that group a cult. Some chess players are fanatics about it. Does that make chess a cult? Same logic.

Suggesting reading (light weight) is David Ownby’s submission to the CECC, which discusses Falungong in its historical and cultural context (something that has been replaced by simple nastiness here); Ethan Gutmann’s recent article in World Affairs.

Anyway, sometimes maybe there is no way to persuade people. Using such bitter language against a group of peaceful people is just so uncalled for, in my view. It’s like, it seems to lack the most basic respect for other human beings. Maybe if you (that is, each person who harbors negativity towards Falungong) knew a close friend who practiced Falungong, you would get a clearer picture that this is just a peaceful spiritual discipline. People do stupid things in any group. It doesn’t mean Falungong as a whole is a cult. That’s just a label that shuts down debate and shows that you’re not willing to think the issues through. It’s particularly bad in this case, because people are being tortured to death with electric batons and given drugs that make them go spastic and paralysed because they have been branded with that word.

May 19, 2010 @ 9:29 pm | Comment

Your “chess player” analogy is laughable. I’ve never heard of chess players auto-immolating; nor do chess players insist that chess is the one true game and that backgammon is an evil invention that leads to all human suffering. Even at his craziest, Bobby Fisher never claimed to be able to control the weather, levitate, or heal diseases. You can take issue with the word “cult” if you like – I’d be perfectly fine with calling it a “new emergent religion” or whatever euphemism you prefer – but it doesn’t change what Falun Gong is.

May 19, 2010 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

I have to go with Brendan on this one, at least part-way. They’re enough of a cult to make the Cult List. I think the issue is that there’s more than one FLG. There is the family that finds it a source of peace and happiness because its exercises bring people together and give them a sense of purpose and well being. I’m fine with that, and I actually think that’s how the majority of its practitioners saw it until the big crackdown.

Then there are the more militant members who seem as indoctrinated and as loony as the worst fenqing. They dedicate their lives to printing highly questionable articles in Epoch Times and interfering in international affairs, like the famous interruption of Hu in the US. Like the CCP, they have a formidable media apparatus and are utterly ruthless in how they use it, seeking to blast their propaganda to as many Chinese as will listen. This is the new FLG and this is the face they show the world, drowning out the image of the peaceful group I’d see in Taiwan doing breathing exercises. The fact that their leader does have his nutty beliefs and does believe he can fly underscores FLG’s cultish features and leaves us with an image that is singularly unappealing. When you have tenacious, fanatical followers under the spell of a loony leader whom they follow with religious zeal you have a cult. You had cults under Mao, Stalin, Kim Jong-Il and others, and sometimes I see signs of a cult around Ron Paul.

So to summarize, two FLGs – peaceful people doing exercises, and fanatics on a never-ending campaign to embarrass and attack China at virtually any cost. After the crackdown, the latter, radicalized by the CCP’s harsh reaction, have become the dominant face of today’s FLG, fair or not.

May 20, 2010 @ 12:17 am | Comment

and the ones that thank god Deng had the courage to open fire on the students lest China’s economic miracle be nipped in the bud and

The Myth of a Tiananmen “massacre”

In a well-researched 1998 article in the Columbia Journalism Review titled “Reporting the Myth of Tiananmen and the Price of a Passive Press,” the former Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing, Jay Mathews, tracks down what he calls the dramatic accounts that buttressed the myth of a student massacre.

He notes a widely disseminated piece by an alleged Chinese university student writing in the Hong Kong press immediately after the incident, describing machine guns mowing down students in front of the square monument (somehow Reuter’s Earnshaw chatting quietly with the students in front of the same monument failed to notice this.

Mathews adds: “The New York Times gave this version prominent display June 12, just a week after the event, but no evidence was ever found to confirm the account or verify the existence of the alleged witness.”

The students were allowed to leave the grounds, and as the military was mobilized (from outside) protesters (millions of them) became violent.

CIA, NSA and many American/Western NGOs disagreed with news reports being run in the West by armchair ESP reporters.

Falun Gong, the “organ harvesting myth”- as told by respected Human Rights activist and China dissident, Harry Wu-

“I tried several times to see the witnesses, but they said no,” he explained. “Even today, I don’t know their names.”

The two witnesses, who are now in the West, have refused to meet international agencies to provide more detailed information. Since they claim to have knowledge about thousands of people whose lives may be in danger it would be essential they be more open.

Mr Wu said he sent his own investigators but they failed to find the concentration camp or corroborate the claims of forced organ removals.

May 20, 2010 @ 4:12 am | Comment

So to summarize, two FLGs – peaceful people doing exercises, and fanatics on a never-ending campaign to embarrass and attack China at virtually any cost.

I would say there’s the face of FLG, and the real FLG- Li claims he can levitate, predict the future, etc. They claim that non-FLG will be destroyed slowly. They call homosexuals “demonic” and say the priority of “gods” will be to destroy homosexuals.

The FLG’s way of pushing its view of the world is through lies and coercion- they made several threats to Hu Wongda (Harry Wu) and other organizations. Their catch-all excuse for everything is “it’s a conspiracy/lie of the evil Chinese government!”

They sneak around bad press by hiding their propaganda in performances, news media, etc which do not carry their name- such as Shen Yun and Epoch Times. They celebrated the deaths of tens of thousands of apolitical Qiang, Tibetan and Han Chinese during the Wenchaun Earthquake.

And as explained by Hu Wongda, they completely fabricated accounts of organ harvesting, and refuse to even talk about their “evidence”. So much for intellectual honesty.

It’s no great wonder that even Cantonese speaking Chinese Americans who have been in America over 100 years are starting to hate the FLG as well.

May 20, 2010 @ 4:16 am | Comment

Merp, we have talked about the TSM many times here and I think we all know what did and didn’t happen, and we all know the myths, such as the mass shooting inside the square that never happened. So please don’t try to derail the thread.

May 20, 2010 @ 4:41 am | Comment

thank god Deng had the courage to open fire on the students

I’m sorry, did you put this in the post or was it a plant by deranged fenqing hackers?

May 20, 2010 @ 5:00 am | Comment

Hhhhmmm…. If FLG is a cult, then what is the CCP?

May 20, 2010 @ 5:04 am | Comment

then what is the CCP?

A government. No better than cults, generally speaking.

May 20, 2010 @ 5:30 am | Comment

It’s in their among a list of popular fenqing memes. This post is not about the TSM in any way and you know it.

May 20, 2010 @ 5:56 am | Comment

Sooo interesting to reflect on. My favorite point was: “At what point does cooperation become appeasement?”

May 20, 2010 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

I study up on how Government brainwashes the masses to think this, and think that. And you know what? Most people in USA actually believe all the lies told about New York September11 2001. The propaganda machine USA has was used to make them think that outside terrorists brang those buildings down. I was also fooled 100%, and im bright. Then i started to study up on Mass deception, and learned how Hitler did it, and Rwanda, and China etc. I found so much proof that 911 NY was an inside job, so much its not funny. All i had to do was listen to the argument from people who knew it was CNN news brainwash and especially those who work in controlled demolitions! I then looked at F Gong’s website for their argument and wow it was flawless, right from the news saying that a lady drops from being on fire too long etc. The origional video footage shows she was hit in the head by a person with a weapon. There so much more! Im not saying join falun gong, i’m just saying people have no idea how much they are tricked by the CCP! I dont hate them anymore, since i seen how they staged the “self burning” play for cameras etc. Falun Gong was never bad for China, its like Tai-chi excersizes that heal people.

May 21, 2010 @ 12:21 am | Comment


May 21, 2010 @ 7:52 am | Comment

That’s evil of you, Brendan. Which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it.

May 21, 2010 @ 10:52 am | Comment

The issue is not whether or not Falun Gong is a cult. This is like trying to determine whether or not something is “a massacre.” If a bunch of people are killed, you might call it what you like, but that doesn’t change the fact that nothing good happened. And whether or not FLF is a cult does not justify their repression.
The issue is whether the state response to Falun Gong has been reasonable. It clearly is not. Even though I think that Ferin has substantial cult like credentials, as does the Party as a whole, I would never argue for the violation of his or any others’ human rights.

May 21, 2010 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

No, the issue is not about whether or not the repression of FLG is reasonable; the issue is whether or not the US government should be giving money to a cult-funded organization. The topic of FLG repression can wait for another post.

May 21, 2010 @ 3:48 pm | Comment

The issue of Falun Gong’s cult-like status is then nothing but a distraction from the issue at hand. Supporting an organization able to poke holes in the GFW will undoubtedly solve more problems than it could ever create. The problem, I might say, is state censorship of the Internet, and not who is trying to break through it- for example, despite my dislike for Mao and Maoism, as well as its inherent cult-like nature, I would gladly support Maoists attempting to break through the GFW.

May 22, 2010 @ 12:02 am | Comment

The US should be doing its best to fund the development and distribution of software to circumvent the GFW and its analogues in other countries — but given that the official line is that it would be beneficial to China to allow for a free exchange of information, it seems like something of an own goal for them to be funding the development of software by a group whose stated goal is the destruction of the Chinese Communist Party. It’s going to open the US up to all kinds of attacks and accusations from fenqing and the government alike. Just unbelievably bone-headed.

May 22, 2010 @ 3:57 am | Comment

Even leaving its creepy provenance aside, consider also that Freegate collects user data and will happily sell it to outside parties. It’s a crap choice pretty much any way you look at it.

May 22, 2010 @ 4:01 am | Comment

I’m just wondering what FLG’s critics would do if they were in their situation. I think about it often. People say they are annoying or that they go to far to make their point, but how would you make a difference? It is hard to make a difference, especially when it involves a global power like China. Compared to China, FLG is really little and they don’t have the means or the leverage to play politics. Yes, a lady started screaming justice for Falun Gong or something while Hu Jintao was on the White House lawn, and should we call that annoying? This is after ten years that FLG has been brutalized and slandered to the highest degree in China! Ten years! FLG started a newspaper, and the communicate in many legal and painstaking ways, all volunteer, they have a band, flyers and protests etc. And so, why is this not commended?

I just want to know what it’s critics would do if millions of their dearest friends were suffering under a brutal lying regime.

Whether it is a good idea or not to give money for a project led by people who practice FLG, should only be considered based on the project itself. Having said that though, what frame of mind would a person have to be in to say that based on the CCP’s suppression and treatment of Falun Gong, that we should be careful not to show any support for Falun Gong cause being on the side of the persecutors makes more political sense. Who can say that? Is it an age thing? You get a certain age then money automatically jumps ahead of morals in importance?

May 23, 2010 @ 2:42 am | Comment

[…] To better understand how I feel about the Falun Dafa, I want to refer readers to this earlier post. The scripts for FLG are… predictable: their leader is a lunatic who believes, among other […]

February 14, 2011 @ 12:16 pm | Pingback

It really saddens me to see and hear such bad words being said about Falun Gong. Just because you do not understand or appreciate something, you have to criticise and denegrate? What does that say about you? Falun Gong is a cause for good and peace. It seems Brendan has swallowed the CCP propaganda completely. The self-immolation was NOT done by Falun Gong adherents but was a set up by the CCP. Killing is wrong for any Falun Gong practitioner, including oneself. In years to come the truth will come out as it always does, and then we shall all know the depths and extent of the persecution of Falun Gong by the CCP. In the meantime, those who lack openmindedness express opinions as yours. You know that in most spiritual practices (yoga, tai chi, martial arts, including religions, there will be some ‘hard to believe’ beliefs; flying, the power to heal with things other than modern medecine, changing water into wine etc. it may all be possible, just because we do not see it in our lives do not discount it. Science now says certain things are fact that were discounted only years ago! It does not mean that it is not possible because it is not common knowledge. As has been mentioned, Falun Gong does not have any fundamental structure or organisation to its practice, it is purely a practice for the individual to improve, mind, body and soul. This in turn benefits society. It is completely understandable that they have a beef with the CCP, for it is they who persecute them, but they demonstrate in a peaceful, non-violent manner. They truly stand for Truth, Compassion, Forebearance, thanks for reading.

August 11, 2011 @ 8:21 pm | Comment

“OK” *shuts door in face of crazy guy trying to convert him*

August 12, 2011 @ 3:01 am | Comment

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