The persecution of Falun Gong members also has strained relations with the United States, which granted residency to Li and refused to extradite him to China to face trial.
A MATTER OF SIZE Ironically, the crackdown has helped spread word of the practice beyond China’s borders, although the size of Falun Gong support base remains in doubt.
With up to 70 million followers, the Chinese government outlawed the religion and thousands of devotees were arrested and killed, and many were also targeted by the illegal organ harvesting trade in China.
The show is a compilation of traditional ethnic dances, ballet renditions of Chinese folk lore, and operatic and instrumental acts.
In December, Amnesty International reported that at least 77 Falun Gong followers have died in custody, or shortly after release, in suspicious circumstances since the crackdown began in July 1999, many as a result of torture or force-feeding while they were on a hunger strike.
China’s response has drawn widespread international reproach, and threatened Beijing’s ambitions to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2008.
(Falun Gong adherents discourage the use of religious terminology, insisting they are practitioners — not members — of a spiritual movement, not a religion.) In any event, Li — known as Mr.
Li, the Teacher or Master Li — set out the core teachings in his book and practitioners are encouraged to read it while moving toward the essence of Falun Gong, a life filled with “truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.” Falun Gong spread quickly across China, at first with the grudging tolerance of the Chinese government.
Chinn also noted that the 100 million figure was reported in U. 22, 1999, in which an anonymous official attached to the Chinese sports commission says: “Falun Gong and other types of qi gong can save each person 1,000 yuan in annual medical fees.
If 100 million people are practicing it, that’s 100 billion yuan saved per year in medical fees.” Queried about the murky sourcing for the figure, Chinn acknowledged that he also has been wondering about the estimate, but that as an American it’s difficult to “get through that Chinese barrier.” More recently, the Chinese government claimed that the movement’s ranks had thinned from about 2 million to around 20,000 practitioners in China.