Centre Daily Times (State College, PA)
September 5, 2003
FALUN GONG NUMBERS GROWING
BY AMBER BENNETT
You'll see them standing silently amid the cellphone-happy masses on the Old Main lawn. They'll be meditating quietly. Passers-by will watch with curious looks.
It's like a mystery. The quiet students are followers of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual practice that focuses on meditation. And the group has a growing following at Penn State.
Also known as devotees of Falun Dafa, members of the organization actively work on campus to stop the persecution of their counterparts in China.
Kuan-Yuan Hsieh, 30, called Corina by her friends, founded the University Park group. She's a doctoral candidate in geophysics from Taiwan.
"In the beginning, I met with many tribulations from the Chinese groups here. They heard all of the untrue propaganda from the Chinese media," Hsieh said.
"I thought that people should know the real story of Falun Gong, and so for these past three years I have never given up," she said. "Now many people give Falun Gong positive support."
The group on Thursday brought to campus the fiancee of Charles Li, a California resident and U.S. citizen whom the Chinese government has detained. Li apparently has been tortured, too -- part of his punishment for promoting Falun Gong on Chinese soil.
His fiancee, Yeong-ching Foo, is conducting a nationwide "Rescue Drive" intended to help bring him home.
Penn State gave the campus Falun Dafa organization formal status in 2001. It now has close to 20 members.
Practice of the spiritual movement is strictly forbidden in China, where followers are frequently tortured, sometimes to death, in government attempts to make them renounce their beliefs.
In a recent case, Cui Ningning, 46, a Falun Gong practitioner from Zhenzhou City, in Henan Province, was arrested by the Chinese government and force-fed after she went on a hunger strike.
Ningning grew so weak from the salt-water feedings that the guards ordered her to be taken home by her sister on July 18. She died on July 29.
Other prisoners are held indefinitely, in forced labor camps and prisons.
In June, a female college student at Chong-Qing University was raped in public after she was arrested for publicly supporting the practice of Falun Gong.
"We don't know if this girl is still alive or not," Hsieh said. "Their names are taken off of the lists (of students attending the university)."
At Penn State, Falun Gong supporters annually run a petition drive aimed at stopping persecution in China.
"In 2001, we got around 5,000 signatures," Hsieh said. "I sent some of them to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and some of them to Congressman John E. Peterson. In 2002, we collected signatures continuously and sent them to President Bush."
Chinese government officials banned Falun Gong in 1999, when the former Communist leader of China, Jiang Zemin, decided that the spiritual practice went against the national Communist party. Zemin told police to use force against anyone caught practicing the meditation.
On-Cho Ng, an associate professor of history at Penn State, told the Centre Daily Times in 2001 that the Chinese government considers Falun Gong as "a possible source of subversion and dissent."
Falun Gong gained popularity in the early 1990s with Chinese workers who were displaced when state-run industries collapsed, Ng explained.
"From the outside world, it does seem a little bit strange that the Chinese government would suppress a movement that argues only for a certain way of life," Ng said.
"But actually, as far as the Chinese government is concerned, this particular group began as a movement that almost could be viewed as critical of government."
Although the practice was taught privately for thousands of years, Falun Gong was not made public until 1992, when Li Hongzhi introduced the practice to the Chinese people.
It has now spread to 60 countries. The meditation focuses on principles of truth, compassion and tolerance.
Followers perform five sets of meditative exercises, including a sitting meditation, intended to improve the balance and well being of their bodies and minds.
Hsieh said she meditates for one hour every day, and for two hours when she has the time.
"After practicing Falun Gong, I am able to sleep well and I have a clear mind," she said. "So, I've been able to focus on my research more and get much better results."