The Group the Chinese Communists Fear the Most

I have rarely heard it mentioned in the mainstream media, but, according to reports, during the 1990s in communist China, thirty thousand members of Falun Gong were rounded up and executed.  The founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, fled China and now lives in the U.S., while in China members of the order went underground.  According to Freedom House, "Falun Gong practitioners across China have since [July 1999] been subjected to widespread surveillance, arbitrary detention, horrific torture, and extrajudicial killing — abuses which continue today."  Nonetheless, there are still some 100 million practitioners worldwide, and the movement continues to grow.

Information concerning the repression of Falun Gong is a Chinese state secret, with severe penalties for anyone attempting to obtain data.  As the Falun Data Infocenter puts it: "The CCP has also used political and financial influence around the world to either keep journalists silent, or drive false narratives about Falun Gong."  With total control inside China and compliance by foreign journalists, the Chinese Communist Party has driven a false narrative that minimizes the number of Falun Gong practitioners and hides data on the number of those abducted, tortured, killed, and killed for their organs, thus totally obscuring the record.  At the same time, Chinese and foreign media continue to suggest that the victim is the abuser: the false idea that Falun Gong is a cult with dangerous potential.

For anyone who has studied the history of or practiced Falun Gong, the enormity of this continuing abuse and misinformation is obvious.  Falun gong is a benign practice of meditation, exercise, and moral instruction with no political ties of any sort, but it is often represented, even by well-meaning Western journalists, as a "cult" or as a right-wing anti-CCP organization, as in a recent article in the Guardian, relying heavily on statements by Media Matters.  According to the article, Falun Gong and its associated media, including the Epoch Times, have engaged in "conspiracy narratives" targeting Democrats and the Chinese Communist Party and of "links" between Joe Biden and the CCP.  In fact, a great deal of evidence is emerging in the Comer investigation to show that those links are far from being conspiracy narratives.  (See also a 2020 New York Times article, which labels Falun Gong "a leading purveyor of right-wing disinformation.")

If those journalists would do their homework, beginning with studying Falun Gong websites and  the book Zhuan Falun by Li Hongzhi, instead of relying on the well funded Chinese "zero out" campaign, they would realize that Falun Gong is an uplifting instruction based on traditional, conservative Chinese practices.


The story of the Chinese government crackdown on Falun Gong is a classic example of totalitarian intolerance of competing ideas, and it involves both propaganda and physical terror.  A careful examination of the record proves that the response of the communist Chinese regime is not very different from that of ancient regimes toward their own enslaved peoples.  Despite their vast power, totalitarian leaders are fearful and at times even paranoid, as was Stalin, and the flip-side of fear is repression.

In reality, Falun Gong is a complex spiritual practice involving qijong-like exercises, positive thinking, and moral belief based on truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.  As a practitioner myself, I know how Falun Gong can transform an individual from illness to health, confusion to knowledge, and intolerance to open-mindedness.  It is obvious to me how a totalitarian regime would view Falun Gong as a threat, as indeed it would be to any form of deceit, corruption, or intolerance.  As Falun Gong spread in China during the 1990s, at one point with 60 to 100 million followers in China alone, the practice became a threat to a government that had once encouraged it as a healthy "money-saving" vehicle and a social safety valve for a dissatisfied citizenry.  Yet within months, beginning in July 1999, perhaps 100,000 followers were arrested and 30,000 executed.  Even now, nearly 4,000 practitioners were arrested in 2021 (latest figures).

It is critical to consider the magnitude of this repression, with between two and four million Falun Gong followers "detained" in forced labor camps between 2000 and 2008 alone.  Chinese policy toward Falun Gong is similar to the more widely publicized repression of Uyghurs, 1.5 million of whom have reportedly been detained in China, with hundreds of thousands of others subjected to forced sterilization, forced abortion, and religious suppression, and with the razing or damaging of 16,000 mosques.  Like totalitarian regimes of the past, the CCP appears willing to employ the most ruthless tactics in order to secure its hold on the country.

Though Falun Gong is not a political movement, the exponential growth of Falun Gong during the 1990s might well have pressured authorities to change, and as soon as China's leaders recognized this threat, they suppressed Falun Gong with a heavy hand.  One could hardly be truthful, compassionate, and forbearing and lend one's support to a communist regime governed by a few thousand members of the political elite intent on benefiting from their rule at the expense of the general population.  Falun Gong teaches a form of gentleness and goodness that threatens the lies and violence of any totalitarian government. 

One must ask: if the Chinese communists are willing to imprison millions of ethnic and religious minorities and to murder tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, what are they capable of in the future?  How many lives are they willing to expend in a takeover of Taiwan?  And once Taiwan is taken, how many Taiwanese will they imprison and execute?  In the event of a war with Japan or with the United States, how many are they willing to see die, on both sides?  And if Chinese communism were ever to achieve world domination, what kind of future could we expect?  As Christians, probably something not unlike what the Uyghurs and Falun Gong have already experienced.

At the same time, the specter of Chinese repression should open our eyes to the remarkable value of our own system of democratic capitalism.  The CCP has diminished Falun Gong in China, but, like all religious and spiritual practices, Falun Gong has found a safe home in America, at least in principle, though the Biden administration continues to restrict religious practice, to challenge religious rights in the courts and in agency practices, and to unleash the power of agencies like the Justice Department and IRS against the open practice of religion.  Many of the same tactics adopted in communist China are accepted by progressives in our own country, including the encouragement of birth control and abortion, even late-term abortion and infanticide after birth.

For the present, there is still a difference between totalitarianism and democracy as practiced in the USA.  Now is a time when American citizens, media, government, and corporations need to see clearly that communist China is a totalitarian government and to recognize what it is capable of.  China's record toward Falun Gong, a violent repression that continues today, is one element in a string of crackdowns and arrests.  We do not need to send a balloon over China to understand the nature of their regime, but we do need to recognize the enormity of its abuses and take appropriate actions to defend ourselves.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture, most recently Heartland of the Imagination (2011).

Image: tookapic via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

If you experience technical problems, please write to