I have lately come across something rather unsettling. I have heard from people and seen in some major US news sources, that the situation between the Chinese government and the Falun Dafa/Falun Gong religious movement is that between a “totalitarian government” and a “peaceful group.” There are two unsettling things about this whole debate.
Although the PRC may be unfair in their outright ban of the group (though I don’t want to commit to this because I don’t know the circumstances), I think many people in the US have been hoodwinked by the Falun Gong’s claim to be a “peaceful philosophy”, something which is neither a religion nor objectionable. I heard a friend (unaffiliated with the group) in a conversation the other day claim that the group only promotes exercises and health philosophy, and is against human rights violations of the PRC.
This is, in fact, misinformation. First, if Falun Dafa is not a religion, then neither is anything else. It comes replete with gods, talk of Buddhas, and everything else one would associate with a religion.
Second, although perhaps the sect should be allowed to exist and practice, their doctrine is far from unobjectionable. Li Hongzhi, the founder and leader of the Falun Dafa group, has promoted views such as that homosexuality is disgusting, and (what I find most revolting) that those of mixed-race are somehow corrupted and perhaps evil, and that there are various “heavens” for different races. This kind of doctrine, I think, is certainly not only wrong, but offensive. However, these doctrines are often ignored by those unfamiliar with Falun Dafa and instead the group’s opposition to the ban by the PRC is emphasized.
Regardless of which side is right in the battle between the PRC and the Falun Dafa movement, we should at least get straight exactly what both sides promote, and what they don’t. And being a proponent of human rights myself, I don’t think that a group whose spiritual leader promotes racism and homophobia has very much moral force in a debate on human rights.