Leeds council makes “righteous choice” to receive Chinese Falun Gong deputation tomorrow

Falun Gong protest in Leeds city centre yesterday

A deputation from the Falun Gong – a spiritualist movement that’s banned in China – is to address councillors at tomorrow’s full session of Leeds City Council.

After initially being refused, Falun Gong campaigner Mary Man has now been given permission by council leaders to address the meeting for five minutes at the beginning of the session.

“Leeds made a righteous choice, because they refused the deputation in the beginning, but after consideration they agreed,” she told the leeds citizen.

All the more righteous given the strains in the Sino-Leeds relationship caused by the visit of the Dalai Lama to the city in June. And given the fact that athletes from China’s Olympic team arrived in Leeds yesterday for their pre-Games training camp.

According to the Yorkshire Evening Post, the go-ahead was given after negotiations with Mrs Man about what she would say tomorrow. It remains to be seen to what extent she will self-censor herself.

“Serious human rights violations”

Practiced in China by millions after its introduction in 1992, Falun Gong – a combination of meditation, slow-moving qigong exercises and moral philosophy – was initially tolerated but subsequently outlawed by the Chinese authorities and is now officially seen as an “evil cult”.

Following a crack-down in 1999, Human Rights Watch reported that: “Serious human rights violations – including restrictions on freedom of thought, belief, and expression, wrongful detention, unfair trials, torture, and deaths in custody – have accompanied the Chinese government response to Falun Gong.”

Mrs Man is one of the organisers of an exhibition currently on at the Corn Exchange in Leeds which depicts the “human rights tragedy” of Falun Gong practitioners in China.

To mark the 13th anniversary of the ban, an early day motion has been tabled in the House of Commons and backed by a cross-party group of 23 MPs, expressing concern over the “infringement of human rights” in connection with the treatment of the Falun Gong.

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6 Responses to Leeds council makes “righteous choice” to receive Chinese Falun Gong deputation tomorrow

  1. David says:

    Though I think China’s treatment of the Falun Gong is truly reprehensible, I don’t think Leeds Council should be accepting an official delegation. Setting aside issues around the Olympics and potential provocation of the already rather petulent Chinese officialdom, Falun Gong isn’t all sweetness and enlightenment. It is actually, genuinely a cult, and quite a weird and extreme one too. This is on a par with accepting a deputisation from Scientology’s Sea Org which we’ve all heard so much about lately.

    I’m not suggesting that human rights violations against Falun Gong followers are in any way excusable (they really aren’t, whatever China’s rather skewed policy and rhetoric might have to say about it), but the Council should know where to draw the line and be able to recognise when a religious group is way and gone beyond anything mainstream and reasonable.

    • Rose Geddes says:

      Hi David,
      I understand that it is easy for people to be confused about Falun Gong, as there are lies written about it on the Internet. Falun Gong practitioners try to align their thoughts and behaviour with the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, there is certainly nothing weird about this. The teachings of Falun Gong go completely against ‘extreme’ actions. Some Falun Gong practitioners live in Leeds, so I think it’s understandable that they want to make the Council aware of the situation in China and that people they know and family members are being unfairly imprisoned in China. I think support for what is good and protecting people’s right to freedom of beliefs is a mainstream issue. I agree with David that the human rights violations against Falun Gong practitioners really aren’t excusable.

  2. gardmal says:

    I am afraid I rather agree with David on this one. I wonder where we would draw the line on which bunch of Religious nutters we would legitimise in this way. I appreciate that there are Human Rights questions about the treatment of FG (but they are not alone in making this complaint) in China but nonetheless the west fails to understand that China’s experience of cult groups is different to ours. Hong Xiuquan, the self proclaimed, brother of Jesus Christ and his Tiaping Heavenly Kingdom lead the Taipei rebellion. It took both the Chinese and western forces to eventually subdue this cult as a result the Chinese have real suspicions of any cult.

  3. Ed says:

    I am a practitioner of Falun Gong. a British citizen, I have a full time job within the ports industry, a position I have held for almost 33 years. I enjoy all the positivity the practice brings me and run an exercise class in our local park. To call the practice a cult is to listen to and believe the Chinese communists regimes line on this spiritual practice. I started practising 8 years ago and have found nothing but positive benefit from doing so. I am saddened to think that those people who practice the same thing in China are persecuted, tortured and killed but to hear free intelligent people in the west take the stance that Falun Gong is a cult or religious nutters without any evidence of this, is staggering. Falun Gong could be described as a self cultivation system or faith, as one works to improve oneself, it’s free to practice and there is no worship involved.
    In 1948 the countries of the world signed the human rights act to protect mankind from itself, to prevent man’s inhumanity to man. Yet today it’s happening again in China, those governments have strong commercial ties which they don’t wish to jeopardise so it;s business as usual.
    I thank the Leeds City Council for making the decision to listen and hope they can visit the exhibition to get a better understanding of the situation in China through these beautiful artworks.

    • gardmal says:

      Probably need to place some context here. I don’t really need need any evidence when describing the followers of Falun Gong as “religious nutters”. It simply a reflection of my prejudice against those who confuse having a belief system as the same as fact. Any discussion about religion is an exchange of opinion. Is Falun Gong a cult. Well it is, that is a fact. It is not a mainstream religion and does not have enough believers to raise above being a cult. To be clear Falun Gong also lacks both structure and organisation to meet the definition of sect. While it clearly follows practices and beliefs that are common with Buddhists and Daoists it lack the structures of either. In fact is that Falun Gong did not originally promote itself as a religion or it would have been suppressed much harder under earlier less tolerant Chinese Governments.
      if Falun Gong does get enough believers to be considered as a mainstream sect, i will be happy to stop referring to it as a cult. However, for me they will still be “religious nutters”.

      Also there is an assumption being drawn that everything about the Chinese Government is wrong. That too is an expression of prejudice. China has a lot to answer for in terms of some of its current human rights practices. This is not limited to the treatment of Falun Gong, and in that respect it is right that political leaders should speak out. However, that does not mean that everything, by any stretch of the imagination, is wrong about the current Chinese Government. I know many Chinese and the vast majority of them see no reason to change the current political arrangements. That does not mean they are all happy with it but there are plenty here in the Uk who are unhappy with our current government. It is only the arrogance of the west that assumes that our version of democracy is the best. I think it is but what do I know. I do know that China prospers when ours is in decline. There is still serious problems with poverty and inequality, but there is still real poverty in the UK and that is about to get worse and not better. I also know that all of the Chinese people that I have personal contact with see on going improvements to their lives and lifestyles.

      I don’t think that Leeds Council should be alienating the Chinese Government by giving credence to a cult. There are other less public ways of putting pressure on China on the question of Human Rights than to be pissing them off. I sense that this demonstration of welcoming Falun Gong to be a political stunt. One which ultimately will achieve nothing for the followers of Falun Gong in China and forgotten by voters by the time of the next local elections.

      For followers of Falun Gong who have gotten a lot from the practice I say, “well done you.” Yes life is hard and unfair but good luck in turning the wheel. But I will think of you as “nutters”. Sorry about that.

  4. Erinath says:

    I must confess to being rather perplexed as to what Leeds City Council are up to. First they pull out of an event because the Chinese government are unhappy the Dalai Lama is also attending, but then they go to the other extreme with a much lesser known “faith” (sorry, I cannot find the correct word.)

    As a resident of Leeds, I was incredibly embarrassed by the message LCC sent out to the world regarding Leeds, when even the Tory-strong coalition government would happily receive the Dalai Lama. I do not know if this is some ill conceived attempt to rectify that, but they are just making themselves seem more and more out of touch.

    @Gardmal – I do not know enough facts about Falun Gong to know who is right between Ed & yourself, but I don’t think calling anyone a religious nutter is a way to conduct a civilized debate. I do, however, appreciate you sharing your knowledge regarding Falun Gong with those completely in the dark.

    Incidentally, in case people think my extreme disappointment with LCC is due to my own religious bias, I am not a Buddhist, just someone who still strongly believes that human rights should come before business.

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