Falun Gong’s practitioners (who have already been harshly persecuted in China) have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg after their core texts were declared ‘extremist’ in Russia.
The appeal to Strasbourg came after the court in
Krasnodar did not overturn a previous unfavourable sentence; which in
turn contradicted an earlier favourable decision because ‘expert
analyses’ were ‘unfounded’ and ‘one-sided’.
Falun Gong has been a popular spiritual practice
in China since the early 1990s. At first it was looked upon with a
certain level of approval by the Communist regime but its growing
influence led to a harsh crackdown by Beijing in 1999.
continued until 2004.
Once something is judged as ‘extremist’ in Russia
and it appears on a special list, it is banned throughout the country
and whoever is found in possession of such material is liable to
Falun Gong’s practitioners believe that the
motives behind the rulings are political – like the repeated refusal to
grant an entrance visa to the Dalai Lama – and are intended to please
One of the four texts defined as ‘extremist’ is the translation of Zhuan Falun
by Falun Gong’s founder, Li Hongzhi. Written in 2006, it consists of
nine lectures where Li Hongzhi praises Truth, Compassion and Endurance
as essential qualities for spiritual progress.
The text asserts that
good practice can generate paranormal abilities such as clairvoyance and
levitation, but Li stresses that these abilities should not be used for
‘Nobody is allowed to casually undermine the state of
our ordinary human society.’
Violence and even animosity are also
Nevertheless, other texts accuse the Chinese
government, partly because there have been controversial accusations in
the past of organ transplants taken from Falun Gong practitioners by the
authorities – during these operations, some victims of these forced
‘organ donations’ were allegedly killed – and partly because there is a
brief passage on the boycotting of the Beijing Olympics in support of
There there’s the problem of the Swastika. This
ancient Buddhist symbol was used a long time before Hitler made it the
Nazi symbol par excellence. Moreover, the Buddhist Swastika is
turned in the opposite direction to the Nazi version.
The promotion or
public display of Nazi symbols, including symbols that are so similar to
Nazi symbols that they could be mistaken for them, is one of the
founding principles of the law against extremism.
It seems that the tribunal was convinced by the
conclusions arrived at by the prosecution’s psychologist, Albina Rogoza.
This expert witness felt that Russians could easily mistake the Falun
Gong symbol for a Nazi Swastika if they do not have ‘special knowledge
in the spheres of religion, history, culture and art’ and a certain
level of familiarity with Falun Gong literature.
Other experts have
accused members of Falun Gong of feeling superior to other human beings.
Strasbourg will rule on all of this sooner or later; but Li Hongzhi’s
followers remain convinced that the ruling is political and pro-Beijing.