Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Russia: Falun Gong literature banned

Falun Gong practitionersFalun 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. 

This repression 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 criminal prosecution. 

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 China.

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 evil purposes. 

‘Nobody is allowed to casually undermine the state of our ordinary human society.’ 

Violence and even animosity are also rejected.

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 human rights.

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.

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