Group focuses on human rights

Twelve years after the massacre in Tiananmen Square that made world-wide headlines, China continues its human rights violations against peaceful groups.

While Americans enjoy a religious freedom granted to them by the Constitution, similar groups in China are persecuted by the rigid Communist government.

In Tampa, there is a group that exercises a practice known as Falun Gong. This practice has been banned by the Chinese government and its followers in China arrested and tortured.

On Tuesday, the Falun Gong practitioners in Tampa Bay in conjunction with Amnesty International will host an event at USF to show what Falun Gong practices are and to protest the human rights violations against its Chinese members. Along with discussing these topics, a video will be shown depicting human rights violations taking place against Falun Gong members.

Franklin Cui, a graduate student in Civil Engineering at USF, practices Falun Gong and actively participates in the peaceful protest against the Chinese government. He said it is important for Americans to know about these violations because the basic right of religious freedom is being threatened.

“Below the statue of Martin Luther King, it says (to the effect of) injustice will endanger justice anywhere,” he said. “Who can be a voice for them? We should do it.”

Cui said that Falun Gong is a peaceful practice with no political motivations and their only political goal is to be able to practice legally.

The true goal of Falun Gong practitioners is much more spiritual, Cui said.

“The purpose is to improve the inner side and become better people – happier,” he said.

Falun Gong, which is also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient and popular form of a related practice known as quigong. Practitioners use various exercises and meditation to refine both the body and mind. For people involved in this art, it becomes a vital part of their daily lives.

Though the practice began in China, people in more than 40 countries now proclaim its benefits. According to practitioners such as Cui, there are great physical benefits to being at piece with body and mind.

This practice, however, is seen as a threat by the Chinese government. According to Cui, the Communist Party in China officially banned Falun Gong in July 1999.

According to Compassion – A Journal of Falun Dafa Around the World, since the time of the ban, persecution against Falun Gong, which existed even before the government ban, has risen sharply. According to data compiled in that publication, deaths of practitioners who were being tortured in police custody has risen from less than 20 in 1999 to more than 100 in 2000.

“A lot of people are tortured and die because of persecution,” Cui said.

While protests take place throughout China, almost daily since the ban a group of practitioners demonstrate in Tiananmen Square, peacefully practicing their religion, according to the Falun Gong Web site.

Tiananmen Square is where many of the deaths associated with the group have taken place. Meanwhile, protests continue all across China and the United States.

China has a deep history of persecuting such practices as Falun Gong.

“There are two reasons,” Cui said. “One, because in China there are more than 100 million practitioners and two, the idealogy presents a basic difference.”

According to Cui, the Falun Gong practitioners wish to come to peace within themselves. The Chinese government, on the other hand, looks to take charge of people’s minds and tell them what to believe, he said.

“They are trying to control people’s minds,” Cui said. “The say freedom of belief but … that they can control.”

At USF, the Falun Gong will host a meeting which is open to the public from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. in Marshall Center Room 106. According to Cui, the hope is that people everywhere will learn about Falun Gong and respond to the violations by the Chinese government.

“Everyone should know the value of life,” Cui said. “Anything related to basic human rights should be respected.”