Why is the Chinese Communist Party persecuting Falun Gong?
The complex rationale behind the campaign can be broken into four elements: Falun Gong’s popularity, the role of Jiang Zemin, conflicting ideology, and the nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s system.
While a common misconception is that the gathering of 10,000 adherents in Beijing on April 25, 1999 is what led to the persecution of Falun Gong, oppression of the practice actually began at least three years earlier.
The more popular Falun Gong became, the more resistance it encountered. Party leaders fear any large, independent group, and Falun Gong was probably the largest. When Falun Gong books became bestsellers in 1996 they were banned; when state-run media estimated that over 70 million people practiced Falun Gong - more than the Party’s membership - media began attacking Falun Gong and state security began spying on and harassing adherents.
It was in response to these early abuses that adherents gathered in Beijing.
Fearing Falun Gong’s rapidly growing popularity was overshadowing his own legacy, then-Party leader Jiang Zemin ordered the practice “eradicated.” According to a 1999 Washington Post article, “Jiang alone decided that Falun Gong must be eliminated” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A54486-1999Nov11?language=printer). Journalists and inside sources have described Jiang as “jealous” of Falun Gong and “obsessed” with eliminating the group. As China analyst Willy Lam has argued, by creating a national campaign Jiang sought to both align power to himself and eradicate a group he saw as a threat to his power.
The ideological differences between the atheist Communist Party and the spiritual Falun Gong also played a role. While religion is again becoming increasingly popular in China, and the Party does allow some religious affiliations, religious groups must submit to the state and their leaders must be Party approved. Other groups who, like Falun Gong, have chosen to preserve their belief system and refused to tender to the Party have also met persecution, including Tibetan Buddhists and house church members.
Finally, as the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party (www.ninecommentaries.com) has argued, the persecution of Falun Gong is the latest in a continuum of violent campaigns that the Party uses to remind the population of its control. Mao Zedong once said that China should have a Cultural Revolution every seven or eight years. Indeed, since the 1950s not a decade has gone by without some violent state-led campaign aimed at the masses. From the suppression of “counterrevolutionaries,” the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the 1989 crackdown on the democracy movement, to Falun Gong, the Party has killed 60-80 million Chinese citizens.