According to Chinese state-run media reports, as well as some Western analysts, the Falun Gong spiritual group in China was long ago wiped out by the ruling communist regime.
But a large number of greetings sent on the occasion of a recent Chinese holiday show that not only is the practice alive in China, it appears to be flourishing amidst the regime's persecution.
Over 1,500 greetings were sent from practitioners of Falun Gong in China to Falun Gong founder Mr. Li Hongzhi in the lead up to the Mid-Autumn Festival earlier this month. They were posted on Minghui.org, a Falun Gong Web site.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the most important holiday in the Asian lunar calendar, other than the New Year. Celebrated when the moon is at its brightest, the festival is traditionally a day when friends and family gather to eat moon cakes and commemorate the summer harvest. This year's festival was on Oct. 6.
Falun Gong adherents regularly send greetings to Mr. Li via Minghui.org during Chinese holidays, but the numbers appear to be growing. The Mid-Autumn Festival greetings came from all parts of China, including remote and rural areas. Many include elaborate Chinese art or even multimedia. Some come from people who do not practice Falun Gong, but believe that it has had a positive impact on Chinese society and therefore wish to thank Mr. Li for teaching it.
Many also come from Chinese people who'd taken up Falun Gong after the regime's persecution began in 1999. The widow of a Red Army veteran in her 70s wrote on behalf of 27 family members to “send our greetings to our great Master.” She said she started the practice in 2005.
“I used to spend about 700 yuan every month on medicine. After practicing Falun Gong for one year, I am no longer deaf, I am full of energy, and I have not spent a single dime on medicine since then.” She added: “There is no reporter who dares to write my story in China at the present time.”
The crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999 when the Chinese Communist Party found more people had taken up the meditation and spiritual practice than there were Communist Party members.
The campaign to crush the group was at first very vocal. In addition to torture and detention, the party made use of all media channels to pressure believers to give up. Around 2002, the regime changed its strategy and stopped reporting on Falun Gong, giving the impression that the issue had passed. However, human rights reports show that the persecution has raged on behind the scenes.
For this reason, posting online greetings to Mr. Li is not without danger for those in China. Reporters Without Borders names several Falun Gong adherents on its list of “cyber-dissidents,” people imprisoned for online activities.
“They risked their lives with [the] very email they sent,” said an overseas Chinese woman after reading the greetings in The Epoch Times Chinese-language edition.
“Under terrible suppression, they still maintained such wonderful sentiments, such optimism and self-confidence…It truly moved me,” she said.