Thousands around the world expressed well wishes and greetings to Mr. Li Hongzhi, founder of the spiritual practice Falun Gong, to mark the start of a new Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 12 this year.
It has long been a tradition for the Chinese to send new year greetings to their loved ones and those they respect. This year, greetings to Li came in the form of e-cards, personal messages, poems, and video greetings—not only from those who are adherents of the practice, but also from Chinese citizens who admire Li.
“I wish Master Li good health and a long life. Happy Chinese New Year!” said Mr. Chen from central China’s Henan Province, in a recent interview with The Epoch Times’ sister media NTD. In traditional Chinese culture, “Master” is a title of respect often used to address teachers and instructors.
He added: “He has great influence around the world and hundreds of millions have approved of his contributions [to society]. There is no need for me to add anything else. I wish to see him becoming more influential.”
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient spiritual practice involving slow meditative exercises and moral teachings centered around the principle of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Li introduced the practice to the public in 1992 and there were 70 million to 100 million adherents by mid-1999, according to official estimates.
The practice’s popularity drew the ire of former Chinese regime leader Jiang Zemin, who viewed it as a threat to both his rule and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ideologies. In July 1999, Jiang launched a nationwide persecution to arrest and detain Falun Gong adherents.
According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, millions have been detained inside prisons, jails, labor camps, and other facilities in China, who are often tortured while incarcerated. Prior to the Chinese Lunar New Year, at least 1,216 Falun Gong adherents were either kidnapped or harassed in January.
Outside of China, millions have taken up the practice in over 100 countries and regions.
The persecution has not silenced the voices of adherents in China. In the past week, many have sent their greetings to Minghui.org, a U.S.-based website that tracks the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
One of the colored e-cards sent to Minghui was from an adherent who works in the judicial system of coastal China’s Jiangsu Province. The card depicts a young girl sitting before a lotus flower and is decorated with the words “Wishing Master a Happy New Year” in simplified Chinese characters.
The adherent from Jiangsu also wrote that he has been practicing Falun Gong for 24 years, and he thanked Li for passing on moral teachings that have allowed him to feel spiritually fulfilled.
Another colored e-card was from a group of adherents working at the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. The card depicts three youngsters with a Chinese scroll showing “truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance” in Chinese characters.
Many of the colored e-cards originated from adherents living in Changchun, the capital of northeastern China’s Jilin Province and Li’s hometown. Several wrote that they missed Li greatly and promised to be more diligent in their moral cultivation.
Adherents outside of China have also sent greetings through Minghui.org, including those from Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Chang Chin-hua, head of Falun Dafa Association in Taiwan and a journalism professor at Taiwan’s National Taiwan University, took part in a photoshoot in Taiwan’s capital Taipei on Jan. 24. She explained that Taiwanese adherents cherish the opportunity to participate in public events, for the island has democracy and religious freedom that are not available in mainland China.
She added that people can learn through these public events about the spiritual exercises, which help to dispel the negative propaganda that Beijing has promoted as part of its persecution of Falun Gong.