What the persecution of the Falun Gong tells us about New China

Even if the globalist-minded American press would prefer not to notice, the Beijing authorities continue to persecute the Falun Gong. Yet the movement’s only known “offense” is that it is not controlled by the Communist Party.

Sometimes it takes a while to be vindicated. When I spoke to the New America Foundation in Washington in March 2008, an interlocutor challenged my thesis that China remained a tightly controlled society.

Espousing the Washington trade lobby’s view that China is “inevitably” converging to Western values, he cited the rise of the Falun Gong spiritual movement as supposed evidence that Chinese society is becoming freer. I stood my ground, of course, and argued that, viewed in its full context, the Falun Gong story supported my case that China remained highly authoritarian. (The encounter has been captured for posterity by FORA.tv but because my interlocutor’s questions are not heard the sequence is a bit elliptical — see FORA.tv – Eamonn Fingleton on the Falun Gong Phenomenon.)

Yes, I said, the questioner was right to suggest that the Falun Gong’s early growth had proceeded largely unhindered by the Chinese establishment. But this was not because top leaders had consciously acquiesced in the movement’s growth. Rather that growth had proceeded so quickly that it had caught them off guard. Once they realized how big the Falun Gong was becoming, they moved with devastating speed to eviscerate its potential political challenge to the Communist Party. And even if the American press had largely forgotten about the Falun Gong, top leaders persisted in suppressing it.

I was reminded of this discussion the other day when I read of the latest attempts by Beijing to terrorize Falun Gong practitioners. In a development largely overlooked by America’s globalist-leaning press, the United Nations Committee Against Torture reported that not only are Falun Gong practitioners still routinely tortured but some of them have been the victims of “organ harvesting.” That is the authorities decree that their kidneys and other vital organs be removed to provide transplants for sick patients.
The basic message here is that Chinese leaders, like their counterparts in other Confucian model nations, believe unashamedly that the end justifies the means. As I point out in In the Jaws of the Dragon, the Falun Gong’s only real “offense” is that it is not controlled by the Communist Party. Yet that is all that matters to top leaders in meting out the most inhumane treatment to its supporters. As the authors Richard Bernstein and Ross Munro have pointed out, the Beijing regime “will stop at nothing when it feels its monopoly on power is at stake.”

Eamonn Fingleton is the author of In the Jaws of the Dragon: America’s Fate in the Coming Era of Chinese Hegemony (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008).

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