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Falun Gong’s Challenge to China: Spiritual Practice or “Evil Cult”?


This updated paperback edition has information on all of the latest developments with the Chinese government crackdown, including Danny Schechter’s analysis of the alleged public suicides by Falun Gong practitioners in Tiananmen Square in February 2001.

$15.95 $11.96

What people are saying…

“. . . [Schechter] offers a persuasive analysis of this strange and still unfolding story . . . ”
New York Times Book Review

“Schechter’s account lays bare the Chinese dictatorship’s hysterical response to an innocent organization, which will, without intending to, educate the Chinese public in mass resistance . . . Schechter’s book is must-reading for those who want to understand the Chinese government’s fear of its own people.”
—Gregory Palast, The Observer (London)


Falun Gong’s Challenge to China remains the only book-length investigative report of this human crisis affecting the lives of tens of millions of practitioners in China and around the world. This updated paperback edition has information on all of the latest developments with the Chinese government crackdown, including Danny Schechter’s analysis of the alleged public suicides by Falun Gong practitioners in Tiananmen Square in February 2001. New reporting also includes the Bush Administration’s response to the crisis and the positions taken by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In October 2000, China’s president Jiang Zemin declared that Falun Gong, a spiritual movement with an estimated 100 million practitioners, was bent on “overthrowing the Chinese government, and undermining socialism.” He branded them “counter revolutionaries” and vowed to crush their spiritual practice. The last time this type of rhetoric was heard was just before the government in Beijing sent tanks into Tiananmen Square in 1989 to crush a worker and student movement for democracy.

Falun Gong’s response to this latest threat by a regime that had already banned it—and denounced it as “an evil cult”—was to mobilize a large non-violent protest in the center of Beijing. Over a thousand people were arrested in a scene reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr’s protests in the American South and Mahatma Gandhi’s passive resistance campaigns.

Why is this happening? What is Falun Gong and how has it attracted an estimated 70-100 million practitioners? Why has the Chinese government declared it an “evil cult” and sought to “smash it”—unsuccessfully so far, despite the involvement of thousands of police and government officials. What is it that China’s leaders fear? What role has been played by the Internet in this crisis? What is the real story behind the story?

This timely non-fiction book presents the inside story of China’s crackdown on Falun Gong. Based on the last interview given by Li Hongzhi before he went underground, as well as information supplied by scores of practitioners and various independent third-party sources, human rights journalist Danny Schechter describes the rise of an enigmatic and sometimes mystical movement that has captured the imagination and loyalty of millions of members of the Communist Party itself.

Schechter’s report is followed by an extensive reader offering documents on all sides of the controversy including government studies, propaganda reports, and Li Hongzhi’s own writings. Schechter’s careful monitoring of the situation cites experts, studies, human rights activists, intelligence reports, and original research to make sense of a story that has only been told episodically‹and with little depth. He documents and details what has happened and why.

Here for the first time:

* How and why 10,000-15,000 Chinese citizens surprised the government by surrounding the center of its power in 1999 with a day long vigil.

* The debate inside the Communist Party on how to address the rise of Falun Gong, with hard-liners ultimately prevailing with a campaign reminiscent of the extremism of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

* Li Hongzhi’s little-publicized plea for a dialogue with the Chinese government.

* How a dispute over inflated fees demanded by government agencies helped fuel the conflict.

* How the transition to capitalism in China—and not just Communist totalitarianism—has led to unrest and a spiritual crisis for millions.

* First-person reports from inside Chinese prisons and mental hospitals where Falun Gong practitioners are being tortured.

*The Internet’s function in amplifying voices of dissent from inside a country with a closed and tightly controlled media; the Internet’s role in the world’s most rapidly spreading spiritual movement.

*How the Chinese government’s has been unable to suffocate Falun Gong, despite extensive attacks on Falun Gong websites and other facets of the group’s elusive “network.”

* How and why Western press coverage tends to resemble and even mimic the one-sided Collected of the Chinese state media.

* The mixed messages emanating from the White House and the failure of US government attempts to stop the human rights abuses. The Washington Post recently reported: “You wouldn’t know it from listening to deferential Clinton administration officials, but China is carrying out one of its more ferocious assaults against freedom of speech and freedom of association in recent years . . . A Hong Kong-based human rights group reported that police beat to death one Falun Gong adherent, Zhao Jinghua, when she refused to renounce her beliefs . . . Given the absence of a free press, it’s impossible to know how many have been arrested and how many have died in custody.”

Note: An excerpt from Falun Gong’s Challenge to China appears in Censored 2000: The Year’s Top 25 Censored Stories (Seven Stories, 2000)

Book Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Published: 9/1/01
  • IBSN: 9781888451276
  • e-IBSN: 9781617752162
  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • IBSN: 9781888451139


DANNY SCHECHTER is a veteran journalist and an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster who has been reporting on and producing programming about human rights issues—including Chinese affairs—for years. A former CNN and ABC news producer, he executive produced China Now for Channel 13 in 1991, and has been working on a program about Falun Gong. His writing on current events and media issues has appeared in The Boston Globe, Newsday, Village Voice, The Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, and many other publications. He has written about China for Newsday and Z Magazine. He visited the country in 1997 to speak at an international symposium sponsored by Beijing TV. He is the author of News Dissector: Passions, Pieces, and Polemics, 1960–2000 (Akashic Books), Falun Gong’s Challenge to China (Akashic Books), and The More You Watch, The Less You Know (Seven Stories Press). He is the executive producer of Globalvision and executive editor of Media Channel, a global media watchdog website. He lives in New York City.

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