An Unprecedented Evil Persecution: Falun Gong is Not a Cult


Chapter 4:

Falun Gong is Not a Cult

by David Kilgour

Eight years ago, David Matas and I, as volunteers joined the international campaign to raise awareness about organ pillaging/ trafficking from Falun Gong practitioners in China. The persecution began in mid-1999, but we as independent investigators could find no evidence of commerce in organs seized from Falun Gong before 2001. The revised Matas-Kilgour report is available in almost 20 languages on the Web (See or

On one occasion, our delegation arrived at a national parliament in central Europe, expecting to meet with a multi-party group of legislators, only to find that the local MP entrusted to invite others, had at the last moment decided not to do so. His stated rationale was that his caucus is faith-based and that Falun Gong is a different religion from his own.

In none of the approximately 50 countries Matas and I have now visited separately or together on this issue since our report came out in 2006, have we heard a Falun Gong practitioner speak other than positively about other spiritual communities. Which religion, moreover, does not identify with Falun Gong’s core principles of “truth, compassion, and forbearance”? The serenity and non-violence its practitioners have demonstrated seemingly without exception in the face of myriad beatings, imprisonments, torture and murder across China since mid-1999 are impressive to anyone aware of the details.

The twentieth century was no doubt the worst in recorded his- tory for the brutality directed at faith communities by governments. One probably high estimate of the number of individuals of all nationalities who died prematurely for their faiths between 1900 and 2000, is a staggering 169 million, including 70 million Muslims, 35 million Christians, 11 million Hindus, nine million Jews, four million Buddhists, two million Sikhs, and one million Baha’is.

Many died from inter- or intra-faith violence, but most perished at the hands of totalitarian regimes, which loathed all religions, largely because the deeper loyalties of their members lay elsewhere than with local or national despots. Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Poll Pot and others, who committed a vast range of what we now term crimes against humanity, murdered untold tens of millions of their fellow citizens for having a spiritual faith. The hostile attitude towards all religion in totalitarian Beijing is the first major reason for the persecution Falun Gong practitioners have faced across China up to and including the present time.

Clive Ansley of British Columbia, who practiced law in Shanghai for 13 years and is the North American chair of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, recently noted:

But there are from 100,000 to 200,000 Falun Gong practitioners who have been murdered on the operating tables of China. And had their organs stolen and sold for profit. And there is hardly a murmur about this anywhere. We have seen a stream of reports in the newspapers, in all the media, about Darfur, Burma and Tibet. Mia Farrow protested what she called the “Genocide Olympics” because of the indirect genocide China carried out in Darfur; yet she never once mentioned the direct genocide the Chinese Communist Party has been systematically implementing on a daily basis since 1999. I never see a reference to the genocide against Falun Gong in any of these discussions about Chinese atrocities in Darfur or Tibet.

The media systematically ignores the most bestial atrocity that the world has seen since the Holocaust. Over the last 15 years the most barbaric Crime Against Humanity in modern history has been unfolding daily in China and it has provoked an absolutely thunderous silence on the part of our media and most of our North American politicians. This is the Holocaust all over again, but with a new and appalling dimension.

The second reason was its immensely popular appeal across China after being introduced by founder Master Li Hongzhi to the general public in rural China only, in 1992. The phenomenal growth was partly because of its deep roots in Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and other prominent features of indigenous Chinese culture, physical exercises and spirituality. These traditional prominent features of Chinese culture had been suppressed by Mao from 1949 until his death in 1976. By 1999, there were, by the Party-state’s own estimates, more than 70 million Falun Gong practitioners across China—more than the membership of the Chinese Communist Party.

A related negative factor for Jiang and other Party officials was Falun Gong’s lack of hierarchy and structure, which made it impossible for them to control its membership and activities.

These factors help explain why Jiang Zemin, as the party-state boss in 1999 and probably earlier, developed his irrational hatred for Falun Gong.


Jiang’s ‘Biggest Untruth’, i.e., that Falun Gong is an “evil cult”, is reminiscent of messages the government of Rwanda broadcast through its party media against the Tutsi minority before the genocide committed across that country between April and June of 1994. The Bolsheviks in Russia took a similar path against their own prescribed list of party enemies after the Communist Revolution of 1917. Hitler’s Nazis used it against various minority communities, especially German Jews, after 1933.

There was such a continuous toxic stream of propaganda against Falun Gong in party-state-controlled media across China after 1999 that many Chinese nationals and persons outside the country naively accepted party-state lies on this and other matters.

Ian Johnson, a former Beijing bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Falun Gong, has lifted a number of curtains on the party-state persecution of Falun Gong in his 2005 book Wild Grass:

  • Declaring Falun Gong a cult was one of the regime’s “most brilliant moves” because it put Falun Gong on the defensive to prove its innocence and “cloaked the government’s crackdown with the legitimacy of the West’s anti-cult movement. The government quickly picked up the vocabulary of the anti-cult movement, launching Web sites and putting forth overnight experts, who intoned that Master Li was no different from Jim Jones, the head of the Peoples Temple who in 1978 allegedly killed 912 members, or the Church of Scientology, whose members are allegedly brainwashed into giving huge amounts of money.”
  • “To prove its point, the government came up with a series of lurid stories about people who had cut open their stomachs looking for the Dharma Wheel that was supposed to spin inside it. Others were presented, whose relatives had died after performing Falun Gong exercises instead of taking medicine…”
  • The problem was that few of these arguments held up. The government never allowed victims of Falun Gong to be interviewed independently, making it almost impossible to verify their claims. And even if one took all the claims at face value, they made up a very small percentage of Falun Gong’s total number of adherents…”
  • “More fundamentally, the group didn’t meet many common definitions of a cult: its members marry outside the group, have outside friends, hold normal jobs, do not live isolated from society, do not believe the world’s end is imminent and do not give significant amounts of money to the organization. Most important, suicide is not accepted, nor is physical violence…”

As a former Crown counsel, I spoke about the dangers of cults and some new religious movements at an international conference at the University of Alberta in 2004 ( June 11), the text of which is available on my website (

At the same conference, held in Lister Hall, a student residence at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and two staff members from the consulate of China in Calgary were distributing pamphlets, which attacked Falun Gong, contrary to the ‘inciting hatred’ against an identifiable religious or cultural community section of Canada’s Criminal Code. Two Edmonton city police officers concluded on the basis of the pamphlet contents that the ‘diplomats’ should be charged, but the provincial Attorney General of the day refused to give the required consent to going ahead with charges. There were diplomatic immunity issues, but in my judgment at the time, he should have consented. There are more details of the incident in section 21 of our report (‘Incitement to Hatred’) and the police report of the incident is exhibit 30.

Professor David Ownby of the University of Montreal, who did specific research on Falun Gong and is cited in our report, concluded:

  • Falun Gong practitioners in North America are well-educated and tend to live in nuclear families. Many works with computers or in finance; some are engineers.
  • Falun Gong Practitioners do not have financial obligations to their faith community; as well, they do not live in isolation and are law-abiding.
  • Falun Gong is not a cult

Ownby’s conclusion accords with that of many independent observers, including David Matas and myself. In the now 115 or so countries where Falun Gong exists, there is only one, China (and possibly Vladimir Putin’s Russia), where its practitioners appear not to be considered good citizens and exemplary members of their respective civil societies.

Liberty Indivisible

One researcher on the persecution of religions in China suggested several years ago that there were then probably as many Christians attending services across China each week–mostly in secret—as were doing so openly across Europe. In standing up for the principles of the United Nations Universal Human Rights Declaration for a young spiritual community like Falun Gong, the short-sighted MP mentioned above would ultimately be defending freedom of religion generally in China. The constitution of China says its citizens “enjoy freedom of religious belief ” (art. 36), although those beyond the so-called “patriotic churches” are often denied the right to practice their faiths.

China’s party-state considers all spiritual communities to be deviations in accord with the dialectic materialism of Karl Marx. Enter, for example, “Chinese government persecution of Christians” on and fully 1, 970,000 entries today are listed, many of them appalling. Replace “Christians” with a number of other groups and you get:

  • foreigners-14,800,000 entries
  • Muslims-3,180,000
  • democrats-43,400,000
  • women-6,440,,000
  • Falun Gong-290,000
  • Tibetans- 441,000
  • Gays and lesbians—1,660,000
  • Uyghurs—4,210,000
  • Journalists—approx. 37,000,000
  • Lawyers—2,820,000
  • Investors—32,600,000
  • Foreign investors—39,200,000
  • Entrepreneurs—61,000,000

Most Falun Gong prisoners of conscience are in forced labor camps in appalling conditions, making a wide range of products for export, including Christmas decorations, in violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Google “Chinese government corruption” and you can access 36,900,000 items. “Chinese government secret executions” brings 8,460,000. Another item that caught my eye was “Chinese Government denies”, which has 4,140,000 entries. The Beijing party-state specializes in false denials, including such matters as whether there was a 2003 SARS epidemic in China, whether anyone died at Tiananmen Square in June 1989, and whether it pillages/traffics in the organs of Falun Gong.


Human dignity today is indivisible around the world. All faith communities and other members of civil societies everywhere should be fully united on issues like the ones Falun Gong practitioners have faced daily for too long across China. If the peoples in open societies around the world don’t unite on such matters, some of the world’s remaining dictatorships will only repeat the terrible ravages of the last century.

As indicated above, one issue is clear beyond doubt: Falun Gong, whose practitioners prefer to be termed an exercise group with meditation, rather than a religion, is not a cult.