Misconceptions: “Turning Political”?

Chinese authorities are fond of claiming that Falun Gong has “turned political,” and the phrase has, remarkably, found its way into a few accounts of the practice. The undertone is that Falun Gong has “sold out” as it were, or compromised its beliefs, entering the political arena.

The claim is problematic in several regards. (We’ll set aside the irony of a political dictatorship suggesting that it’s unseemly for a group to be “political.”)

The first and most basic fact to note is that Falun Gong as a group has no political aspiration—not now, nor ever before. Nor does it oppose or support any particular political entity, China’s dictatorship included. Neither does not advocate for any particular political system.

What it has sought to do, rather, is to document and disclose the crimes against humanity to which it is subjected in China. Doing so is not a political act.

It just so happens that the perpetrator of those said abuses is China’s communist party—a very much political entity. Thus, as circumstances would have it, when Falun Gong adherents document acts of torture or murder and name their culprit, they are naming a political entity.

That does not change the nature of the action, nor its motive. It remains every bit as humanitarian in impulse as would a mother crying out for help were someone to kidnap her dear child. Were the kidnapper a local politician, it would not mean she had “turned political” with her cry for help, much less harbored political aspirations. Nor would it imply that her motherly nature had morphed into something less noble. Indeed, her cry would have been motivated by none other than maternal love.

In the same vein, the activist flyers issuing forth from the ranks of Falun Gong are motivated not by a wish for personal gain, much less worldly power. Rather, they bespeak of a concern for the welfare of fellow human beings who they know to be suffering and at risk. It is an act of compassion, and fully consistent with, if not informed by, the teachings of Falun Gong.

The same holds true even in perhaps the most seemingly political of gestures. For instance, when Falun Gong adherents hand out copies of the Nine Commentaries—an expose of China’s communist party—that act is similarly spawned. It is rooted in a concern for the well-being of others, namely fellow Chinese.

Ditto for lawsuits against key Chinese officials identified with the persecution. They seek not to “bring down” some hefty politician, but to curb acts of inhumanity carried out at his order. If he desists in his ways, the suit will have the added effect of having ultimately been for that official’s own good as well.

If the ramifications of such acts are political—such as diminished appeal for the Party—that is but one of multiple effects, and not that effort’s purpose.

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