When Falun Gong left CQRS the government began to change their opinion towards the practice of qigong. Influential members of the government began to suggest they were a negative practice and wanted to stop the qigong schools growing inpopularity. At this time there were millions of followers of qigong so theChinese media, which was controlled by the government, began writing critical pieces about qigong.
At first Falon Gong knew nothing about the growing criticism as it was protected until it left the CQRS and lost all protection. During 1996 a highly critical article was written about Falun Gong in the Guangming Daily, a highly influential newspaper run by the government. It stated that in Zhuan Falun contained ‘feudal superstitions’ and called for Chinese publishers to stop printing such books. After this article, more than twenty articles followed, all criticizing Falun Gong and its teachings. This lead to Falun Gong texts to be banned by the government even the Buddhist Association of China started to criticize Falun Gong and urged Buddhists not to practice it.
Falun Gong practitioners felt strongly about the negative events surrounding them and thousands wrote to the Guangming Daily and to CQRS to make a complaint. They stated that the paper had violated the ‘triple no’ ruling which stopped the media attacking qigong practice. There were also peaceful demonstrations organized outside government and media buildings about the unfair articles written against them.Li made a number of statements saying that a practitioner defending Falun Gong was a righteous act and an important element of the Falun Gong teachings.
Those criticizing Falun Gong were part of a bigger movement that was against all qigong practices within the media.Falun Gong wasn’t the only target of criticism but they were the most vocal respondents to the criticism. Due to protests made my Falun Gong members many newspaper stories had to be retracted that criticized them. This made many of the practitioners believe that the media was writing lies and that their responses were justified.
In 1998 an active critic of qigong and supporter of Marzism, He Zuoxiu went on a talk show in Beijjng and openly criticized qigong practitioners and mentioned Falun Gong by name.Members of Falun Gong responded by holding peaceful protests and asking for Bejjing Television to retract what He Zuoxiu said about them. The reporter behind the television programme was fired and a couple of days later a programmefavouring Falun Gong was shown on the same TV channel. Falun Gong practitioners also held other demonstrations around fourteen other media buildings.
The Ministry of Public Security held an investigation as to whether Falun Gong was practicing ‘heretical teaching’ but found no evidence of this. Then, in 1998 they produced a document stating that Falun Gong did indeed practice heretical teaching after all. They decided to hold a fresh investigation over the matter to seek evidence of their conclusions. Whilst investigating this, many Falun Gong members said they had their telephone lines tapped, houses raided and agents working for the ministry disrupted public exercises.
Within the government there were still many supporters of Falun Gong even with all the criticism Falun Gong and qigong schools were having at the time. Another investigation took place against Falun Gong in 1998 by Qiao Shi, who had recently retired as the chairman of the national people’s congress. The results of the investigation were that Falun Gong was of great benefit to the Chinese people and could find no negative effects at all. Later the same year the National Sports Commission completed a survey of Falun Gong interviewing thousands of practitioners based in Guangdong. They found that the effects of practicing Falun Gong were excellent and it had done a great deal to improve and stabilize Chinese society.
During this time the founder of Falun Gong was mostly traveling to different countries outside of China teaching all over the world. He later decided to live permanently in America in 1998.
The state sports commission estimated that in 1999 there were over 70 million people in China practicing Falun Gong.An unidentified employee of the national sports commission in China told a US publication that if a hundred million Chinese people practiced Falun Gong then health care costs would vastly reduce.