Falun Gong reception outside China

From 1999 many governments in the West have shown strong disapproval of the way the Chinese authorities have treated Falun Gong members. The United State congress publicly declared resolutions to the conflict, which supported Falun Gong. In the US, the House of Representatives called for an end to the persecution, imprisonment, and torture against those practicing Falun Gong and condemned the Chinese authorities for their false claims against the group. They also expressed a deep sympathy to both Falun Gong members and their families.

The torture and persecution of Falun Gong members was widely reported in the western media between 1999 and 2001.But towards the end of 2001 reports on Falun Gong dramatically declined and the following year large media agencies stopped reporting on the situation in China altogether. A researcher on media coverage of Falun Gong found that increasingly media would report the Communist party information positively and it became unbalanced in nature. They no longer sided with Falun Gong or it’s practitioners.

In some western minds the idea of Falun Gong being a cult stuck in their minds and many were wary of the practice. In order to get the rest of the world to agree with their way of seeing Falun Gong the Chinese government started expanding efforts to spread their propaganda internationally. Diplomats would travel overseas to media buildings to talk about the positives of the Communist party and the evil teachings of Falun Gong. They pointed out that if they saw countries supporting Falun Gong and not them, that trade relations might suffer. There were other less obvious methods to stop support of Falun Gong internationally. If a student researched Falun Gong then they may not get a visa to travel to China and could be excludedfrom companies or groups that had links with China.

Whilst many governments and citizens were sympathetic towards Falun Gong and the treatment they were receiving from the Chinese government, they did not receive as much sympathy and attention as other dissident associations. It was noted that many Americans were aware of the mistreatment of other groups such as the Tibetan Buddhists but knew nothing or very little about Falun Gong.

A reporter called Ethan Gutmann tried to understand why public sympathy for `Falun Gong had waned and linked their lack of public relations as the main issue. Other activists such as the Tibetans found their place in Western society quite easily but Falun Gong practitioners could be uncouth in getting their messages across. Many Westerners doubted what they were saying, believing them to be exaggerating. Also Westerners regularly had doubts about refugees that were persecuted. It may also be due to many countries, organizations and groups being aware that there would be repercussions from China if they sided with Falun Gong over the Communist party.

Richard Madsen wrote that Falun Gong received very little backing from US organizations that normally supported religious freedom. Westerners did not support some of the Falun Gong beliefs, such as their ‘outdated’ beliefs about homosexuality and being promiscuous.Madson also believes that within America there is a clear line drawn where they do not want to push the issue of human rights too far incase it affects relations both commercially and politically with China. This means that Falun Gong practitioners have had to rely on themselves against the Chinese government.