Thursday, Feb. 15, 2001 | 9:18 a.m.
Mike O'Callaghan is the Las Vegas Sun executive editor.
THE PERSECUTION of Falun Gong sect members in the People's Republic of China has drawn the attention of people around the world. Just a short distance away in Taiwan the Republic of China government shows no fear of the sect and allows members the freedom to practice their beliefs. The instability of the Marxist government in Beijing is best demonstrated by its open fear of anything or belief it can't control. This fear was even more evident when the Red government threatened the planned Falun Gong gathering in Hong Kong.
A couple of hours researching the physical exercises and meditation practiced by Falun Gong people makes me wonder why they are a threat to any person or government. The only violence has been the treatment of sect members by the Red Chinese police and army.
After more than 10,000 of the sect gathered in a peaceful assembly to show their displeasure in April 1999 they have been treated as the enemy of the state. In July hundreds were imprisoned and their loosely knit organization was declared illegal. It has been pure hell for the Falun Gong members on the mainland since that time.
In Taiwan, 4,000 Falun Gong members from 19 countries had a two-day rally in Taipei. The Taipei Journal describes the event as follows:
"Assembled in large numbers, they stand on the wide plaza. Eyes closed and bodies poised, the members of the meditation sect empty their thoughts and let their minds fill with spiritual bliss. After a while, the group heads out to march through the streets of the city.
"If this had taken place in Tiananmen Square, the Beijing authorities would have wrestled the Falun Gong members into police vans before they had even completed their warm-up exercises. But this gathering was held at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall plaza in downtown Taipei. And on their Dec. 24 march, the Falun Gong practitioners peacefully enjoyed the right to open expression -- a right highly respected in Taiwan society."
Taiwan's treatment of the sect is a clear demonstration of differences between a democracy and a heavy-handed central government that wants to control everything including family life, economy and religion. I have to believe the public meditation of Falun Gong members is what upsets Red leaders because they can't control thought no matter how much they try. This insecurity on the part of Red leaders is something that every American policymaker should always keep in mind.
Dealing with Chinese military and foreign policymakers has been and always will be a tricky balancing act that can trigger economic fallout and even war in short order.
How would the United States handle the Falun Gong? Like any other peaceful group of people. From the San Antonio Express-News comes the following:
"Every morning, a small group of people come to a grassy slope near the pavilion at the University of Texas Health Science Center's recreation area.
"While joggers and cars whiz by, Hongyi Pan and his wife, Qun Liu, slowly bend their knees. Then, in gentle flowing movements, they stretch their arms out and fold them behind their heads.
"Oblivious to the chaos around them as students and staff make their way to classes and work, Pan and the others are purifying their spirits to keep balance and energy circulating in their lives ...
"Practitioners, including Pan, claim that close to 100 million people now meditate and practice Falun Gong daily. In San Antonio, they number several hundred, he said. ..."
Yes, they are already here and haven't caused a bit of trouble.