published on June 10, 2016
James R. Lewis
Sucking the ‘De’ Out of Me
How an Esoteric Theory of Persecution and Martyrdom Fuels Falun Gong’s Assault on Intellectual Freedom
In March 2015, a Falun Gong practitioner began an extended email assault on an Australian academician, an academician who had written about the confrontation between this practitioner’s movement and the People’s Republic of China in ways that the practitioner deemed overly critical of Falun Gong. This (in many ways anonymous) person demanded that the academician retract her article, implicitly threatening to defame her, her university, and the journal in which her piece appeared, and, possibly, file a lawsuit if she did not accede to his demands. Though most non-specialists think of Falun Gong as a peaceful spiritual exercise group unjustly persecuted by Chinese authorities, it has a dark, little-known history of forcibly silencing critics. In turn, this pattern of repression is tied in with an esoteric theory of karma which prompts practitioners of Falun Gong to actively seek persecution and martyrdom.