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Strife over Falun Gong advert • Thursday December 19, 2002

The Press (New Zealand), Dec. 18, 2002

Chinese groups living in Christchurch are at odds about Falun Gong.

An advertisement in The Press this week, espousing the popular spiritual Chinese movement, has angered sections of the city’s Chinese community. The advertisement was inserted by two female Chinese students, who have been in Christchurch for a year.

Both practise Falun Gong.

One of the students, Lulu Long, 19, said she was in exile in New Zealand because the Chinese Government was persecuting the movement. She and her friend feared for their safety if they returned to China.

However, Christchurch Asian Youth Trust co-ordinator Ted Zemin Zhang said the claims by Ms Long were incorrect.

They had angered people in Christchurch’s Chinese community, he said.

Ms Long said she had received calls from people asking about Falun Gong. She thought they needed information, and she and her friend wanted to tell them more.

“I just wanted people to know about it,” she said.

The advertisement cost more than $1000. Ms Long said she and her friend would pay the whole amount. No organisation or other people were helping them. They were not rich, but they received money from their parents in China.

The advertisement had been written by Westport man Sam Murphy, a fellow practitioner of the movement, she said.

Mr Murphy could not be contacted.

The advertisement described Falun Gong as a medium for self- improvement, via gentle exercise and meditation, which brought benefits to society by making practitioners more constructive and virtuous. It claimed the Chinese Government set numbers of practitioners in that nation at 100 million. It alleged the Chinese Government had arrested, beaten, tortured, and sent practitioners to labour camps since outlawing the movement in 1999.

Mr Zemin rejected the charges.

Controversy over Falun Gong reached New Zealand last July, when the Chinese Embassy expressed concern about a poster for the movement displayed at Auckland International Airport. The embassy called Falun Gong “a sinister cult”, which exercised mind control, was “prone to violence”, and condoned suicide and maiming. The poster was “offensive” to most Chinese visitors, who loathed the evil cult.

The Chinese Embassy last August protested at the exhibition of works by a Falun Gong practitioner in an art exhibition at Parliament.

An article on Falun Gong in Britain’s Observer newspaper (October 29, 2001) described it as a harmless sect with “a long lunatic fringe”, which had attracted an enormous following.

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