Tokyo, 27 August: The Tokyo metropolitan government on Friday granted the Japan branch of China’s outlawed Falun Gong movement the status of a tax-free non-profit organization [NPO] following two earlier rejections, metropolitan government officials said.
The metropolitan government this time accepted an application for NPO status from Japan Falun Dafa, based in the capital’s Adachi Ward, saying the local government no longer views the group as religious.
Japan Falun Dafa says it has some 400 members, both Japanese and Chinese in Japan, and hosts qigong classes in breathing techniques at various locations in Japan.
“We are glad the Tokyo metropolitan government has recognized us as non-religious. We will make efforts to promote qigong for health,” group head Masaaki Tsuruzono said.
The local government turned down the applications in 1999 and 2001 saying the group was religious. The group has since changed its work programmes and in-house rules, according to the metropolitan government.
The group, which submitted a third application in May, now says in its rules that it aims to nurture healthy bodies and high morals via qigong.
The central and prefectural governments have granted NPO status to groups taking part in social contributions under a law enforced in 1998.
The law governing NPOs stipulates that groups whose aim is chiefly religious or political cannot be granted nonprofit organization status.
China outlawed Falun Gong in July 1999, branding it an “evil sect”.