Falun Gong: Timeline
May 13, 1951
Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong, is born in Gongzhuling city, Jilin province, China.
A fitness movement known as the “qigong wave” sweeps China. Millions take up traditional, tai-chi-like health exercises known as “qigong,” filling parks across the country by the break of dawn. Some 2,000 different qigong disciplines are reportedly practiced by tens of millions. Books, magazines, and scientific research on qigong abound.
Mr. Li decides to create Falun Gong—a more accessible variant of Falun Xiufo Dafa, the main lineage of which Li had received transmission and practiced in private since he was five years old.
A two-plus year period of trial and observation begins wherein Mr. Li gives instruction to several initial students, in private, to evaluate the suitability of Falun Gong for dissemination among the general public.
May 13-22, 1992
Mr. Li gives first public teaching on Falun Gong in China’s northeastern city of Changchun—then Li’s residence. An estimated 180 persons attend. Public “practice sites,” where adherents gather to do Falun Gong’s exercises together, soon follow.
Mr. Li travels throughout China giving 54 talks and class series on Falun Gong. Classes typically last 8-10 days, two hours per day. Seminars are often arranged by local government-run qigong organizations. Attendees range from a few hundred to upwards of 6,000 per event.
Falun Gong is officially recognized as a qigong branch (gongpai) under the auspices and administration of the Qigong Science Research Association of China. Receives permit to teach nationwide.
Mr. Li is formally declared a “Master of Qigong” by the Qigong Science Research Association of China.
Dec. 12-21, 1992
Mr. Li and several select students participate in the 1992 Asian Health Expo in Beijing, held at the National Trade Building in the Dabeiyao area. Li receives the most awards of any master at the event, announcing Falun Gong as a presence on the qigong scene, in effect.
The first book teaching the practice, Zhonguo Falungong (?????, China Falun Gong), is published by Military Yiwen Press (???????), making the practice accessible to a much wider audience. A revised edition is released in December of the same year.
July 30, 1993
The Falun Gong Research Association of China (???????? ) is established at the approval of the national Qigong Science Research Association of China.
August 31, 1993
The Jianyi Yongwei Foundation of China (?????????), an affiliate institution of the Ministry of Public Security, writes a letter of appreciation following the giving of qigong treatments to Foundation honorees at its third national conference. (Image)
Sept. 21, 1993
The People’s Public Security Daily, a publication under the Ministry of Public Security, runs a story commending Mr. Li for his contributions “in promoting the traditional crime-fighting virtues of the Chinese people, in safeguarding social order and security, and in promoting rectitude in society.”
Dec. 11–20, 1993
Li and select students again participate in Beijing’s Asian Health Expo, held this time at Sanyuanqiao International Exhibition Center. Several awards are bestowed, including that for “Advancing Frontier Science,” the “Special Gold Award,” and “Most Acclaimed Qigong Master.” (Image) Falun Gong’s profile grows significantly.
Dec. 27, 1993
Li is awarded a Certificate of Honor from the Jianyi Yongwei Foundation of China (?????????), an affiliate institution of the Ministry of Public Security. (Image)
Window to Literature and the Arts magazine (????), a monthly periodical, publishes the first of three features stories on the practice of Falun Gong. The practice increasingly finds itself in the news, primarily on grounds of its health benefits and the good citizenship it fosters. (Sample listing)
May 6, 1994
Mr. Li is declared a “Grandmaster of Qigong,” by the Jilin Province Qigong Science Research Association
August 3, 1994
The City of Houston, Texas, declares Mr. Li a “Goodwill Ambassador” and an “Honorary Citizen” (link) for his “unselfish public service for the benefit and welfare of mankind.” These are the first of what would become hundreds of recognitions given to Li and Falun Gong in the United States and throughout the free world. (Full Listing)
The first Falun Gong instructional videotape (demonstrating the practice’s exercises and meditation) is published under the auspices of Beijing Television Art Center Publishing House.
Dec. 31, 1994
Last Falun Gong public teaching is given, taking place in the northeastern city of Dalian. Some 6,600 persons attend.
Zhuan Falun (???), the complete teachings of Falun Gong and focal book of the practice, is published by Radio & Television Broadcasting Press of China (?????????). A publication ceremony, held on January 4, takes place in an auditorium of the Ministry of Public Security.
Mr. Li is propositioned by the Chinese National Sports Committee, Ministry of Public Health, and China Qigong Science Research Association to jointly establish a Falun Gong “association” that would coordinate (and oversee) nationwide promotion and teaching of the practice. Li declines the offer, wishing, most likely, to keep the practice free of political complexities and influence.
March 13, 1995
Mr. Li begins teaching Falun Gong abroad, starting with a talk given in Paris[M1] at the Chinese embassy, initiated at the invitation of China’s ambassador to France. A full seven-day class begins that evening in Paris, followed by a second series in May in Sweden.
As Falun Gong becomes more popular, tensions begin to emerge with the Communist Party. Shortly after Zhuan Falun is listed in January, March, and April as a bestseller by Beijing Youth Daily (?????), the Ministry of Propaganda bans the further publication of Falun Gong books. The same year, Mr. Li moves to the United States.
Having come under pressure to establish a Communist Party branch and charge fees for the practice, Falun Gong withdraws from the state-run Qigong Science Research Association of China, citing philosophical differences and concerns by Mr. Li of exploitation.
Former administrators of the Falun Gong Research Association of China begin application process with three other state-administered entities for formal registration. All applications are denied. Now left without formal ties to the party-state, Falun Gong becomes one of the largest independent civil society groups in PRC history.
The first major state-run media article criticizing Falun Gong appears, run in the Guangming Daily newspaper.
Falun Gong books are banned from publication by a July 24 internal order from the China News Publishing Bureau (?????), an entity under the Ministry of Propaganda. The document accuses Falun Gong of “spreading superstition.”
China’s Public Security Bureau conducts an investigation into whether Falun Gong should be deemed a “heretical teaching” (??, i.e., “cult”). Investigators conclude, “No evidence has appeared thus far.”
Attacks on Falun Gong escalate in state-run media even as positive reports continue alongside, suggesting internal divisions among China’s political leadership. The Falun Gong respond to criticisms by visiting, and sometimes petitioning outside, local newspaper or television stations seeking greater accuracy in reporting. Such events take place in Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, and other major cities.
July 21, 1998
Bureau No. 1 of the Ministry of Public Security issues Document  No. 555, titled, “Notice of the Investigation of Falun Gong,” claiming that Falun Gong is heretical cult. The Ministry begins a series of investigations, seeking evidence in support of the conclusion. Means include tapping phone lines, monitoring volunteers, raiding homes, confiscating personal belongings, Various forms of (unlawful) harassment ensue at the hands of Chinese police, including disruption of public morning exercise sessions with water cannons and the closure of certain sites. Homes are ransacked in some areas.
Study conducted by China’s State Sports Commission estimates that over 70 millions persons are practicing Falun Gong in China.
1998 latter half
Qiao Shi, who had just finished a term as Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and served on the Politburo, led his own investigation, joined by other senior members of the Congress, into the Document 555 allegations after receiving a deluge of letters of concern. Medical research staff interview over 12,000 Falun Gong practitioners in Guangdong province, 97.9% of whom claim practice of Falun Gong improved their health. After months of investigating, the group concluded that, “Falun Gong has hundreds of benefits for the Chinese people and nation, and does not a bit of harm.”
The National Sports Commission of China launches its own investigation into Falun Gong. The head investigator, dispatched to northeastern China, declared on Oct. 20 that, “We’re convinced the exercises and effects of Falun Gong are excellent. It has done an extraordinary amount to improve society’s stability and ethics. This should be duly affirmed.”
February 14, 1999
An official from China’s National Sports Commission, speaking with U.S. News & World Report, intimates that as many as 100 million may have taken up the practice. The official highlights the costs the practice is saving China’s national health care system, declaring that, “Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that.”
April 25, 1999
Some 10,000-plus Falun Gong adherents assemble outside the Central Appeals Office, adjacent to the Zhongnanhai leadership compound, in Beijing, to raise concerns over the arrest and beatings of 45 members the prior day in Tianjin by a Tianjing Public Security Bureau SWAT team.
April 26, 1999
In an article entitled, “Growing group poses a dilemma for China,” the Associated Press states that China’s Falun Gong has “more members than the Communist Party—at least 70 million, according to the State Sports Administration.” Two New York Times stories the following day put the number of Falun Gong at 70 million, attributing the figure to the Chinese government. The article states that the group “even by Chinese Government estimates has more members than the Communist Party.”
June 10, 1999
The “6-10 Office” is established at the behest of Chinese Communist Party Head Jiang Zemin. It’s charge: to plan, orchestrate, and carry out a comprehensive suppression of the Falun Gong.
July 20, 1999
The persecution against Falun Gong begins as thousands are taken by security forces into detention centers and sports stadiums. Massive arrests ensue along with ransackings, abductions, and the confiscation of Falun Gong-related materials. A nationwide propaganda campaign is launched in synch. Millions respond by petitioning Chinese authorities, many traveling to Beijing.