One of the common lies used by the Chinese government, which has been parroted by some Western journalists, is that Falun Gong adherents are prohibited from taking medicine and their lives are endangered as a result.
Does Falun Gong prohibit taking medicine?
Absolutely not. No such language appears in Falun Gong’s teachings.
Falun Gong’s teachings explain the relationship between one’s karma and illness, and indicate that having a healthy body is a person’s natural state and one that is in harmony with the universe.
In the last 20 years, modern mainstream medicine has made significant advancements in understanding the mind-body connection, i.e., a healthy mind leads to a healthy body. Many alternative medicines and effective holistic treatments, including Qigong (Falun Gong is a form of Qigong), are also developing in Western countries.
While Falun Gong does teach, similar to Buddhism’s views on illness, that suffering created by illness helps to remove negative elements from one’s body, the teachings also clearly state that hospitals and medicine are indeed effective and people should go to the hospital if they feel they should. It’s each individual’s choice whether or not to see a doctor and take medicine, just as one has the choice between traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine.
In terms of how this actually is manifested, some practitioners go to hospitals and take medicine more frequently, and others make use of hospitals and medicine less or not at all, as they don’t need to. There are no set rules prohibiting this, but rather a system of teachings that each individual can apply based on his or her understanding. Central to Falun Gong is making one’s own decisions.
Are lives endangered, as the Chinese government propaganda asserts? There have been no studies conducted to support this. On the contrary, a 1998 survey found that 97.9% of the 12,000 practitioners interviewed claimed better health as a result of the practice, according to academic research. Many Falun Gong adherents report health benefits from the practice and exercises as a major reason for practicing. Practitioners, including those who are medical doctors, have reported being cured of life-threatening illnesses such as cancer.
According to a U.S. News & World report on February 14, 1999 (5 months before the persecution started), an official from China’s National Sports Commission (part of the Chinese government) praised Falun Gong’s health benefit:
“Falun Gong and other types of qi gong can save each person 1,000 yuan in annual medical fees. If 100 million people are practicing it, that’s 100 billion yuan saved per year in medical fees,” says one official who is involved in the nationwide reviewing process. Citing an internal memo, he adds, “Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that. The country could use the money right now.”
As a basis for persecution, Chinese communist propaganda often uses a figure of 1,400 Falun Gong practitioners who died after practicing, apparently for refusing medical treatment. These figures have never been verified by a source outside China’s state-media. On the other hand, in a population of over 70 million practitioners, 1,400 deaths over seven years (1992-1999) would represent a remarkably low mortality rate, particularly when considering that a sizeable proportion of practitioners were over 50, and many were initially drawn to Falun Gong precisely because they had serious illnesses.
Furthermore, Falun Gong is practiced in over 70 countries, but there have been no reports of lives being endangered. The true source of danger for Falun Gong practitioners is torture at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.