The Rise of Falun Gong
On May 13, 1992, in a humble schoolhouse in northeastern China, Mr. Li Hongzhi began teaching Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa), introducing to modern China a practice with roots extending back thousands of years.
By early 1999, there were 100 million people practicing Falun Gong in China alone, their slow-moving meditative exercises visible at dawn in parks across the country.
The following timeline explores this rise…
1989 • 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.
1992-1994 • 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.
September 1992 • 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.
December 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. Mr. Li receives the most awards of any master at the event, announcing Falun Gong as a presence on the qigong scene, in effect.
April 1993 • The first book teaching the practice, Zhonguo Falungong (中国法轮功, China Falun Gong), is published by Military Yiwen Press (军事谊文出版社), 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 (中国法轮功研究会 ) is established at the approval of the national Qigong Science Research Association of China.
August 31, 1993 • The Jianyi Yongwei Foundation of China (中华见义勇为基金会), 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.
September 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.”
December 11-20, 1993 • Mr. 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.” Falun Gong’s profile grows significantly.
December 27, 1993 • Mr. Li is awarded a Certificate of Honor from the Jianyi Yongwei Foundation of China (中华见义勇为基金会), an affiliate institution of the Ministry of Public Security.
April, 1994 • Window to Literature and the Arts magazine (文艺之窗), 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.
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” 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.
September 1994 • 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.
December 31, 1994 • Last Falun Gong public teaching is given, taking place in the northeastern city of Dalian. Some 6,600 persons attend.
January 4, 1995 • Zhuan Falun (转法轮), the complete teachings of Falun Gong and focal book of the practice, is published by Radio & Television Broadcasting Press of China (中国广播电视出版社). A publication ceremony, held on January 4, takes place in an auditorium of the Ministry of Public Security.
February 1995 • 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 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.
1996 • As Falun Gong becomes more popular, early signs of state oppression appear. Shortly after Zhuan Falun is listed in January, March, and April as a bestseller by Beijing Youth Daily (北京青年报), Falun Gong books are banned from publication by a July 24 internal order from the China News Publishing Bureau (新闻出版署), an entity under the Ministry of Propaganda. The document accuses Falun Gong of “spreading superstition.” The same year, Mr. Li moves to the United States.
By the mid-1990s, Falun Gong exercise sites like this one in Guangzhou were a common site throughout China.
March 1996 • Falun Gong withdraws from the Qigong Science Research Association of China over philosophical differences and concerns by Mr. Li of exploitation.
April 1996 • 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.
June 17 • The first major state-run media article criticizing Falun Gong appears, run in the Guangming Daily newspaper.
1997 • China’s Public Security Bureau conducts an investigation into whether Falun Gong should be deemed a “heretical teaching” (邪教, i.e., “cult”). Investigators conclude, “No evidence has appeared thus far.”
1998-1999 • Attacks on Falun Gong escalate in state-run media even as positive reports continue alongside, suggesting internal divisions among China’s political leadership. Falun Gong practitioners 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.
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. 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.”
May-October 1998 • The National Sports Commission of China launches its own investigation into Falun Gong. The head investigator, dispatched to northeastern China, declared on October 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.”