URGENT APPEAL: Falun Gong Practitioners Detained in Russia

Falun Gong practitioners meditating together in Irkutsk, Russia (Minghui.org)

Falun Gong practitioners meditating together in Irkutsk, Russia (Minghui.org)

NEW YORK—In the early morning on May 3, Russian police searched five Falun Gong practitioners’ homes and detained four individuals for allegedly conducting activities for an “undesirable organization.” The story has been reported by major Russian news outlets which have repeated the Chinese Communist Party’s false propaganda about the practice.

“Today, Falun Gong is freely practiced in more than 100 countries around the world, where it is welcomed and often celebrated. Only communist China has sought to demonize and persecute Falun Gong practitioners,” says Levi Browde of the Falun Dafa Information Center. “It is, therefore, appalling that Russian authorities would arrest Falun Gong practitioners simply because they seek to meditate, study Falun Gong teachings, and adopt its principles—Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance—into their daily lives.”

“We implore Russian authorities to resist any behind-the-scenes pressure from the Chinese Communist Party and protect their own citizens’ rights and freedoms. We also urge the U.S. and other democratic governments to call for the immediate release of these wrongfully detained practitioners.” —Levi Browde

Among those detained is Natalia Minenkova, a woman who organizes Falun Gong meditation groups in Moscow. Russian media have portrayed her as a “leader of the sect,” and say she has been arrested under Article 284.1, “conducting activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization,” a provision that has been used in the past to crack down on journalists and civil society groups in Russia. Ms. Minenkova is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow May 4. The other two practitioners are reportedly being held as witnesses; the fourth individual is the relative of a practitioner and was released shortly after being detained.

Amid a broader deterioration in human rights in Russia, this incident reflects ongoing concerns regarding the application of Russian laws on “extremism” that were enacted in 2002 and have since been criticized for their broad and vague interpretations, potentially threatening freedom of speech and belief. In a notable instance from August 2008, a regional court ruled several Falun Gong-related materials as “extremist literature,” including Zhuan Falun, the central spiritual text of the practice. Moreover, in July 2020, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office labeled seven Falun Gong associations as “undesirable.”

Additional legal actions have been observed more recently, including the February 2022 prosecution of nine practitioners framed as “agents of the U.S. Department of State,” a false narrative repeated in Russian media reports about the latest detentions, and an April 2024 trial of a Pyatigorsk resident for telling others about Falun Gong.

“Globally, Falun Gong practitioners are welcomed and often applauded for their peaceful meditative practices aimed at personal well-being,” says Browde. “With these completely unjustified actions, Russia is unfortunately aligning itself with China as one of the only countries to suppress Falun Gong. This unprecedented crackdown is a grave violation of basic human rights.”

The Falun Dafa Information Center will continue to follow this story as it develops, including Ms. Minenkova’s trial tomorrow. For inquiries, contact us at [email protected].

Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 4 to reflect the fact that three individuals were Falun Gong practitioners and one individual was a family member.