Who Practices Falun Gong?
While Falun Gong was first introduced to the public in China, today people in over 100 countries have taken up the practice — from Boston to Berlin; Moscow to Mumbai; Jerusalem to Jacksonville.
Around the world, the practice has transcended class, ethnicity, and education levels. Volunteer practice sites where people come together to perform Falun Gong’s slow-motion exercises and sitting meditation are found on campus quads of Ivy League universities in the U.S. just as they are found on the dusty backroads of farming villages in sub-Saharan Africa. Every Sunday morning, a group gathers in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris for a refreshing meditation, while half a world away, another group finishes their day performing Falun Gong’s slow-moving exercises in a lush Japanese garden with Mt. Fuji looming in the distance.
Who are these people? What motivates them to practice, and despite the diversity of country, language, ethnicity, and life experiences, what do they have in common?
Faces of Falun Gong
Tatiana Skoulkina 🇷🇺🇺🇦
Tatiana is a TV Production Manager with a Master’s degree in Economics. Born in Russia, she’s married and lives with her family in Ukraine.
“Before Falun Dafa, I wasn’t into anything Asian, and I didn’t have an affinity for Asian culture. When I got to know Falun Dafa, I immediately realized that this is a practice for people of any nationality, because Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance is a universal human value. Therefore, I did not have the feeling that it was something foreign for me.”
Yoshihiro Ishige 🇯🇵
Mr. Ishige lives in Japan and works for an IT firm.
“I was looking for a qigong class to improve my health. I found a Falun Gong practice site in a community center near my house. I have been practicing for nearly two years. My day-to-day behavior and daily practice based on the philosophy of Falun Dafa and Zhen, Shan, Ren [Truth, Compassion, Forbearance] have become a part of my life that has stabilized and enriched my mind and body.”
Jamil Lawrence J.D. 🇺🇸
Jamil is an attorney and a recording artist, known as “Rise-Ascend.” He lives with his family in Washington D.C.
“I first encountered Falun Dafa in the fall of the year 2000. That was also my first year of law school. I was in Washington, D.C., and discovered the practice on the National Mall. At the time, I was looking for something that could help me manage the stress of my first year of law school. I am tremendously grateful to have learned Falun Dafa back then. The practice has become a truly uplifting and essential part of my life.”
Dana Churchill, NMD 🇺🇸
Physician, married for 20 years, father of one and grandfather of two.
“Falun Gong changed my whole life: my high blood pressure normalized, and my overall health was better than in my 20s. I stopped drinking… I learned to care for others, and my family relationships were all mended. I changed careers and went to med school at 40 years old and graduated. In life, I stopped quitting because I feared failure. I found a new self-esteem and dignity in my life. I found a new-found purpose, and knew why I was here.”
Veronika Pasdar 🇦🇹
Middle school teacher, living in Austria.
“Falun Gong has totally changed the course of my life, not only mine but also the life of my whole family. Growing up in a socialist environment amidst two brothers made me a rather competitive and quarrelsome young lady. And being married with two children I really had a hard time accepting my role. But with years of studying the teachings of Falun Dafa I was able to connect deeper with the principles of Truth, Compassion and Tolerance. I became calmer and more tolerant. I can take things lightly, more easily now, and my heart became wider.”
Dr. Greg Wu 🇲🇾🇬🇧
Dr. Wu, born in Malaysia, earned his Doctorate degree at Oxford University, UK. He now works as a geneticist at Cardiff University.
“I did wonder about religions and why some of my friends are very religious. I didn’t quite understand why people would believe in something like that. And I guess I was also kind of arrogant. A lot of scientists don’t want to believe in a higher power. What I found striking was that Master Li [founder of Falun Dafa] explained spiritual cultivation in scientific terms, which made it easier to understand. He used modern science and the science of the human body to explain arcane concepts. When I read it, I just changed. Before cultivation, I really followed a ‘survival of the fittest’ mindset. I always had to be number one. But after practicing Falun Gong, my worldview just changed completely. I went from a selfish person who likes to fight for personal gain to a more selfless and compassionate way of existence.”
Isaak Bruggeman 🇧🇪
Student of Marketing and Communication, Belgium
“In March of 2021 we went to watch Shen Yun [Performing Arts]. It was such a beautiful performance! I felt a sense of hope in my heart. It changed my thinking and view on the world. After the show I was certain that I wanted to practice Falun Dafa and that I wanted to let go of my unhealthy attachments and lifestyle. I then quit smoking and drinking. Since then, I have been practicing Falun Dafa. Falun Dafa has brought a deeply rewarding spiritual path in my life.”
Yukari Werrell 🇯🇵🇬🇧
Yukari, born in Japan, is a retired translator, who lives in the UK.
Photo: Yukari with her daughter
“Right after the persecution [in China] started, we encountered a stall in a local Body and Mind Festival in the UK. My English husband said, ‘If the Communist Party says it’s bad, it must be really good’ and we picked up the books and the tape [recordings of the teachings] there. My daughter, then 10 years-old, and myself took it up, gradually understanding the meaning of the practice. [For example,] when I get upset, I observe my reaction to find out why I get upset, rather than blaming others or external situations. This helps me to calm myself and to calm my environment. With this mindset, I find myself “happy” most of the time. The teachings of Falun Dafa have [also] helped me overcome the deaths of my close family members.”
Sandra Genin 🇫🇷
Sandra is a make-up artist and a mother of two, living in France.
“The most important thing for me is that through Falun Dafa’s teachings I learned that to have a healthy body and mind, you have to work on your body and mind. [I learned] that they are inseparable in order to have results.”
Lior Bromberg 🇮🇱
Lior is a software engineer. He lives with his wife and daughter in Israel.
“In the past I searched and searched for the meaning in life, everywhere. There were always open questions that I couldn’t answer. When I first read the teachings of Falun Dafa, all of my questions were answered. After practicing Falun Gong, I feel good, strong, and healthy—very different from how I felt when I was young. Further to that, my life is full of meaning. I feel whole and calm. I feel like a better person.”
Judith & Kacey Cox 🇨🇦🇭🇰🇬🇾
Kacey is a film and TV producer of Guyanese origin. Judith is a creative and marketing director in the film and gaming industry. They live with their two daughters in Canada.
“While searching for the deeper meaning in life, I would read books from both Western and Eastern cultures. When I came across Falun Gong, many of those questions I had were answered. Although I grew up in North America, having limited knowledge of eastern traditions, I found Falun Gong to be universally applicable regardless of my cultural background.”
“My parents are from Hong Kong. After my father heard about the persecution [in China], he wanted to learn more about Falun Gong. He always said anything that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] persecutes is probably good. He and my mother started practicing when I was a teenager, but I didn’t practice until I was 18 and wanted more answers about life. The teachings taught me to look within myself if I ever encountered a problem, and it’s really empowering—because after all, you can’t control the world around you or other people, but you can control how you react to the events, your own thoughts, and emotions.”
Falun Gong Around the World
While the practice was first introduced to the public in China, today Falun Gong is practiced in more than 100 countries and the books have been translated in more than 40 languages. Falun Gong is always taught for free by volunteers worldwide. Many learn the practice at volunteer-run practice sites in local parks or other public spaces. Instructional videos and the Falun Gong books are also available for free online.
Falun Gong: In Their Own Words
An international group of Falun Gong practitioners discuss why they took up the practice, the impact on their lives, and how it’s principles inform much of their work to peacefully end the persecution of Falun Gong in China.
Faith and Civil Disobedience Inside China
For more than two decades, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has sought to “eradicate” Falun Gong through a violent nation-wide campaign. In response, Falun Gong practitioners have mobilized the largest civil disobedience movement in the world today. This grassroots movement consists of tens of millions of Falun Gong practitioners across China who risk everything to pull back the veil of lies and propaganda coming from communist state-run media.
Here are a few of their stories.
From 2008 to 2020, Ms. Xu Na had been imprisoned and tortured for several years. Her husband was tortured to death in custody. Both were incarcerated for their faith in Falun Gong. In July 2020, Xu was arrested alongside ten other citizen journalists in Beijing for publishing photos online of Beijing during the COVID-19 pandemic. In January 2022 she was sentenced to 8 years in prison.
Mr. Pang Xun, a former host of Sichuan People’s Radio, was beaten to death in Leshan Jiazhou Prison. Pang had been arrested after he distributed flyers that expose the human rights abuses of the CCP, in nearby community centers. He died on December 2, 2022 at the age of 30.
Mr. Ma Weishan, 82 (left), is currently serving a five-year prison term for acts of civil disobedience. Ma worked as a village officer and a manager at a private company. He was arrested on April 22, 2014, for sending text messages about Falun Gong. He was then sentenced to a five-year term by the Sanhe City Court on November 5, 2015. Ma was later released on parole, only to be arrested again on September 28, 2018, after he was reported for talking to people about Falun Gong at a farmers’ market.
While the Chinese Communist Party downplayed the pandemic in Wuhan in early 2020, Mr. Fang Bin exposed the reality of the situation on the ground through videos that showed overcrowded hospitals in Wuhan with piles of body bags lining hallways, as early as January 25, 2020. His videos were featured by several major news outlets in the West. Then, Fang disappeared. More than a year past before it was confirmed that he was jailed. He was release in April 2023.
Rescuing Loved Ones
The persecution of Falun Gong targeted 100 million people in China, and decimated countless families and communities across the country. In rare cases where family members live in the U.S. or in different countries around the world, many have mobilized family rescue campaigns to free their loved ones from wrongful imprisonment, abuse, and often torture.
Here are some of their stories.
When she was just four years old, Lucy Liu was abducted from her daycare and held as ransom by Chinese police. They wanted to find her mother, Mrs. Yan Liu, and persecute her until her mother would renounce her faith in Falun Gong. Now Lucy is 24 years old. She is an award-winning animation student in Canada. Her mother was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for her faith. Mrs. Yan Liu was released in July 2022.
Steven Wang, a US citizen, lost his father to the persecution. Now his mother has just been sentenced to 4 years in prison for her faith. Previously, his mother had been arrested and incarcerated several times. Steven and his sister both live in New York and are actively working to secure the release of their mother.
Iris Lu lives in Florida. Her mother was tortured while imprisoned in China for three years. She was later sentenced to six years for her faith. An article detailing her mother’s ordeal was published in USA Today ahead of Mother’s Day in 2017. In 2019, the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China demanded her release. Her mother was recently released.
On December 1, 2020, Wendy Zhao’s sister, Ms. Zhao Renyuan and brother-in-law, Mr. Xie Jianxin, were both sentenced to three years in prison and were fined 10,000 yuan for “using a heterodox religion to undermine the implementation of law” — the standard accusation used by the CCP to jail practitioners of Falun Gong for their faith. Mr. Xie was recently released.
While untold numbers of Falun Gong practitioners remain imprisoned for their faith across China today (millions have been imprisoned over the last 23 years), many have escaped China. Testifying before Congressional and parliamentary members, human rights groups, and authoring articles, they bravely tell their story to bear witness to the on-going crisis in China.
Here are some of their stories.
Ms. Crystal Chen was 27 years old when she and her mother were first detained for their faith. Both were tortured—her mother with electric batons, and herself with forced-feeding of salt, a torture many have died from. She also witnessed the torture of other women in the prison, where sexual assault was common. In a harrowing journey through Thailand, she finally escaped and found refuge in the U.S.
Mr. Dongwei Bu was imprisoned multiple times for his faith, including in forced labor camps. Amnesty International took on Bu’s case, launching a campaign for his release, which occurred four months before the end of his term. Afterwards, he gained safe passage to the U.S. where he joined his wife and child.
Ms. Fuyao Li was only 6 years old when her parents disappeared into China’s forced labor camp system for the first time. She spent years without parents. Later, she was held together with her mother, while her father was imprisoned separately. After years of abuse and the torture of her parents, Fuyao and her parents escaped to the U.S.
Mr. Weiyu Wang was once a promising young student in the PhD program at Tsinghua University (China’s MIT). He lost everything when the CCP started the campaign to “eradicate” Falun Gong. Hounded by classmates and eventually kicked out of school, Weiyu spent years imprisoned and tortured before finally escaping to the U.S. with his wife and daughter.
Ms. Liping Yin was imprisoned for her faith and suffered forced labor and horrific torture, including sexual violence, in China’s notorious Masanjia Labor Camp. After escaping to the U.S., Yin bravely recounted her horrific journey before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Perspectives on Falun Gong
“Falun Gong is, in my judgment, the single greatest spiritual movement in Asia today. There’s nothing that begins to compare with it in courage and importance.”
Former U.S. Ambassador, co-founder of National Endowment for Democracy
“Through my acquaintance with these [Falun Gong practitioners], I was deeply moved by their calmness when narrating their unprecedented calamity, their compassion toward those that tortured them, and their optimism towards our nation’s future. These people take fame and profit very lightly… How one’s belief has such a strong influence over one’s soul and morality is unbelievable.”
Renowned Chinese human rights lawyer, imprisoned and tortured for defending Falun Gong practitioners.
“Anyone who knows Asian religion will instantly see that Falun Gong fits into a tradition that extends back before the beginning of recorded history. What made Falun Gong stand out from other qigong exercises and meditation practices was a moral system—compassion, truthfulness, and forbearance— unmistakably Buddhist in origin.”
University of Pennsylvania professor, one of America’s foremost experts on China.
“I have known and worked closely with members of the Falun Gong community in our city for more than a decade. Over the years, as their community has grown they have played an increasingly valuable role in our city where they volunteer their time in our communities.”
Mayor of Middletown, New York
“Falun Gong represents the very best of Chinese culture and values.”
Former Attorney General, Canada
“Falun Gong is an entirely peaceful belief system which encourages the highest standards of moral behavior.”
House of Lords, UK