What would prompt a New Yorker with a medical degree from the University of Chicago to yell at Chinese president Hu Jintao during a state ceremony and risk facing likely arrest and prosecution? Apparently it's nothing on the scale of domestic spying or holding foreign nationals captive without charges. No, those are likely small peanuts to Wenyi Wang, a believer in a religion that has been described as a "syncretistic update of Confucianism and Taoism." For her troubles, Wang could face six months in jail.
Check out the Washington Post's take on the incident and the aftermath:
The White House had issued Wang a one-day press pass to cover the ceremony after she presented credentials as a reporter for the Epoch Times. Many of the newspaper's staff members, like Wang, are Falun Gong practitioners, according to a newspaper spokeswoman.
Falun Gong is a Buddhist-based spiritual movement with millions of members in China and elsewhere. It became the focus of controversy when it was banned by the Chinese government in 1999 after followers staged a series of peaceful protests in Beijing. Founded by a Chinese soldier in 1992, Falun Gong in Chinese means "Practice of the Wheel of Law." It blends meditation and martial arts.
Adherents say thousands of the group's followers have been imprisoned by the Chinese government. The Epoch Times recently published articles alleging the harvesting and sale of organs from still-living practitioners held in Chinese labor camps. In the past, the harvesting of body parts from executed prisoners has been widely alleged and detailed in official Chinese government newspapers. The Chinese government has called Falun Gong an "evil cult" and accused its leaders of trying to overthrow the ruling Communist Party.
Terri Wu, spokeswoman for the Epoch Times, said Wang has a medical degree and doctorate from the University of Chicago and has been working for the newspaper for six years, specializing in medical issues. The newspaper issued a statement saying that it did not know that Wang was planning the protest. The statement apologized to Bush and the White House -- but not to Hu.
The harvesting of organs from executed prisoners sounds like something any reasonable person would oppose. What is Falun Gong doing that prompts China's leaders to dismiss it as an "evil cult" bent on overthrowing the government?
Other than mentioning "meditation and martial arts," the Post article gives us little clue. Meditation and martial arts covers everything from Buddhism to Jackie Chan. Is Falun Gong really that broad or that dangerous?
The Post also published a brief sidebar on Falun Gong, but it leaves many questions unanswered.
This Wikipedia article on Falun Gong -- disputed for an alleged failure of neutrality -- contains some rich background, and anyone who has walked the streets of New York or Washington has most likely seen the group's fliers. The information is out there, Post editors.