Falun Gong founder named Asia's most powerful

Reuters/May 24, 2001

Hong Kong -- Asiaweek magazine has named Li Hongzhi, founder of the controversial Falun Gong spiritual movement, the most powerful man in Asia, overtaking Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.

China's enemy number one, Li topped the magazine's "Power 50" list released on Thursday, followed by Keiji Tachikawa, president of Japan's largest mobile services operator, NTT DoCoMo.

"Li is a man of the moment. He has tapped into a spiritual void in a China that is plunging into capitalism," said Asiaweek editor Dorinda Elliott in a statement.

"While we may not agree with his message or his methods, it is for his power to inspire, to mobilise people, and to spook Beijing that we select Li as Asia's most influential communicator," Elliott added.

Li, whose movement has been outlawed by China as an "evil cult," was ranked 38th on Asiaweek's list in 2000.

Tachikawa's NTT DoCoMo invented the Internet-enabled "i-mode" phones, which has swept the country by storm. There are some 23 million users of i-mode service, which lets users browse the Web on credit card-sized handset screens.

The rankings were decided by Asiaweek's editorial staff.

Movie-maker Ang Lee of famed kungfu epic "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was third, while Chinese President Jiang tumbled two places from 2000 to come in fourth. Anti-globalisation activist Vandana Shiva came in fifth.

The magazine said the definition of power has shifted with the information age to "those who can communicate" or "control the message" from old-style politicians and tycoons.

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing plunged from number one in 2000 to number 13, while North Korean President Kim Jong-il slipped from 5th to 14.

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