China exposes Falungong structure

It is not a loose group as its founder claims but one highly structured to give him control over followers, says the Chongqing Public Security Bureau

The Straits Times Interactive, July 28, 1999
By Mary Kwang

BEIJING -- The controversial Falungong sect is a closely-organised group with at least five command layers in each city, according to investigations carried out by the Chinese authorities.

In a despatch yesterday, the official Xinhua news agency reported a statement by the Chongqing Public Security Bureau which said Falungong operated a five-tier structure in the Chongqing municipality.

These comprised the city headquarters, branch offices, Class 1 coaching stations, Class 2 coaching stations and practice sites.

The Chongqing bureau said the uncovering of the structure during its probe into the sect had exposed claims by founder Li Hongzhi that Falungong was not an organised body.

The headquarters had a chief appointed by Mr Li as well as two deputy heads nominated by the chief.

There were three branch offices, each overseen by either the chief or one of his two deputies.

There was a fourth man, known as the executive deputy chief, who took charge of the daily work of the branch offices.

Below the branch offices were 56 Class 1 or Class 2 coaching stations and at the bottom were 890 practice sites.

Altogether, there were more than 358 people in charge in this structure.

If the Falungong was only a loose group, why was there a need for so many people to be in charge?

The Chongqing Public Security Bureau revealed that since last year, Falungong practitioners had besieged news organisations in the municipality to protest against various media reports criticising their group.

These activities were all initiated by the Falundafa Research Society in Beijing through its Chongqing headquarters, said the bureau.

It claimed to have evidence of communications between the local headquarters and the society at the apex of the national structure.

In such a closely controlled organisation, practitioners were exploited easily by Mr Li, said the bureau.

The Chongqing authorities' description of the local organisation of the Falungong coincided with statements by former district leaders of the sect to the local media.

The latter has carried out a propaganda blitz against the group since it was outlawed last Thursday.

Nationwide, the sect has 39 local headquarters, 1,900 branch offices and more than 23,000 practice sites.

The statements about the sect's organisational structure were part of the authorities' drive to discredit Mr Li as a liar and a charlatan.

When they accused him of changing his birth date to make it coincide with that of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, Mr Li said the government had misprinted his date of birth during the Cultural Revolution and he had merely rectified the error.

The government followed that up quickly with an interview with the midwife who had delivered him.

Falungong shocked the Chinese leadership when more than 10,000 followers staged a protest outside Zhongnanhai, the seat of power, on April 25. The Communist Party's concern about its influence was underscored in several commentaries in its mouthpiece, the People's Daily.

Yesterday, it ran its fourth front-page editorial on Falungong in eight days.

It said the crackdown was "a struggle which has an important bearing on the fundamental faith of communists, on the ideological basis for uniting the Chinese people and on the destiny and future of the Communist Party and the government".

"The Falungong problem is not as simple as some people think," it added.

"Our fight against the Falungong is a fierce and complicated struggle for the mind, and winning over the people."

Another editorial said it was "critical the Falungong problem be first dealt with from within the party" as party members had participated in its activities and were even leaders in the organisation.

Highly structured

Nationwide, the sect has:

39 local headquarters

1,900 branch offices

More than 23,000 practice sites.

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