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‘Gentle approach may work better’ on Falungong

By Larry Teo, The Straits Times, Monday 26 February 2001

GENTLE wheedling is a better approach in China's attempt to stamp out Falungong than locking its practitioners up and banning it altogether, a number of participants suggested yesterday at a symposium on the spiritual group Beijing now considers its top troublemaker.

China could, by analogy, put its flood management skills to good use. Think up some peaceful measures to turn Falungong followers away from the group and avert unnecessary clashes, said Mr Sia Yong, president of the Singa Sino Friendship Association, at the gathering at the Mandarin Hotel.

Dr Huang Wei from the Singapore Institute of Materials Research and Engineering could not agree more when he told the more than 200 participants that the more the group is being repressed, the stronger it will grow.

Sharing his personal experience about a Chinese scientist who has refused to leave the movement, he said: Even intelligent men can be less sane when they find it comforting to put trust in some Almighty.

Therefore, to sap the movement, China must resort to a multi-pronged approach, including educational, cultural, psychological and spiritual methods, instead of just using brute force, he added.

But the many advocates of moderate handling did not come up with specifics.

Falungong is officially banned in China following its encirclement of Zhongnanhai, the country's political nerve centre, with about 10,000 followers in April 1999.

One participant, Ms Yu Xifeng - a freelance Chinese writer living in Singapore - however, believes that to foil groups like Falungong, the people of China need to be able to think independently, so that they could see through a lie for themselves.

One patent lie of Falungong is its accusation that the government had made a few people set themselves on fire on Jan 23 and then called them Falungong maniacs so as to mar the movement, she said.

An event restricted to only invited guests, there were few Singaporeans at the symposium, which was titled venerate science and oppose cults. The majority who attended were from China.

Mr Zhang Jiuhuan, the Chinese Ambassador to Singapore, launched the opening salvo by listing the worst possible damage that Falungong, which claims to command at least 10 million followers in China, could inflict.

Calling Falungong a cult, Mr Zhang slammed its founder Li Hongzhi for causing thousands of deaths in China with his inimical doctrines.

Squashing the Falungong is not only a duty of the Chinese government to its people, but also to the international community.

The war against cults is a worldwide undertaking and many countries have given their support to our cause, the ambassador added.