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David Hsieh, New Chinese body to promote ‘qigong’

By David Hsieh, The Straits Times, 6 December 2000

In a move to counter the growing number of cults, the association will help design different qigong exercises for different physiques

BEIJING - The rise of cults in China which sell new ideas while clothed in traditional beliefs has prompted the formation of a non-governmental organisation which aims to coach the people in the right practices.

As a starter in its cult-bashing mission, the newly-established China Anti-Cult Association (Casa) will work with the country's top sports administrative body to compile manuals to promote what it called the proper version of qigong, which is believed to be good for health.

Mr He Zuoxiu, a well-known cult basher and co-founder of Casa said his organisation will carry out the project with the State Sports General Administration.

We will help design different qigong exercises for different physiques. Qigong should only be for good health. In our manuals, gone will be the qigong masters and their claims of psychic powers, he said.

Mr He is famous for being a seasoned critic of the Falungong, a popular but now outlawed group which antagonised the Chinese government with its encirclement of the Zhongnanhai, the residential compound of China's top leaders, in April last year.

The 73-year-old physicist and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences also disclosed that his organisation will join in collaborative projects for compiling the medical properties of qigong.

The Casa has already made recommendations to the concerned authorities and will begin work once they get approval.

Established last month, the Casa's aim is to uphold the scientific and humanistic spirit, preserve the sanctity of the law, promote respect for freedom of religion, and unite and link different segments of the society together against all cult organisations that harm the people's livelihood and safety, disturb public social order, and damage law enforcement.

The association is made up of prominent Chinese scientists, academics, journalists, and leaders of religious communities. It professes to have no links with the government.

Mr He stressed that his association was not formed to help enforce the law. However, it will warn the public and the authorities about emerging cults as well as groups that show cult behaviour.

While the Casa recognises the right of citizens to pick their beliefs, it intends to do all it can, through talks, seminars, and exhibitions, to expose cults and their leaders.

We reached a consensus about the need to oppose cults. What we are concerned about is whether a group would bring harm to the people and society at large, explained Mr He.

Mr Sima Nan, another well-known debunker of religious and qigong charlatans, applauded the association's formation but is not upbeat about its effectiveness against the legions of Chinese cult groups.

At present China needs an organisation like this but it is a bit late in coming. China has so many cult groups and only one such anti-cult organisation. It is fighting against great odds, he said.

He hopes that the association members would live up to their word that they would take time off their busy schedules to deal with China's cults.