According to the Falun Gong official website falundafa.org, the practice of Falun Gong was introduced in China 1992 by Li Hongzhi. Throughout the 1990s, Hongzhi traveled around the country and abroad lecturing on the practice and by the end of the decade, Falun Gong had millions of followers.
The struggle between Falun Gong and the Chinese Communist Party culminated in 1999. In April of that year, thousands of practitioners gathered in Beijing outside the Chinese leadership compound, Zhongnanh. It was the largest gathering of Chinese citizens since the student rally in Tiananmen Square in 1989. A few months later - according to information on falundafa.org, on the night of July 19, 1999, "police raided the homes of hundreds of practitioners and dragged them off to prison."
The next day, the Communist Party officially banned the practice.
According to Xiaoan Zhang, the Charge d'affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Israel, "Li Hongzhi is the leader of this cult. He defines himself as a mighty savior capable of knowing and controlling everything. He and his followers impose his ideology on other people and he asks them to worship him. He prevents people from going to doctors when they fall ill. Those people have died because of no treatment. In some cases, the followers are so addicted to Falun Gong that they became mentally disabled, they have tortured and burned themselves and even committed suicide in order to go to paradise. Li Hongzhi also collects a big amount of money from his followers for his own squandering. The Falun Gong has caused great damage to Chinese society."
Li says it was the large following - an estimated 100 million practitioners at the end of 1998 - that caused the Chinese government to become nervous, ban all references to Falun Gong, and "make up all sorts of lies."
"Half of the national television broadcasts were anti-Falun Gong, TV shows were filled with false information to encourage hatred towards us," he says.
According to Li,"The Falun Gong has been persecuted for more than seven years. There are close to 3,000 people that we know about who have been tortured to death.
"There has not been a single case in which Falun Gong practitioners have used a violent means to fight back. We always try to comply to the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance."- R.E.