For my final shout out, I want to do a follow-up from last week’s shout out to Jiang Zemin, as his former employee, Guo Boxiong, will soon stand trial. He has been accused of accepting bribes and using his power to get people promoted, and he has pled guilty to all of these crimes. Guo worked very closely with Jiang and was promoted by him personally several times. He was involved with many of Jiang’s initiatives, including the persecution of Falun Gong. He is the highest ranking general to be prosecuted for any kind of crime since the Communist Party first began. This trial is just another step to attain the ultimate goal – the arrest of Jiang Zemin, who is accused of creating the corruption that exists in the government over the past twenty years.
Twelve weeks have gone by already and we have made it through all of the readings for the course. We have touched on so much in the course, and even though we aren’t all of the way through I think it is only right to think about some of the main themes that we have seen so far in the course that grabbed my attention. We saw through a number of readings how society reacts to new religions and how they get started. I found it both interesting and significant how magic plays a role in religiogenisis. This happens due to magic being a form of social action, and how something transformative and physical is really happening there. This social action, where something physical and of substance is happening, is very powerful and gets religions started. Falun Gong and the Cult of the Saints both shared this. Li Hongzhi in his lectures and through sharing his message was able to heal people and make people feel as though they were really better. No matter what that was coming from, it was really happening and documented and this was a driving force in the spread of Falun Gong. We saw this throughout in Cult of the Saints and how performances at the sites of graves had a lasting effect on people. As we move and begin to look deeper into Falun Gong for our final video, I want to keep the larger themes of the class in mind. So much of the class has been able to connect and hopefully as a group we can bring it all together.
My shout out this week goes to the Chinese government this week for only briefly detaining a human rights lawyer this time. The BBC came out with an article titled “China briefly detains rights lawyer Ge Yongzi over Panama Papers post” which again sums it up. Ge Yongzi posted a picture photoshopped with prominent Chinese leaders put in the Panama canal. Personally I think that is a hilarious idea for a picture and even funnier (in a somewhat darker way) that the government would be so offended by it to arrest him for it. I think that this is significant because it seems that the government was feeling some pressure to release Yongzi considering he was only detained for a couple of hours. I know it is a long shot and it is likely that the government is only releasing him early because the crime was only “insulting others” but I like to think that it is possible the government in China will stop detaining people quite so often. There has been some international push-back on this and hopefully China is starting to sweat a little bit.
In my second shout-out of the day, I’d like to address Xi Jinping’s apparent “anti-corruption” campaign in China, in which he is using his power, under this guise, to attack his political enemies. His most recent target is Jiang Zemin, former head of the CCP. From surveillance, to arresting his second-in-command and his brother, it appears to be a gross misuse of power. A clear political threat to Xi, Jiang is the main target of this targeted attack.
Though some see this as a legitimate anti-corruption campaign, Xi has shown that he is corrupt in many ways himself, and time after time he demonstrates use of his power to put down his political rivals. China must reject the status quo if it ever wants to retain any ounce of political freedom.
Realizing I may have neglected my readership for a week, I will be posting two consecutive shout outs, you’re welcome.
For last week, I would like to give a shout-out to the concurrently famously and infamously religious street in Shanghai, Changyang Street. During the second World War, it served as a refuge for thousands of German Jews escaping Hitler’s Persecution. As a result, it became known as the “Paris of the Orient.”
However, just across the street is a massive prison, Tilanqiao, which is home to thousands of religious prisoners, largely Falun Gong practitioners. Since the crackdown of 1999, reports indicate that 千千万万为Falun Gong practitioners have been beaten, tortured, killed, and had their organs harvested at this prison. Nonetheless, tight control by the Chinese government prevents domestic or international confirmation of these clear human rights violations, enabling the government to continue its horrendous organ business.
I continue to stand by the petition I signed to the US Congress to work towards exposing these violations. I believe that political motives are preventing other countries from taking action, and I think that it is unacceptable.
As this semester draws to an end and we come to the end of our intriguing study of Chinese Cults and Religions it seems necessary to pause and reflect on where we have come and highlight some of the most important and fascinating aspects of our interrogatories. We started this semester trying to understand how the Chinese government rules China, if it does at all, we learned how the reach and influence of the government diminishes as you move further into the countryside. We learned about how the Chinese government seems to be putting up a facade of well being and growth to look good in the international level, but they have forgotten about their citizens and have used them as mere means to and ends and not and ends in and of themselves. By looking at the citizens as mere numbers rather than actual people, the government has created an environment where the average citizen needs to look to other organizations for hope and promise in their harsh lives. This is were religion in China has found it’s niche. From books as God is Red we have learned that many people who become religious do it because their life was in shambles, caused by the government, and the church offered them some type of new hope or new beginning. Furthermore, we have studied the growth of movements, some may say religion, of Falun Gong and how that appeals to the needs of the citizens that the government has not been able to fulfill. The government has always been critical of religion because they see it as a threat to their sovereignty. They have constantly enacted new reforms and programs to try and suppress religion, which have never worked fully. Subsequently after each new reform or program religion has grown in strength. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about China in regards to religion, is how spiritual it has always been and how integral the interaction of the spiritual world has been in the daily lives of the average Chinese citizen. Form ancestor worship to fungshui Chinese life has been influenced by the terrestrial and spiritual world interplay for thousands of years. This perhaps is what the government needs to understand that no matter what they do, or how hard they try to crush religion it will never happen due to the deep need for religion in the lives of the Chinese. In these last few weeks CIT south bend will be working to more fully understand the Falun Gong movement through our work in our video essay.
As CIT South Bend moves into the more advanced stages of its video project, we are narrowing in on one suspect to bring the class full circle: Falun Gong. From Lagerway’s concept of China as a religious space to the idea of religiogenesis, Falun Gong fits the mold. We are using it as a means to express the idea of religion in China as a whole. The way in which it combines traditional Chinese practices of exercises and healing with ideas of morality and virtue encompasses many of the values of Eastern and Western-eastern religions and “Zongjiao’s.” Li Hongzhi’s practice has changed the face of religion around the world, but serves as a solid lens through which an outsider can try to understand just how religion functions as an integral part of everyday life in China.