Author: Otto Koelbl
Core Tips: In 2010, Prof Thomas Heberer co-edited the “Western Media Coverage of China” with other German journalists. After reading the book, Otto Koelbl, a researcher at the Lausanne University, published his comment on the book. He made comments on the journalists’ views and offered his own opinions. This article is an excerpt of “Comment on Western Media Coverage of China.”
According to Otto Koelbl, the existing documents on human rights allow governments to use legal methods to combat religious activities that threaten public security. From this perspective, outlawing a hazardous sect is not in violation of religious freedom. Facts.org has revealed that Falun Gong has threatened the life of Chinese people. In his article, he cited the opinion of the European Court of Human Rights that women wearing face-covering veils may threaten the internal stability of a country, and pointed out that the Chinese government should not be blamed for outlawing the extremist sect Falun Gong. The following is the part of the letter written by Otto Koelbl which discusses Falun Gong:
Honorable Mr. Heberer and other friends working for media:
Although you did not include a special report on Falun Gong in your book, you connected the movement with violation of human rights. Falun Gong is portrayed as a victim of government repression. Over the past 10 years, Western media has almost always portrayed Falun Gong as a kind of harmless Yoga sect,which was first accepted by the government and then mercilessly persecuted as it gained a sufficient number of members to be considered as a rival to the Party. Countless Chinese people have tried to explain to our journalists why this representation is highly questionable, but to no avail. It would best here to get to the bottom of these objections.
From looking at the writings of founder Li Hongzhi, it is quickly apparent that the fundamental values and teachings of the cult, which use the Western and Chinese ideas as a base, are in conflict. There are still some disagreements on whether Falun Gong represented a combination of basic values of both Chinese and Western countries. The Catholic Church holds that human beings may be possessed by demons, but claims that evil things or aliens may turn into human beings is ridiculous because the claim is contradictory to the principle that people are born equal (and also contradictory to the fact that all people are real human beings). According to information provided by Chinese media, instances have occurred in which fanatical cult members killed people out of their belief that the victims were possessed by evil things.
The thought of racial purity is a big problem. According to Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong,people of mixed blood (eg children who have been born from a mixed marriage between whites and Asians) are pitiful creatures who not only lost contact with the higher spiritual levels, but are also weaker both physically and mentally.
The biggest threat to Chinese society is Li Hongzhi’s attitude toward medical treatment. He holds that diseases are the result of karma, or wrongdoings in previous lives. A patient should tolerate the illness and alleviate it by meditation. If the patients try to eliminate the karma by curing the diseases, they may suffer from more serious diseases.
In 1996, about 1/20 Chinese people became obsessed with Falun Gong. I held discussions with about a dozen Chinese people on this topic. Half of them gave me first-hand stories about domestic conflicts caused by Falun Gong. Some of them said their wife or mother refused to seek medical treatment to cure their diseases; some said that parents or grandparents did not take care of their children anymore; some people even said that their father did not work but spent all time on meditation.
Two of them were family members of government officials. They told me that large groups of people swarmed to government offices, asking officials to crackdown on Falun Gong.
The existing documents on human rights allow governments to use legal procedures to punish religious movements that threaten public security. From this perspective, outlawing a harmful sect is not in violation of religious freedom. Falun Gong has undoubtedly shown that it is such a threat in China, but that is not even considered by the West.
The European Court of Human Rights is recognized as authoritative in both civil and political circles. The Court holds that religious freedom may be limited for the sake of national stability. As to the laws of Turkey and France banning women from wearing face-covering veils, the Court ruled that from the perspective of the rights to freedom of religion, wearing veils is a right that is guaranteed. But Turkish and French governments held that wearing veils in public places, though a custom in some countries, was an affront to the country’s stability. Therefore, the law banning women from wearing veils was justified, even though it limits rights to religious freedom. Therefore, people are not in a position to criticize the Chinese government for outlawing Falun Gong, an extremist sect that is very harmful to the whole society.
This difference may seem subtle, but it is fundamental. When you said in your book that dealing with Falun Gong was an infringement to freedom of religions, you sent the following message to Chinese people:
“You should allow the existence of a rampant new sect for the sake of religious freedom even when the sect has broken up millions of families, prohibited sick adults and children from receiving medical treatment, forbade cross-race marriage on account that the children would be subhuman, and even violated the most fundamental human rights.”
If, in this way, you are only paying lip service to human rights, which is an issue that simply is not there, you discredit human rights issues as a whole in the eyes of the Chinese population.If you, however, criticized only the violations against the law, it sends the following message:
"Even if a State respects human rights, it still has the means to defend themselves against any risk, with the precondition that you have to consider certain rules."
In general, there are more than enough human rights violations you can criticize with a good knowledge of human rights and this must happen. I think that it really is not asking too much of the Western journalists and academics, that they seek to be carefully informed about human rights and work with the relevant expertise. The status of human rights cannot be improved without such reports. However, it is a pity to see your book was written in opposition to this view.
About the author:
Otto Koelbl graduated from the Lausanne University as a major in German language and literature. He then took a teaching position in the university. He has been to China several times and has taught in a couple of schools. Currently, he is a researcher at the Lausannne University and a teacher. He is also a founder and leader of the website http://www.rainbowbuilders.org.
The writings of the sect founder Li Hongzhi are publicly available on the Internet:
It is there quite quickly obvious that the teachings of this sect with many fundamental values, which are both the West and China as a basis, are in conflict. That a person can be possessed by a demon, we also know of the Catholic Church. Demons or aliens that but in a human form can incarnate so that we believe that we have a human being in front of us, but only is an illusion, however, runs counter to the basic principle of human rights that all human beings are equal (and, indeed, real people are). According to information provided by the Chinese government should it have been cases where a fanatical sect member murdered someone in the belief that it is such a demon.
Also highly questionable is the order of racial purity. According to the founder of a sect are people "mixed blood" (eg children who have emerged from a mixed marriage between whites and Asians) pitiful creatures who not only lost contact with the higher spiritual levels, but also have physical or mental weaknesses.
Undoubtedly the greatest damage in the Chinese society, however, has caused the setting of the cult leader for medical treatment. He viewed disease as a consequence of bad karma, so bad actions in past lives. If you get sick, so you have to suffer patiently and may resort to relief only to meditation techniques. If you go to medical treatment, is cheating with the karma, and that is a later repaid with compound interest.
If an estimated one-twentieth of the population is fanatical with such a doctrine, as 1996 was the case, one can imagine how the rest of the population responds. I have discussed this subject with about a dozen Chinese. About half of them were from my own experience tell in their immediate environment of cases where it has a cult member to extremely serious conflicts in the family out. Sometimes it was a wife and mother who refused despite a life threatening illness, go to the doctor; A parent or grandparent who suddenly no longer took care of the children; a family man who suddenly stopped going to work, sits down in a corner and the whole day was meditating; a son who suddenly his dreams for divine commandments stopped and allowed to dictate his behavior from them.
Two individuals whose family member was involved in the management, reported the fact that applied to the local branch of the Communist Party, the people flocked and demanded that the authorities must take action against this sect.
Any text on Human Rights allows a State to proceed with the law against religious movements that threaten the safety of the population; the suppression of the sect would not be a violation of religious freedom in this case. That Falun Gong has undoubtedly shown that such a threat in China, but is not even considered.
In the area of civil and political human rights, the European Court of Human Rights is undoubtedly an example. However, he also accepted that one can restrict the freedom of religion for the preservation of internal security. In the case of the headscarf ban in Turkey and in France he was clearly of the opinion that the right to wear a headscarf in the freedom of religion is guaranteed. Since both the Turkish and the French government, however, could argue convincingly that the wearing of headscarves in public buildings posed a challenge to the fundamental values of the respective countries and a threat to the internal security, was a ban, although it restricted the freedom of religion, justified. If even the European Menschenrechtsgerichthof believes that headscarves bearing women can pose a threat to the internal security, then you can the Chinese government not to criticize if it prohibits an extraordinarily extremist sect that has caused serious damage in the Chinese society.
I do not mean to say that everything that happens with supporters of the Falun Gong sect, human rights compliant. There are several reports of convictions of cult members to prison terms or fines in labor camps without trial. Such injuries have nothing to do with freedom of religion, but violate the right to a fair trial.
This difference may seem subtle, but it is fundamental. If you regularly have problems with Falun Gong perform in the entire book under "freedom of religion", send to the Chinese people the message:
"Even if in your country a sect rampant, destroying the millions of families who forbids even with serious illnesses that adults and children are medically treated, which" prohibits mixed racial "marriages because the arising therefrom children are subhuman, and against violates the most basic principles of human rights, you have this sect can grant on behalf of religious freedom. "
This will put the human rights not only something in your mouth, which simply is not there, you discredit the human rights as a whole in the eyes of the Chinese population.