Last Saturday, I was sitting inside my apartment when I heard a marching band go by. Looking out to see what it was, I saw people exercising in the street and a costumed drum group. Soon enough, I saw the familiar expression “Fa Lun Da Fa Hao” (法輪大法好) or “Fa Lun Da Fa is Good” – a message often repeated in Taiwan where this “new religious movement” is free from persecution, unlike in mainland China where practitioners of this blend of Buddhism, Taoism, and exercise have been tortured, imprisoned, and killed. Also known as Fa Lun Gong (法輪功), the movement itself is very peaceful and lacks any real controversy on the surface. While there are claims of wrongdoing made by the Chinese Communist Party, it seems that the group’s exponential growth in the 90′s is what most concerned the communist government.
While I did not follow the parade very far, I did catch all of it as it went through central Jhubei being protected by the Taiwanese police. This was not a political demonstration primarily, although there were some politically-oriented signs. Instead, it simply seemed like a way to show off what the movement is about. I was welcomed by some of the people following and covering the march as they answered any questions I had with a great deal of respect and excitement that I would be interested in their march.
Above: a set of banners proclaiming that the next group would be an exercise team (seen on top).
Above: this banner states the fact that in 1999, Falun Gong had more members than the Chinese Communist Party. 1999 was the first major year of crackdowns against the movement in mainland China.
Above: a policeman watches as the parade goes by. Religious and political freedoms are heavily protected in Taiwan, and seeing this is gratifying.
I have to say that as China grows and becomes a world power, it has to deal with the fights it wants and the fights it needs. It will be interesting to see how and if Taiwan influences China in the coming years as we see the two countries creating economic ties. While one can always hope for more freedom anywhere in the world, it’s important to keep these things in mind as we as Western countries decide who to deal with when it comes to international politics.