The Yale Falun Gong club, along with Amnesty International, is creating a petition asking university leaders, including Yale President Richard Levin, to speak with Chinese officials about the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong followers.
Chinese universities, including three on Levin’s current China visit — Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Fudan University — have recently been targeted by international media as violators of human rights. Students and professors at these schools have been expelled and fired for practicing Falun Gong, a lifestyle incorporating meditation and prayer.
The Yale Falun Gong club has not yet contacted Levin. Group leaders said they plan to bring the petition to Levin, who is currently traveling in China, when he returns to the United States.
“We urge you to help stop the persecution of students, faculty and staff members in your universities for their spiritual beliefs in Falun Gong, and use every means you can to rescue and protect them,” the petition states.
Levin was unavailable for comment.
Tracy Zhu, whose husband is a faculty member at Yale, is one of the local community members who has gotten involved in the Yale Falun Gong Club.
“We want [Levin] to bring this message to the presidents of the other universities,” Zhu said.
Zhu is one of millions of people who practice Falun Gong across the world. Revitalized in 1992 with the publication of Li Hongzhi’s book “Zhuan Falun,” Falun Gong is a traditional type of meditation that has existed for hundreds of years. It is a form of “qigong” or cultivation practice based upon the core principles of truthfulness, benevolence and forbearance.
China’s current government has banned Falun Gong. As a result, anyone who does not renounce Falun Gong risks jail time, labor camps, torture or death.
In Tsinghua University alone, 18 students and faculty members were each sentenced for up to 13 years in jail and 18 were illegally sent to forced labor camps, the petition says.
The mission to stop the persecution of people who practice Falun Gong in China is a personal one for Zhu.
“I have some friends who came from those universities,” she said. “They told me about the persecution they received there.”
Ming-Qi Chu ’07 was born in China, and her family has become very involved in the practice of Falun Gong. She said she does not condone the group’s practices, but she said the government should not continue to persecute Falun Gong followers.
“I think that in a lot of ways the persecution of people for Falun Gong reflects the limitations of free speech, but in a lot of ways Falun Gong is detrimental to society,” said Chu. “It is like a cult.”
Chu said Falun Gong dictates that followers cannot take medicine, go to the hospital or have children during the period in which they wish to be enlightened.
Zhu said the goal of the petition is to let the public know what is going on and to put international pressure on the persecutors in order to make them stop.
“My friend was heartbroken after his experience in the camp,” she said. “He said it was the most painful experience of his life.”
Yale Falun Gong club member Yinghua Wu GRD ’05 said he hopes Levin will use his international trip as an opportunity to make a change.
“Although I think that President Levin should keep up his friendship, university to university, he needs to tell them that the persecution there is absolutely wrong,” he said.
Yale Falun Gong club members declined to comment on the number of signatories on the petition.
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