On our way to dinner last Tuesday, March 31, a friend and I were curious at the sight of people hanging artwork in Zelnick Pavilion.  When we stopped inside to ask, Ms. Karen Nichols, who brought the exhibit to Wesleyan, greeted us warmly.  Ms. Nichols is an administrative assistant at the Usdan University Center and a Falun Gong practitioner.  She introduced us to one of the artists, Ms. Wang Weixing, and invited us to read about the exhibit: “‘The Art of Truth, Compassion, Tolerance.’ The exhibit narrates with canvas the experience of a meditation group (the Falun Gong) in China under systematic and violent suppression at the hands of the atheistic, autocratic state.”

I immediately felt fishy about the bias in those three words: “atheistic, autocratic state.”  Falun Gong presents itself as a simple “meditation group,” but the very existence of controversy surrounding Falun Gong suggests that that is not the whole story. Whatever Falun Gong truly is, the exhibit in Zelnick is not showing us the whole picture.

Whether or not Falun Gong’s message is true, the exhibit it is unequivocally biased. That the University would allow this exhibit to be hung, especially with so many prospective students and their parents around, is humiliating.  What I find insulting is that the exhibit undermines our Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies, which consistently brings unbiased and intellectually stimulating programming to Wesleyan and to the entire region.  I have witnessed the staff at the center work tirelessly to fill the calendar with fabulous programming all semester long in celebration of three decades of U.S.-China relations.  I find it insidious that Falun Gong neglected to engage with our Center while hanging their separate exhibit broadcasting their anti-Chinese messages.  Playing this Cold War is an insult to the name of the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and to Wesleyan’s international reputation.

Falun Gong uses this exhibit on a global scale to force institutions like Wesleyan to choose sides in their battle.  Now they have put the Wesleyan community in an impossible position.  By allowing the exhibit, the University sets itself up for ridicule by its peers, but by protesting the exhibition, the community sets itself up for attack by Falun Gong.  This danger is real: probing online reveals that everywhere this exhibit has cropped up and faced opposition, Falun Gong has launched a propaganda attack ultimately wiping out records of protest and slipping in its own message, accusing community leaders of being Communists or Chinese agents.  Look at Tel Aviv University and University of Western Ontario for example.  Because of this, I am afraid that publishing this Wespeak makes me vulnerable to attack. To avoid further humiliation, we must not shut down the exhibit.  We must be gracious as a community.  In fact, we should each do what the exhibit calls us to do: develop an awareness of this issue.  Go look at the paintings and read their literature, but stay mindful of its bias.  Sift through the propaganda from both sides – the Internet is a battlefield upon which Falun Gong and the People’s Republic of China have amassed arms for the past ten years.  Find your truth but don’t be taken in by biased propaganda.

I can’t say whether or not Falun Gong’s message is true.  I don’t know whether or not Falun Gong is a cult, but I know that cults gain sympathy by preying on people’s weaknesses.  Falun Gong wants to take advantage of the fact that Wesleyan does not understand both sides of the controversy.  They are banking on the assumption that the average Wes student is naïve, uninformed, and politically active.  Wesleyan, take time to educate yourself on this issue.

  • Jana

    Falun Gong does not prey on peoples weaknesses. WE help them understand the nature of this persecution against Falun Dafa by knowing the truth about the history of the communism in China for the last 60 years.

    Lets face it the Ccp started this grisly persecution which impacts on all of humanity now. And they wont own up to it, they hide behind their policies of dont interfer in our internal afairs yet they go around all teh Gov’ts medai andbig business and offer then incentives to not mention Falun Gong or critisise the Ccp in public or in the media.

    Since they wont admit to their crimes we have to peacefully expose the ccp true nature.

    Communists commits genocide upon others, and mostly to date its own countrymen.

    Chinese Communism seems to be torturing and killing some group of people every decade.

    1949 – Chinese Communism came to power in China. During World War II, they hung around villages, recruited members & ate for free. The communist only fought 2 battles; the rest of the fights were left to the Kuomintang. As a result, the number of Kuomintang soldiers decreased. When World War II ended, the communist came out in droves & chased the Kuomintang away.

    1950s – The persecution of Tibetans began.

    1966 – Cultural Revolution. All the good traditions and believes of ancient China were destroyed and trampled upon.

    1989 – Tiananmen Massacre. Students were shot and rolled over by tanks for protesting. The communist regime have still not been accountable for this massacre and today deny to its youth that it ever happened.

    1999 – Persecution of Falun Gong. Soon after, the communists began to make money from harvesting organs of Falun Gong disciples who would not give up their faith in Truth compassion and Forbearance.

    2008 – Attack Tibetan Monks and civilians and impose a media black out so the world cannot see anode Tiananmen Square massacre.

    I remembered the old “seem to be strong” communist Russia crumbled overnight, and it all began with the people losing faith in communism. That is exactly what is happening in China today.

    Communist China is imploding.

    1 more fact – 60 years of communism in China killed a minimum of 80 million Chinese people…and that’s in China alone. The rest of the figures of unnatural deaths under communist rule (ex & current communist-controlled countries) can all be found in the “Black Book of Communism”.
    80 million, that’s more than the total death rates of World War 1 & 2.

    Read the 9 commentaries at

    Over 50million have quit the Ccp and all its affiliated organizations.

  • Noah Magnuson

    +1 above

    It is not ‘Anti-Chinese’ as you say. It is anti the ‘autocratic/atheist’ regime just as they say. If the CCP wasn’t torturing them, there would be nothing to say.

    How can it not be GOOD to expose those responsible for torture?

    In this case, the CCP. Not Chinese people in general.

  • Noah Magnuson

    I do applaud your quest to sift though the truth. Maybe you should look at the UN and US human rights reports as well as the independent Kilgour/Matas Canadian MP report. Amnesty Intl. etc. etc. ALL independent.

  • Martin Niemöller

    You said: “the very existence of controversy surrounding Falun Gong suggests that that is not the whole story.”
    Than according to that logic judaism would be the most “controversial” religion, wouldn’t it?

  • Charles Liu

    Falun Gong is a cult according to Rich Ross Institute:


    And by the way, the 1st commentor, Jana Shearer, is a spokesperson and cyber-operative, of Falun Gong. She has accused me of being a Chinese spy without a shred of proof – only that I’ve choosen to exercise my right to voice my opinion.

  • Jana

    No Charles i am not a cyber operative just a genuine Falun Gong practitioner who wishes to excersise my right to expose the communist regimes persecution of the Falun Gong .
    BTW Charles Lui alias Bobby Fletcher has been defaming FG and me and others for years because we all want this persecution to stop. end of story….

  • Noah Magnuson

    It is practiced freely and legally in almost every country in the world, even Taiwan. The only group harming anyone is the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).

    To support that kind of heinous crimes against people including imprisonment, torture, murder etc. can only make one guess that you are an agent or mouthpiece with that CCP. At the very least, you are exposed for what you are.

    If the CCP stops killing, torturing, and imprisoning its own citizens for their beliefs (they do this to Christians too), then the prostests against the CCP will end for sure.

  • Anonymous

    here it comes! lol brace yourselves

  • Mytheos Holt

    Presume everything Mr. Liu (and his hyperlink) says is true. Does this excuse what the Chinese Government does to Falun Gong practitioners? In fact, let’s make a hypothetical out of it – presume that the United States Government were ruthlessly torturing and killing Scientologists (which seems to be something of an equivalent for Mr. Liu’s description). Scientologists are bloody annoying, yes, but does this justify torture or execution? And are we comfortable giving a Government the tools to decide that particular religious sects which we find to be annoying deserve such punishments? I think the answer to all these questions is “no.”

    Let us not mince words – the only reason the Chinese Government is going after this group is because their religion is mutually exclusive with Marxist-Leninist-Maoism, China’s official ideology. I severely question their judgment. If this group is truly an insane cult, then the Government only looks petty for going after a harmless bunch of crazies. If the group is a massive movement, on the other hand, then the Government is insanely stupid to think that its actions will not arouse outrage elsewhere, damaging its relations with other countries.

    In this latter case, I think the Falun Gong’s plight is especially historically resonant. After all, would we ban Alexander Solzhenitsyn from Wesleyan during the Cold War? Or an exhibit on the victims of the Gulags? Or, supposing an exhibit came to Wesleyan about the excesses of the Pinochet regime while Pinochet was still in power? Would Mr. Berman have the same concern for damaging our relations with a foreign power? Would anyone defend him, if he did?

    If we are to speak in the language of human rights and anti-tyranny, we must apply it even where Li Hongzhi and Lord Xenu are concerned. The Chinese Government can take care of itself, especially against Wesleyan students. Besides, the paintings are very well done and stand on their own as art.

  • Anonymous

    Mytheos, you are a genius.

  • Whitten Overby

    “Besides, the paintings are very well done and stand on their own as art.”

    Are the paintings not posters or, at best, reproductions? Moreover, many of their iconographies derive from paradigmatic early modern paintings. Perhaps the paintings are crippled yet deceptively strong in mind.

  • Julius Berman

    I agree with Whitten–ultimately, Usdan has hung the aesthetic equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade show, which is embarrassing in its own right. But that is not why I wrote this Wespeak.

    “After all, would we ban Alexander Solzhenitsyn from Wesleyan during the Cold War?”

    First of all, we are not in a cold war with China. Relations were normalized 30 years ago and are always improving. I believe anyone would agree that this anniversary is something worth celebrating, not desecrating.

    Also, FLG not like Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn was an artist who criticized the Soviet regime. On the other hand, the CCP sees FLG as a world-wide organization whose ultimate agenda is to overthrow the Chinese Government. The reason they feel so threatened is historically situated: in 1999 ten thousand FLG practitioners encircled the CCP Zhongnanhai compound (at Tiananmen square west) to protest the beatings and arrests of practitioners in Tianjin. Given what happened on that square ten years before, is already FAR MORE historically relevant to the Chinese perspective than anything that happened in the USSR. Furthermore, the CCP has a sore spot for religious sects simply because the appearance of treasonous religious sects is a well-known theme in Chinese history (see the Yellow Turban Rebellion, Wudoumidao Rebellion, White Lotus Rebellion, and the Taiping rebellion). The combination of these two historically grounded fears gives better context to the situation than any surface comparison to the USSR. The issue is more complex than FLG would have you see.

    Whether or not they are justified, the CCP feels that FLG is a direct threat to stability in China–not to their regime, not to their consolidation of power, but to the stability and progress of the nation.

    If Solzhenitsyn had that kind of power and motive, his speaking at Wesleyan would certainly never even be considered. Moreover, he would have been killed for treason.

    You can think what you want to think, I am simply trying to present the side of the story that is not told by the exhibition. Hopefully it can help people to expand their view beyond what they receive from FLG.

  • laopan

    My goodness! Big numbers — 80 million dead at CCP’s hands in China — Fact! 1200 Falun Gong practitioners executed by CCP — Fact! Five people self-immolating on Tiananmen — not Falungong believers–Fact! Li Hongzhi’s statement that homosexuality “is not natural” not a fact!
    Less smoke, more data. This is not a black and white world, and when people paint it that way they are trying to work you. Fact.

  • Julius Berman
  • Karen Nichols

    The paintings are personal stories of what happened to Falun Gong practitioners who were persecuted in China. The artwork being shown at Wesleyan are reproductions as the original artwork is only shown at the museum level. This work needs to be shown as the persecution is a reality happening in China today. A voice needs to be given to those who have been repressed. This persecution of innocent people must stop!

  • Anonymous

    Ms. Nichols,

    Associating the Wesleyan name with the FLG exhibition without consultation from the Freemen Center puts Wesleyan’s relationship with China at risk. China’s East professors, students from China and students looking to work or studying in China are now associated with a school which has taken a firm stance against the CCP. Any individual that has studied Chinese history will note that any political changes of great note come from within China(May 4th movement, Tiananmen Square in 1989, the over throw of the KMT by the CCP in 1949, 1979 Truth Criterion Controversy etc.), not from international bodies pressuring China. The presence of such an exhibition jeopardizes individuals interested in China from Wesleyan to have the ability to positively influence China with the west’s best insider weapon for reform and forcing the CCP to be more politically/socially/economically accountable, Western education. This exhibition puts this goal of making realistic steps to creating a government in China which is more accountable to it’s people at risk.

    An example of what could happen as a result of being associated with an anti-CCP movement:


    Yes, the CCP has committed many atrocities during it’s history and made many Chinese people suffer, but should the FLG movement help add to this list? I would hope the answer would be no. Putting up the exhibition without considering the cultural connotations and putting Wesleyan’s EAST community at risk seems at the very least insensitive and selfish. While I acknowledge the right of FLG to have their voices heard, I would hope that the FLG’s activism does not draw in people who did not chose to be associated with the movement.
    I do not condone what the CCP has done to torture FLG practitioners and many other things to make Chinese people suffer, however, activism must be expressed with responsibility and with consciousness for the context it is practiced in. With freedom to say what you want in this country comes responsibility. I would suggest that future exhibitions by the FLG be shown in a different, more public location in Middletown or New Haven/Hartford like a museum or showroom which could be advertised at Wesleyan. These urban spaces are far more accessible to the public than spaces at Wesleyan and would not automatically entangle Wesleyan into the ideological feud between the CCP and FLG.

  • Cheryl Casati

    I do practice Falun Gong, I also am retired from 20 years of active miitary duty for the United States. First and foremost this country, unlike communist countries, has free speech..which is why you can say what you did and Falun Gong can have their art exhibit without being arrested and tortured.

    In China, many people not just Falun Gong but free Christians, Muslims, human rights lawyers and activists, Chinese people who petition for their rights to their own government are arrested and literally disappear daily in droves. This is factual information. It is supported by any number of
    reports from many goverments documentaries and editorials.

    Organ harvesting by the communist government has been research throughly too, by David Kilgour a former Canadian MP and David Matas. a well known human rights lawyer. Look that up on the internet and read it if you are looking for facts.

    Let us realize that the Chinese people are not the problem, communism is. Historically, it is the most brutal form of governing…even Nazi Germany as horrible as it was only lasted a few years. Communism has been killing, torturing, and violating human rights for around 100 years give or take a few from the time of the Paris Commune. The locations change, the brutality doesn’t, read the history books, the first hand stories of people who have escaped communism anywhere in the world, you’ll find common threads of horror and fear.

    As far as a cult, definitions can be made to fit any model, Falun Gong has no enrollment, no dues, you either come or don’t. I would not be part of this cultivation practice that calms the heart and mind if it was a cult.

    You can research what the respose was too, globally, when Hitler came out in Germany. There was disbelief, apathy, and voices that were self serving denying it was happening for quite awhile before any action was taken.

    The question really is how little is understood about comminism here, it’s history of lies. To be perfectly honest in reading the “model” for cult behavior communism by it’s very structure fits that better then Falun Dafa. Those who do the meditation don’t kill those who have different opinions or religious beliefs. Please be careful not to confuse speaking out a horrible truth with propaganda. The communists are masters of propaganda, history supports this too. I have met many people who have been inprisoned, tortured and fortunately gotten away from China.. at great personal cost.

    Why would a display of an art exhibit be “entangling” your university? Art has spoken out for centuries in a clear and often lone voice for injustices? If you worry about the deferring statements between Falun Gong and the CCP you better do what the CCP did…clear your school library of any books other than the ones supporting what you want to read and no dissenting or other opinions allowed.

    Thank you Wesleyan for this forum, even this is another “luxury” you wouldn’t find in China.
    They try to censor with their Golden Shield to better control what their citizens listen too.

  • Anonymous


  • Friend of China

    I deeply appreciate the exhibit which told us the other side of China. I am fond of Chinese culture, but not that of communistic regime. We also need to draw a distinct line between China and the Communistic Party, which is a illegitimate based on Western standard. It is not a surprise to me at all that the communistic regime persecuted Falun Gong, taking account of the facts that it has been persecuting Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, and numerous other benign groups.

  • Correct the biased (comments from a Chinese)

    “Biased” exhibit ? I will agree that if USA and China are running the same political system at least.

    If we moved all these comments including this article into China, this web page would be immediately shut down. No true voice in China today = biased.

    I like facts. The art exhibit: Truth-Compassion-Tolerance, is telling the truth that is missing in China. USA is a great nation who can correct the biased.

    Last night, I watched President Obama’s news conference. He strongly stands for ANTI-TORTURE. This exhibit is ANTI-TORTURE, not anti-China, nor anti-Chinese (I am a Chinese). Wesleyan U. is a great school. I think Wesleyan should stand on the same side as this great nation. Great nation with great values (honesty, kind, considerate and tolerable). US-China relation should be based on these great values.

    Many Chinese have lost their conscience. I hope this event in Wesleyan can wake up more Chinese who have been brain-washed in China and those who are still trying to brain-wash the western world with the biased news from China.

  • Anonymous

    “Why would a display of an art exhibit be “entangling” your university? Art has spoken out for centuries in a clear and often lone voice for injustices? If you worry about the deferring statements between Falun Gong and the CCP you better do what the CCP did…clear your school library of any books other than the ones supporting what you want to read and no dissenting or other opinions allowed.”

    You completely misunderstand what I said, I am not asking everyone to defer to the CCP. I merely made some comments suggesting that the individuals organizing FLG exhibition act more responsibly and think more consciously of the space that they are exhibiting artwork in. I even made a practical suggestion for locations of future showings of the exhibition which may even grant better exposure to the movement and doesn’t censor the movement at all. I am not suggesting that the movement has no freedom to express where and what it wants to say, but I do ask that its practitioners respect the other people that also use and are associated with Wesleyan’s space. There are a fair number of students from China here at Wesleyan, and other students who are interested in studying in China, and the exhibition’s presence here jeopardizes these people’s who must interact with the CCP’s system of government. Activism on an international level has far reaching effects that extends far beyond those that affect members of the movement. See Grace Wang (link in my previous post), the polarization of the CCP vs the Free-Tibet movement resulted in violence against her and her family. Activism is not simple a method of expression which allows for a minority to speak up, it has the ability to kill and ruin lives if it is not channeled responsibly. It is irresponsible to draw these students into the FLG and CCP’s battle without also considering the consequences for them. I would hope the FLG’s aim is not to make more people suffer over the stupidity of the CCP’s decision to persecute FLG, accomplishing this goal requires historical and cultural sensitivity for the environment the FLG movement operates in. The FLG movement is politically sensitive, I would hope its Western practitioners would also understand this context of the movement and not simplistically reduce the exhibition into a crude channel for a minority group to voice it’s suffering.

    As a student who has a deep interest in East Asian history and culture, I would like to reiterate that I hope the FLG’s quest to raise awareness continues in a peaceful manner. However, peaceful methods also require taking responsibility as much as possible even for the unintended consequences of these methods. The FLG has an interesting history which also deserves to be heard beyond the polarizing forces of activism. I would hope that the FLG uses its voice in a more conscientious manner in the future. If the organizers of the exhibition want to bring back the exhibition in the future, it could at the very least consult the EAST faculty at the Freeman center.

  • What is the real story

    From what I can see, the reasons that some people against this exhibit are as the following:
    1. do not distinguish CCP from China or the Chinese people, therefore consider anything against CCP and its wrong doings are against China itself.
    (I wonder if someday CCP collapsed like what happened in Germany and Rusia, these people would still say something like that)
    2. fearing that the CCP (although they like to say China instead of CCP) would get upset and they would not be able to gain some benefit from it, i.e. traveling to China or having fun there or doing business there

    Excuse me, is there something wrong here? What about the basic principle the Americans are holding? When you see possible crime against humanity are happening, you are not willing to investigate and offer help if need, instead, you want blame the whistleblower for disturbing your peace?

    Regardless what Falun Gong is, the practitioners are the victim of the on-going persecution in China according to reports and witness testimonies all over the world. Of cause you may choose to close your eyes and still say that you have not seen these for “personal reasons”.

    It is a shame that there are still crime against humanity happening in this world. It is a shame that people do not care.

    Solute to Wesleyan who lets the exhibit to be held! However, Wesleyan is not the only one who “brave” enough to allow the exhibit. MIT, Washington University, University of Cambridge, just to name a few in northeast, all have done it. Should we be surprised? After all, this is America.

  • What is the real story

    Actually, there might be one more reason for “Anonymous student from East Asia Study” to get angry about this exhibit, that is, how dare the organizer or the university not to consult ” the EAST faculty at the Freeman center” before setting up the exhibit.

    I guess the unspoken words would be: “had we China experts known it, you might not be here.”

    In any case, I think that the best way to easy the anger of the “Anonymous”, is for the Falun Gong practitioners to appologize to the Freeman center for not consulting them first.

    Every place has a rule, and the rule in Wesleyan is, or at least in “Anonymous”‘s mind, asking the Freeman center’s permission 1st for anything related to China.

    For the record, the Freeman center has been hosting Chinese arts exhibit, i.e. the Tibetian art exhit, that manifactured or promoted by the Chinese government.

    Way to go, “Anonymous”

  • Julius Berman

    That’s funny because you are also posting under a pseudonym, Mr/s. “What is the real story”…

    And plus all this “Communist” finger-pointing is really old-school, it’s totally not cool, it’s like we are living in the 1950s. The fact is most ordinary Chinese people I’ve talked to would rather have the stability and control of the CCP because under it their standard of living and personal freedom has improved exponentially these last 30 years. Of course nobody wants some religious group to upset that stability and overthrow the leadership, no matter the problems CCP has brought to the country. China has come so far and it still has far to go–but the government is doing its best to provide a viable path for the ordinary citizens who desire to build their own futures and participate in society.

    Most people in the US have a narrow view of China. Yes, I could use your language and call them “brainwashed” but I just don’t buy into that. I believe that people everywhere have the freedom and capacity to think what they want, no matter the political ideology of the country you live in. The fact is they have not been exposed to the Chinese perspective and FLG is simply exploiting our naivete to their advantage.

    I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for commenting and helping to create a dialogue about this issue. We can learn a lot from one another if we listen tolerantly and understand that every coin has two sides–and both are valid ways of looking at things.

  • question

    where they came from

  • Anonymous
  • accusing community leaders of being Communists or Chinese agents? think again

    the only thing Falun Dafa people accusing for is the persecution and horrible death of thousands of practitioners since the year 1999! it appears you haven’t done any research about this issue, not even a superficial one…besides, your example of Tel Aviv University shows again you have no idea about the basic characters of a democratic society, one that can shout its message as load as it can if needed.This uni has ignored that basic right due to a chinese pressure of course and so the relevant students had all the right to demand it back.
    as a goodbye gift I’d like to link u here: http://organharvestinvestigation.net/ with a real hope you will be able to assimilate and appreciate the great work these two people have done for the sake of human rights.
    p.s- Falun Gong is not a cult nor anything alike. its a cultivation way without any elements of religious ritual or money involved what so ever. if you want you can practice, if not you can just leave and chose a different path, its all a matter of will.

  • Nigel Birdman

    I just want to question why the original poster is so pro china? I understand there may be individuals in china who are happy with how China is operating, but I’m sure there are a lot more who are unhappy. Communism doesnt work. Don’t bring up facts about the 1950’s until you have lived in a communist country at its mid and low levels of society how can you talk. Also how can you as a person in college i assume truly believe the words of a citizen who lives in a country that has a government thats not allowed to be spoken against. Lastly and most importantly if it has been proven that the chinese govt is torturing and murdering people how can you defend it? Its one thing for a govt to kill ppl secretly (WRONG) but we all know it occurs. But this isnt a secret, its knowsn to all. And you come and make a post about you wanting the other side of the story. What other side? If there was a legitamate other side, dont you think china would have been the first to tell it? If the sect was forcing its members to commit suicide…is that a reason to torture and kill? Short of a terrorist orgnaization there is no reason. And to be honest…if they were terrorist thats no reason either.