Pulitzer Prize winner to talk about covering Falun Gong

Wednesday, March 30, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:26 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ian Johnson, a 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner, will talk about his experiences reporting on the Falun Gong movement in China at 4 p.m. today in Jesse Wrench Auditorium in Memorial Union.

Falun Gong, which means “the Practice of the Wheel of the Dharma,” emphasizes truth, compassion and tolerance. The movement does not consider itself a “religion,” but rather a discipline of practice. Its members engage in Ch’i gong, which involves stretching, meditation and slow movement. Fearing the group was gaining too much influence, China’s communist government declared Falun Gong illegal and released propaganda labeling it an “evil cult” in 1999. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, police abuse and torture have led to 1,583 deaths.

Johnson, the Berlin bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, covered a series of violent acts of persecution while in China for the Journal.

Sara Effner, a member of the MU Falun Gong club, witnessed the persecution while visiting China in 1999. “The Falun Gong practitioners don’t have any political agenda,” Effner said. “They just want to have the human rights to practice their beliefs and the exercise to improve their health.”

Philip Clart, professor of religious studies and organizer of the event, said he hopes Johnson will explain “the massive changes that China is undergoing right now and the impact of that on the religious life of China.”

The lecture, part of the Paine Lectures in Religion series, is sponsored by the MU Department of Religious Studies, the School of Journalism, the Asian Affairs Center, and the Center for Religion, the Professions and the Public.

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