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An Organizational Analysis of the Falun Gong: Structure, Communications, Financing

Abstract

Drawing on both regime and falun gong sources, this article analyses two conflicting depictions of falun gong's organizational structure, communications system and financing base. It first presents the regime's view that falun gong was a well organized movement, with a clear hierarchical structure, a centralized administrative system, functional specialization of organizational tasks, a well-developed communications and mobilization system, and a fulsome financial base built on undue profits derived from charging excessive admissions to qigong seminars and selling falun gong publications and icons at substantial mark-ups. In stark contrast, falun gong claimed that it had no organizational structure, no membership rosters, no local offices, telephones or financial accounts; and that its adherents were prohibited from receiving remuneration for teaching falun gong, that it charged the lowest training seminars admission and cheapest prices for publications and material. The article attributes the differences to adversarial polemics, the regime's fervour to criminalize, and the falun gong's eagerness to deny those charges. Some of the discrepancies can also be explained by the status of the falun gong as an evolving and clandestine social organization with changing features and practices, survival structures and camouflage mechanisms. Both regime and falun gong could thus stake their respective claims on different manifestations of the falun gong on arguable but ambivalent evidence.

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I am indebted to Richard Siao for his invaluable research assistance in data collection, and to a falun gong practitioner for sharing his knowledge of falun gong institutional history.
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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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