The Falun Gong religion also known as Falun Dafa was founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi and is influenced by both Tao and Buddhist beliefs.
Its teachings cover spiritual, religious, mystical and metaphysical topics. There is an introductory book that discusses qigong, which introduces the principles and provides illustrations and explanations of the exercises involved in the practice.
There are approximately 100 million adherents worldwide with 70 million practioners in China.
It differs from competing groups through its absence of daily rituals of worship, its self-consciousness about outside critics, its greater emphasis on morality and the apparently theological nature of its teachings.
There is on-going debate about the church classification as a religion, or new religious movement and "cult", a term used by the Chinese government to describe the movement.
Since 1999, practitioners in China have been reportedly subject to torture, illegal imprisonment, beatings, forced labour, psychiatric abuses and reported organ harvesting.
The faith has responded with their own media campaign, and have emerged as a notable voice of dissent against the Communist Party of China, by founding organizations such as the Epoch Times, NTDTV and the Shen Yun Performing Arts to publicize their cause.
On 4 January 1995, Zhuan Falun, the main book on was published and became a best-seller in China. In the face of the faith's rise in popularity, a large part of which was attributed to its low cost, competing qigong masters accused Li of unfair business practices. According to Schechter, the qigong society under which Li and other qigong masters belonged asked Li to hike his tuition, but Li refused.
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