The teachings of the Falun Gong movement are investigated on FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT


They’re a familiar sight in suburban parks around the world – people from seemingly all walks of life exercising and meditating according to the teachings of Falun Gong.

“There’s a teaching that’s gone around among Falun Gong practitioners that Trump is an angel that was sent from heaven to destroy the Communist Party”

Founded in China in the 1990s, the group’s practice aims to heal body and mind and has attracted millions of followers.

The movement first gained global attention when its members became the target of ruthless persecution by the Chinese Communist Party, triggering widespread sympathy and support in the West.

The Falun Gong’s creed is Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance, but former practitioners now speaking out are accusing it of practising dangerous and divisive teachings.

This joint ABC Foreign Correspondent-Background Briefing investigation shines a spotlight on this global movement, revealing how Falun Gong has morphed from a fringe quasi-religious group into a powerful player in America’s conservative media landscape, working to ensure another term for Trump so he can continue his war of words with China.

Background Briefing’s podcast series also investigates the movement’s Australian operations, uncovering powerful political collaborators closer to home.

From Australia, to Taiwan, to Los Angeles and the movement’s “Dragon Springs” headquarters in upstate New York, Foreign Correspondent’s Eric Campbell and Background Briefing’s Hagar Cohen explore the opaque world of the Falun Gong and its mysterious leader Master Li Hongzhi.

This investigation reveals how the group has harnessed social media, spending millions through made-up groups and fake identities to promote Donald Trump and his anti-Beijing policies.

“This is a matter of cosmic importance to them that Trump gets re-elected”, says one member of nearly ten years, who has now left the Falun Gong.

Another former insider says the movement promotes intolerant teachings which are racist and homophobic.

“I’m mixed race. I am quite possibly just homosexual. And those are the two kinds of people that are purportedly causing the end of the world” says ex-devotee Anna, now in her 20s and living on the US west coast. 

As a child, “Anna” was taken by her mother to Falun Gong’s US headquarters, ‘Dragon Springs’, a sprawling but secretive 160-hectare compound in New York State.

It was, she says, a world of strange beliefs and intolerance.

“The leader of Falun Gong claims that race-mixing in humans is part of an alien plot to drive humanity further from the gods.”

Background Briefing follows Sydney resident Shani May as she tries to find out the truth about her mother’s relationship with the Falun Gong.  

Following the death of her famous jazz singer father Ricky May, her mother Colleen sought solace with the group. Soon Colleen stopped taking her blood pressure tablets, putting her faith in Falun Gong to cure her. Three years ago, Colleen died, aged 75.

“If it wasn’t for Falun Gong, she’d still be with us”, declares Shani.

Former followers allege there’s a cult-like abhorrence of modern medicine that’s claimed lives.

“In Falun Gong the teachings are, you don’t acknowledge illnesses”, says one ex-devotee.

According to Shani May, whose mother Colleen became so deeply involved with her beliefs that she lost touch with family and friends, “They’re manipulating and they do it slowly…And as time goes on, you get further and further down the rabbit hole and they don’t let you come back out.”

Listen to DARK KARMA – Reporter Hagar Cohen – 3 podcast episodes on Background Briefing on the ABC listen app (Tuesday 21 / Friday 24 July and Tuesday 2 August) and live on ABC RN (Sunday 26 July / Sunday 2 and Sunday 9 at 8:30am).

DARK KARMA – Reporter Eric Campbell – on Foreign Correspondent ABC TV 8pm Tuesday 21 July.



  1. Very disappointing to see the ABC follow the CCP narrative on Falun Gong. Our practice has already had it so tough with all the propaganda circulating in China, and many practitioners have come to Australia to escape this and finally experience freedom. In 1999, the CCP started a crackdown on Falun Gong because of its popularity and independent, spiritual ideology- something China has always tried to suppress. I’ve tried to clarify all the inaccuracies in your writing below:

    First, your claim that our teachings view Trump as an angel. Like any spiritual group, someone’s political opinion is a personal thing. We are apolitical, and if the Chinese Government wasn’t actively defaming, persecuting and harvesting the organs of Falun Gong practitioners, we wouldn’t be putting such an effort to raise awareness. I hope you can understand that we don’t want political power, we want human rights.
    Also, the millions spent to promote Pro-Trump materials was done by the “”, a media company run by an ex CEO of the Viet Epoch Times. It’s clearly a stretch to try and link our practice to the bad actions of one person, and I condone his sketchy behaviour.

    As you know, our tenants are truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. To say that we don’t tolerate people from the gay community is inaccurate. Thus, it is fair to call our teachings anti-lust, not anti-gay. We take on the views similar to traditional Catholics an Christians that man and women should form a couple, but going out to berate or criticise others for their personal preference would go against our principle of ‘compassion’. Your quote that these people would “ purportedly (cause) the end of the world is not found in our texts and untrue.

    Likewise, race-mixing is very common in our community (I am Eurasian myself) and your sentence “race-mixing in humans is part of an alien plot to drive humanity further from the gods” comes off as very absurd; I’d love to know how Anna came to this conclusion.
    I must also mention that this is so far from what our teachings actually focus on. Please take a look at our main text ( you’ll find that the book ultimately leads to us trying to be better people through improving our character, which is so far from what is being portrayed here.

    Falun Gong has never permitted the use of medicine or hospital treatment. We do find that our practice and qigong exercises can be highly beneficial to our health and immune system. In line with traditional Chinese medicine, our teachings also mention the connection between the body and mind, and how an illness manifests in the body. However, this can’t be twisted to us cutting ties with medicine completely. I haven’t been ill or needed to go to the doctor for several years, but that doesn’t mean practitioners won’t jump to a doctor if they do fall ill. I feel sorry for Colleen’s case, but considering she has been practicing Falun Gong for well over 20 years and only decided to stop her tablets for 5 months, I hope you can realise this was her personal choice.

    I’ve realised that active members of our community have spent so much effort trying to stop the persecution that they haven’t taken the effort to stop the spread of the CCP’s rumours. I really hope you can cancel this program so I don’t have to face discrimination for my practice every day. I am currently a member of the Sydney Uni Falun Dafa club which is a lovely group where we have tea and meditate, and I’m worried that this program will drive people away from such a peaceful, beneficial community.

  2. Apologies, I wrote this in a hurry and meant Falun Gong has BANNED the use of medicine or hospital treatment.

  3. Sorry, I was too upset about this issue, and mistyped again. I meant to say that Falun Gong has NEVER BANNED the use of medicine or hospital treatment.

  4. Please stop this program that is based on hearsay. Why don’t you come to our community to interview us rather than picking individual twisted stories?
    Do you know how many innocent people are going to be harmed by this program, and how many Australians will be misinformed?
    There is no such rule of not taking medication in FLG teaching. My mother was a FLG practitioner, she did take medicine when she was not well, and later she passed away. There will always be people passing away, taking or not taking medicine. The Falun Gong community just have a very low death rate compared with other communities according to a survey in China before the persecution.
    In my understanding, Falun Gong teaching only talked about the relationship between karma and illnesses. The root cause of illness is karma that people committed from wrong doings in the past. Therefore the fundamental way to treat illnesses is to eliminate karma, and through improving your moral character by practising compassion and forbearance, being a truthful person, can we reduce karma and build up virtue. The whole teaching of Falun Gong therefore is about virtue, to learn how to be a good person.
    There is never a rule to ban people going to hospital. Here is a quote from the core text of Falun Gong – “Zhuan Falun”: “Can hospitals heal illnesses? Of course they can. If hospitals could not heal illnesses, why would people believe in them and go there for treatments? Hospitals are still able to heal illnesses, but their means of treatment belong to the level of everyday people while illnesses are supernatural. “

  5. I hope you guys realise, the entire ‘cult’ label was adopted by the Chinese Communist Party to legitimise it’s persecution on Falun Gong with the anti-cult movement that was happening in the West.

    Insane measures were taken to stage events and the govt had constant media coverage on Falun Gong to paint them as crazy cult members to the public. This is why you only hear of bad cases happening in China even though Falun Gong practitioners are all over the world.

    As someone coming from previous spiritual searching, I find Falun Gong even less controlling than orthodox religions as everything is free of charge, there is no hierarchy, or church attendance, or worship system required.

  6. One simple question I want to ask the reporters mentioned above – Hagar Cohen and Eric Campbell, you said you investigated Falun Gong. However, all the teachings you mentioned in your report don’t exist in the text of Falun Gong at all. In fact, all teachings of Falun Dafa can be found here online: Have you ever read the major text Zhuan Falun at all? As a Australian government supported media, why are you cooperating with the Chinese Communist Party to put such kind of misleading information to harm innocent Australians?

  7. My name is Zhansheng liu, I live in Auburn NSW now.
    Before I left China,I had been a quality control director in an American multinational company.
    Since July 1999, I had been under the criminal detention, sentenced to 2 years in forced labor camp and 3.5 years of imprisonment and taken twice to the brainwashing centers.

    I had been subject to the tortures as follows:

    1: 3- day exposure to high temperature in summer: this directly caused the enormous swelling of my head with the burnt face oozing pus. Even the prison doctor questioned how I could get burnt this badly. The doctor assumed I was burnt.

    2.Sleep deprivation for 20 days in winter: whenever I fell asleep, the guards would pinch my fingers with iron clips and filled my neck with cold water in winter.

    3. Tortured by Electric batons: four policemen once used four or five electric batons to simultaneously electric shock my sensitive parts.

    4. Soaked in water bucket: five prisoners once turned my body upside down and put my head in the water bucket.

    5. Long deprived from food without oil: this directly caused severe constipation.

    6. Forced to lie on bed 24 hours a day for Over one month

    7. Forced tube feeding

    During the imprisonment, I had been taken to a thorough physical examination including blood test and Chest X-ray. The prisoner joked “We are all treasures.” Of course, this is not what the prison really care about my health.

    In 2011, when my wife was pregnant for a month, I was kidnapped into the brainwashing center. My wife had a miscarriage under tremendous mental stress.

    I was lucky to survive the tortures and came to Australia in early 2016 and I am very grateful for the help and support from the Australian government.

    Till this day in China, many Falun Gong practitioners are being tortured, many are made disappear, and many families are under tremendous mental stress. I stand up here today, calling on the Australian government to help stop the persecution of Falun Gong and stop organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners. Thank you

    I hope you get the true information before you do the program, I hope you don’t help the China communist part. Zhansheng Liu

  8. In 2014 or 2015, when I worked in Peerless (China) Manufacturing Co., Ltd ( now is CECO Peerless (China) Environmental Co., Ltd). I also went the hospital once myself. if you want , I can give you more information.

  9. I attended Colleen May’s funeral and I am so sad to see Colleen’s death being used against the one thing she was so passionate about (Falun Gong).

    Colleen passed away at age 75. And I can tell you she was fresh, sharp and vibrant and could have easily passed for a woman in her 60’s.

    I understand Shani felt that her mother spent less time with the family after starting to practice Falun Gong, and I am sorry that Shani feels this way and I’m sure that her Mum wouldn’t want her to feel this way either. xx

    The thing about Falun Gong, is everything you do is because you want to do it. It is very much a self motivated practice, and you do as much or little as you choose.

    I am a 29 year old Aussie woman who comes from a family who have farmed this country since the days of the early settlers. I am the only one in my family who practices Falun Gong, and my family think highly of Falun Gong after seeing me transform my life after starting the practice over 10 years ago now.

    My family say I am much more tolerant than I use to be, I have more time for them, and I am a lot happier and calmer.

    For myself, the meditation helped me to recover from my chronic anxiety, and the teachings gave me another way of viewing the world that differed from the atheist views I was raised with.

    There are a lot of inaccuracies in this ABC program that I have seen so far, especially the parts about intolerance towards race and sexual orientation.

    Two of the three tenant’s of Falun Gongs teaching are Compassion & Forbearance, which do not allow room for intolerance of anykind.

    In regards to the remarks about Trump, they are just silly! Falun Gong is non-political and practitioner’s have their own political views. I know practitioner’s who support him, and I know practitioner’s who are against him, and I also know practitioner’s who aren’t interested in the topic!

    I host free community Falun Gong groups in which we meditate, read and drink tea.

    Like others have mentioned, I am not looking forward to being discriminated against due to this defaming program.

    It is interesting that the ABC never wanted to mention ‘Falun Gong’ even when reporting on illegal organ harvesting of which the Falun Gong are victims to. But now, they seem quite happy to mention Falun Gong, but in a defaming, misleading report that looks like they have put a lot of work into!

    Pretty upset that this is what the ABC has become!

    If my grandmother were alive today she would be ashamed of what the ABC is doing!

  10. Thank you ABC for dedicating to produce this program and for letting a different voice than the ones we see in the comments here speak.

    I was almost born into Falun Gong. I too like “Anna” here was asked to do labor for Falun Gong’s headquarters in New York when I was a teen. It costed me the relationship with my parents as well as the Falun Gong community where I live, when i chose to leave my life in New York behind. I later lost my mother due to untreated diseases like Shani did. She was in her 50s. Then in the following years two practitioners whom were close friends of my family also passed away from untreated cancer. So I can testify that the stories you shared here are not uncommon.

    The truth is the choice to leave Falun Gong is never as easy as just turning off a switch. We were told by Li that even researching and reading negative information about Falun Gong on Google will make invisible bad substance pile up on us in other dimension. Having a lot of bad substance or leaving the faith when in fact we had a contract signed with the leader Li Hongzhi to help him spread Falun Gomg, would lead us to miserable punishment. Years in Falun Gong often keep people busy, isolating us from family and friends who do not share the belief. Falun gong keeps their people working from early morning until late at night both in their media and dance compounds in New York. Fear and isolation, as well as a lack of information on the negative side of the practice keep people in this prison of belief, and i am so glad to see that how victims are speaking out.

    In fact if this happened years ago I would also, without a thought, relentlessly defend Falun Gong like some of the people commenting here. That was part of a requirement of the belief too – that we were required to speak up when anything negative about Falun Gong comes to light. Li Hongzhi said that not defending Falun gong while benefiting from it is a sin that would add friction to the path to heaven to rejoice with the Falun gong leader after the big cleansing happens.

    I hope this report helps shed light on the negative affects of the belief and the tragedies in it. Thank you to those who have been so brave to speak up. Your voice will help those who want find their freedom.

  11. You can’t judge a belief from a former practitioner’s view, just like you can’t judge Jesus from an atheist’s point of view. Dragon Springs has thousands of world class dancers and musicians, who bring one of most popular cultural show – Shen Yun Performing Arts to the whole world. They are all Falun Gong practitioners, every year millions around the world enjoy and benefit from their performance. And anyone can check out from Shen Yun’s official site:

  12. ABC bowing to China and repeating pure CCP propaganda, how much were you paid to write this? Or better yet, what were you promised? There is zero balance reporting it in this. Why not talk to both sides? The mainstream media is on its way out. Your audience is very small. One simple hashtag on Twitter made twitter collapse.

  13. ABC, You are helping the Chinese Communist Party persecute this peaceful group of people that don’t have a voice in China! You are bringing this hate crime to Australia. You should be ashamed!

  14. ABC, whenever I see Falun Gong people, they are peaceful. The atrocities done to them is horrendous. Instead of making their voice heard and helping stop the organ harvesting done to this innocent group, you are driving Communist China’s narrative. I am disappointed at your journalist standards. I would have to do some digging and see what kinds of dealings ABC have with CCP.

  15. Readers of this article should take it with a serious grain of salt. Hyperbole and sources without referencing alternative points of view or Falun Gong practitioners themselves reeks simply of a hit piece meant to kowtow to the Chinese Communist Party.

    The CCP fears Falun Dafa the most since the genocide against our practice is the most severe in human history. We are also the ones who authored the Nine Commentaries on the Chinese Communist Party, which has led more than 350 million Chinese citizens to withdraw from the Party. We are also the ones who founded and form Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world’s premiere performing arts event.

    Media outlets and their specific reporters run these pieces in order to curry favour with their local Chinese Consulates and Embassies. They are not authentic pieces of journalism.

    Zhuan Falun, as with all other teachings by Li Hongzhi, is free to download and read off the Falun Dafa website. It is available in dozens of languages. If you spend the few hours it takes to read it yourself, you’ll see our practice does not promote hate or intolerance, but is simply a traditional Chinese energy practice that emphasizes improving character based on traditional moral values.

    Li Hongzhi has never once said anything about supporting Trump, and our practice also does not get involved in politics, for we aspire to a spiritual path. Not a worldly path.

  16. Why you doing this ABC? There are millions of millions people does not have voice and need media to discover and be there voices. However, You choice to do the easy job to help Chinese Communites party to spread hatred.

  17. -There were 100 million Chinese people who practiced Falun gong before CCP presecuted, would those people be easy to be cheated?

    -Back many years ago, CCP used the same dirt way ABC currently are using.

    It’s such a shame ABC are under CCP influence..

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