Suggesting meditation to help dealing with COVID-19 is regarded as “use of a xie jiao” and punished with heavy prison terms.
by Yang Feng
Many religious movements try to offer help in the global pandemic crisis. Not surprisingly, in addition to providing free masks or disinfectants, they also offer spiritual advice on how to deal with the loneliness and anguish many experience. Some religious groups are health-oriented, and believe that traditional medicine or meditation may help boost the immune system, and also improve the morale and reduce the fear of death, which in turn has both psychological and physical negative consequences. These practices are not intended to replace medical care, but religious practitioners believe they may help.
During the COVID-19 epidemic, Falun Gong proposes a from of meditation accompanied by the recitation of the “nine true words,” i.e., the words corresponding to the nine Chinese characters: “Fa-Lun Da-Fa Hao” and “Zhen-Shan-Ren Hao” (法輪大法好, 真善忍好). Their meaning respectively is “Falun Dafa is great” and “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance are good,” but as it happens in other religious practices, repeating the same words within a meditative context is regarded as more important than their meaning. Falun Gong practitioners report they derive great benefits from this practice, and the meditation even helped some who had tested positive to COVID-19. Others may remain skeptical. However, promoting the recitation of the “nine true words” and meditation would not be regarded as a crime in any democratic country. On the contrary, everything that can improve the population’s morale during the COVID-19 crisis should be assessed positively.
This is not the case in China. Bitter Winter has learned that the State Security structure that succeeded the anti-xie-jiao Office 610 is extremely concerned with the widespread success of the “nine true words” meditation throughout the country, and has set up a special task force to deal with it. It is also a good example of the extensive use of Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, punishing those who “use a xie jiao,” i.e., a banned religious group, “to undermine the enforcement of law.” Practicing and teaching the “nine true words” meditation has been declared a case of “use of a xie jiao to undermine the enforcement of law.” Courts are issuing the first decisions based on this principle.
On February 23, 2021, the People’s Court of Duji District, in the prefecture-level city of Huaibei, in northern Anhui Province, sentenced Falun Gong practitioners Bo Fanglu and Mao Yutian, who had been accusing of promoting the “nine true words” meditation to those concerned with COVID-19. Bo was sentenced to four years in prison and a fine of RMB 10,000 and Mao, who was “persuaded” to cooperate with the police after arrest and testified against Bo, escaped with a suspended sentence of one year in prison and a fine of RMB 2,000.
Actually, the investigation had started with Mao, in whose home the Huaibei Public Security Bureau found 266 leaflets about the “nine true words” meditation. Mao cracked under the police interrogatory, and denounced Bo as the person who had provided the leaflets.
Bo was not unknown to the police, having been already identified as a Falun Gong practitioner and sentenced in 2009 to a jail term of two years. The police raided Bo’s two apartments, and found another 209 copies of the “nine true words” brochure. As a recidivist, Bo got a heavier penalty. The Huaibei decision confirms once again that Article 300 is not used to punish “crimes,” as the CCP often claims, but the most basic activities through which men and women live their own spiritual paths, and try to help others. Even promoting meditation is regarded as “using a xie jiao to undermine the enforcement of the law.”