(CNS) - China's suppression of the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement its supporters insist does not threaten the authority of the Communists, is a more convincing demonstration of the Communists' brutality than the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, which sought to unseat the Communists during the late 1980s, observers told CNSNews.com.
Tens of thousands of people have been detained by the Communists in recent days for their association with Falun Gong. Across China, Communist authorities are setting up indoctrination centers in universities, colleges and industrial plants where, under pain of losing their jobs or retirement benefits, suspected followers of Falun Gong are forced to disassociate themselves publicly from a movement whose membership is estimated to be in the tens of millions, observers report.
"Unfortunately, Falun Gong doesn't have a political agenda. Instead, it requires its members to tolerate and support the government," said Ning Ye, chairman of the Free China Foundation, an organization that represents 30 dissident groups inside and outside China, in an interview with CNSNews.com.
Falun Gong members practice a popular meditation exercise whose roots lie in Bhuddist and Taoist spiritual traditions. Its proclaimed goal is improving its followers' physical and moral health, and above all, advocates leading ethical lives. Since its registration in China in 1992, the movement has recorded phenomenal growth among all classes in the country, including among Communist Party members.
Despite its cooperative stance, Communist police arrested 100 key Falun Gong leaders nationwide and confiscated or destroyed Falun Gong literature that was legally published before the crackdown.
Authorities have called the movement the greatest threat to state security since the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrators of 1989. The Communists have said Falun Gong was "evil" and accused its leader, the New York-based Li Hongzhi, of spreading subversive ideas to deceive the public.
This strong reaction comes as no surprise to many critics of the Communist regime.
"Chinese people from all walks of life see that their officials are completely corrupted. The Communists represent the worst possible role models in the entire society. They cannot tolerate another organized force that is setting up a good example. If there are good role models standing in front of them, people would immediately make a comparison, and the Communists cannot tolerate that," said Ning Ye, who is also a commentator with Radio Free Asia.
The stability of a totalitarian regime is based not only on its reliance on an omnipotent police force, it must also stifle any conscience among its citizens, Ning Ye said.
"If you have somebody telling the public what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong, it will mean the end of the Communists," Ning Ye said.
"The Chinese people don't have any spiritual support. There's an enormous spiritual vacuum in the country, that's why Falun Gong has grown so quickly in just seven years," he said.
Higher incomes in China, generated in large part by trade with Western countries, has created a new middle class that feels no allegiance to the Communists.
"People who grew up with the Communist Party regarded it as god. That pseudo-worship is collapsing now and being replaced by a complete void, a vacuum that must be filled by something else. People are hungry for spiritual guiding principles," Ning Ye said.
Two forces that are developing very quickly in China - the growth of Christian house churches and Falun Gong - are creating major challenges for the Chinese Communists and they are prepared to use the most extreme means at their disposal to suppress them, including imprisonment and execution, Ning Ye said.
"The Communists rely on their ability to suppress the public by force. They also rely on the support they get from the entire free world," which comes in the form of cash, hard currency and much needed technology, Ning Ye said.