Volume 17 • Issue 7 / July 9 - 15, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Corky Lee

Falun Gong allowed in Chinatown parade

By David H. Ellis

Anticipating another year of exclusion from the Independence Day parade in Chinatown, members of the spiritual group Falun Gong received a last minute reprieve to march in the festivities on Saturday.

Learning of their fate during the actual ceremony, about 150 members of the group Falun Gong delivered a performance that included two traditional Chinese dragons and 100 members donning bright yellow outfits, playing Chinese waist drums.

“The reaction from the public was great and everyone was cheering and smiling,” said Scott Chinn, an organizer for local Falun Gong practitioners. “It was a very good parade and we were happy with the way it turned out.”

The participation of Falun Gong in the Chinatown parade has been contested in recent years because of fears that the group is a cult, which practitioners attribute to propaganda from mainland China. Falun Gong, an offshoot of [ital] qigong [unital], is a Chinese form of meditation that was created in 1999 and claims millions of followers worldwide.

Even though Chinn was told by parade organizer Steven Wong that other parade participants voted against their entry into the festivities, only a nod from Wong and a confirmation with the community affairs officer from the Fifth Police Precinct alerted the group that they should prepare to march in the July 3 parade.

“He never officially accepted us or denied us, but he did let us in,” said Chinn, regarding the stalled decision over Falun Gong’s participation. “Overall, I wish it could have been straightforward and that we could have been accepted officially.”

Carsten Bornemann, a practitioner of Falun Gong who organizes meditation sessions in Sara D. Roosevelt Park, said that he was greeted favorably by the parade spectators.

“The people were pretty welcoming,” he said. “A few clapped and were happy to see us — it was very nice.”
Chinn said his group plans to build on the parade decision to win even more respect from the Chinatown community.

“We think this will pave the way for the future,” he said, hopeful that this success will help his group enter the Chinese New Year’s parade, and make participating in the next Independence Day parade that much smoother. “Hopefully next year we won’t have to go through all the complicated issues.”

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