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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Vietnam: Falun Gong finds new followers. "Evil cult" in China often "Sect" elsewhere

Falun Gong finds followers in Vietnam

By Nga Pham
BBC News, Hanoi

Many are attracted by health benefits the spiritual discipline promises
Labelled an "evil cult" and banned in China, the Falun Gong spiritual movement has found a new breeding ground in neighbouring Vietnam, with a fast-growing number of followers.
The exact figure is unknown, although some estimate it to be in the thousands. This is despite the fact that Falun Gong is not officially allowed by the Vietnamese authorities.
The regime clearly does not want Falun Gong to be another potential point of conflict in the already tangled bilateral relationship with China.
But organising meetings is becoming easier, and group meditation can now be seen in public locations.
In Thong Nhat Park in central Hanoi, a dozen men and women are united in a group breathing exercise, their arms tracing arcs through the early morning mist.
They look serene and undisturbed, but it has not always been the case.
Chinese propaganda against Falun Gong has made an impact, and Vietnamese official media still describes it as an illegal, reactionary religious sect.
"When I first started, it was extremely difficult to be a Falun Gong practitioner," recalls Tran Hieu, a 32-year-old architect.

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