Southwest View (Las Vegas, United States): Mind Exercise - Falun Dafa participants practice at Desert Breeze park

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Imagine being arrested for meditating, learning principles to help you live a good life and exercising. In modern-day China, this is a reality for practitioners of Falun Dafa.

Las Vegas resident Tian Bo lived in China before moving to the United States. He lived an average, quiet lifestyle, worked at a hotel and read books. He was voted "Best Employee" at work one year. He also meditated and exercised his right to believe in the philosophy of Falun Dafa - until he was arrested by Chinese police.

Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, is a mind and body practice from China that was introduced publicly in 1992. Participants study principles, practice meditation and exercise, and all classes are free and taught by volunteers.

In Las Vegas, Falun Dafa followers meet and practise at Desert Breeze Park, located at 8275 Spring Mountain Road, seven days a week. Practise starts on Monday through Saturday at 7:55 a.m., and meets between the children's playground and the public restrooms. Sunday sessions start at 8:55 a.m. and are held in front of the municipal pool building. The classes are two hours long each and include movement exercises, reading and meditation. All meetings are open to the public and free.

In 1999, it was declared an act of war against the Chinese Communist Party to practise Falun Dafa anywhere in China. Practitioners were asked to sign forms renouncing their beliefs, and if they didn't, were jailed.

"For talking to a newspaper, I would be arrested," Tian said.

Since 1999, the 44-year-old has been arrested three times in his home country.

"In one night we are totally different," Tian continued. "The government treated us like animals."

Tian explained that after the law was proclaimed, police officers required all those who frequented the Falun Dafa meetings to register their identification with the police. It was the only group asked to register to practise in China's public parks, according to Tian.

According to Sandy St. John, a local Falun Dafa follower, the Chinese Communist Party wanted to place some of its members within the governing body of Falun Dafa. Because the [practice] has no hierarchy, the communist party could not do so.

"When they couldn't control it, they saw it as a threat," she said.

According to St. John, the goal of Falun Dafa is to bring the conscious mind into enlightenment, and practitioners work to be able to control their thoughts and minds.

"(The Chinese Communist Party) thinks they can't control people's minds who practise Falun Dafa. That's why they are so scared," said Las Vegas practitioner Magala Moa.

During Tian's third imprisonment in China, he heard the screams of people being tortured, and said that for 24 hours, he was not able to move. "When people are really being tortured, it sounds like a cow screaming. It's not like a movie. When people are really being tortured, it sounds different," he said.

Tian recalled one man, about 50 or 60 years old, who was taken outside during winter. He was ordered to take off his shoes and socks and squat outside in the snow from midnight to the next morning. When Tian saw him next, he could barely open his eyes and looked like he was frozen through.

"Billions of dollars are generated by trade with China, so the CCP can get away with anything - it's still happening in China," St. John said.

In mainland China, television, radio and the news are all controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, and, according to Tian, "there are a lot of secret police." Because of that, he said, people are afraid to speak their minds because they don't want their families to be threatened.

"The party is above the law," Magala said. "People in the Western world don't know what's going on. We do have a right to believe. Please call your local government to help."

Magala also said she hopes that people will check out Falun Dafa's Web site and sign the group's petition online.

"Help Chinese people have freedom like us. Stand up and say, 'I don't want to buy that,' " she said of Chinese goods. "It's the consumer that changes everything."

Falun Dafa practitioners host "peaceful appeals" at the Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown Plaza every year, and practitioners all over the country stage them in public places where many people will see their cause. They also pass out graphic information documenting practitioners' deaths as a result of torture inflicted by the Chinese Communist Party.

"People just don't know how bad it is," Magala said. "They are taking organs from people while they are still alive."

"If someone needs an organ transplant, they'll condemn the person to death and sell their organs," St. John said.

More information about the philosophy or the situation in China can be found by visiting

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