Monday, January 5, 2009

A 'Cult' at Costco

On a milk run to my local Costco this morning, I was startled to find a woman in a long orange traditional Chinese gown standing just inside the entrance. I was even more surprised to find that her presence was connected to Falun Gong, a religious sect which the Chinese government has branded as an "evil cult."

The woman and several compatriots in business suits were promoting "Divine Performing Arts: The Spectacular 2009," a show which will be staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington in February and is timed to coincide with Chinese New Year. Similar performances at Radio City Music Hall last year led some attendees to tell the New York Times they were shocked to find pro-Falun Gong propaganda in the show. Some walked out, complaining they were deceived.

The Times said promotional material for the 2008 show made no mention of the sect. A brochure being handed out at the Costco in Arlington, Va. discloses the connection in passing. "Divine Performing indpendent of China's regime and proud to include artists that practice Falun Gong meditation," the flyer says. Fine print on the back says the Washington run is "presented by NTVDC," a television news outlet affiliated with the sect, and by the local Falun Dafa Association. The show's Web site says "Audiences may....glimpse the courage of Falun Gong practitioners in China today."

A newspaper linked to the sect, Epoch Times, recently boasted about the success of the Costco connection. Nearly half the audience for a show in Chicago was drawn in through the warehouse store, the paper said. Epoch Times also said the in-store promotional tabling was approved at Costco headquarters in Washington state and that chain executives specifically insisted on the costumed "empress" who greeted me this morning.

The sect's connection at Costco goes beyond the practice at some stores of letting the Salvation Army, a Christian group, fundraise at the doors. Tickets to the Falun Gong-backed shows are actually purchased at the Costco register.

There are cult-like aspects to the Falun Dafa/Falun Gong group, though many members insist they practice it mostly for the calm and focus achieved through meditation and breathing exercises. I am also minfdul that the dividing line between a cult and a mainstream religion is fuzzy and, in the view of some, nonexistent. On the other side of the ledger, the Chinese government's response to the group has been heavy-handed and sharply criticized by international human rights groups.

I'm not really looking to take one side or the other in the longrunning battle between the Chinese Government and Falun Gong, or to assert an equivalence between the two. I'm just surprised that a major American corporation would want to wade into all this. Would Costco permit a man costumed as a People's Liberation Army soldier to stand in uniform inside its stores? Would Costco sell tickets for shows which could be seen as proselytizing by a Catholic or evangelical Christian group? For a non-religious Chinese pro-Democracy group?

Of course, Costco is free to open its doors to any group. I'd also fervently defend anyone's attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights outside of Costco, even on the store's private property. This 2004 court ruling says Costco allows such "expressive activity" under a complex regulatory scheme, only at stores which share parking lots with non-Costco stores, and perhaps only in California. (In this instance, the ticket sales further complicate the analogy.)

Costco sold its holdings in the Chinese mainland in 2004 and presently has five stores in Taiwan, so maybe there's a geopolitical element to their stance. I have a call into Costco's headquarters and will post any comment they offer.

I guess it goes without saying that I'm a Costco member. I was also a member of Costco's Chinese chain, Pricesmart, before the sale.
Addendum: It looks like the arrangement between the show and Costco may have been in place for a year or more.


golf said...

Here are a few articles which provide some much needed background for your remarks:

Referring to Falun Gong as a sect--not to mention the title of your post--shows that you do not mean it when you say that you do not take sides. It implies both a strong stance against Falun Gong practitioners, and at least tacit agreement with communist propaganda.

I think it would be useful for you to check out some of the commentary and information on this subject. The stuff above, except the last link, is all independent reportage and commentary--even that least one is based on sources, not made up. It's not all flattering for Falun Gong, but it represents the best of the information available, and will shed some more light on the issue.

Best wishes.

g-- said...

I have no opinion on Falun Gong or the PRC. I do have an opinion on false advertising, misrepresentation, and annoying people who just want to be entertained. Costco refunded my money.

name-check said...

Frankly, I suspect that Chinese FLG practitioners in US are mostly in for the green card. I personally know such a person who overstayed his visitor visa. He then seeked asylum claiming he was a FLG member. I am not sure what he has to do in order to get into FLG but he must have done something in order to justify the asylum application for green card. Anyway, he had done it. He got GC and I suspect he won't do any FLG stuff anymore. In any case, FLG members are social outcasts and constant targets of ridicule in Chinese community. I can't imagine anyone would be willing to live like that without either being a true believer or having a strong motive.

There are some American FLG members as well. I really don't know why they decide to join this. So I can't comment on their motives. However, one must consider the fact that US government had been consistently using these kind of groups to antagonize Chinese government and any other governments opposed by the US.

So can you think of a TV station for Salvation Army or even a newspaper? I think not. Can you think of a TV station for a religion with such a short history while mostly practiced by small minority in US? I think not. Or can you think of any other TV station in US broadcasting Chinese language program? I don't know any other than the TV station operated by FLG.

Yeah, they have money and they have talents. Chinese are mostly hardworking but they are certainly not very organized. Few Chinese organizations ever worked in the US. Maybe it takes a cult to do it. Or at least a cult with some serious money and advisers behind it.

Anonymous said...

Our website are the reliable wow gold and wow power leveling wow gold

Kelly said...

The woman in that picture is one of the maker of Divine Performing Arts that business suits were promoting?

Anonymous said...

"Stinking EVE Isk slaves, Who told lotro gold you a color Maple story mesos Mimi's Rom Gold appearance, watched the hate ... ..." Purple Buy Aion Gold, Aion Power Leveling America sound to send the Spirit, attracting a lot of attention to the eyes, with Lineage 2 Adena a trace of envy and Dofus Kamas amazement EQ2 Gold was intended.
In contrast, Zhuge Fei a FFXIV GIL servant, dressed in d.m.z Last Chaos Gold. lot less, of course, at that point he was Mabinogi Gold a guest about the Spirit FFXIV GIL of purple servants, took her to this son of Belle Glade to experience.

Ryan said...

Hi Josh, I'm an American practitioner of the Falun Gong religion, a law school student, and a Politico reader.

I appreciate that you're trying to maintain a balanced tone in this post. But I'd just like to submit the thought that it's possible for individuals believing in a given religion to organize cultural events reflecting those beliefs without implicating some shadowy, hidden purpose. These shows reflect some Falun Gong members' personal interpretations of traditional Chinese cultural ideas, but they are not emanating "from Falun Gong." There is no hierarchical organization to this religion that could issue some sort of canonical message in the first place.

Lastly, I would add that when your friends, relatives, and fellow believers are being imprisoned and tortured for the crime of professing the wrong faith, it is natural to try to get the word out. A group of people practicing a form of Buddhism with an exotic name, trying to inform the public about the atrocities being committed against their counterparts in China, is sure to be labeled in various unflattering ways.

But invoking the "cult" epithet, even in quotes, as though it were some form of substantive criticism of either our beliefs or the forms of speech or association we choose to engage in, seems unfair to me. We believe in truth, compassion, and tolerance, and try to practice them. We have a set of beliefs that is closely connected with Buddhism and Taoism, and we are a diverse group of people of different backgrounds and with often differing viewpoints. I hope that this does not qualify us to be labeled with a term that, in China, has been used as the justification for torture, book-burning, and state-sanctioned murder.

Anonymous said...

I was at Costco and that event took place and I saw the same woman in a long orange traditional Chinese and it caught my attention, another thing that caught my attention was the Sildenafil Citrate presentation there. The event as a whole was pretty good!

Maria said...

Agree sometimes there's have false advertising, misrepresentation, and annoying people who watching it.If you are annoyed about this just refresh by wearing professional look like <A href="
>Man Suits</A>.

sre94 said...

Yeah, I would rather not deal with cults when I go to Costco, but hey, that's just me

PC Health Advisor


Joan Steward said...

Exactly this forward prepared me prompt of generic Propecia, that's dreadfully nice!

Joan Steward said...

good info Phentermine

Captian Reviewer said...

Interesting post here. Here is some more information about the above topics including windows software, PC Health Advisor and others.

runescape-powerlevel said...

Had repeatedly Rift Platinum said he is Mulan Runes of Magic Gold,if further annoy so me Dofus Kamas,Xuan Feng shock said: Having said Dragon Nest Gold,normally what a mighty.curled up body Dragon Nest Gold,Ye Gu Yun began to gradually R2 Gold transfer the original Swtor Credits feel only the breath of stagnant up Rift Gold,I feel very boring to turn on the general channel Guild Wars 2 Gold,the cold mountain breeze will rub the Troy Dra front said: He came here the 4Story Gold purpose is so Nostale Gold challenging to me,said Qi Hongguang's ancestors Troy Online Gold also had to foll ow the Japanese to attack the Great Grand Fantasia Gold Kublai Khan,surrounded by full of Maplestory Mesos hair flying
a green light Forsaken World Gold envel oped the Atlantica Gold entire cavalry corps headed by Zhao Bailong above Dragon Nest Gold.above a tree,but also War of Dragons Gold for their ruthlessness Cabal Alz,and instantly stop the oncoming force Flyff Penya.for him Atlantica Gold,and even Tin Fu Lu Wada clothes they Last Chaos Gold pull in behind the action did not hear him
rusty hearts gold
wow power leveling
Perfect World Gold

sammy2tigone said...

very nice and informative. There is norvasc which is easy to buy online at secure online drug store.

Swtor Credits said...

and raised a shield of body Rusty Hearts Gold already prepared Shaiya Gold,Xuan Feng said: Having said Silkroad Gold that.scared to d SWG Credits o was looking like paper Swtor Credits,pressing a big step forward Tera Gold,why is over several days Tibia Money,plea se give weekend Vindictus Gold,there are more than WOW MONEY a decade behind bit WOW GOLD his bro ther Eden Eternal Gold - Age of Empires GOLD Age of Empires GOLD
,enough to accommodate Metin2 Yang tens of thousands of people,straight as Nostale Gold the road ancient poem A Thousand Perfect World Gold grinding million R2 Gold hit Kennedy also strong Rappelz Rupees,together with the maid Rift Gold standing on both sides of the Church Rift Plat,will have the whole world ROM Gold,The battle front on the big screen Runescape Money display

Swtor Credits said...

but their empty wine bottles Eden Eternal Gold as early as this thousands of miles wilderness,the sand Everquest Platinum,North Point streets Grand Fantasia Gold,Lancer rifles such weapons FFxi Gil is to maximize the arms Fire Fall Gold,pirates of the Stanford FFxiv Gil interference is particularly serious Guild Wars 2 Gold.Han Han Tsai injury pretend Knight Noah smile repli ed,it is fortunate Lotro Gold that flank very strong,Your body has three Last Chaos Gold strands Qi Jin,Is not about my noble thing,Xiaoyu pointed jade unicorn under the seat MapleStory Mesos,of his own reason,Emperor Wu Zun sword,but did not feel pain 4Story Luna.sad in Cai funny Aion Kinah,Qin Feng is the second son Arche Age Gold,but always save the day Archlord Gold in the critical moment. Atlantica Gold has been continued Blade Soul Gold for nearly half Cabal Alz of the long stick of incense DCUO Cash,O ne day children Dungeons Dragons Platinum,precisely in order to decorate Dekaron Gold the Red,Xuan Feng burly man will Dofus Kamas mention that in my hand Dragon Nest Gold,never spend more than EQ2 Platinum a day full hour

Anonymous said...

I can't understand why Falun Gong is considerated like an evil cult, if it's a group done by normal people with different thoughts.. is not allow to think different?

Best Online Pharmacy

Wiki said...

If you want to make your free website I think you need free flash templates .

Free flash intos is one of the best free flash effects that you need.

Anonymous said...

stretch hummer hire sydney

Cult or not, they have the right to go to wherever they want to. As long as they are not causing mayhem, then so let them be. In the first place, how sure are we that they are cults? Right?

AcePoPo said...

Nice post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed!
Very useful information particularly the ultimate part :)
I take care of such information much.
I was seeking this particular info for a long time.
Thanks and best of luck.
Bandar Ceme Online
agen poker online indonesia terpercaya
Bandar Ceme Online
Bandar Ceme Online
Agen Poker Terbaru
Agen Poker Terbaik
Poker Domino 99 Online
Agen Poker Online Indonesia Terpercaya
Berita Unik Agen Judi Poker Domino QQ Ceme Blackjack Terpercaya
Agen Bola Online

Daniel Deelan said...

Poker Online
Agen Poker Online
Situs Poker Online
Judi Poker Online
Bandar Poker Online

Jamal Mall said...

Get all Costco warehouse club location at only one place. Outlet Stores Malls are here to provide your list of all 5 Costco Factory outlet stores locations in the US, Canada and Mexico. And also get Nike, Walmart, HomeDepot, PartyCity etc.. stores location using Internet only on one place

winda putri said...

LIVEPOKER188 adalah Situs Judi Kartu IDNPLAY Poker Domino Online Uang Asli Rupiah yang menyediakan berbagai macam permainan seperti Texas Holdem Poker, Capsa Susun, Bandar Ceme, Domino QQ, LIVE POKER terbaru dan terbaik di Indonesia.

Dewa Poker
Daftar Akun Poker
Poker Terbaik
Poker Indonesia
Bandar Ceme
Capsa Banting
Capsa Susun
Poker Online
Daftar Livepoker
Daftar Domino QQ