Dragon Springs is home to people who practice the Buddhist-based spiritual discipline called Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa.
Falun Gong combines meditation and gentle exercises (similar to yoga or tai chi) with a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance (or in Chinese, Zhen 真, Shan 善, Ren 忍). Falun Gong practitioners aspire to live by these principles in their daily lives.
The practice was introduced to the public in May of 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi and represents a direct and authentic connection to genuine traditional Chinese culture.
People who began practicing Falun Gong often found it to be life-changing. Many experienced dramatic health benefits as well as newfound energy, mental clarity, and stress relief. In addition, the Chinese people recognized in Falun Gong an authentic representation of the spiritual traditions which had almost been lost after decades of communist rule. This sparked a wave of excitement about the practice in China during the 1990s, and the practice grew rapidly across the country.
By 1998, just six years after its first introduction to the public, official Chinese records estimated 70-100 million had taken up the practice, making Falun Gong the fastest growing, and most popular form of qigong in Chinese history.
In 1999, witnessing its exploding popularity, a few leaders in the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a systematic campaign to “stamp out” Falun Gong, and violently suppress the people who practice it. According to an investigative report by the Washington Post, Beijing mandated the use of torture, high-pressure propaganda, and “brainwashing classes” (that often included both psychological and physical torture) to “break” Falun Gong.
It began in the middle of the night, July 20, 1999. Across China under the veil of dark, police and security dragged hundreds of ordinary people from their beds. Many would be taken to holding centers and jails, others beaten, and some would die in custody.
Two days later, on July 22, Falun Gong was formally outlawed across the land, marking the official beginning of a violent campaign in China that has raged on for more than two decades.
Millions of Falun Gong practitioners in China have been subject to police harassment, abduction, imprisonment, torture and killing in custody. There are more than 5,000 documented cases of Falun Gong practitioners being killed from torture and abuse in Chinese custody, a figure that is just the tip of the iceberg given how difficult and dangerous it is to uncover such abuses inside China. According to the 2019 London-based China Tribunal, a “significant number”—possibly hundreds of thousands—have been killed to forcibly remove their organs, a crime reaffirmed by new academic research and targeted by recent legislative efforts around the world.
All the while, vilifying propaganda from the CCP has dominated state-run media in China, and greatly tainted media reports on Falun Gong around the world.
Emergence of Dragon Springs
Initially, Dragon Springs was envisioned as a refuge — a place where people who had lost loved-ones and livelihoods amidst the persecution in China could rebuild their lives. The goal was to offer them a tranquil and comforting environment to heal and grow. However, getting people out of China safely proved to be nearly impossible. After all, the people with horror stories to tell were the ones the CCP most wanted to hide from the world, lest the true scope and scale of atrocities in China be divulged.
Yet, as the hope to build a refuge faded, a broader mission for Dragon Springs came clearly into focus: to save authentic Chinese culture from eradication at the hands of the CCP.
The popularity of Falun Gong in China during the 1990s was widely regarded as a spiritual renaissance of sorts, a revival of China’s wholesome traditional culture. Therefore, by “stamping out” Falun Gong, the CCP sought to eradicate traditional Chinese culture itself – the final nail in the coffin of its 50+ year campaign to destroy traditional values such as compassion, honesty, reverence for the divine, etc. and supplant it with communist ideology and Marxist struggle.
Consequently, the mission at Dragon Springs evolved. We were determined to not let authentic Chinese culture be erased from the face of the Earth. Therefore, we created a campus where the beauty and wisdom of traditional Chinese culture could not only be preserved, but thrive… and be passed on to future generations. To fulfill this mission, we established schools and a center for performing arts, and quickly this attracted veteran educators, experts in Chinese culture and history, as well as elite artists in classical Chinese dance and music from around the world.
Today, there is no other place on Earth like Dragon Springs.
The CCP Attacks on Dragon Springs
As Dragon Springs emerged as a center for authentic Chinese culture, and spiritual center for Falun Gong, it also became a primary target of repression tactics by agents of the CCP.
In 2021, Freedom House published a ground-breaking report about regimes silencing and persecuting people abroad, including throughout the West – a phenomenon it called “transnational repression.” Among regimes around the world, the Chinese regime was found to be the worst aggressor, and Falun Gong-related groups were among its top targets. The CCP has employed espionage, diplomatic and economic coercion, as well as blatant thuggery and violence to attack Falun Gong voices around the world, especially right here on U.S. soil.
According to official CCP documents and published speeches, the Dragon Springs community in upstate New York is a primary target: “Treat the countries and regions with serious ‘Falun Gong’ activities such as the United States as the main battlefield... carefully organize the strategy to strike and divide them,” reads one such document. “Tightly focus on… the headquarters [referring to Dragon Springs].”
Consequently, for more than two decades, the Dragon Springs community has faced an evolving range of repression tactics from the CCP:
During Dragon Springs’ first few years, Chinese consulate officials driving in consulate-marked cars would wantonly trespass on the property, film, and harassing volunteers.
For years, low-flying airplanes and drones have appeared circling over the site. On property adjacent to Dragon Springs, owned by people with links to China, professional-grade security cameras were erected to monitor the Dragon Springs entrances, recording everyone going in and out of the property. This is dangerous because many people who work at Dragon Springs still have family back in China who could be targeted if the CCP knew about their association with Dragon Springs.
The campus has experienced occasional destruction of security cameras and other forms of vandalism, seemingly aimed at disrupting security and intimidating people on site.
Fortunately, the U.S. government has recognized the problem, and relevant agencies have started to take action. For example, once in April and again in May 2023, Chinese individuals were arrested by the FBI, and their indictments cite several ways in which they have targeted Falun Gong on U.S. soil. In one case, alleged CCP agents attempted to bribe federal agents to “topple Falun Gong” in the U.S. They were caught and arrested.
We are encouraged by these actions and hope that all attempts by the CCP to bully, repress, or silence people in the U.S. are stopped. Our freedoms cannot be jeopardized by a hostile, foreign communist regime.
A Bright Future
Despite the challenges, life at Dragon Springs continues to be a rewarding, and uplifting experience. Fei Tian Academy of the Arts and Fei Tian College are instilling in the next generation an appreciation of classical and traditional culture, integrity, hard work, and high academic standards, churning out bright, enthusiastic graduates each year. Shen Yun Performing Arts continues to expand, reaching more and more people around the world with its culturally rich and inspiring performances.
We wish to thank our local leaders and community for the continued support, and we look forward to a bright future here in Deerpark, New York.