Falun Gong (UK: , US: ) or Falun Dafa (; Standard Mandarin Chinese: [fàlwə̌n tâfà]; literally, "Dharma Wheel Practice" or "Law Wheel Practice") is a new religious movement. Falun Gong was founded by its leader Li Hongzhi in China in the early 1990s. Today, Falun Gong maintains a global de facto headquarters, Dragon Springs, a 400-acre (160 ha) compound around the hamlet of Cuddebackville in Deerpark, New York, approximately two hours northwest of Manhattan, located near the current residence of Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong's performance arts extension, Shen Yun ("Divine Rhythm") and two closely connected schools, Fei Tian ("Flying Sky-Being") College and Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, also operate in and around Dragon Springs.Falun Gong emerged toward the end of China's "qigong boom"—a period that saw a proliferation of similar practices of meditation, slow-moving energy exercises and regulated breathing. Falun Gong combines meditation and qigong ('Qi/Chi cultivation') exercises with a moral philosophy. The practice emphasizes morality and the cultivation of virtue, and identifies as a practice of the Buddhist school, though its teachings also incorporate elements drawn from Taoist traditions. Through moral rectitude and the practice of meditation, practitioners of Falun Gong aspire to eliminate attachments, and ultimately to achieve spiritual enlightenment.
The practice initially enjoyed support from Chinese officialdom, but by the mid-to-late 1990s, the Government of China increasingly viewed Falun Gong as a potential threat due to its size, independence from the state, and spiritual teachings. By 1999, government estimates placed the number of Falun Gong practitioners at 70 million. During that time, negative coverage of Falun Gong began to appear in the state-run press, and practitioners usually responded by picketing the source involved. Most of the time, the practitioners succeeded, but controversy and tension continued to build. The scale of protests grew until April 1999, when over 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners gathered near the central government compound in Beijing to request legal recognition and freedom from state interference. This demonstration is widely seen as catalyzing the persecution that followed.
On 20 July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party leadership initiated a nationwide crackdown and multifaceted propaganda campaign intended to eradicate the practice. It blocked Internet access to websites that mention Falun Gong, and in October 1999 it declared Falun Gong a "heretical organization" that threatened social stability. Falun Gong practitioners in China are reportedly subject to a wide range of human rights abuses: hundreds of thousands are estimated to have been imprisoned extrajudicially, and practitioners in detention are subject to forced labor, psychiatric abuse, torture, and other coercive methods of thought reform at the hands of Chinese authorities. As of 2009, human rights groups estimated that at least 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners had died within China as a result of abuse in custody. One writer estimates that tens of thousands may have been killed to supply China's organ transplant industry. Data from within China suggest that millions continued to practice Falun Gong there in spite of the persecution. Outside of China, Falun Gong is practiced in over 70 countries, with as of 2008 estimates on the number adherents ranging from roughly 40,000 to several hundreds of thousands.Falun Gong administers a variety of extensions in the United States and elsewhere, which have received notable media attention for their political involvement and ideological messaging, particularly since the involvement of these extensions in the 2016 United States presidential election. Falun Gong extensions include The Epoch Times, a media entity that has received significant media attention for its promotion of conspiracy theories and right-wing politics, and for producing advertisements for United States president Donald Trump. Shen Yun has also received significant media coverage for its emphasis on, for example, anti-evolution statements and promotion of Falun Gong doctrine, while presenting itself as founded upon ancient tradition.