WHILE IT IS true that in some areas of Chinese life the Communist Party permits more open political debate and criticism than ten years ago, most readers of serious newspapers in the West realise that this flexibility does not extend to organised non-Party political groups. It is also widely known or assumed that Christians and Buddhists outside the Party's umbrella are tightly controlled. But although Maria Hsia Chang, professor of political science at the University of Nevada, cites hundreds of references to Falun Gong from the Western press (together with the main Chinese sources), perhaps only those with a special interest in China will be aware that this sect or cult has been condemned by the Party as a threat to the State - rivalled only by the Tiananmen uprising of 1989 - or that it counts among its millions of followers members of the government, the army, and the Party itself.
In so far as it is possible to offer factual analysis unbiased by opinion, Chang has done so. I wasn't sure until quite near the end of this comprehensive but concise book whether she admired or even followed Falun Gong. She begins with 'a political earthquake', the first public appearance,