Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese practice for healing and fitness ["China May Try Sect Leaders," news story, Aug. 25]. It is also a spiritual discipline that promotes "truth, compassion, tolerance" -- universal virtues that transcend cultural, racial and national boundaries. While Falun Gong is gaining greater popularity and recognition worldwide, it is being brutally persecuted in China because the number of its practitioners exceeds the membership of the Communist Party and because many party members also are practitioners.

Falun Gong is apolitical and is not against any government. Like tai chi, it is a popular exercise that improves people's health and spiritual well-being. Had the Chinese government taken a closer look at the positive nature of this exercise, it would not have persecuted Falun Gong followers. All activities of Falun Gong are open to the public, and its practitioners always are willing to help the Chinese government gain an objective understanding of the practice.

We urge the Chinese government to resolve this issue peacefully through direct dialogue and to stop its policy of suppression. No one wants to see the government lose the trust of 100 million of its citizens.

GAIL RACHLIN

ERPING ZHANG

New York

The writers are practitioners of Falun Gong.

Some in the media have alleged that the Chinese government feels threatened by the number of Falun Gong followers. That is not the case. Falun Gong is banned because it is an unregistered and illegal organization with characteristics similar to a cult, it has inflicted a great deal of harm on its followers and it has seriously disrupted public order.

Li Hongzhi, the head of this illegal organization, spread such heretical ideas as an "earth explosion" and a "global doomsday." Some practitioners were so obsessed that they were driven to insanity, committed suicide and killed their loved ones. Mr. Li preached that Falun Gong can cure diseases and that medical treatment is bad for practitioners. Therefore, according to incomplete statistics, across China some 915 people have died from practicing Falun Gong.

In fact, scores of lawsuits have been filed in court against Mr. Li. Moreover, Falun Gong practitioners staged illegal sit-ins; besieged media, public facilities and government departments; and seriously disrupted public order.

Acting to fulfill its responsibilities to protect the human rights of Chinese citizens -- including Falun Gong followers -- and to maintain social stability, the Chinese government has taken necessary measures to end the group's illegal activities. These measures have been well received by the population. The government would be remiss if it idly watched Mr. Li and his associates putting people's lives in danger.

YU SHUNING

Minister-Counselor (Press)

Embassy of China

Washington