TAU exhibit on Falun Gong meditation shuttered over Chinese pressure, students charge
Tel Aviv University removed an exhibition on the meditation techniques of the Falun Gong movement due to pressure by the Chinese embassy in Israel, TAU students claimed yesterday.
Students Itay Tamuz and Yaniv Nitzan, who organized the exhibition, consequently asked the Tel Aviv District Court for an injunction ordering TAU to restore the exhibition, which was removed more than a week ahead of schedule. The students said they also plan to file a lawsuit against TAU.
"Removing the exhibition is a serious, unacceptable and unabashed infringement by university authorities on the plaintiffs' freedom of expression and the students' and the public's right to know," they wrote.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a system of meditation whose adherents have been systematically persecuted by China. The exhibition, titled "Truth, Compassion and Tolerance," was supposed to be on display at the Sourasky Central Library for two weeks. Two days after it opened, the Student Union culture department told Nitzan that Professor Yoav Ariel, a lecturer in the East Asian Studies Department, had ordered it removed because of a request by the Chinese embassy.
In two separate meetings, lecturers confirmed that the Chinese embassy had requested the exhibition's removal. Ariel said he removed the exhibition because of fears that association with the Falun Dafa might negatively affect how Judaism is perceived in China. In addition, he said, the university must take into consideration its ties with Chinese universities, with which it conducts student exchanges.
TAU spokeswoman Orly Frumer responded that the exhibition was mounted with Student Union approval, and she did not know why it was taken down.
"What the university experienced was nothing in comparison to the pressure that the Falun Dafa have been subjected to in the past eight years," Nitzan said. "It took two days [for TAU] to surrender all the values on which it prides itself."