If there's good to come out of this, it's that I can give some warnings to fellow laowai that religious groups and people do exist, do take advantage of the unsuspecting, and can get you into trouble. REAL trouble.
So here's a couple of tips about religious beliefs:
1. Religious groups NOT explicitly approved by the Chinese Gov't are highly illegal in China. Promoting them is legally considered sedition, and helping them is considered treason, i.e. people get EXECUTED for conducting relogious activities ?(and guess what - not the FTs but the poor bloody Chinese who fall into the trap of believing them)!). The authourities consider them to be trying to otherthrow the government, and are afraid of them- and nobody is as vicious as somebody who is afraid.
2. These people are True Believers. They are, in their minds, saving the world. And, like any embattled group who are certain that they are right, they are willing to break a few eggs to make their omelette.
True Believers think like this. Stay out of their way!
My changes. But we are here under explicit contracts that state we are NOT to proselytise EVEN IF OUR STUDENTS ASK!!! Our answer should be - "my beliefs are none of your concern - let's return to any English questions you have". Anything else is breaking our contract and making of us liars.
Surely if we believe in teaching integrity this is the first line - NOT breaking contracts!!
Raoul's story reminds me of similar situatiuons where I had tried to help out someone and got into real trouble because of that. Yes, indeed, FG is illegal in China, and it is something like neo-Buddhist/Daoist sect. I will not comment on them any further but will provide some input on religion in China and the West in general.
In the West, (Christian) religion historically was somehting set up from above - the Pope, the Emperor, the kings, etc. Among other things, it has the backing of those in real power, and religion played a role in maintaining traditional power structures.
In traditional China,it was quite the opposite: Confucianism as the "ideology" of the ruling class is a social philosophy with a strong emphasis on "inequality" - if all people were equal (or treated as equals, chaos would arise). Daoism and Buddhism are the two other "religions" left, and while Buddhism is an import from ancient India, Daoism and Budhhism have much in commonn regarding their doctrine (emptiness, desires, non-action (wuwei), etc.). Like Confucianism, they were pure philosophies initially and were only to become "religions" later when becoming popular among the "masses". Since then, Daoism and Buddhism have always played an important role in pesant risings against the system because of too heavy taxes and other problems. These social-revolutionary movements were often Buddhist/Daoist-inspired and eventually were able to overthrow a dynasty that had come to its end.
"Religion" in China thus was looked at as something that came from the heart of society - the "common people", and any government in power watches them with suspicion. This historical pattern is continuing today - any religious movement is "suspicious", and FG is no expception - among any other religious movement whether it be Christianity, Islam, or whatever.
BTW: For those among you interested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in Qigong, Taijuquan, etc. - their "ideological superstructure" ( a terrible expression I am using here in lack of any better at hand right now) is mainly Daoist in nature. Ever heard about the "Huangdi Neijing" (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine) is with over 2000 years the first and oldest written document on Acupuncture and Moxibustion. It consists of three volumes - the Suwen, the Lingshu and the Nanjing, each of them containi8ng 81 chapters ("81" has a special symbolic meaning, hence this number of chapters in each volume). I have published a complete translation of those texts directly from the original text (Classical Chinese, Guwen) with many annotations and hints on text-critical matters - a work with over 1000 pages in print. Some of the "social-revolutionary" elements from a Daoist perspective can be found in larger portions of those texts even when they are really technical at times with remarks on meridians, acupunture points, the needling techniques for stimulating the Qi, etc. That is because they essentially relate to a Daoist perspective of world image and man.
In a way, they are a bit like FG - a bit obscure (difficult to comprehend; it took me over 10 years to complete my translation and critical editing of those texts before having them published!) but in a way also really "Chinese".
Let me stop here and wish a good day to all of you!