Falun Gong

The above picture, taken by Lance on Tiananmen Square, is more interesting than it looks at first blush.

I am talking about the fire extinguisher at the soldier's feet.

Of course, we couldn't ask the soldier what it was for, but we could speculate.

More than any other movement, the Chinese government fears Falun Gong. Falun Gong is a sort of mix between meditation and Scientology, as far as I can tell, and its popularity has swept China.

In 1999, the Chinese government banned Falun Gong. In 2001, five protesters, said to be from the sect, burned themselves on Tiananmen Square to protest persecution by the Chinese government.

However, the circumstances of the self-immolation, which the protesters survived, remain murky. Falun Gong leaders said the burning was a hoax by the Chinese government designed to discredit the sect. In fact, the policemen on the square that day were seen carrying fire extinguishers before the burnings occurred.

The People's Daily, the official organ of the Chinese Communist Party, immediately used the event to discredit the sect, noting that the Communist Party was picking up the tab for the poor misguided souls who were led to burn themselves by the "dangerous sect."

So now, five years later, many of the soldiers guarding Tiananmen Square have fire extinguishers at their feet despite the lack of anything flammable within hundreds of yards.