Zhong Gong, founded in China in 1988, is one of the most popular of the qigong groups operating in the Peoples Republic of China through the 1990s. By the end of the decade it was estimated to have 20 million followers. However, in 1999, in the wake of the crackdown on the Falun Gong group, it was also singled out for repressive measures. The Chinese government declared that the meditation-exercise sect was an "evil cult."
Zhong Gong, the China Health Care and Wisdom Enhancement Gong, was founded by Zhang Hongbao (b. 1955) during the heyday of government support for qigong. In spite of its operating apart from the officially sanctioned National Qigong Association, Zhong Gong speedily spread across the country. It was also favorably mentioned in the official press. Its training school in Shaanxi Province had over 2,000 students. Reportedly, the country's president, Jiang Zemin, had sought out a Zhong Gong Master to treat his arthritis and back pain.
Zhang Hongbao taught a traditional form of qigong that emphasized the use of exercises and meditation as a means of stimulating qi energy. Such energy, once properly flowing through the body, would bring health and enhanced mental functioning.
Through the 1990s, the group had some minor run-ins with authorities and became known as an independent organization apart from government control, though no ideological elements appeared to contradict government authority (as with Falun Gong). However, in December of 1999, police closed the Zhong Gong training facility in Shaanxi. Then in January of 2000, the leader of the group in Zhejiang Province was sentenced to two years for the Chinese equivalent of practicing medicine without a license, a charge potentially placing all qi-gong groups at risk. The government has charged that following qigong has been accompanied with admonitions to stop seeing medical doctors.
In the wake of the move against Zhong Gong, the government announced broad changes in regulations dealing with qi-gong groups specifying how they must be organized and what teachings they may espouse. The ongoing issues concerning Zhong Gong and other qigong groups are being covered in the press and monitored by various human rights groups.
Eckholm, Erik. "China Imprisons a Leader of Healing-by-Meditation Society." New York Times (January 20, 2000).