What the Media Doesn’t Say About Falun Gong

11 Years ago, on July 20, 1999, a persecution against a meditation practice called Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) officially started in Mainland China. The persecution of Falun Gong was the brainchild of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin, who saw Falun Gong’s enormous popularity among 100 million Chinese and simply wanted to crush it.

I learned about Falun Gong from newspapers, first in one of Ian Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning articles in the Wall Street Journal.

Johnson wrote a series of 10 articles (which you can see here) of which I only read one, but they were compelling enough to win the Pulitzer.

Here is part of Johnson’s article that I read 10 years ago from a piece called “Brother Li Love“:

As the campaign against Falun Dafa enters its second year, many wonder how the group has withstood the government’s security onslaught. The crackdown has involved a deployment of uniformed and undercover security agents not seen since the massacre of antigovernment protesters near Tiananmen Square 11 years ago.

Johnson’s work represented an incredible effort to pursue the truth. As the years have worn on, though, media coverage of the July 20 anniversary of the start of the persecution against Falun Gong has dimmed. Other dramas have occupied the global consciousness–namely for Americans, 9/11 and the ongoing battle against terrorists.

At a newspaper where I work as an editor, The Epoch Times, I have seen a completely different chain of events, however.

In the English edition where I work, the commitment to reporting openly and truthfully about the persecution of Falun Gong has remained strong. In fact, if you search the term, “Falun Gong” in Google news today you’ll see what I mean.

In an article from The Epoch Times Editorial Board, they state:

In the past 11 years, the world has witnessed the pain and suffering Falun Gong practitioners have gone through. The CCP [Chinese Communist Party], in addition to spreading outrageous lies, has tortured Falun Gong practitioners with means of torture used only in the darkest eras of humankind, such as the needle club, steel wire, copper whip, bramble whip, genital beating, rape, and the like. A report by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture listed at least 40 types of torture used by the CCP against Falun Gong practitioners. According to reports on Clearwisdom, a website run by Falun Gong practitioners, there have been at least 3,300 confirmed deaths of Falun Gong practitioners; over 100,000 have been sentenced to labor camps; thousands more have been sent to mental hospitals where the tortures may include nerve-damaging drugs. Untold numbers of practitioners have been forced to attend brainwashing classes, and untold numbers have been beaten, made to stand for hours or days on end, and extorted by law- enforcement officials. Because of the CCP’s information blockade, only a fraction of the abuses suffered in the ongoing persecution are known.

Despite such a severe persecution, though, the practice has not been crushed, as Jiang Zemin wanted it to be 11 long years ago. It has spread far and wide to every corner of the world. Reports the Epoch Times:

Eleven years ago, Falun Gong was practiced in 30 countries. Since then, Falun Gong has been calmly and peacefully spreading and is now practiced in 114 countries. Today, Falun Gong can be found in most areas in Asia, North America, South America, and Europe, and in some African countries. Falun Gong books have been translated into over 40 languages.

In another Epoch Times article, staff reporters interviewed international supporters who have fought over the years to help end the persecution. One of them, Edward McMillan-Scott, is Vice-President of the European Parliament. Scott told The Epoch Times:

“I think it’s really important for people to understand just what in the world does really take place in China—the prison camps, re-education through labor, child labor, forced labor, torture. This is the real China,” he said. “The worst thing they’ve done is choose a totally innocent group of people [Falun Gong practitioners], and torture them to death, and this has got to stop.”

In my opinion as a professional journalist, that’s something worth reporting at least once a year.

Reposted from Media and Foreign Policy:


Shen Yun Performers Shocked by Show Cancellation

Chinese communist regime believed to pressure Hong Kong authorities

By John Nania for The Epoch Times

NEW YORK—Shen Yun performers got word while still in costume at the final rehearsal before taking off for Hong Kong: seven sold-out shows in Hong Kong had been canceled. Seven crew members for the company had visas denied at the last minute.

Dancers and other company members for New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts said the cancellation of the sold-out shows was most likely due to pressure on the Hong Kong government from Chinese communist authorities.

“The news was brought to us after our final dress rehearsal prior to departure,” said principal dancer Leon Chao at a press conference near Times Square Monday. “There was a long moment of silence, faces of devastation. Everyone was in complete shock. I had my bags packed already. Everybody’s dream on our team was to bring back Chinese culture to China.”

Shen Yun performs Chinese classical and folk dances, covering the many dynasties and ethnic groups that make up the nation’s 5,000-year heritage. Much of the traditional culture presented by Shen Yun has been lost, buried, or altered under the current regime in China.

The much-anticipated performances in Hong Kong were scheduled for Jan. 27-31. However, show organizers in Hong Kong were informed on Jan. 21 that visas for seven technical crew members were denied by immigration authorities, saying the jobs could be filled by local labor. One of the seven did later receive a visa to enter Hong Kong.


‘Berlin Twitter Wall’ Blocked in China

A virtual wall created for Twitter users to express their thoughts and hopes on the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has been blocked in China.

The “Berlin Twitter Wall,” as it’s called, is an initiative of KulturProjekte Berli, a not-for-profit organization that promotes networking and mediation of art and culture.

Launched on Oct. 20, according to the press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the virtual wall was blocked by Chinese authorities after almost 2,000 Chinese Internet users left Twitter messages there. The wall currently has just over 4,000 tweets posted on it, mostly in Chinese.

“Chinese Internet users must not be prevented from accessing the Berlin Twitter Wall,” said Reporters Without Borders in a statement released Tuesday morning.  “Initiatives like these are important platforms for the promotion of freedom of speech as well as for critical voices and protest.”

RSF added that many foreign news outlets and social-networking sites remain inaccessible to Chinese users.

Twitter account holders can post comments that appear automatically on the berlintwitterwall.com site by using the hashtag #fotw (fall of the wall).

read the full article here

Comptroller Candidate Liu’s Shady Aides and Associates

By Joshua Philipp for The Epoch Times


NEW YORK—If birds of a feather flock together, it’s worth asking who John Liu, Democratic candidate for New York City comptroller, is flocking with.

John Liu’s former chief of staff, John Choe, is an active, outspoken supporter of the North Korean communist regime.

Ellen Young, John Liu’s district administrator until 2006, is widely accused by residents in her district of swindling people out of tens thousands of dollars. Young is a former State Assembly Member.

Liu also has strong ties to the Fukien American Association, known to be connected to the criminal underworld and the Chinese Communist Party.

John Choe on ‘U.S. Imperialism’

“Korea is at the front lines of the liberation struggles against imperialism,” John Choe said in a May 2006 speech. He was speaking at a conference called “Preparing for the Rebirth of the Global Struggle for Socialism” hosted by the Workers World Party, a self-described “orthodox Marxist” political group. The audio of his speech is available at workers.org.

John Choe, as John Liu’s chief of staff for several years, was an influential member of Liu’s City Council administration.

“We still have friends, activists who are being arrested on a daily basis [in South Korea],” Choe said in his 2006 speech to the Workers World Party (MP3 sound file available), “for expressing their free will and their thought and for struggling against the U.S. and U.S. imperialism.”


Chinese Netizen Journalists Face Restrictions

by Genevieve Long for The Foreign Policy Association

In a country like China that is already so restrictive of press freedoms, it’s surprising that the grip of control could be tightened any further. Yet, according to a new press release from the non-governmental organization Freedom House, that’s exactly what is happening.

Freedom House says it is “dismayed by new Chinese Internet restrictions,” which include stricter rules about video sharing websites. The measure follows closely on the heels of a gruesome video that was circulated last week which contained graphic footage of alleged persecution of Tibetans. The video, which was widely circulated, could have been linked to Chinese authorities blocking YouTube.

Of particular concern to Freedom House is a section of the new restrictions which reads:
“The regulations specifically mention videos from “netizen reporters,” who have played a critical role in informing Chinese citizens about police brutality, the melamine scandal, and the lethal consequences of corruption surrounding the Sichuan earthquake.”

Netizen is defined by the dictionary as a blending of the two words citizen and net. So a netizen reporter, under China’s repressive laws governing the dissemination of information and control of information, could be a crucial link between the public and information. Even in the face of the facts that a netizen reporter has no media affiliation or fact-checker or editor, they would still be potentially doing what has been referred to in new media jargon as “acts of journalism”.

The gathering and dissemination of information under the current circumstances in China, even without editorial content or control, could be critical information nonetheless.
Mark Twain once said, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort ‘em as much as you please.” The Chinese people deserve the opportunity to at least have access to the facts, and can then decide what to do with them.

In addition to being a contributing editor for The Epoch Times, Genevieve Long writes the Media and Foreign Policy blog  for the Foreign Policy Association, where this piece was first published.

An Appeal for Others in China that Led to Persecution

By Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times

Ten years ago on April 24, when Jinying Gao took a train to Beijing from her hometown in Liaoning Province, China was a different country.

Gao, who has practiced Falun Gong since 1994, set out on a mission of faith with little more than the shirt on her back for the six hour journey to her country’s capital. With her husband, also a practitioner, beside her, they arrived in Beijing in the middle of the night. Thousands of other Falun Gong practitioners were at the train station, waiting for dawn to arrive.

The travelers, whose numbers would eventually swell to 10,000, had come from all corners of China to appeal to the central regime about a case of 45 imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners in the city of Tianjin. The imprisoned practitioners were beaten and arrested by police on April 24, 1999, after days of appealing over a youth magazine’s slanderous article against Falun Gong.

“In China, the media blocked the news of [of the arrests],” recalls Gao who is now 64 years old and escaped to the U.S. close to 17 months ago.

Falun Gong is the most popular qigong practice in China. By 1999 it was estimated that between 70 and 100 million Chinese people were practicing it. But in the China of ten years ago, as today, to be popular with the public is to be suspect by the communist party.

Three years earlier, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and then-head, Jiang Zemin, began to view Falun Gong’s popularity as a threat. The Beijing Youth Daily had listed the practice’s main book, “Zhuan Falun” as a bestseller in 1996. Not long after, the regime issued a nationwide notice forbidding the distribution of all Falun Gong publications.


Penalizing Criminals with the Hangman’s Noose

China’s penchant for the death penalty could be an isolating factor
By Genevieve Long

There’s something to be said for being a good student of history, especially when it comes to China. Just consider the past two years. In that time, China has demonstrated a particular, repetitive, and deadly problem: melamine.

Melamine is a common industrial chemical with applications as a coating on dinnerware, and as a fire retardant, among other thing. It was never intended for consumption by living beings, human or otherwise. Even though the World Health Organization declared a “safe” level of melamine for human consumption in Dec., 2008, the scientific jury is still out on the long-term effects of melamine when consumed by humans, at any level.

Enter China’s milk and pet-food manufacturing industries. In 2007, it was discovered that melamine was being added to animal feed and pet food to boost the apparent protein level. The result was thousands of dead American household pets, and a subsequent uproar in the U.S. public and government. It also ultimately led to the indictment of several parties involved it the scandal by the U.S. government, and stricter standards by the FDA.

Fast-forward to late 2008, and history repeats itself as thousands of Chinese babies get seriously ill from melamine-contaminated baby milk. Watered-down milk from farmers and producers trying to up product volume and profit margins found its way to unscrupulous manufacturers masking the lower protein level with melamine. It’s a practice that has been happening for years, according to what one whistle-blowing farmer, Jiang Weisuo, told NPR late last year.

Because information is tightly controlled by the communist party, it may not be possible to know how many infants were actually sickened and killed. The last count publicly revealed was almost 300,000 sickened. At least six infants died from kidney failure.

As China continues to grow at a rate so fast that it almost outpaces itself, its political system under the communist party languishes. The imbalance of an archaic political system that overuses extreme punishments like the death penalty is nearly tipping the scales of a balanced society.

Legal punishments following both melamine scandals fall into that category. The Chinese Communist Party sentenced the head of the Chinese Food and Drug Administration to the death penalty in 2007 for his role in contaminated pet food. Following the recent contaminated milk scandal, two men were sentenced to death and 19 others given heavy sentences for their roles.

These seem like unusually harsh punishments until statistics are taken into account. For example, Amnesty International puts China at the top of the list of countries that use the death penalty in law or practice. While there has been a decrease in the death penalty worldwide since 1988, China is a different story. In 2007, China killed more than 470 people using the death penalty.

As China’s economy becomes more and more intertwined with the rest of the world, when will its practices of legal jurisdiction and punishment fall into line with the norms of other industrialized nations? Arguably, it may not be possible with the current form of government in place, which discourages dissent and emphasizes psychological and spiritual obedience to the communist party.

The answer could be that the road for China to become a true superpower will inevitably involve an overhauled government system. Likely something closer to a democracy—representative of the people’s needs and wishes. If this kind of government already existed in China, instead of two more deaths in the wake of the most recent melamine scandal, the complaints of grieving parents who publicly appealed for answers would have been heard. But instead, the parents who bravely stepped forward were taken into police custody and refused to speak to the media when released. Serious, open, public debates are a hallmark of a healthy democracy.

China has far to go to become a superpower that exercises judicial restraint in sentencing, and does not fear the voices of its own citizens.