In its campaign against the Falun Gong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has attempted to manipulate Chinese public opinion through information and message control. In order to protect its international image and mute criticism of rights abuses, the CCP has been zeroing in on foreign governments, businesses, and media, often through under-the-table pressure tactics.
As a result, throughout the democratic world elected officials, entrepreneurs, professors, and journalists can be found who have been complicit in maintaining silence over what some legal experts have termed the “genocide of Falun Gong.” At the same time, many individuals have been infuriated by the pressure tactics and become even more outspoken in support of Falun Gong as a result.
The CCP has carried out these pressure tactics primarily through diplomatic channels, the Chinese diaspora, sister city relationships, as well as Western China scholars and businessmen who have vested interested in access to the mainland.
Western politicians who express any form of support for Falun Gong are the main targets of Communist Party maneuvers. Former-Party head Jiang Zemin, largely seen as responsible for launching the campaign, has personally handed out comic books vilifying Falun Gong to heads of state like Bill Clinton.
Members of Congress and Parliament have similarly been on the receiving end of a barrage of propaganda. Congressmen regularly report receiving phone calls, letters, magazines, and DVDs from embassy officials making rounds in Washington; these are sometimes accompanied by invitations for luxury official visits to Beijing.
Even small towns officials have not been spared. Mayor Randy Voepel of Southern California’s Santee received a letter from the Party’d Los Angeles consul general vilifying Falun Gong. Voepel wrote back:
“‘Your letter personally chilled me to my bones. I was shocked that a Communist Nation would go to this amount of trouble to suppress what is routinely accepted in this country. . . I have the greatest respect for the Chinese people in your country and everywhere else in the world, but must be honest in my concern for the suppression of human rights by your government as evidenced by your request.’ Mr. Voepel then issued a mayoral proclamation commending the Falun Gong.”
- Wall Street Journal
Other mayors, such as San Francisco’s Willy Brown, choose to kowtow instead and rescind their support.
Along with the standard phone calls, letters, and personal visits aimed at vilifying Falun Gong, documented pressure tactics include threats of action on trade, cultural or academic exchange programs, or a break off of sister-city relations if CCP demands are not met. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Claudia Rosett gives a sense of how many arms have been twisted over Falun Gong (article)
In order to keep the persecution away from public attention, the CCP also works to directly preclude Falun Gong protests. In June 2002, for example, Jiang Zemin was set to make an official visit to Iceland as part of a four-state European tour. Jiang was able to pressure the Icelandic government (the world’s oldest continuous democracy) into using a blacklist the CCP provided to bar all Falun Gong practitioners from entering the country to protest during the visit (http://www.faluninfo.net/displayAnArticle.asp?ID=5756). As a result, over 3,000 Icelandic citizens, who originally knew nothing about Falun Gong, took to the street wearing muzzles to protest both the persecution in China and their own government’s servility.
In another example, under pressure from the CCP, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer tried (ultimately without success) to bar the Falun Gong from displaying protest banners outside the Chinese embassy (http://www.faluncanada.net/infocentre/reports/CanberraTimes_102306_downer.htm, http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2005/s1389732.htm ; http://clearharmony.net/articles/200506/27084.html).
These efforts to make the Falun Gong issue go away have reached what would otherwise seem to be a ridiculously petty degree. CCP officials have worked feverishly to block Falun Gong from participating in 4th of July or St. Patrick’s Day parades, and to close art exhibits displaying paintings by Falun Gong adherents (link to http://en.epochtimes.com/news/8-3-7/67189.html).
Another prominent target have been media enterprises that employ Falun Gong practitioners and report extensively about the persecution in China, primarily New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) and The Epoch Times. In Canada, for example, the Chinese consular officials did X and Y in order to prevent NTDTV from airing through Rogers cable; Rogers is now airing eight channels of the state-run China Central Television (CCTV).
Divine Performing Arts show, which include dances depicting Falun Gong’s struggle for freedom in China, have also met with the Party’s wrath. In practically each of the dozens of countries the company has performed since 2007 consulate and embassy officials pressure theaters to renege on contracts, mail letters to elected officials in countries hosting the show “advising” them not to attend, set up parallel competing events, and circulate subtle warnings about the show through overseas Chinese student associations (This has happened in Sweden and South Korea among other places).
Indeed, Chinese student and scholar associations (CSSAs) have been among the groups traditionally loyal to the Party now being used to conduct PR battles against the Falun Gong overseas.
In April 2007, the Columbia University CSSA, whose bylines stipulate that the organization acts at the guidance of the Chinese government, staged Cultural Revolution struggle-style interruptions of a campus event meant to shed light on organ harvesting from Falun Gong adherents in Chinese hospitals (link) and repeatedly attacked Falun Gong on its website. Other Chinese nationals abroad working in foreign corporations, government, and newspapers have been exploited in similar ways.
In 2002, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed House Resolution 304, urging the CCP to “immediately stop interfering in the exercise of religious and political freedoms within the United States, such as the right to practice Falun Gong.” (for more on Resolution 304, including the full text, see http://faluninfo.net/displayAnArticle.asp?ID=8962)
Why is the Chinese Communist Party so invested in waging a public relations campaign against Falun Gong in countries it surely must know will never ban the practice? Unlike the 1960s under Mao, when the Party seemingly could not care less about how its massacres were viewed overseas, the post-Tiananmen CCP is now much more image-savvy. The CCP’s main foreign policy slogan in recent years has been the “peaceful rise,” a phrase intended to convey the regime’s benign nature. The brutal suppression of the Falun Gong is not helpful to building that image.
For more examples on CCP attempts to interfere with Falun Gong activities in over 20 countries, see article here.