This press event appears to be an attempt to use Chen's notoriety and New York City media to spread the Chinese Communist Party's vilification of Falun Gong within American society.
While reporting on the fire that erupted on Tiananmen Square earlier today and the self-immolations that have occurred there in recent years, several Western media outlets stationed in Beijing wrongfully stated as fact that Falun Gong practitioners had self-immolated on Tiananmen Square in January, 2001.
Before reading this article, you most likely knew Falun Gong as a group of meditators that are being imprisoned and tortured in China. That’s true, of course. But without understanding four critical points, it’s difficult to fathom the lengths of deceit, manipulation, and violence that Party officials have gone to in their efforts to crush this peaceful group.
Following a common pattern in cases of large-scale state-led persecution, since 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has used hate propaganda as a core component of its campaign to wipe out Falun Gong. We offer the following brief explanations and references to inform our audiences and counter the pernicious effects of the CCP’s propaganda, lest it deprive the victims of horrible crimes in China of the kind of international support that saves lives.
By the end of 2000—a year and a half after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched the suppression of Falun Gong—the campaign had failed to garner support among many of the CCP’s rank and file. Then-CCP leader Jiang Zemin had toured southern provinces earlier in 2000 hoping to shore up more endorsement for the campaign among local leaders. Meanwhile, public support more broadly had waned. On January 23, 2001, five individuals allegedly set themselves on fire in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The entire scene was caught on camera from multiple angles. Within hours, state-controlled media was flooded with reports that the self-immolators were Falun Gong practitioners. These reports included grisly footage of the victims, portraying Falun Gong teachings as directly responsible for the tragedy.
Chinese authorities have alleged that “the practice of Falun Gong has led to more than 1,400 deaths” of followers. Although Falun Gong was widely practiced in China throughout the 1990’s, this claim was first made only in July of 1999, after the regime had commenced the persecution of Falun Gong. The claim has been repeated by Communist Party publications and spokespersons since. It is meant to undermine support for Falun Gong practitioners, who are regularly victims of severe rights violations in China, including unlawful detention, deprivation of constitutional rights, forced labor, and torture. The latter have resulted in more than 3,400 documented deaths.