Chinese Propaganda in the West
Beijing’s attacks target the conscience of public officials, organizations, and supporters in the West, all with the aim of marginalizing Falun Gong worldwide.
When the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began its persecution campaign against Falun Gong in July 1999, Chinese authorities quickly made it clear that Falun Gong practitioners were not safe anywhere. Ms. Gail Rachlin was a volunteer spokesperson for Falun Gong in the United States. Starting in 1999, Chinese agents broke into Ms. Rachlin’s New York City apartment five times—a fact that was documented by the U.S. House of Representatives.
But the CCP’s attempt to stop Falun Gong outside China is not limited to Falun Gong practitioners.
Chinese authorities have used their embassies and consulates to exert a systematic pressure campaign against government officials, organizations, and even ordinary individuals who express support for Falun Gong practitioners. No target is too big or too small.
The United Front uses the overseas Chinese diaspora, including students, businesspeople, media, and so-called Chinese community groups to influence, manipulate, and pressure foreign citizens, politicians, and business leaders to toe the Party line on Falun Gong.
In November 2000, Mayor Stan Bogosian of Saratoga, California, issued a proclamation honoring Falun Gong’s contribution to the community. The Chinese consulate wrote to Mayor Bogosian and urged him to retract the resolution. Local officials across the United States have reported similar pressure tactics from Chinese diplomats.
The purpose of the CCP’s actions is clear: to export their persecution of Falun Gong overseas, they must convince foreign officials and organizations to comply with their oppressive policies. At a time when Western democracies are waking up to the CCP’s propaganda campaigns within their own borders, it is crucial to examine how the Chinese regime has repeatedly violated diplomatic norms to target Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters in other countries.
CHINESE DIPLOMAT EXPOSES GLOBAL PLOT AGAINST FALUN GONG
Mr. Chen Yonglin, the former first secretary of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney, Australia, was the first to reveal the full scope of the CCP’s actions. Mr. Chen defected to Australia in 2005. He testified before the U.S. Congress that the top daily priority of every Chinese consulate and embassy around the world is to systematically “wage war” against Falun Gong outside China.
Chen testified that each consulate and embassy has a “Special Anti-Falun Gong Working Group” that works closely with the United Front Work Department, an organization under the CCP. The United Front uses the overseas Chinese diaspora, including students, businesspeople, media, and so-called “Chinese community groups” to influence, manipulate, and pressure foreign citizens, politicians, and business leaders to toe the party line on Falun Gong.
Chen notes that each Chinese consulate or embassy implements many tactics to block support for Falun Gong, including:
WIDELY SPREADING anti-Falun Gong hate propaganda in host countries to demonize Falun Gong;
FUNDING AND OTHERWISE CONTROLLING Chinese-language publications within the local Chinese community;
USING CHINESE IMMIGRANTS and students to monitor and report on Falun Gong activities in local communities and
PRESSURING LOCAL OFFICIALS and subjecting them to economic threats or incentives. This includes writing letters demanding that officials not support Falun Gong and to exclude their constituents who practice Falun Gong from all civic activities, including parades, holiday celebrations, press conferences, and academic events.
The following are only a few of the innumerable cases that have happened worldwide over the past 20 years.
CITY COUNCILLOR MONITORED, THREATENED
Mr. John Hugh, a Chinese-Australian city councillor in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, was due to travel to China in 2014 as part of a government delegation. But as reported in The Australian, prior to his trip, Mr. Hugh was invited to the Chinese Consulate and asked about his friendly association with Falun Gong. Chinese officials then demanded that he not attend an upcoming performance of Shen Yun Performing Arts, a classical Chinese dance show presented by local Falun Gong practitioners. Mr. Hugh refused.
Consulate officials then visited the Parramatta mayor’s office to express their concerns about Mr. Hugh. They presented documents showing that they had been monitoring Mr. Hugh at Falun Gong events and demanded he be removed from the delegation. The mayor refused to comply.
Mr. Hugh was then summoned to the consulate for a second time and asked to sign a statement that he would not support Falun Gong, would not watch Shen Yun, and would not attend events that publicized how the CCP harvested organs from Falun Gong victims in China. Mr. Hugh again refused. In the end, Mr. Hugh received a visa and the delegation went ahead, incident free.
CALIFORNIA STATE RESOLUTION RETURNED AFTER THREAT
According to a Freedom House report, on August 29, 2017, the judiciary committee of California’s state senate unanimously approved a resolution condemning the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong. But on September 1, the state senate unexpectedly voted to return the resolution to the rules committee, essentially blocking it from coming to a vote.
The delay was related to a series of letters sent by the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco to members of the state legislature threatening that passage of the resolution “may deeply damage the cooperative relations between the state of California and China” and “sabotage the friendship… between California and China.”
CANADIAN MAYOR CHANGES STANCE AFTER CHINA TRIP
In May 2010, The Ottawa Citizen reported that the Mayor of Ottawa, Mr. Larry O’Brien, upon return from a business trip to China, refused to issue a proclamation to recognize Falun Dafa Day as he had done in previous years because he said he “made a commitment”
Representatives of the local Falun Gong group later learned that Mr. O’Brien had made that commitment due to a request from the Beijing Mayor during his visit to China. The Ottawa City Council later bypassed the mayor to issue a proclamation for Falun Dafa Day.
Government officials in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Europe have expressed concerns over Chinese officials’ interference in their countries.
U.S. CONGRESS CALLS ON BEIJING TO STOP INTERFERENCE ON FOREIGN SOIL
In 2004, U.S. Congress House Concurrent Resolution 304 (H.CON.RES.304) unanimously passed. The resolution stated that CCP affiliates have “pressured local elected officials in the United States to refuse or withdraw support for the Falun Gong spiritual group.”
The resolution called for the Chinese government to “stop interfering in the exercise of religious and political freedoms within the United States, such as the right to practice Falun Gong; cease using diplomatic missions in the United States to spread falsehoods about Falun Gong; release prisoners of conscience; [and] end the harassment, detention, physical abuse, and imprisonment of individuals.”
CHINESE OFFICIALS TARGET THEATERS IN THE U.S., EUROPE, AND BEYOND
According to The Epoch Times, in January 2019 Chinese Ambassador to Spain Lu Fan admitted in a recorded phone call that he made a personal visit to the general manager of the Royal Theater in Madrid to pressure him to cancel an upcoming show from Shen Yun Performing Arts, or face losing China’s business. Lu boasted that he came up with the plan for the theater to use “technical reasons” as their cover. The theater cancelled the show despite the contract having already been signed.
In 2016, KBS Hall in Seoul, South Korea, cancelled four Shen Yun performances. Local organizers for the Shen Yun show took the issue to the Seoul Southern District Court. The judge considered the case and decided that the arguments for canceling Shen Yun did not hold and that Shen Yun should be allowed to perform.
However, just two days before the performances, the same judge overturned his previous decision and issued a ruling canceling the shows. The new ruling cited threats from the Chinese Embassy to Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), the owner of the theater. The court said that if China retaliated by not allowing KBS to show their Korean dramas in China, KBS would incur heavy financial losses.
Under pressure from the Chinese communist regime, South Korea’s judicial independence, rule of law, and democracy have now been stained.
Theaters in countries around the world, including Australia, Germany, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Brussels, Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, Israel, New Zealand, Moldova, Argentina, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada, and cities across the United States have reported similar attempts by Chinese officials trying to stop Shen Yun from performing in local theaters.
Chinese diplomats have also written letters to government officials and local organizations to pressure them to not attend Shen Yun performances.
FAKE EMAILS TARGET WESTERN OFFICIALS
To further build on the defamation campaign against Falun Gong, the CCP then deployed an elaborate email campaign to manipulate Western officials around the world. These officials have received bizarre, offensive, and sometimes threatening emails from unknown individuals impersonating Falun Gong practitioners in an apparent effort to discredit Falun Gong. Past emails have been traced to IP addresses originating in China.
One email sent to a U.S. senator’s office claimed to be from a Falun Gong spokesperson in January 2011. Following a brief introduction thanking the senator for his past support, the note then made a series of unusual demands, including that the senator and his family should openly practice Falun Gong. It then ended with a threat that if the demands were not met, Falun Gong practitioners would be mobilized to ensure the senator did not win re-election. The email was traced to an IP address in Hubei province, China.
After the Christchurch earthquake in 2011, elected representatives in New Zealand received emails from someone impersonating a Falun Gong practitioner. The emails stated that the 159 people known to have died “got what they deserved.” Dr. Cathy Casey, an Auckland councillor who recognized the emails as a hoax called the emails “shocking” and “reprehensible.”
Mr. John Hugh, a City Councillor in Parramatta, Australia, received a suspicious email from “Amanda Chin,” who falsely claimed to be a Falun Gong practitioner and asked for him to attend an event. When he replied that he could not attend, Amanda wrote back, “STUPID! This was the last chance for you to be saved. Waiting for you will be a THOROUGH ELIMINATION!”
In Canada each year, rounds of similar emails are sent to Members of Parliament around annual Falun Dafa celebrations. The emails appear to be inviting MPs to attend events, but then turn into bizarre threats.
Ms. Judy Sgro, co-chair of Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Falun Gong, is one of many MPs who repeatedly receives these types of messages. In one such email in 2018, the sender framed a picture of Ms. Sgro on an inappropriate backdrop and stated that it would be posted everywhere to show that she supports Falun Gong. “It’s really an attempt to disparage the Falun Gong’s followers,” said Sgro.
VIOLENT ATTACKS ON FALUN GONG IN NEW YORK
In the spring and summer of 2008, Falun Gong practitioners in New York City became the targets of sustained violence within the largely Chinese neighborhood of Flushing, Queens. Mobs of Chinese reportedly surrounded, berated, punched, assaulted, and threw rocks at Falun Gong practitioners, leading to multiple arrests.
Peng Keyu, the Chinese consul general in New York, was secretly recorded saying he “encouraged” so-called Chinese community organizations operating under the CCP’s United Front Work Department to attack Falun Gong practitioners. U.S. lawmakers cited these attacks as a clear violation of the right to religious freedom in the United States.
To the present day, Falun Gong practitioners in Flushing still endure discrimination, harassment, death threats, and violence on a daily basis as they try to simply exercise their freedoms of belief and speech.
In 2015, a lawsuit was filed against a Queens New York organization called, the “Chinese Anti-Cult World Alliance” (CACWA) for intimidating and making death threats against Falun Gong practitioners in New York City. The suit details how CACWA is effectively an overseas branch of a similar Chinese Communist Party organization, which works closely with the 6-10 Office, a Gestapo-like security branch created with the mandate of eliminating Falun Gong.
Assaults to Falun Gong practitioners have also occurred in other cities and countries.
CHINESE COMMUNITY GROUPS: A MAGIC WEAPON
In 2017, Professor Anne-Marie Brady from New Zealand published a report titled, “Magic Weapons: China’s political influence activities under Xi Jinping,” which extensively details how local Chinese community groups under theguise of “friendship” or “overseas Chinese” organizations are actually working as agents of the CCP under the United Front Work Department and playing an important part in Chinese foreign affairs and defense. She writes that with the exception of organizations created by opponents of the CCP, like Falun Gong, Tibetans, democratic groups, etc. almost all overseas Chinese associations are controlled by the CCP to influence Chinese policy in other countries.
“STUDENTS AND SCHOLARS” IN THE UK TRY TO SILENCE MISS WORLD CANADA
According to former Chinese diplomat Mr. Yonglin Chen, the main task of the Chinese diplomatic mission’s Education Department is to control and manage overseas students in order to help the consulate suppress organizations and individuals targeted by the Chinese regime. He adds that groups like the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) in particular are extensions of CCP agencies overseas.
At Durham University in early 2017, the CSSA notified the Chinese Embassy about an upcoming appearance by Chinese-Canadian human rights activist and Miss World Canada, Anastasia Lin. Miss Lin speaks openly about the human rights abuses happening to Falun Gong practitioners in China.
The Chinese Embassy warned a student debating society at Durham against giving a platform to Miss Lin, a vocal critic of Beijing, because it would threaten UK-China relations.
The CSSA also filed a complaint with the student organization that Miss Lin was in “violation of the belief and feelings of Chinese students.”
Despite efforts by Chinese students to block access to the venue, the debate went on as planned, and Miss Lin was able to participate.
In 2010, the Epoch Times published a recording that showed Chinese Embassy officials in Ottawa giving instructions to students on how to prepare for “a battle” to block human rights protesters, including Falun Gong practitioners, in preparation for the visit of then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao to Canada. The recording stated that all expenses for the students would be covered. During the protest, cases of harassment and assaults on Falun Gong practitioners were reported.
SPYING ON FALUN GONG AROUND THE WORLD
According to Mr. Chen Yonglin, one of the functions of each Special Anti-Falun Gong Working Group is to compile a complete list of all Falun Gong practitioners in local areas and collect as much information as possible about them so that the consulate or embassy could assign Chinese students and CCP supporters in the local Chinese business community to maintain surveillance on their movements.
Mr. Chen testified that Chinese consulates and embassies all around the world spy on Falun Gong practitioners.
Professor Clive Hamilton, author of Silent Invasion, China’s Influence in Australia, told the story of a retired businessman who saw a Falun Gong practitioner collecting signatures for a petition while walking with one of his Chinese student lodgers. She begged him not to engage with the practitioner, and walked away while he signed the petition. Two weeks later, the Ministry of State Security contacted the student’s parents in China and warned them that their daughter was causing trouble in Australia.
Professor Hamilton wrote, “Think about that. Chinese authorities in Australia are monitoring Falun Gong practitioners on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne, photographing anyone who interacts with them. They can identify any ethnically Chinese person and put them on a watchlist.”
CHINESE AGENT CONVICTED FOR SPYING
In 2011, Chinese agent John Zhou was convicted and sentenced for spying on Falun Gong practitioners in Germany. Investigations found he had been working with Chinese consular officials in Berlin and also with the 6-10 Office, a secret task force with sweeping powers set up by the CCP to persecute Falun Gong.
In another case in 2006, Wang Pengfei, a second secretary at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, had his diplomatic visa renewal refused after he incited Chinese students to gather information on Canadian Falun Gong practitioners, according to multiple media reports
ICELAND APOLOGIZES FOR COMPLYING WITH CCP
In June 2001, at the request of Chinese officials, Icelandic authorities denied entry to Falun Gong practitioners who came to Iceland to protest the visit of CCP leader Jiang Zemin. Using a blacklist provided by the CCP, the national airline turned away hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners at airports around the world. Those who managed to make it to Iceland were detained by the government. The government’s actions created a backlash in Iceland, with Icelandic citizens and members of parliament protesting in the streets.
In 2011, Iceland’s foreign minister issued an apology for violating Falun Gong practitioners’ freedom of expression and movement during the incident.
THE VIENNA CONVENTION FORBIDS THESE ACTIONS
These are just a few examples of how the Chinese regime is threatening democratic values and principles in countries around the world. The Chinese regime’s use of its embassies and consulates to spread their oppressive policies abroad cannot be ignored. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states that visiting diplomatic officials have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs in host countries.
The CCP’s ongoing actions in host countries against Falun Gong are a blatant violation of the Vienna Convention and an abuse of diplomatic privileges, and diplomats spurring such activities should be expelled. But while the CCP has managed to pressure some officials, organizations, and ordinary citizens to turn a blind eye to human rights atrocities in China and beyond, many are still standing strong and upholding their integrity.
Governments around the world must take a closer look at the CCP’s actions within their own countries and stop this abuse. The CCP cannot be allowed to take advantage of democratic freedoms to further their own ends.