Freedom of Speech and Press
Part VII: Falun Dafa Information Center 2008 Annual Report
Falun Gong remained one of the most taboo topics of coverage for both Chinese and foreign news organizations reporting from China in 2008. The pre-Olympic crackdown included the detention and sentencing of adherents found to be possessing, producing, or distributing underground leaflets in accordance with their right to freedom of expression.
For domestic journalists, it remained clear that the only reporting permitted on the topic was that which was directed by the Central Propaganda Department—this included a prohibition on reporting the arrest, sentencing, or torture of adherents or their acts of peaceful resistance coupled with directions during certain periods to convey anti-Falun Gong propaganda.
Anti-Falun Gong propaganda ahead of Olympics
In an apparent attempt to justify the pre-Olympics crackdown on adherents, according to the CECC, 2008 saw an “increase in anti-Falun Gong propaganda ahead of the Olympics—Chinese security officials made statements prior to the Olympics that sought to link Falun Gong with terrorist threats, but produced no evidence to substantiate these claims.”
“In April 2008, the central government 6-10 Office issued an internal directive to local governments nationwide mandating propaganda activities to prevent Falun Gong from “interfering with or harming” the Olympics. References to the directive appear on official Web sites in every province and at every level of government. Local authorities distributed the directive widely in an effort to raise public awareness. References can be found on various Web sites ranging from public entities with indirect relations with the state (state-run enterprises, public schools, universities, parks, TV stations, meteorological bureaus, etc.) to commercial and social entities with no obvious ties to the state.”
For foreign journalists, despite regulations ostensibly loosening restrictions on their access to information, according to the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of China in its online “Reporter’s Guide,” when it comes to Falun Gong, the recent trend had been that there is “No access,” the only subject described in such absolute terms.
Crackdown on distribution of underground leaflets
Given the inability of mainstream Chinese media to report truthfully on Falun Gong, adherents around the country continued a strategy of producing homemade underground leaflets and DVDs with information on the practice, rights abuses, and the broader history of the Chinese Communist regime. Despite the peaceful and constitutionally enshrined nature of such actions, the arrest and sentencing of Falun Gong adherents for possessing, preparing, or distributing such literature was widespread and systematic, particularly in the months leading up to and immediately following the Olympic games. A large percentage of those detained in the months prior to the Olympics were arrested without a warrant from their home or workplace, often accompanied by the ransacking of their residence by police and the confiscation of computer equipment and printed matter related to Falun Gong.
A Chinese government website in Beijing’s Liulitun neighborhood described a January 2008 meeting of local officials on how to deal with Falun Gong ahead of the Olympics. Among the directives issued at the meeting was the need to “mobilize the power of the masses of residents to report promptly if they find anyone handing out [Falun Gong] materials.” In the months following the meeting, at least 36 adherents were detained in the surrounding area. A screenshot of the website is attached as Appendix A.
As reported by the CECC:
“In July , Chinese state media reported the arrest of 25 Falun Gong practitioners and the destruction of 7 Falun Gong publishing operations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
Religious prisoners: “Ha Jingbo and Jiang Ruoling, two middle school teachers from Dongfeng county in Jilin province, whom authorities detained in June 2008 for distributing educational leaflets about Falun Gong. After taking the two women to the Dayang Public Security Bureau, male officers severely beat them in an attempt to coerce confessions. The women are currently held in Dongfeng County Detention Center on unknown charges.”
Religious prisoner: “Yang Xiyao, a 68-year-old resident of Yanshan county in Hebei province, whom authorities detained on May 20, 2008, after raiding his home and confiscating Falun Gong publications. Yang served 6 years of a 10-year prison sentence in Baoding Prison from 2000 to 2006 for professing belief in Falun Gong. Officials released him in 2006 to receive medical treatment for heart palpitations and injuries reportedly caused by torture. Yang is once again in Baoding Prison. It is unclear whether he is continuing to serve his existing sentence, or if officials extended his sentence as a result of new criminal charges.”
For full CECC excerpts on Falun Gong, see:
Mr. Zhang Xingwu, a 67-year-old retired physics professor at Jinan Normal University in Shandong province, and his wife, Ms. Pinjie Liu were arrested from their home on July 16, 2008. In recent years, Mr. Zhang had operated a site for printing underground newsletters and VCDs from his home. The newsletters included the Minghui Weekly, a collection of articles on Falun Gong and rights abuses committed against its adherents. Also printed were copies of The Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, an editorial series published by the overseas Chinese-language Epoch Times newspaper. As a result of Zhang’s efforts to disseminate such sensitive information, the local police reportedly viewed him as a key target for arrest in the pre-Olympic purge.
According to his daughter who resides in New York, six other local Falun Gong adherents who had distributed materials he prepared were also arrested recently, increasing Zhang’s risk of receiving a long sentence. Two documents obtained by the Falun Dafa Information Center, complete with the official stamp of the local security agency, confirm the couple’s arrest. According to one document, Mr. Zhang faces charges of “using a heretical organization to undermine implementation of the law,” a vague provision of the criminal code commonly used to sentence Falun Gong adherents to prison terms of up to 12 years:
As of January 2009, Zhang remained in Jinan City Detention Center, as the authorities reportedly weighed whether to submit his case to the judicial or “re-education through labor” system for possible sentencing. His family was denied access to visit him.
For a more complete account of the couple’s arrest, see: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2008/08/24/2008-08-24_the_chinese_government_is_terrorizing_my-3.html
New Tang Dynasty TV broadcast blocked:
In a significant blow to the free flow of information inside China, on June 16, 2008, the broadcast to Asia of New Tang Dynasty Television was shut down. According to the French satellite company Eutelsat, which hosts the station, the alleged cause of the switch off was a technical difficulty. On June 23, however, the press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders, published the recording of an admission by a Eutelsat employee, implying that the shut down was a deliberate effort to curry favor with the Chinese regime.
At year’s end, the beam had not been renewed, thereby depriving the station’s millions of viewers in China of uncensored information on Falun Gong, Tibet, the Olympics, the tainted milk scandal and other issues vital to Chinese audiences.