Propaganda Inside China
The Xinhua News Agency—official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government—had a rare, if not startling, moment of candor in July of 1999, four days into the suppression of Falun Gong.
“In fact, the so-called ‘truth, kindness and tolerance’ principle preached by Li Hongzhi [Falun Gong’s founder],” Xinhua proudly declared, “has nothing in common with the socialist ethical and cultural progress we are striving to achieve.” Especially the “truth” part.
As in every genocide of the twentieth century, central to the persecution of Falun Gong has been a hate propaganda campaign of enormous proportions. “Beijing has ratcheted up the campaign to a fever pitch, bombarding citizens with an old, communist-style propaganda war,” The Wall Street Journal reported (Ian Johnson, “China’s War against Falun Dafa Enters New Battleground: Primary Schools,” February 13, 2001).
The bombardment, which has continued in various modified forms for nearly a decade, began on July 22 of 1999, the day Falun Gong was officially banned in China. Under the direction of the aptly named Ministry of Propaganda, state-run television immediately launched disinformation marathons, broadcasting alleged “exposés” on the meditation group 24 hours a day.
Not to be outdone, radio stations flooded the airwaves with the government’s official rhetoric denouncing the group. State-run newspapers condemned the Falun Gong with unchecked bravado, led by the CCP’s People’s Daily, which ran a staggering 347 “articles” on the group – in one month.
Over time the CCP would extend the scope and reach of its propaganda, erecting billboards, issuing comic books, printing posters, and producing movies, a TV series, and even plays.
Clive Ansley, Esq., a renowned lawyer who has practiced and taught in China for 14 years, was residing there at the time. He has described the media barrage as “the most extreme, and totally unjustified, campaign of unmitigated hatred I have ever witnessed.”
One feature common to this propaganda is its caustic nature, breeding distrust, discrimination, and hatred, ultimately creating an environment in which otherwise inconceivable violence could be justified. Through a combination of name-calling, gross misrepresentations, and scare tactics, Party rhetoric seeks to dehumanize those who practice Falun Gong. The most common label for the Falun Gong is “evil cult members.”
For instance, on July 2, 2002, Xinhua published a story entitled “16 Beggars Poisoned: the Suspect is a Falun Gong Member.” At the same time, more detailed reports from the local newspaper in Zhejiang, where the incident took place, did not mention Falun Gong at all, and said the case had not yet been solved. Nonetheless, the Xinhua version of the story was circulated in newspapers throughout China and even picked up by overseas wire services. (http://faluninfo.net/rat-poison-at-chinas-xinhua-news-agency/).
Falun Gong has been scapegoated for all of China’s ills—from poverty to “superstition.” A number of government-authored pieces have made appeals to nationalism while trying to link, however clumsily, Falun Gong to “foreign anti-China forces.”
The propaganda campaign is a supplement to the violence detailed elsewhere on this site. “Pure violence doesn’t work. Just [compulsory] ‘studying’ doesn’t work either,” one CCP adviser explained to the Washington Post. “And none of it would be working if the propaganda hadn’t started to change the way the general public thinks. You need all three.” (article).
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In 2003 Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for inciting the hatred that sparked the 1994 Rwanda genocide. “Without a firearm or machete you caused the deaths of thousand of innocent civilians,” the judge proclaimed. Chinese media and propaganda officials have already been sued abroad for inciting genocide (http://grandtrial.org/English/overview_of_legal_cases.htm).
The propaganda campaign has not been limited to the PRC’s state-run media, but has spread overseas, to the point that non-Chinese have been echoing the Party’s label of Falun Gong without knowing its origins. CCP propaganda, too, has slipped into Western media coverage of Falun Gong and some academic scholarship without ever being questioned (See: “Out of the Media Spotlight” analysis).
The most prominent example of a single propaganda piece that succeeded in generating much hatred against Falun Gong inside China and skepticism about it overseas is that of the purported “self-immolation.” This in spite the fact that the incident has been exposed as most likely being staged by the CCP (award winning video and analysis).
Meanwhile, the major conduits for this propaganda both in China and abroad – Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television – are now more prominent internationally than ever before, thanks to media conglomerates contracts with the Party’s self-proclaimed mouthpieces.