Media Campaign

Most of the governments campaign to destroy Falun Gong was conducted using propaganda. They used TVprogrammes, newspapers, radio and the Internet to implement the campaign and to reach the most number of people. During the first month of the campaign there were about 400 articles written in which Falun Gong was attacked in state run newspapers. There were also TV programmes repeatedly played alleging negatives against Falun Gong. The campaigns main focus was to allege that practicing Falun Gong would result in a lack of social stability, that it was deceitful and the opposite of their Marxist beliefs.

Two Chinese scholars claimed that for a number of months after outlawing Falun Gong the news in China contained little other content other than propaganda against Falun Gong. They wanted to eradicate every trace of Falun Gong from China in order to have complete power. At first the state used scientific rationale to state that Falun Gongs teachings were in opposition to science and also to communism as a whole. A common theme used against Falun Gong was that it was idealistic and full ofsuperstition, which is vastly opposed to the Marxist views of science, atheism and materialism. They stated that teaching truth, kindness and forbearance could not coexist when striving for social and ethical progress. Falun Gong had to be repressed in order to maintain the power of the Communist party in China.

Even though the propaganda campaign was in full force, it did not result in widespread support to suppress the group at first. This meant that the campaign has to allege more slights about Falun Gong to get support and turn people against the practice. They alleged that Falun Gong worked with foreign forces that were against China. In 1999, three months after the campaign began, the Supreme Court of China stated that Falun Gong was ‘heretical teaching’ but was translated to ‘evil cult’ in English. Any religious organization that did not view Marxist beliefs as correct were seen to be opposing the Communist party.

Ian Jihnson believed that using the term ‘evil cult’ disguised the governments campaign against Falun Gong with the West’s negative views of cults in general. He disagreed that Falun Gong could be termed a cult as it’s members participate in their local communities, have jobs, marriages and do not believe that the end of the world in imminent. Also, it does not believe in violent acts, had no political stance, doesn’t provide organizations with money and its main teachings are spirituality and health related. The use of the term ‘cult’ to describe Falun Gong was vastly incorrect propaganda to stop people seeing any good in the practice. Before the campaign to suppress Falun Gong started it was mainly viewed as a club, which was apolitical exercise group. Government officials had to change people’s perceptions of Falun Gong into something much more sinister, using words to describe it such as ‘cult’ and ‘sect’. Falun Gong peaceful demonstrations against these attacks were described as causing disturbances and a nuisance to society. The Communist party wanted people to have negative thoughts against Falun Gong by seeing it as a cult, which historically destabilized political historically in China.

During Chinese New Year in 2001, five people tried to set themselves alight on Tiananmen Square, which proved to be a turning point in the propaganda campaign. The state run newspaper Xinhua News stated that these people were Falun Gong practitioners, by which the group quickly responded that within their teachings killing yourself was forbidden. They believed that this was a stunt by the government to further harm their cause. The images of people set on fire was should in news programmes across the words, and images of a twelve year old girl burning was shown on Chinese television. The people involved were also interviewed and stated that they had set themselves alight as they thought it would take them to paradise, which again was shown on TV in China. A CNN reporter stated that whilst they were watching the event happen he didn’t see any children involved. Falun Gong stated that what the people said about paradise had nothing to do with Falun Gong teachings or beliefs. The IED (International Education Development) and Media Channel both agreed that the incident was staged in order to suggest that Falun Gong taught its members to commit suicide and was therefore very dangerous and a threat to the country. The IED stated that the vicious assault on Falun Gong by the Chinese government was a form of state terrorism. It was found that two of the people who has set themselves alight and had subsequently died were not Falun Gong members. One of the others who set themselves alight suddenly died after appearing ready to leave hospital and ‘appeared very lively’. Before these incidents many Chinese citizens saw no threat in Falun Gong and that the campaign against them had gone too far. The media in China continued it’s campaign against Falun Gong and tides of sympathy towards Falun Gong turned into support for the government. Herein began the use of regular violent acts towards the group.