The media-savvy Falun Gong

Say what you will about the evil cult. One thing that can’t be denied is their understanding of media relations and their ability to catapult controversial and emotionally wrenching stories into the eye of the public around the world.

When news of organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners in China hit the media in Canada last week, it marked yet another victory for the group’s members in bringing attention to an incident the Chinese government denies exists.

The news was relayed to the media through a press conference on Parliament Hill. Two high profile individuals, former MP and cabinet minister David Kilgour, and David Matas, a Winnipeg-based international human rights lawyer, released a gruesome report accusing the Chinese government of illegally harvesting the organs of imprisoned Falun Gong practitioners in China. The report said an estimated 41,500 transplants were performed using organs of Falun Gong members who were killed while in prison between 2000 and 2005.

Not only did the success of getting major media attention highlight the plight of the high-profile Chinese group (the story was covered in all the major news media including the Globe and Mail, National Post and the CBC) but it also showed how savvy Falun Gong members in North America have become in using the media to further their objectives.

Now, whether a word of it is true or not is another story. Whenever the Wheelers make extravagant claims such as this I am automatically skeptical, based purely on their track record of, shall we say, exaggeration – just as I become skeptical when I see dazzling statistics put forward by the CCP, or claims by Bush assuring us for the umpteenth time that the Iraq insurgency has been defeated. But when it comes to PR, the FLG is doing a hell of a job, and one can only marvel at their ability to get respected Canadian officials to help do their marketing and inject their messages into mainstream media around the world.

The Discussion: 27 Comments

Our (Canada’s) new government seems to be surprising me a lot these days.

Lets see what they do with this one…

July 13, 2006 @ 10:21 pm | Comment

And whenever Western governments express such approval of the Wheelers, nationalists in China break another couple of thousand keyboards in frustration–and China is one step further from true religious freedom for non-cult moderates.

July 13, 2006 @ 10:38 pm | Comment

Well, t_co, in that case, Western governments should all join together in condemning the FLG. I’m sure we’ll see religious freedom develop overnight in China. Heh!

July 13, 2006 @ 10:49 pm | Comment

Yes! Support religious freedom – condemn the FLG.

July 13, 2006 @ 10:51 pm | Comment

๐Ÿ™‚ Heh.

July 13, 2006 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

t-co…

(…now I’m winding up for a knock-out punch…)

…in your above comment, you suggested that the approval of “Western governments” for the FLG, is a considerable factor in China’s avoidance of “true religious freedom for non-cult moderates.”

Well, do you know what is a FAR, FAR MORE INFLUENTIAL factor in China’s hostility to “non-cult moderates?” It’s China’s OWN policy of outlawing the Roman Catholic Church, THE LARGEST and OLDEST Christian church in the entire world.

And WHAT does THAT have to do with the FLG?

NOTHING! NOTHING!

Quite the opposite, in fact. Because, the Roman Catholic Church is the OPPOSITE of any kind of “cult.” There are around one billion Roman Catholics in the world. They can make a rational claim to being one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Christian “sect” in the world. At the very least, the Roman Catholic Church can claim to be at least 1,700 years old. And there are one billion of them in the world. And they have a strict hierarchy, and a very conservative way of interpreting their religion, and a very conservative attitude toward obeying the law of any country’s established government. AND a long history – in modern times – of cooperating with secular governments.

If the CCP had any sense, they would see that legalising the Roman Catholic Church in China would HELP stability in China, and it would help to DIMINISH the influence of cults – because the Roman Catholic Church is one of the most rationalistic, tightly structured, scholarly and logical, and legalistic, ANTI-CULT religions in the world….

So, t-co, tell us, tell us, WHAT does China’s repression of the Roman Catholic Church, have to do with any cults like the FLG?

We’re waiting for you to explain the connection between China’s repression of the Roman Catholic Church – the ULTIMATE NON-CULT – and the FLG?

Explanation, please?

July 13, 2006 @ 11:23 pm | Comment

Really the division between cults and religions is artificial. Most religions begin as cults, including Christianity. They battle amongst themselves, the stronger ones evolving into religions. Mainstream religions are generally more moderate, but that’s because they reflect mainstream culture. Christianity, at inception, is plenty radical. Whatever society converts to Christianity, however, Christianity is used to justify mainstream opinions. (Cf. Nietzsche’s idea of strong and weak use of doctrines). To defend religions while rejecting cults is simply to reinforce mainstream opinions.

Personally I am all for religious freedom in China. In every society there are a few keystone topics — controversial issues through which you can investigate a person’s true intellectual character. In China, there’s FLG. When you ask someone about FLG, if they reply that FLG should be banned because it’s a evil cult — then obviously that person is not a philosopher, because he hasn’t thoroughly explored the concepts of religion and cult. In Canada say, you have the keystone topics of safe injection houses and gay marriage.

Speaking of the Roman Catholic Church, however, there are quite a few reasons aside from official atheism that it should be banned. Not that I think it should be banned, of course, but I don’t think too highly of the Roman Catholic Church either. For one thing, during the Boxer Rebellion, the Catholic Church demanded eye for an eye revenge upon imperial officials. The Catholic Church did everything in its power to destabilize the Qing government, as well as discredit native religions and traditions. Furthermore, amongst missionaries and jesuits were widespread corruption and practice of brutality. In peace time, missionaries favoured converts and oppressed non-converts — and when crisis occurred, the Church did nothing to protect Chinese converts. The second Opium War was spurred on in part by the Catholic Church — the French public demanded vengeance, and the Church went along with it. And of course, the right of evangelize played a large part in the then-justification of the numerous sino-xenic wars in the 19th century.

Now, the irony is that at first the Catholic Church was welcome in China. It’s only until the Pope denounced ancestor worship that it was expelled. If you invite a man to your house once and he robbed you, would you invite him again?

Aside from historical reasons, quite a few reasons to ban catholicism:

-the Pope denounces condom usage.
-the Pope considers homosexuality a sin.
-the Pope denounces abortions.

In fact considering everything, I prefer FLG to the Catholic Church. The FLG are fanatics, but any group is fanatical when close to extinction. At least they evolved from Chinese folk elements. Having met quite a few Catholics, I would say they are strangely uninterested in Chinese culture and traditions. Organized monotheistic religions tend to be demanding — you can compare the islamisation of Indonesia, or any non-Arab islamic country for that matter.

Theologically also Catholicism is non-sense. Examining the currently accepted canon, and comparing it with the gnostic gospels — while men of god may have written parts of the canon, it’s political men who chose which books belonged to the canon. Other versions of the Jesus myth were suppressed by sustained brutality. In any case, nothing in the canon supports Catholicism. As for the great variety of catholic practices — let’s take the mediaeval indulges, for instance, what does that remind you of? Scientology.

Organized religion, organized politics, organizations — these are primary evils. Let everyman find out the truth for himself. I support every form of gnosticism. The fact that the Catholic church has a strict hierarchy is no boon.

Not that I support a ban on any religion at the moment, but consider if China becomes widely Christianized, then perhaps a ban should be a good thing.

July 14, 2006 @ 12:17 am | Comment

Role of U.S. Junior Partner Not for Russia ? Gorbachev
Created: 14.04.2006 13:34 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 13:34 MSK

MosNews

The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who put and end to the Cold War, has lamented the rising tension in U.S.-Russian relations, but made clear Moscow would not be consigned by Washington to the role of ?junior partner? on the world stage.

In his article, published by the state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily, Gorbachev wrote there had of late been ?several worrying trends in relations between the U.S. and Russia? on topics ranging from Middle East security to Russian democracy and influence in former Soviet republics.

Prominent politicians in both countries ? he singled out U.S. Senator John McCain in particular ? spoke of the U.S.-Russian bilateral relationship more frequently in terms that smacked of Cold War-style rhetoric and that undermined the huge gains made in the past two decades.

?I can say with full responsibility that the policy of dialogue and cooperation adopted by the Russian and U.S. presidents is supported by the political and social circles of our countries,? Gorbachev wrote.

?But recently the worry has arisen: Will this policy continue??

Gorbachev said the ?euphoria? that swept Russia in the 1990s about the prospect of close relations with the U.S. had been replaced by disillusionment after Washington ?applauded? radical reformers whose policies plunged Russia into crisis.

?At the same time, the U.S. reserved the role for itself in the international arena as prosecutor, judge and policeman. This could not but be rejected, and not only by Russia.?

Experience in relations between Moscow and Washington dating back to the 1980s and continuing through the administration of former U.S. President Bill Clinton had helped build trust and Russia was interested in cooperation with the U.S. in a variety of areas.

?But this must be on the basis of equals. Russia will not accept the role of junior partner which it has been tapped for? by Washington, he said.

Gorbachev rejected U.S. critics who accuse President Vladimir Putin of rolling back democracy in Russia.

?Russia is only starting down the road of democratic reform, but it will not stray from this road. President Putin does not want this and he will not establish an authoritarian regime in Russia,? he wrote.

July 14, 2006 @ 12:26 am | Comment

Eh, I like the Catholic Church more than FLG, mainly because I’m Christian, but I don’t consider China very wrong in aggravating it (they haven’t even really banned it). Not only does the Catholic Church not support birth control of any kind, directly in opposition to the one child rule, but it is the most important place to recognize Taiwan as its own sovereign state. Yes, China really is going to embrace it with open arms. -_-

Falun Gong’s banning ..actually has less basis. (and it’s not a true ban, I have a aunt who practices it in Beijing no less. She doesn’t announce it to the world, but she doesn’t actively hide it either. She just doesn’t make a fuss about it, or practice it with a large group). I’m not really sure if they were as fanatical before the ban as now. I know there were definitely some crazies.

So my point being Ivan, China doesn’t dislike the Catholic Church for being a cult, but rather a multitude of other ones that I think are mostly legitimate.

Btw…they had already made the same claims a few months ago…and investigations made by Americans found it to not be true. Why are they going on about this yet again?

“US team finds ‘no evidence’ of Falun Gong’s abuse claims in China

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A team of US officials has found no evidence in northern China to support claims by the Falun Gong spiritual group that thousands of its followers have been killed and their organs harvested in concentration camps, the US government said.

Despite such a finding, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Friday that Washington has taken the Falun Gong’s charges “seriously” and has urged the Chinese government to probe the claims.

The Falun Gong has alleged that as many as 75 percent of its 6,000 followers held in a state-run Chinese camp in the Sujiatun district of the northern city of Shenyang had been cremated after they were killed and their organs harvested and sold.

“Officers and staff from our embassy in Beijing and consulate in Shenyang have visited the area and the specific site mentioned in these reports on two separate occasions,” McCormack said.

“In these visits the officers were allowed to tour the entire facility and grounds and found no evidence that the site is being used for any function other than as a normal public hospital.”

“We have raised these reports with the Chinese government and urged it to investigate these allegations,” the spokesman said, noting that the Chinese government has denied the Falun Gong’s allegations.

McCormack added: “We remain concerned over China’s repression of Falun Gong practitioners.”

July 14, 2006 @ 12:32 am | Comment

Zoomzan said that among the reasons to ban Catholicism are:

1. The Pope denounces condom usage.

My answer: The vast majority of Catholics ignore this rule. My devoutly Catholic father told me how to use condoms, and he ORDERED me to use them rather than risking other complications. And banning the Catholic Church in my country would not have had any impact on that. In fact, IF the Catholic Church had been outlawed in my country, then it probably would have turned my father into a more fanatical kind of Catholic, just for the sake of rebellion. Free use of birth control is part and parcel of a free, open society, and freedom of religion is an essential foundation of THAT!

2. “The Pope considers homosexuality a sin.”

My answer: First of all, technically that’s incorrect. The Church does not consider homosexual inclinations to be a sin. Rather, it considers homosexual intercourse to be a sin. But it also considers all sex outside of marriage to be a sin, and the vast majority of Catholics ignore that “rule.” (And so do the majority of Catholic Priests!) So, again, I ask you, HOW would outlawing the Catholic Church do any good for homosexuals?

3. “The Pope denounces abortions.”

My answer: Precious little impact that has ever made on any Catholic girls who live in any countries where abortion is legal. I wish I had 100 dollars for every Catholic woman I have ever known who has had an abortion – I could live in luxury for a year on that.
So, again, HOW would outlawing the Catholic Church change anything for the better?

July 14, 2006 @ 12:40 am | Comment

bye bye, “Hello”

(sorry Ivan, it’s the Birmingham troll again – IP 68.220.255.97)

July 14, 2006 @ 1:24 am | Comment

Dear Great Khan,

I hope you’re right. But in this lifetime I ain’t gonna hold my breath waiting for it.

Sincerely yours,
Ivan the scourge of the Golden Horde, eternal ally of Saint Alexander Nevsky

July 14, 2006 @ 1:30 am | Comment

PS, of course, being an ally of Alexander Nevsky is rather inconsistent with being a Catholic. ๐Ÿ™‚ But I never said I was a perfect Catholic…..

July 14, 2006 @ 1:32 am | Comment

Well banning catholicism doesn’t make anything better, but I’m just saying I like FLG, scientology, and mormonism better.

Anyway glad we are on the same page — official proscription means nothing, usually. By the same token, you do realize in many aspects China is much freer than the US. It’s a true libertarian paradise if you have substantial capital and knowledge. It’s like that joke, “Who goes to Cambodia? Adventurers, as well as poor men who nevertheless wish to frequent prostitutes regularly.”

In so many ways China is a game which is over. For me at least — traditions are dying, people are adopting the worst habits of western urban life, no interest at all in classical literature. But other than that I’m not complaining. For me it’s simple, just keep your mouth shut and enjoy the pleasures of excess and indulgence.

July 14, 2006 @ 1:33 am | Comment

Zoomzan, I don’t agree with everything you say, but methinks you and I are kindred spirits of some kind, perhaps from many lifetimes ago.

July 14, 2006 @ 1:44 am | Comment

Catholicism is not banned. What is forbidden is the papal edict to appoint bishops for the Catholic Church in China, essentially making the official Catholic Church in China, an Episcopal Church.

Meh bloody papists.

July 14, 2006 @ 10:13 am | Comment

What other human rights abuses have been grossly exaggerated by the FLG mouthpiece the Epoch Times? I too am highly skeptical of this, but the Epoch Times track record of reporting on other human rights stories has been well within reason, not to mention the quickest out and best on the ground coverage. No cynicism intended here. This is a serious question.

July 14, 2006 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

Believe it or not, I don’t chronicle the ET’s exaggerations. I simply find thhem hysterical and obsessive. If you like them, more power to you.

July 14, 2006 @ 7:10 pm | Comment

Ivan, you can’t say “Yeah, well Catholics do condemn homosexuals, but they don’t really mean it, and besides, they ignore that particular commandment…” Next you’ll say that the CCP condemns homosexuality, but it doesn’t… oh yeah. It does….

July 15, 2006 @ 12:36 am | Comment

Another thing about condom and Catholicism. I’m under the impression that the pope’s ban on contraception does have immediate effects on believers. In Hong Kong, for instance, Chinese prostitutes in general are very strict on condom use. Likewise in most mainland cities. Prostitutes from the philippines, however, are amongst the most resistant to condom use, primarily because of their Catholicism. Of course you can interpret this however you want, because in Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma, condom use is low, though they are Buddhist countries.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:24 am | Comment

Another thing about condom and Catholicism. I’m under the impression that the pope’s ban on contraception does have immediate effects on believers. In Hong Kong, for instance, Chinese prostitutes in general are very strict on condom use. Likewise in most mainland cities. Prostitutes from the Philippines, however, are amongst the most resistant to condom use, primarily because of their Catholicism. Of course you can interpret this however you want, because in Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma, condom use is low, though they are Buddhist countries.

Actually I think low condom usage in Southeast Asia (except Singapore) is due to most prostitution there being brothel-based. The girls owe debt to brothels and are correspondingly compelled to lower standards. Furthermore, they can’t get out of the business easily. In China, girls become prostitutes voluntarily. Of course, one can argue whether economic hardship constitutes compulsion, but the fact is the girls can quit the business anytime. Therefore, once knowledgeable about AIDS and condom usage, most girls maintain some semblance of standard. This is why I champion sex workers’ rights – ideology cannot trump basic facts of epidemics and economics.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:35 am | Comment

Many people have died because Falun Gong says you cannot go to hospital if you are sick. And many people jumped from their buildings because they think they will go to heaven. If a religion tell people not to go to hospital and commit suicide, that is an illegal organization.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

Right. So let’s exterminate the FLG. That’ll keep them from committing suicide.

Those things – the suicides, the refusal of medical care – are irrelevant to why the FLG is persecuted. The sole reason is that they have proven their ability to mobilize tens of thousands of members at a moment’s notice, and that is and always has been the greatest threat to the totalitarian state.

July 15, 2006 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

Organ harvesting for sale on the black market. How gruesome- the only comparable incidents which come to mind are the experiments Japanese military doctors conducted on Chinese civillians during WW2. It’s quite believable- with China’s corruption-ridden medical system, even the Chinese government is probably not in a position to know whether or not such things occur, or how frequently.

July 16, 2006 @ 4:00 am | Comment

Right. So let’s exterminate the FLG. That’ll keep them from committing suicide.

Those things – the suicides, the refusal of medical care – are irrelevant to why the FLG is persecuted. The sole reason is that they have proven their ability to mobilize tens of thousands of members at a moment’s notice, and that is and always has been the greatest threat to the totalitarian state.
————————

Why do you say they are irrelevant? If a group tells people to suicide, it is not illegal in the US? The Chinese gov’t wants to stop people from suicide from this group and stop this group creating chaos, what is wrong with it?

Of course, I am not naive. I know the CCP also is afraid that Fa Lun Gong will become opposition party, so they use that excuse to kill it. But China is different from USA, China is in the early period of development, and cannot stand too much chaos and too much disruption in society right now. Maybe in 50 years when China is stable enough, then maybe those groups can survive and be more relaxed. But not now.

July 16, 2006 @ 11:17 am | Comment

If China were to allow people to read Falun Gong material or to let Falun Gong respond to their “claims” then more people would have an educated opinion when talking about these “rumours”.
If you read Zhuan Falun, you would read that suicide is strictly forbidden. You are not a Falun Gong practitioner if you committ suicide or believe people should. It does not say “don’t take medicine”- in fact its says you can. Unfortuately in 1996 the books that FG practitioners study from were banned in China. So in 1999 when these “claims” came out about Falun Gong no one was able to verify their validity. Fortunately, outside of CHina this information can be obtained….however most CHinese people will not even stop to talk to Falun Gong practitioners because they believe what the CCP says is true- without questioning the truth and accuracy of their “claims”. If you want to understand the Chinese culture created in the last 50+ years by the Communist PArty read the “Nine Commentaries on the CHinese Communist Party”.

July 31, 2006 @ 1:25 am | Comment

There are many misconceptions about Falun Gong expressed in this thread. Falun Gong is not a cult but an orthodox practice, it has no membership, no money involved, is completely voluntary, people are encouraged to decide for them selves if they want to practice, people who practice live normal lives and there is no worship. You are encouraged to come to your own understanding based on the principles truth,benevolence,forbearance rather than following others.Using Falun Gong in any political way is forbidden.
Killing is forbidden including killing oneself, if you have a serious illness you are advised to goto hospital straightaway, there is no requirement to not take medicine, how people deal with illness is up to them. Wether you are a practitioner or not depends on wether you can follow the principles of truth,compassion and tolerance, do the exercises regularly and not go to extremes.
Many practitioners when detained were threatened with death and told that “we will push you off the roof and call it suicide,no one will know” or the death of a Falun Gong practioner is nothing we wont be held responsible” i’m sure they lived up to their words on some occasions. Falun Gong practitioners may be fanatical about truth and compassion and tolerance but i see nothing wrong with that ,when you are fanatical about truth you dont lie,when you are fanatical about compassion you think of others first when you are extremely tolerant you can be truthfull and compassionate in all circumstances.
Conversely when the Chinese Government lies you cant sit back and accept a lie. So practitioners tell the truth about the practice and expose that Governments lies, this is not being political but simply telling people the truth, what people do after they learn the truth is up to them.
The true evil cult is the Chinese Communist Party it has a membership,takes money from its members threatens them if they leave, imprisons them if they dont follow its doctrine,torture or kills those who believe in something greater than it, indoctrinates people from a young age in its theories, forces people to swear allegiance to it and recite its theories,destroys traditional culture,it uses hatred deceit fighting theft and killing to maintain itself.
who would you believe?

August 2, 2006 @ 3:38 am | Comment

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