Since the persecution began, Falun Gong practitioners far beyond China’s borders have been targets for surveillance, harassment, burglary, and even beatings. Within the past two years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has launched more overt campaigns to suppress the Falun Gong diaspora around the world. This is apparent through street violence, attempts at soft power subversion, and attacks on media outlets and organizations founded by Falun Gong practitioners.
A Global Campaign, Coordinated from Beijing
A January 2021 report by Freedom House found that the Chinese regime engages in the most sophisticated, global, and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world and that among its targets are Falun Gong practitioners. According to leaked Chinese Communist Party documents and congressional testimonies from former Chinese diplomats, the CCP has directed operations around the world, usually through their diplomatic stations, to silence, marginalize, and suppress Falun Gong since the launch of the persecution in 1999. Actions against Falun Gong overseas have featured:
Diplomatic pressure on foreign local and federal government leaders to obstruct Falun Gong activities in their jurisdictions
Threats on foreign businesses
Manipulation and coercion of foreign media
Threats and harassment of activists’ family members still in China
United front activities and cultural exchanges
Over the last two years, the CCP has continued to employ these tactics against Falun Gong in the United States and other countries around the world.
“In each Chinese mission overseas there must be at least one official in charge of Falun Gong affairs. The head and the deputy head of the mission will be responsible for the Falun Gong affairs. I am aware of there being more than 1,000 Chinese secret agents and informants residing in Australia, and they have partaken in efforts to persecute the Falun Gong. The number in the United States should be higher.”
— Former Chinese consul Chen Yonglin testifying before Congress
Chinese Government directives: A series of Chinese government directives obtained by human rights groups and Western media outlets detail the priority and strategy of maligning, silencing, and suppressing Falun Gong outside China. “Treat the countries and regions with serious ‘Falun Gong’ activities such as the United States as the main battlefield,” commands one December 2015 directive by Meng Jianzhu, then a member of the CCP Central Committee and head of the PLAC. Meng went on to emphasize that the CCP has to “push the concerned countries to ban or restrict the activities of the ‘Falun Gong’” and end the practice’s position in the community, relationship with sponsors, and support from allies through “mobilizing patriotic and friendly people such as experts, scholars, journalists, and overseas Chinese community leaders who have greater influence in the U.S. and Western countries to vocalize and strive to make more foreign media” send out the CCP’s anti-Falun Gong message. The directive also demands that non-governmental forces are cultivated to fight Falun Gong, and “suppress the economic and cultural entities of ‘Falun Gong.’”
Chinese agents target Falun Gong worldwide: Practitioners abroad are targeted by the long arm of the 610 Office. The CCP and its agents will monitor, harass, and even physically assault exiled Falun Gong adherents or local non-Chinese citizens who practice Falun Gong. These transnational repression cases are well-documented by human rights organizations and Falun Gong communities in the United States, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Brazil, Argentina, and more. In some instances, local authorities are recruited by the CCP to do their bidding to detain, prosecute, or extradite Falun Gong practitioners, including ones who are not Chinese citizens. The above-mentioned Freedom House report noted that practitioners in Thailand had been detained, “including a Taiwanese man involved in uncensored radio broadcasts to China and several cases of Chinese refugees formally recognized as such by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).” Countries besides Thailand where this has happened include India, Serbia, Malaysia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, UAE, Turkey, and Nepal.
Beijing silences overseas Chinese: In October 2021, the Institute for Strategic Research of the French Ministry for the Armed Forces (IRSEM) published a 646-page report, titled “Chinese Influence Operations: A Machiavellian Moment.” The study details the Chinese Communist Party’s infiltration and influence over international governments in various sectors, including media, diplomacy, economy, politics, education, think tanks, and culture. According to IRSEM, the CCP’s first goal is to silence Chinese communities abroad, especially dissidents with different opinions, ethnic Chinese who grew up in democratic countries, and religious and ethnic minorities like Falun Gong, Uyghurs, and Tibetans. In terms of implementation of its goal, the CCP monitors these organizations and individuals regardless of their nationality – as long as they are Chinese descendants. The tactics range from information gathering, infiltration, suppression, threat, intimidation, harassment, and even direct violence. The report highlights 79 instances of the CCP’s persecution of Falun Gong outside China. These include concrete examples of how the CCP bought off overseas Chinese media and Chinese organizations to spread fake information that demonizes Falun Gong and incites hatred. For example, the CCP threatens and intimidates Falun Gong practitioners through Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), which often have ties to local Chinese embassies and consulates, individual Chinese students studying overseas, and online trolls.
Recent incidents in Europe, United States
Chinese spies commit refugee espionage on Finland practitioners: Yleisradio (Yle), Finland’s national radio company, published an article on May 21, 2020, outlining some of the ways the Chinese Communist Party is spying on Chinese ex-pats in Finland, titled “Under the Watchful Eye of China” (Kiinan Valvonvan Silmän). Spying activities by a foreign power against its former or current citizens are referred to as “refugee espionage.” The Finnish Security and Intelligence Service (SUPO) have documented incidents of Chinese spies monitoring and harassing Falun Gong practitioners, supporters of the Hong Kong demonstrations, Tibetans, and Uyghurs living in Finland.
One victim was Jin Zhaoyu, a Falun Gong practitioner who has lived in Lapland in northern Finland since 2008. She campaigned in Finland against the human rights violations in China for years, especially when her mother was jailed in China because of her Falun Gong practice. Because of her peaceful activities, she has been on the receiving end of harassment by people affiliated with the Chinese Embassy in Finland. Yle said that Jin’s efforts to rescue her mother and other detained practitioners garnered media attention. Her story was run in Helsingin Sanomat, the largest subscription newspaper in Finland. Amnesty International also showed support for Jin's rescue efforts and considered her mother a prisoner of conscience.
After Jin's mother was released in 2015, she was able to join her daughters in Finland with the help of Amnesty International. Though five years have passed since her mother was released, Jin is still being harassed. Her tourism company, which provides nature experiences, including Northern Lights trips and dog safaris, has been attacked online by employees of mainland Chinese companies. Of those companies, the largest one is Arctic China.
Yle contacted Arctic China CEO Tang Chao about the alleged defamation of Jin's business. Tang said he did not know Jin and ended the call. The Yle report said that, according to the Chinese Embassy in Finland, Tang has been the contact person for the Chinese Consulate in Rovaniemi since 2017. Arctic China also represents the partially state-owned, partially publicly traded Chinese alcohol company Kweichow Moutai in Finland.
Consulate in Australia pressures officials to restrict Falun Gong parade participation: The Chinese Consulate in Western Australia has contacted the city of Perth on many occasions, attempting to persuade officials to stop the city from issuing permits to Falun Gong practitioners for their activities and demonstrations. According to a report by the local WAtoday newspaper in February 2020, the Chinese Consulate frequently contacts the city's executive management team to complain about Falun Gong events in the city, but officials have always rejected these requests. The city of Perth has continued to issue permits for Falun Gong practitioners' activities because they have always complied with the law.
In 2018, the Chinese Consulate made another attempt to have Falun Gong barred from participating in the Perth Christmas parade, but was exposed by Australian media. Falun Gong practitioners have participated in every annual parade since 2008, but for the first time they were forbidden from wearing any outfits that would identify them as “Falun Gong.” Following this incident, in December 2021, the Falun Gong community in Perth was banned entirely from participating in the Perth Christmas Pageant. Even though the organizers (billionaire Kerry Stokes’s Seven West Media) originally invited the Falun Gong practitioners, their participation pass was revoked ten days later. Seven organizers reportedly told the group that the pageant was apolitical, and the presence of Falun Gong could result in the “airing of international political issues.” The email read, “The pageant is not a forum for those involved in such issues to be represented, and it gives rise to potential conflict and security issues for the event.” By restricting Falun Gong practitioners’ participation, on the false pretense that their meditation and traditional Chinese outfits were “political,” the organizers effectively discriminated against a persecuted religious minority and silenced their voices outside China. The Chinese consulate’s efforts to influence Australian politics and silence dissenting voices within the local Chinese community are part of a larger pattern in the country, well-documented in recent years.
Thuggery in New York City: In the Flushing area of Queens, Falun Gong practitioners over the past two decades have often faced harassment, heckling, and even physical attacks, often from individuals with ties to so-called “anti-cult” associations linked to the CCP. During 2008 and 2015, there were several such incidents. On February 10, 2022, another set of attacks occurred. 32-year-old Zheng Buqiu, began vandalizing a Falun Gong booth outside Queens Public Library where he tore down a poster before being stopped by volunteers. For a week straight, Zheng destroyed booths across Flushing by punching and kicking display boards, knocking over tables with informational booklets, and breaking their portable speaker by stomping on it.
The attacks continued until NYPD officers arrested Zheng on Feb. 15 after he attacked three different information booth locations. Video footage of the arrest shows Zheng dressed in dark clothing. Police charged him with criminal mischief in the fourth degree and a hate crime. Each of which could land him up to a year in jail. One booth volunteer said that Zheng was seen with Li Huahong, the president of an “anti-cult” group linked to the 610 Office, who has herself been arrested four times since 2008 by NYPD for vandalizing Falun Gong booths, indicating Zheng was not acting alone. Similar attacks have taken place in other U.S. cities, as well as other countries across Europe.
London practitioners assaulted in public: Over the course of April and May 2021, He Renyong came to the Falun Gong booth in London’s Chinatown with several other people, threatening to kill and beat up the volunteer practitioners; he also spit on them. On one occasion, he threw a can of soda pop at a Falun Dafa practitioner named Peng, hitting him in the calf. Members of the public who witnessed He Renyong’s violent behavior called the police. When they arrived, the instigators with He ran off, leaving He to be handcuffed and taken away alone in a police vehicle.
The case was heard in a local Westminster court on February 3, 2022. He Renyong denied the charges and claimed he was instigated. Police invited two practitioners to give testimony and played the video recording of He’s assault in Chinatown. The Westminster court in the U.K. sentenced He Renyong to 16 weeks in prison for assaulting and harassing Falun Dafa practitioners in Chinatown. He was charged with threatening, abusive, humiliating speech, and action, harassment, beating, and assault.
Suppression in Russia: Following years of improving relations between Moscow and the CCP, Russian authorities have made various moves to restrict the activities of local residents who practice Falun Gong, including banning spiritual texts and attempting to designate Falun Gong as “extremist,” under problematic local laws used to suppress civil society. On July 8, 2021, a court in the Siberian region of Khakassia designated Falun Gong as “extremist” and disbanded a local group of believers. The U.S. Department of State quickly condemned the decision, noting that it effectively serves to “criminalize the peaceful practice of their spiritual beliefs. Russian authorities harass, fine, and imprison Falun Gong practitioners for such simple acts as meditating and possessing spiritual texts.”
The Department of State continued to state that the court’s decision against Falun Gong “is another example of Russian authorities labeling peaceful groups as ‘extremist,’ ‘terrorist,’ or ‘undesirable’ solely to stigmatize their supporters, justify abuses against them, and restrict their peaceful religious and civic activities. The Russian government has done so against a number of groups, whose members face home raids, extended detention, excessive prison sentences, and harassment for their peaceful religious practices.”
The U.S. Department of State noted that this is just another example of the Russian practice of misusing the ‘extremist’ designation as a way to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms, “We continue to call on Russia to respect the right of freedom of religion or belief for all, including Falun Gong practitioners and members of other religious minority groups in Russia simply seeking to exercise their beliefs peacefully.”
Beijing vilifies, stalks, and endangers leading performing arts company: An April 2022 investigation by The Epoch Times, uncovered a decade-and-a-half campaign of harassment and intimidation by the CCP on U.S. soil. The CCP’s target is Shen Yun Performing Arts, the performing arts company celebrated for its world-class performances of classical Chinese dance and music. The investigation drew on thousands of pages of documents, internal Chinese Communist Party (CCP) communications, and over a dozen interviews. The systematic campaign of intimidation, propaganda, and possible sabotage has targeted the group’s members, performing activities, and campuses. Many of Shen Yun’s artists experienced first-hand religious persecution under communist rule in China before they immigrated to New York. For example, the father of principal dancer Steven Wang was imprisoned in China for practicing Falun Gong and tortured to the brink of death; he died shortly after his release.
Dragon Springs , home to the Shen Yun campus and training facilities, has met with opposition from several local New York residents, who were found to have ties to China, including in the business sector. A key individual is Alex Scilla, 39, an American who runs a nonprofit called NYEnvironcom, and had previously lived in Tianjin for 15 years, with his background posted on the website of the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China). In recent years, nearly all of Scilla’s non-profit’s advocacy has focused on the Shen Yun campus and a few other real estate projects tied to the Chinese expat community in Deerpark, which one of the documents on the site calls “satellite developments” of the campus. In recent years, surveillance drones, trespassing, and other acts of aggression have occurred with increased frequency as well.
Aside from these attempts to disrupt the training facilities, another method of intimidation targets performance venues and public officials. Theaters worldwide have received threatening letters from Chinese embassies and consulates, warning them not to host Shen Yun lest they antagonize the CCP. Public officials, like senators and state representatives, have received similar letters defaming Shen Yun and urging them not to attend the shows.
Other attacks have physically endangered Shen Yun performers. In 2009, a tire exploded on a Shen Yun bus carrying dozens of dancers from Phoenix, Arizona, to their next performance in California. When the driver brought the bus in for service, the mechanics told him the blown tire had unusual marks on it. Apparently, somebody had used a drill to make a hole halfway through the rubber—not enough for it to deflate, but enough for it to burst once on the road. Several months later, one of the company’s buses was found to have two slashes on its tire, both clearly made with a blade. Within the same week, a tire on another bus burst while en route from Memphis to Little Rock on I-40 West. Two days after the incident, that same bus was found with slashes on one of its tires. In one case, someone poured corrosive chemicals over the brake and accelerator pedal cables of a Shen Yun promotional minivan. The company eventually had to arrange 24/7 security for all its vehicles.
Even personal information, such as the identities and families of the performers, have been exploited by the regime. The parents of one Shen Yun emcee would receive visits from Chinese authorities nearly every weekend. In another case, the husband of an instrumental soloist was monitored and jailed in China. These scare tactics also expanded to America when the home of Shen Yun choreographer and manager Chen Yung-chia was broken into in August 2013. “The intruders seemed to be professionals, as they left no fingerprints. The intruders had a motive [other than simple robbery],” Chen said. “They came here thinking they could gather sensitive information about Shen Yun.” Valuables, such as cash, gold jewelry, and expensive watches were all left untouched. Instead, what was stolen were four laptops and a DVD player.
Foreign media influence: A 2017 document was leaked from the 610 Office, which clearly outlines the CCP’s strategy of mobilizing foreign journalists and international media to report on Falun Gong in a manner that more closely matches Beijing’s own demonization of the practice:
"By … cultivating non-governmental forces, we can fight heretical religions such as “Falun Gong,” thereby mobilizing influential and friendly people such as experts, scholars, journalists, and overseas Chinese community leaders to speak up. We should strive to have foreign media take a tone more favorable to us [on Falun Gong]."
In recent years, the implementation of this directive has appeared to tangibly impact reports by Western media that echo the CCP’s propaganda against Falun Gong: the exact same phrases, heretic slurs, and defaming language used by Chinese state-run media have been included in some Western media reports, and like their Chinese state-run counterparts, pay little heed to reality. For example, in an October 24, 2020 New York Times article, the author falsely claims that Falun Gong belief “forbids interracial marriage.” Even the most basic exploration of Falun Gong communities throughout the United States, and indeed around the world, prove this to be false. On the contrary, interracial marriages and families are quite common.
The source for such misinformation likely stems from English-language Chinese government websites and other official sources, which tailor their anti-Falun Gong messaging according to the narratives that have the best chance of striking a nerve in the host country. As racial tensions have soared in the United States in recent years, these Chinese government websites moved “racial discrimination” accusations to the top of their anti-Falun Gong propaganda pages.
It is also worth noting that many Western media companies have majority owners or parent companies with significant business ties with China. At the very least, this represents a significant conflict of interest between profits and candid, fair reporting on the Falun Gong human rights crisis.
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