On the night of July 20th, 1999, in a sudden illegal action, countless Falun Gong practitioners were torn from their beds and arrested.
Two days later, on the 22th of July, Falun Gong was officially banned. To “justify” the nationwide persecution, the Chinese state-run television launched disinformation marathons under the direction of the aptly named Ministry of Propaganda. For 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, Falun Gong practitioners were accused of fabricated crimes in television broadcasts.
Radio stations flooded the airwaves with the government’s official rhetoric denouncing the group. State-run newspapers condemned 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.
Comprehensive hate campaign
Over time the CCP extended the scope and reach of its propaganda, erecting billboards, issuing comic books, printing posters, and producing movies, a TV series, and even plays that slandered Falun Gong.
Clive Ansley, a renowned lawyer who has practised law 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”. Clive described the role of the media in the persecution of Falun Gong in China in his Affidavit.
To incite the people
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 dehumanise those who practise Falun Gong.
On July 2nd, 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.
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”.
One CCP adviser explained to the Washington Post: “Pure violence doesn’t work. Just [compulsory] ‘studying’ doesn’t work either… 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.” (see article)
CCP propaganda in Western media
The propaganda campaign has not been limited to the PRC’s state-run media, but has spread overseas. This has lead to the point that also 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 its source ever being questioned (See: “Out of the Media Spotlight”).
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 (see the award winning video and analysis http://www.falsefire.com/).
News about the propaganda
The Wall Street Journal reported:
“Beijing has ratcheted up the campaign to a fever pitch, bombarding citizens with an old, communist-style propaganda war,” - The Wall Street Journal (Ian Johnson, "China's War against Falun Dafa Enters New Battleground: Primary Schools," February 13th, 2001).