By the end of 2000, a year and a half after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched the suppression of Falun Gong, the campaign had failed to garner support among many of the CCP's rank and file. Then-CCP leader Jiang Zemin had toured southern provinces earlier in 2000 hoping to shore up more support for the campaign among local leaders. Meanwhile, public support for the campaign more broadly had waned.
A Massive Propaganda Stunt Contrived by the CCP to Demonise Falun Gong in the Minds of China's People.
On January 23rd, 2001, five individuals allegedly set themselves on fire in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The entire scene was caught on camera from multiple angles. Beginning just hours after the event, state-controlled media was flooded with reports that the self-immolators were Falun Gong practitioners. These reports included grisly footage of the victims, portraying Falun Gong teachings as directly responsible for the tragedy.
In the weeks following the event, a wealth of evidence uncovered (including a Washington Post article finding that two of the self-immolators never practised Falun Gong) indicating that the entire incident was staged. An analysis of the CCP video (see www.falsefire.com) showed that one of these people was clubbed by a CCP agent. Fire extinguishers were improbably quick at the scene, but the extinguishing of the fire was being delayed until after more film footage was created. In addition, voice analyses pointed out that what the people on the square said was dubbed. Yet, people inside China had no access to this information.
Influence of the incident
While the Chinese state-run media continued a blitz campaign to portray the "self-immolators" as Falun Gong practitioners, people across China changed from respecting and sympathising with Falun Gong, to becoming infuriated with and attacking the practice. Hate crimes targeting Falun Gong practitioners increased and the CCP escalated its persecution with increased arrests, torture, killing, and forced organ harvesting.
With 70-100 million practising Falun Gong in China, by 1999 the traditional discipline was largely a household name and a respected one at that. The staged "self-immolation", however, changed all that, and to this day remains the single most influential factor in garnering disgust or hatred toward Falun Gong among the Chinese people. The resulting apathy or hostility toward Falun Gong in China has greatly facilitated the regime's attempt to eradicate the practice, and is a primary cause for the tens of thousands of reports of abuse and torture.