CCP Targets Ten of Millions With New Propaganda Campaign to Persecute Falun Gong

As China’s economy struggles through a slowdown and public discontent grows, the campaign also attempts to silence Chinese, analyst says. Beijing is using police, neighborhood officials, and teachers to push out a new propaganda campaign slandering Falun Gong and collecting signatures to support its repression of the faith group, a report finds.Tens of millions of Chinese have read through the propaganda and signed the petition, often under pressure from the authorities, according to the report published by the nonprofit Falun Dafa Information Center. The signature campaign, which runs on the ubiquitous WeChat, forms part of the sweeping efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to enlist the public’s support for its ongoing persecution of Falun Gong as it strengthens ideological control over civil society.“We know from public speeches in recent years that the CCP’s crusade to ‘severely crackdown’ on Falun Gong remains a top priority for the security apparatus, and this campaign is clearly an Orwellian attempt to do just that,” Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC), said in a press release.PropagandaFalun Gong is an ancient spiritual practice that consists of slow-moving meditation exercises and following moral teachings centered on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. In June 1999, then-CCP chief Jiang Zemin launched an elimination campaign. A month later, the entire country’s security apparatus started to arrest and detain practitioners, and state propaganda at all levels initiated a propaganda campaign demonizing adherents as dangerous cultists.“Say No to Heretics,” as Chinese authorities called the latest online project, requires users to read through articles and photos demonizing 25 banned spiritual groups and religions before signing the petition, but a significant emphasis is placed on Falun Gong, according to the report. The web page also provides a list of recommendations that assist the authorities in targeting these faith groups, such as rejecting materials distributed by adherents and informing police about friends and relatives who practice Falun Gong.The report described the campaign as the largest signature-collecting effort since 2017, when the 610 Office, a high-level agency designed to eradicate Falun Gong, launched a website and public accounts on major social media platforms devoted to promoting propaganda slandering Falun Gong and other faith groups targeted by the authorities.The latest project was launched in April 2023 on the official WeChat account of the China Anti-Cult Association (CACA), a social organization with close ties to the CCP. According to municipal public security organs, the project was introduced by the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, a Party organ overseeing police, prosecutors, and judges and at the forefront of carrying out the persecution of Falun Gong.Pressure to SignChinese authorities claimed that, as of May 2022, over 270 million had signed the petition online.Related StoriesBut these numbers are largely driven by the Party, which ordered police in every province across the nation to ensure that the propaganda campaign could get the attention of as many citizens as possible.According to an analysis of local governments’ reports and photos by the FDIC, uniformed police officers stand beside residents at grocery stores, shoe stores, cafes, and train stations and present a barcode of the campaign awaiting residents to sign. “In such intimidating circumstances, it becomes almost impossible for a user to refuse to sign, regardless of their actual opinion about Falun Gong and religious freedom,” the report stated.Neighborhood committees, omnipresent across the nation, are on the frontline of implementing the order. For example, in the northern city of Jinzhou and the eastern city of Guangzhou, neighborhood communities set up booths in front of grocery shops, parks, or public squares to distribute leaflets and solicit signatures.A particular focus of the campaign appears to be placed on students in primary and secondary schools, the report found. Researchers identified thousands of schools across the nation that have rolled out the signature project.In an interview with The Epoch Times, a father, who declined to be named because of safety concerns, said he received the petition link from his children’s school’s group chat.“You can’t say it’s not mandatory,” the man said of signing the petition. “Many parents worried their children could be punished if their opinions are not aligned with the CCP.”Some parents signed it because they didn’t know what Falun Gong was, while some just followed what the teachers required them to do, according to the father. “There are so many signature campaigns assigned by the school administrators. Parents are now insensitive to these things.”Social media users also complained of pressure on teachers to collect signatures.“Teachers are taking the heat from both sides,

CCP Targets Ten of Millions With New Propaganda Campaign to Persecute Falun Gong

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As China’s economy struggles through a slowdown and public discontent grows, the campaign also attempts to silence Chinese, analyst says.

Beijing is using police, neighborhood officials, and teachers to push out a new propaganda campaign slandering Falun Gong and collecting signatures to support its repression of the faith group, a report finds.

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Tens of millions of Chinese have read through the propaganda and signed the petition, often under pressure from the authorities, according to the report published by the nonprofit Falun Dafa Information Center. The signature campaign, which runs on the ubiquitous WeChat, forms part of the sweeping efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to enlist the public’s support for its ongoing persecution of Falun Gong as it strengthens ideological control over civil society.
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“We know from public speeches in recent years that the CCP’s crusade to ‘severely crackdown’ on Falun Gong remains a top priority for the security apparatus, and this campaign is clearly an Orwellian attempt to do just that,” Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC), said in a press release.

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Propaganda

Falun Gong is an ancient spiritual practice that consists of slow-moving meditation exercises and following moral teachings centered on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. In June 1999, then-CCP chief Jiang Zemin launched an elimination campaign. A month later, the entire country’s security apparatus started to arrest and detain practitioners, and state propaganda at all levels initiated a propaganda campaign demonizing adherents as dangerous cultists.
.

“Say No to Heretics,” as Chinese authorities called the latest online project, requires users to read through articles and photos demonizing 25 banned spiritual groups and religions before signing the petition, but a significant emphasis is placed on Falun Gong, according to the report. The web page also provides a list of recommendations that assist the authorities in targeting these faith groups, such as rejecting materials distributed by adherents and informing police about friends and relatives who practice Falun Gong.

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The report described the campaign as the largest signature-collecting effort since 2017, when the 610 Office, a high-level agency designed to eradicate Falun Gong, launched a website and public accounts on major social media platforms devoted to promoting propaganda slandering Falun Gong and other faith groups targeted by the authorities.

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The latest project was launched in April 2023 on the official WeChat account of the China Anti-Cult Association (CACA), a social organization with close ties to the CCP. According to municipal public security organs, the project was introduced by the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, a Party organ overseeing police, prosecutors, and judges and at the forefront of carrying out the persecution of Falun Gong.

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Pressure to Sign

Chinese authorities claimed that, as of May 2022, over 270 million had signed the petition online.

But these numbers are largely driven by the Party, which ordered police in every province across the nation to ensure that the propaganda campaign could get the attention of as many citizens as possible.

.

According to an analysis of local governments’ reports and photos by the FDIC, uniformed police officers stand beside residents at grocery stores, shoe stores, cafes, and train stations and present a barcode of the campaign awaiting residents to sign. “In such intimidating circumstances, it becomes almost impossible for a user to refuse to sign, regardless of their actual opinion about Falun Gong and religious freedom,” the report stated.

.

Neighborhood committees, omnipresent across the nation, are on the frontline of implementing the order. For example, in the northern city of Jinzhou and the eastern city of Guangzhou, neighborhood communities set up booths in front of grocery shops, parks, or public squares to distribute leaflets and solicit signatures.

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A particular focus of the campaign appears to be placed on students in primary and secondary schools, the report found. Researchers identified thousands of schools across the nation that have rolled out the signature project.

.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, a father, who declined to be named because of safety concerns, said he received the petition link from his children’s school’s group chat.

“You can’t say it’s not mandatory,” the man said of signing the petition. “Many parents worried their children could be punished if their opinions are not aligned with the CCP.”

Some parents signed it because they didn’t know what Falun Gong was, while some just followed what the teachers required them to do, according to the father. “There are so many signature campaigns assigned by the school administrators. Parents are now insensitive to these things.”

Social media users also complained of pressure on teachers to collect signatures.

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“Teachers are taking the heat from both sides,” wrote a Weibo user, who claimed one of his family was a teacher and listed over a dozen signature campaigns, from rejecting drugs to the latest project, that administrators assigned to teachers in a school term. “Parents think teachers have interfered with too many things, and teachers have to explain to them. Supervisors would be unhappy if they found teachers failed to collect signatures” from all students.

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‘Publicity Stunt’

The regime’s officials are looking to the petition campaign not just as a tool to suppress these faith groups, but as an attempt to silence the public, according to Wu Te, an independent Chinese commentator.
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“Now, as China’s economy is struggling through a slowdown and public discontent is growing, more and more Chinese are willing to expose the country’s human rights conditions and talk to foreign media,” he told The Epoch Times.
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Adding to the authorities’ incentive to launch the campaign was financial pressure, according to Mr. Wu. “Organizations like CACA or the 610 Office don’t provide any benefits to society. Indeed, they only add pressure to the state’s finances. As even local municipalities struggle to pay their staff, these organizations need a signature campaign as a publicity stunt to obtain funding.”

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Falun Gong practitioners take part in a parade marking the 22nd anniversary of the start of the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong, in Washington on July 16, 2021. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Falun Gong practitioners take part in a parade marking the 22nd anniversary of the start of the Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Gong, in Washington on July 16, 2021. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
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‘Potency’ of Grassroots Resistance

The CCP continued its persecution of Falun Gong as it entered its 25th year. It has never changed its hardline policy against the faith group, as the ongoing arrests and sentences attest to. During 2023 alone, courts in China sentenced 755 people to prison or other punishment for practicing Falun Gong, nearly seven times more than the previous year, according to data collected by Minghui, a website dedicated to reporting on Falun Gong. Many of the convicted received lengthy sentences.
Under the watch of Xi Jinping, China’s current leader, the regime only turned the dial up in its abuses. The FDIC has found that the persecution of Falun Gong emerged as a higher priority for the CCP’s security apparatus than in previous years.
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An untold number of adherents have died in torture and abuse simply for refusing to renounce their faith, and many more were still being held in the country’s vast detention facilities. Minghui confirmed over 200 practitioner deaths last year, including dozens of deaths that went unreported in 2022. The actual number of deaths is likely many times higher, the website noted, considering the regime’s strict censorship of related information.
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Yet the threat of arrest, detention, or even forced organ harvesting has not silenced the voices of its adherents in China. For many years, Falun Gong adherents inside China have formed a massive grassroots resistance effort to debunk the CCP’s propaganda and expose the persecution of the spiritual practice as well as the tyrannical nature of the CCP, according to the FDIC. The peaceful resistance involves distributing informational materials and speaking directly to the Chinese.

“The content and parameters of the regime’s latest petition campaign indirectly appear to acknowledge the potency and effectiveness of Falun Gong practitioners’ public education efforts,” the report stated.

Luo Ya contributed to this report.

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