By Qi Wen and Peter Johnson, 29/07/2020
A media release from the Australia Liberal Democrats MPs Tim Quilty and David Limbrick on 23 July 2020 is calling on the ABC Board to investigate the stories on Foreign Correspondent and ABC Radio about Falun Gong. The MPs say that these stories (came up by Eric Campbell and Hagar Cohen at ABC last week) might have breached the ABC’s own policies by inciting undeserved stigmatisation of a vulnerable religious minority.
While democratic countries are currently steering away from the negative influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and the Australian government is becoming increasingly aware of the infiltration from communist China, why is Australia’s own ABC pandering to the CCP by attacking a peaceful meditation group – the Falun Gong practice group – with a series of programs on Foreign Correspondent, ABC radio and website report around the July 20, 2020?
The timing of the programs’ airing was unquestionably specific: the Chinese government started its frantic persecution of Falun Gong on July 20, 1999. Every year around this date, the CCP has revived and intensified its propaganda attacks toward Falun Gong.
On July 21 2020, ABC’s website displayed a polished webpage titled “The Power of Falun Gong”, which rather than promoting the health and stress-reducing benefits of the practice, attempted to demonise it in the same way as the ABC radio and Foreign Correspondent program that aired on the same day. The TV and radio programs weren’t show just once, but repeated through the weekend, a total of six times over the five days following July 20.
According to James Morrow from the Daily Telegraph, “The report did such a good job of trashing Falun Gong that the ABC won praise from a number of Chinese news outlets — including an official “anti-cult” website of the Chinese Communist Party — even before the first episode hit screens in Australia.” (James Morrow, The Daily Telegraph, 28/07/2020).
The Chinese government’s own Ministry of Propagandacouldn’t have done a better job. But there’s a critical difference– when publishedby major Western media, the programswould likely havea much more substantial psychological effecton Chinese citizens than if the CCP had made the productionitself.
This fact was not lost on the Chinese communist regime. On 20 July 2020, a day before the ABC’s actual airing of the program in Australia, the ABC program was promoted on a website run by China’s “610 Office”, a Gestapo-like office that is tasked with “eliminating” Falun Gong in China. The website proclaimed: “Big News! 21 years after China’s warning, Australia’s national media starts to expose and criticise the wicked conduct of Falun Gong”. Given the usual slowness of the CCP’s bureaucratic machinery, just how far in advance did the CCP know about the ABC program before its airing?
This is a coup for the CCP and marks a new low point for Australian media. For the first time, the ABC has helped a foreign communist government to demonise and justify the persecution of its own peaceful and law-abiding citizens — a group whose suffering of detention, torture and live organ harvesting at the hands of the Chinese regime has been well documented by Amnesty International and other human rights groups. Western journalists, particularly China-focused “foreign correspondents”, cannot claim ignorance of these abuses.
The communist regime will likely use the ABC’s program as an excuse to intensify the persecution in China. How does the ABC reconcile the potential harm it has done to innocent Chinese lives? Is spreading hatred condoned in the ABC’s charter? And was a deal struck between Campbell and Cohen and the CCP, or even worse, was there a more sinister higher-level arrangement? The ABC’s June 4, 2014 agreement with the Shanghai Media Group to establish a Chinese-language version of the ABC’s Australia Plus website in China prompted John Fitzgerald from Inside Story to ask in an article on April 18, 2016: “has ABC been Shanghaied by Beijing?”
Aside from the poor moral judgement that Campbell and Cohen have shown in agreeing to compile the program, the contents were quite blatantly biased. The interviews of five non-Falun Gong practitioners, who each seemed to have their own personal axe to grind, took up roughly 80% of the content, leaving a small amount of air time – less than 20% – for two actual Falun Gong practitioners’ more balanced opinions. The authors were obviously trying to make a pretense of non-bias – but how is 80% negative content balanced with 20%? And one of the two Falun Gong practitioners, Lucy, was only interviewed by the ABC after she contacted the ABC and requested to be included on the program.
Every year the ABC is spending more than a billion dollars of the Australian tax payers’ money, but for this program, the ABC is effectively working with the CCP’s propaganda department in persecuting a peaceful meditation group in China, and projecting China’s “soft power” into Australia.
Perhaps it is time for the Australian government to investigate the ABC’s cosy relationship with the Chinese regime in light of Australia’s anti-interference laws.
What is Falun Gong? Falun Gong is a spiritual practice based on the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. It is an open practice that is free for everyone to study, and its books are freely available for download from the Internet. On 20 July 1999, the Communist Party leadership initiated a nationwide crackdown and multifaceted propaganda campaign intended to eradicate the practice. It blocked Internet access to websites that mention Falun Gong, and in October 1999 it declared Falun Gong a “heretical organization” that threatened social stability. Falun Gong practitioners in China are reportedly subject to a wide range of human rights abuses: hundreds of thousands are estimated to have been imprisoned extrajudicially, at least 4300 practitioners are confirmed to have died resulted from the persecution of Falun Gong (https://en.minghui.org/emh/special_column/death_cases/).