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Distorted: Photo by Chris Barbalis from Pexels
On July 21, Australia’s national broadcasting company, the ABC, aired a documentary critical of the spiritual practice of Falun Gong, which featured interviews with a woman named “Anna.” In the open letter below, Anna’s mother registers her disagreement with what she characterises as the “numerous misrepresentations” contained in the documentary.
As the mother of “Anna,” featured in ABC’s recent documentary series “The Power of Falun Gong,” I was shocked and deeply offended at the numerous misrepresentations contained in the ABC reports (online articles, Background-Briefing podcasts and Foreign-Correspondent TV broadcast). ABC’s presentation is an outright assault on me and my belief—Falun Gong, a spiritual and meditation group with the principles of Truth, Compassion, Forbearance. I demand that ABC retract its misleading reports and issue a public apology for the harm done through spreading falsehoods without checking any facts with me.
My daughter, whom I refer to as Anna below, was still a child (age 8 and 14) during the events covered. ABC used Anna’s limited understandings and scattered memories, which appear to have been altered over the passage of time and filtered through her later experiences. I can only conclude that ABC preyed on Anna’s vulnerability.
Below I describe the most egregious falsehoods in ABC’s reports.
ABC falsely stated that I took Anna for a supposed “exorcism” at Dragon Springs (a Falun Gong temple site in upstate New York, which also houses two performing arts schools). Furthermore, ABC falsely stated that I tricked my daughter into going by saying that we were merely running an errand, and that I only told my child that I loved her after the supposed “exorcism.”
- The trip to Dragon Springs was for an oboe audition for the Fei Tian Academy of music.
- Falun Gong does not involve the practice of exorcisms, and no such event occurred.
- Exorcisms are mentioned only once in Falun Gong’s teachings, where it is discussed as an example of something that is not sanctioned or endorsed in the practice. The purported statement that Mr. Li Hongzhi performs exorcisms on appointment would be ridiculous to anyone with knowledge of Falun Gong.
- Anna was fully aware of the purpose of the visit to Dragon Springs and was not at all tricked or misled about the nature of the visit. She traveled across the country with her oboe and sheet music, knowing full well that she was going to attend a music audition.
ABC’s statement that I only told my daughter I loved her after the non-existent “exorcism” is false. I love my daughter unconditionally, and any implication to the contrary is hurtful and misleading.
ABC falsely reports that I rejected the hospital’s treatment plan when Anna developed anorexia, because Falun Gong does not allow medical treatment.
- Anna was hospitalised multiple times due to anorexia starting in the fall of 2008, and during the first incident, I flew from the East Coast to California where Anna lived. She was rushed to Emergency where I discussed various treatment options presented by the medical team. Due to potential side-effects associated with medication, a less invasive treatment approach for Anna was agreed upon between everyone involved, and this was implemented by the medical team.
- There was never a situation of my rejecting the medical team’s proposed drug treatment because of my Falun Gong beliefs. Falun Gong does not prohibit medical treatment.
The statement that our family was “torn apart” due to Falun Gong is false.
- I am chilled to the bone that ABC exploited my daughter’s health struggles to depict my family as “torn apart” to defame me and my belief.
- Due to professional careers, we are a bi-coastal family with residences on the U.S. East and West Coast.
- My relationship with Anna only recently became strained and her alienation from me appears to coincide with ABC’s reaching out to her. Meanwhile, I consider my relationship with the rest of my family to be in good standing.
- I admit that I am a “tiger mom”: I was strict with Anna holding her to high standards in her academic and artistic endeavours, as well as in her character development. For me, this is a manifestation of my love and concern for Anna. I am deeply saddened that Anna interpreted it differently, and felt anxiety and pressure growing up. Such issues do sometimes arise between first-generation immigrant parents and their American-born kids, but this dynamic has nothing to do with Falun Gong.
ABC’s statement that I became “absorbed” with practicing Falun Gong, to the detriment of my work, my family, and Anna’s education, is false. ABC reports that “Anna watched as her mother gradually became absorbed in Falun Gong. She pulled Anna out of a Catholic school and quit her job to take up selling books for Falun Gong. Her time was increasingly spent doing exercises, meditating, and reading the movement’s teaching.”
- These statements are completely fabricated and malicious. ABC’s narrative to depict me as obsessed with Falun Gong to the neglect of my family, is false and slanderous.
- Anna was 8 years old at the time and did not mind leaving the Catholic school to enrol in a top public school in the area, preparing her for a prestigious private high school. This choice offered the greatest level of academic rigour and enrichment for Anna.
- I did not quit my job to sell Falun Gong books. My employment was eliminated in a restructuring and this became a unique opportunity for a career change, and, in fact, I co-founded a startup on the East Coast.
The statement that Falun Gong promotes discrimination against persons of mixed ancestry is false; ABC’s implication that I conveyed this to my young daughter is recklessly slanderous.
ABC falsely states that Anna was taught that she was “different to other children” because her mother was Chinese and her father European, and quotes Anna saying that according to the teachings of Falun Gong “when a child is born from an interracial marriage, that child does not have a heavenly kingdom to go to.” ABC wrongfully reports I told Anna at age 11 that “race mixing in humans is part of an alien plot to drive humanity further from the gods.”
- I have never said that “the race mixing in humans is part of an alien plot to drive humanity further from the gods.”
- I never taught Anna that she was different because of her mixed race, or that interracial children do not have place in heaven. On the contrary, I assured her that her ancestry was irrelevant in spiritual matters, in keeping with Falun Gong’s teachings, which hold that peoples’ true identity is represented by their immortal soul, not by ethnic identity.
- The ABC report also describes a dance audition at Dragon Springs, stating that Anna was the only child of mixed race at the audition. This is false: several other children attending the same audition were also of mixed race. Inter-ethnic families are very common within the Falun Gong community, and Falun Gong does not discriminate.
The statement that I wanted Anna to forego her education and career aspirations for Falun Gong is false: ABC falsely reports that I intended to sacrifice Anna’s career and aspirations in order to have her live and study at Dragon Springs. It defames me and other parents and young people who study at Dragon Springs.
- Dragon Springs houses two schools: middle and high school—Fei Tian Academy of the Arts—and Fei Tian College, a degree-granting college. Both are registered with the state of New York, conforming to, and even exceeding state standards. Students routinely perform at a very high level academically without foregoing their professional or academic ambitions.
- If Anna had chosen to attend Fei Tian Academy, I believe she would have excelled personally, academically, and as an artist. Since she chose not to, she enrolled at prestigious schools in California. I was, and remain, very invested in her success in whichever manner she would choose.
ABC’s reporting is a flagrant attack on me and the entire Falun Gong community. It has taken a completely unethical approach and contains numerous falsehoods and misrepresentations to support the narrative that Falun Gong is “abusive,” “cult-like,” strange, or dangerous. ABC did not contact me to fact-check statements attributed to Anna, recollected from when she was a child, more than 17 years ago. I can only conclude that ABC had no interest in the truth or fairness but was only looking for material which would confirm its bigotry against Falun Gong.
My grievance about this is especially heartfelt. ABC has exploited my own daughter, someone I still consider young and psychologically vulnerable, in order to attack me and my faith. Around the time of ABC’s contact with her, she appears to have cut off all contact with me, without forewarning or explanation.
I again demand that ABC retract all content referencing me which is recklessly false, misleading, and defamatory as described above.
August 9, 2020
United States of America
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Falunau.org.