Falun Gong Adds Media Weapons In Struggle With China's Rulers
Susan V. Lawrence. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition).
New York, N.Y.: Apr 14, 2004. pg. B.2I
In the David-and-Goliath-style struggle between the Falun Gong spiritual movement and China's government, Falun Gong is fielding two new weapons: a small New York-based, Chinese-language television production company -- New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) -- and the Epoch Times, a New Jersey-registered Chinese-language newspaper. In 1999, Beijing declared Falun Gong an evil cult and launched a brutal crackdown on its practitioners in China that continues. With followers in China so besieged, believers outside China, particularly in the U.S., have steadily escalated their propaganda assault against the government. In its first full year of operation, a not-for-profit New Jersey group called Friends of Falun Gong USA raised slightly less than $2 million in 2002. Among its media efforts is an advertising campaign on San Francisco buses featuring a photograph of two meditating women and the text: "Imagine being persecuted for doing this." But the most ambitious media initiatives by Falun Gong followers are NTDTV, broadcasting 24 hours a day via satellite since February 2002, and the Epoch Times, a free newspaper launched last September that claims a global distribution of 690,000. The paper is published at least weekly in more than 30 countries and daily in some places. Both give prominent coverage to Falun Gong, which Beijing still suppresses because it sees it as a major challenge to its rule. Where the paper and TV company are controversial is in their unwillingness to identify themselves as having any association with the group, despite ample evidence to the contrary. "Right now we are labeled a Falun Gong TV station, even though we are not," says NTDTV's President Zhong Lee. NTDTV "really has nothing to do with Falun Gong at all," he adds. Yet tax records show that a top spokesperson for Falun Gong in the U.S., Gail Rachlin, is one of three directors for NTDTV, officially registered as Universal Communications Network. As for the Epoch Times, Editor in Chief Annette Jun Guo says to call it a Falun Gong media organization would be "completely wrong" and dangerously "misleading" because Falun Gong, she says, has no political goals. Yet tax records show the chairman of the paper's board is another top Falun Gong spokesperson, Kangang Xu. Executives at New Tang Dynasty and Epoch Times say their organizations are simply independent voices in a Chinese-language overseas-media landscape increasingly influenced by the deep-pocketed Chinese government and its allies. Both media describe their core missions in neutral terms as educating the Chinese community about universal values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. An impressive roster of prominent Chinese dissidents outside and inside China, who are not Falun Gong followers, are willing to give New Tang Dynasty and Epoch Times the benefit of the doubt. U.S.-based exiles such as Harry Wu and He Qinglian are frequent NTDTV interviewees. Respected mainland-based writers Liu Xiaobo and Yu Jie write regular columns for Epoch Times.