A Dictator’s Logic
by Michel Wu
In October 1999, Alain Peyrefitte, Editorial Director of Le Figaro, one of the largest newspapers in France, conducted a written interview with then head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Jiang Zemin, prior to his visit to France. The written interview asked for Jiang’s comments on issues in China, France and other parts of the world.
Jiang, in an attempt to justify his launch of the violent persecution against Falun Gong half a year before, seized this opportunity to proactively control the international media by naming Falun Gong an “evil cult.”
The CCP picked France for two reasons. First, after the Order of the Solar Temple incident that shocked the world, France had been adopting a series of administrative and judicial measures for many years to prevent cults from proliferating within the country. Therefore, the CCP saw this unique historical period as a good opportunity to instigate confusion between good and bad.
The second reason is that interviews with visiting foreign dignitaries are intensely sought after by the French media in the fierce competition for the consumer market. The CCP played the game by giving Le Figaro the privilege to interview Jiang on the condition that the interview text must be published in full. Peyrefitte, who loved the political and media spotlight, was obedient to the CCP’s demands.
On the day of Jiang’s arrival in France, Le Figaro published the entire content of his interview as previously agreed. The interview severely impacted local public opinion: Some journalists mindlessly parroted Jiang’s words while others remained silent, afraid to make the slightest noise about the ongoing arrest, detention, torture, and brainwashing against Falun Gong in mainland China.
By the early 90’s, the CCP had already ruled China for over 40 years, resulting in immense suffering for hundreds of millions of innocent people. Chinese citizens in general began to cast doubt on the Communist ideology and many were looking for a renewed connection to their traditional, spiritual roots. Falun Gong, a self-improvement practice of the Buddhist School, based on truthfulness, compassion and forbearance, received wide-spread recognition throughout all levels of Chinese society in a surprisingly short period of time. The CCP’s official media promoted Falun Gong as “100 percent beneficial and not a bit harmful.” By 1998, six years after its introduction to the public, up to 100 million people—by the government’s own estimates— have practiced Falun Gong. As the practice grew in popularity, however, the CCP started to change its view of Falun Gong.
Ever since the CCP came into power, it has strictly maintained an essential principle: it must never allow the parallel existence of other organizations. The CCP considers the top-down vertical rule as the fundamental necessity for its survival. The so-called “People’s Political Consultative Conference” is merely window- dressing. Members must declare their loyalty to the CCP in their Party Constitutions. From the “People’s Representative Conference” to community organizations such as the Labor Union, Communist Youth League, Women’s Federation, and other organizations in factories, schools, shops, neighborhoods and villages, all have to establish CCP committees or sub-committees. This is the characteristic of China’s political reality. With Falun Gong now prominently positioned on the national stage, with more adherents than there were in the CCP itself, the practice unintentionally served to threaten the government’s survival. The principles that the practice promotes are diametrically opposite to the Party principles, yet, before the crackdown, it was received with adoration and esteem by hundreds of millions of people including CCP members. In light of the upheaval in the Soviet Union and other Eastern European regions just a few years prior, the CCP became overly fearful and regarded the apolitical Falun Gong like Poland’s Solidarnos Union.
When the CCP concluded that Falun Gong posed a significant threat to its power, frenzied and barbaric oppression ensued. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, a new large group of innocent people had become the CCP’s primary target of persecution. Similar to past political movements, there were mass arrests all across the nation. Detention, imprisonment, and brainwashing were preceded by defamation filled with lies. The goal was to use false accusation to coerce the people, who were ignorant of the facts, to join in with the CCP and “destroy” Falun Gong from all fronts and within all strata.
I started my university studies in 1956. Like many of my young friends, I enjoyed playing basketball. We decided to organize a basketball match among the classes. Before the start of the first game, an older student appeared on the basketball court. He sternly questioned us, “What are you all doing?” I politely answered that we were having a basketball match. “Basketball match? Did you get approval from the Party sub-committee?” I told him that we did not. He immediately reprimanded us, “The Party sub-committee does not know? Dismiss!” That was when we found out that this student was a Party official before he entered the university and that he was also the freshman secretary of the Party sub-committee. It was my introduction to the organizational rule of the Party.
A year later, an editorial titled “Why is this?” published by the CCP’s official newspaper People’s Daily, was the trigger of the “anti-rightist” campaign. Stories about those “anti-Party, anti-socialism rightists” were published continuously. Twenty years later, I met up with a “rightist” classmate. After a bit of chitchat, I found out that he was a “rightist” no more. He gave me a wry smile and said, “Yeah, they have removed my dunce cap once again.”
The start of the Cultural Revolution in 1966 was triggered by a critique on a historical play. One day, after Mao’s Red Guards took over the Xinhua News Agency’s editorial department, I inadvertently met up with Mu Qing, Xinhua’s editorial chief who had been physically attacked as a “demonic animal” and sentenced to “reeducation through labor” for his subversive politics. Curious for more information about this, I asked him, “How did you get on the Capitalism path?” He answered with a bit of confusion, “Me? Thirty years as a Communist revolutionist and I didn’t understand Marx and Lenin…”
On the evening of June 3, 1989, the first day of the student protests, I called Beijing from Paris to inquire: “What is actually happening? Who are the Tiananmen Square hoodlums?” The crisp response before the call terminated was: “Don’t ask. The military is already in control of the headquarters!” Every time before an important political movement, the first thing that happens is absolute media control. This is the general modus operandi of a totalitarian regime.
The anti-Falun Gong media campaign started on June 17, 1996 by China’s Guangming Daily. Over a dozen newspapers and magazines followed suit. On July 23, 1999, People’s Daily, issued an editorial that read: “Raise your awareness. See clearly the danger. Hold firm to the policy. Safeguard stability.” Using stern language, the editorial alleged that Falun Gong was an “illegal organization.” From there, the bugle sounded to suppress and eradicate Falun Gong. At the same time, the CCP mobilized religious, civic and academic organizations already under its control, to give anti-Falun Gong speeches and hold anti-Falun Gong conferences. And so, a nameless crime was created under organized and orchestrated verbal and written attacks, leading to an unprecedented tragic political movement.
The names used by the CCP against Falun Gong changed constantly, from “illegal organization” to “cult group” to “reactionary hostile organization” to “Western anti-China political instrument” to “anti-government organization” to “reactionary political group and political force” to “terrorist organization.” All the irresponsible propaganda caused my French colleagues quite a bit of confusion.
I bid farewell to Xinhua Agency after the June 4, 1989 Beijing tragedy and accepted an invitation from the Board of Directors of the Radio France Internationale (RFI) to start up a Chinese branch in France, with the purpose of targeting a mainland Chinese audience. Shortly after Jiang’s visit to France, the Chinese Embassy sent someone to talk to the Chairman of RFI, Jean Paul Cluzel, about the Chinese broadcasting branch. Cluzel requested that the manager of the Chinese branch should also join the meeting. The Beijing diplomat adamantly rejected the proposal. After the meeting, Cluzel said with a smile, “I have just met a Red Guard.”
Shortly thereafter, another Beijing diplomat invited me for coffee. He did not beat around the bush: “What I want to talk to you about is the Falun Gong issue. Do not report Falun Gong in the Chinese program you are in charge of.“ I asked him why. Without hesitation, he said, “Falun Gong is a cult, I brought you a lot of materials.“ From underneath the table, he pulled out a large bag filled with anti-Falun Gong materials, brochures, posters, videos and CDs.
I told him clearly: “Cult is the name you use. RFI is an independent media. Without any independent investigation, we cannot write reports on Falun Gong, nor can we make reports based on what you say.”
I suggested that, “Since the Falun Gong issue has been politicized and internationalized, the mainland Chinese authorities should open the door and let the international media conduct independent investigations on the Falun Gong issue.”
Shortly after Jiang’s visit to France, my colleagues and I found a special column that targeted the Falun Gong issue on the Embassy’s website. This spare-no-effort fervor, which continues to include diplomacy outlets to negatively target Falun Gong, may deceive people for a time, but most certainly would raise a red flag, keep people on alert, and in doubt.
Jiang used Le Figaro to influence public opinion and deceive the people of France, yet he could not stop the French authorities and the intellectually-curious from exploring the facts about Falun Gong. The French government issued a decree in November, 2002 and established the Mission Interministerielle de Vigilance et de Lutte contre les Derives Sectaires panel directly under the Prime Minister’s Office. Its mission is to “be vigilant and fight against the proliferation of cults“ and to “observe and analyze the cult phenomenon through their actions against human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The task force is also responsible for “coordinating public empowerment to prevent and repress various cult actions.“
The French government has not listed Falun Gong as a cult to be watched and suppressed. To this day, every weekend without exception, Falun Gong practitioners gather in front of the Eiffel Tower and two other parks to do group exercises. Their Tian Guo Marching Band continues to participate in large cultural activities organized by the government. Moreover, Falun Gong practitioners have held several informational conferences and forums in the French People’s Parliament Building to help people understand the true side of Falun Gong and the persecution.
Falun Gong’s applications to hold silent protests in front of the Chinese Embassy, however, have consistently been denied by the French police department with one excuse after another. In July 2009, Falun Gong practitioners sued the French police authority. In the end, the Paris Administrative Court, le tribunal administratif de Paris, ruled in favor of Falun Gong and ordered the French police to pay 1,000 euros as compensation to the French Falun Dafa Association.
Indeed, without sufficient knowledge of the Chinese traditional culture and having no insight into the modern Communist state, it is difficult for foreigners to immediately understand the truth about Falun Gong. Among the many victimized groups during different periods of the CCP’s history, Falun Gong is unusual, neither being crushed nor dispersed under the weight of such heavy propaganda and brutal persecution. In the resistance against tyranny, Falun Gong was the first to reveal the true history and nature of the CCP through the publication, Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party. While under severe persecution, Falun Gong blazed a refreshingly new path in Chinese journalism by establishing, outside of China, the Epoch Times newspaper, Sound of Hope radio station, New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), and a large number of other independent media.
Moreover, with unprecedented courage and firm moral conviction, Falun Gong practitioners have exposed the CCP’s unconscionable actions to international organizations and brought lawsuits against many CCP leaders in foreign courts. Recently, Falun Gong practitioners founded the Shen Yun Performing Arts Company with the mission to promote traditional Chinese culture, and have also organized multiple international arts and cultural competitions. Falun Gong practitioners are joining ranks with all victims of communism, with a commitment to combat this repressive system of control until all people, particularly the people in China, are liberated and able to enjoy the freedoms of a democratic society.
Soon after the persecution of Falun Gong began, a group of common people that has come to be known as “petitioners“ became a unique focal point in Beijing. Under the cover of China’s economic successes under the one-party monopoly, these people have been oppressed by corrupt officials, their families have been broken up and there is nowhere for them to redress their grievances. Year after year, taking great risks, they continue to flock to Beijing, hoping to petition and plead for a bit of justice. The result is, these petitioners are often shut out, and even thrown into black jails. Many worry that these petitioners are the last batch of Chinese victims under communism. The political label that the CCP put on this group still has not been removed.
Alain Peyrefitte is believed to be a person who had been “charmed by Zhou Enlai— former head of state under communist rule— and unable to extricate himself. “ After his death, the CCP erected a statue of him on the Wuhan University campus for students to pay their respects. But, what do China’s young people remember about him? In addition to acting as an accomplice of Jiang— contributing to the suffering of millions—he published a book of Chinese propaganda in 1973, When China Awakes, the World Will Tremble. The book attempts to sensationalize China during the epileptic time of the Cultural Revolution. Those close to Peyrefitte commented that the China he depicted was the China described by Enlai. The author argued that with an enormous population and considerable economic and technological strength, China would gain a foothold in the world. In response to Peyrefitte’s premise, a reader wrote the following: “If democracy is not embraced, if communist dictatorship is not abandoned, China’s emergence as a superpower is merely a fool’s errand.”